TWENTY per cent of people do not immediately respond to fire alarms, and nearly one in 10 ignore signs of fire, according to new research. The findings were based on canvassing 200 families after a fire in North Point last May. Of that number 32 per cent responded. The blaze - in which a fireman was injured - began in the ground floor arcade of the State Theatre building. The survey found that when the alarm sounded about 20 per cent of residents chose to ignore it. An estimated 28 per cent told neighbours and called the fire services department and another 28 per cent sought further information. The remainder began to evacuate. Evacuation was most likely if a person was informed by others, according to the report presented to the Fire East '95 international conference in Hong Kong. The study, conducted by City University building and construction lecturer Lo Siu-ming, prompted a cautious response from fire experts. The Deputy Chief Fire Officer (New Territories) Kwok Jing-keung said the survey was extremely limited but did reflect a factor often encountered. 'Instead of immediately leaving a premises people do tend to stand still and try to verify the information first,' he said. Mr Kwok, who led the investigation into the Shekkipmei bank fire, said inaction was a factor in that tragedy in January 1994 in which 13 staff perished. 'Because of the culture of the bank staff [they think] it is safe as long as they are behind the counter. 'But that only applies to a robbery situation not a fire situation.' Malaysia's Fire Service Director-General Soh Chai Hock was sceptical of the research. He said every fire was different and people's varying psychological responses could not be overlooked.