Fire safety proposals await approval eight months on

NEW fire safety measures recommended eight months ago for public places after 13 people were killed in a bank fire have still not been implemented.

The fire at the Shekkipmei branch of the Hongkong Bank in January sparked calls for an improvement in safety in commercial buildings.

A working group was set up under the chairmanship of the Security Branch to introduce the measures.

The group came up with a three-point plan: the installation of sprinkler systems and emergency lighting in all commercial premises of more than 230 square metres; an improvement in the ratio of emergency exits to the numbers of people in commercial premises; and the launch of a fire safety campaign.

The proposals have been put to public consultation and are back before the working group for detailed scrutiny.

They will then be passed to legislators, but according to the secretary of the working party, Chui Wah-cho, that will not happen for at least another year.


The death toll was high at the bank because workers were trapped behind security screens with no means of escape. The only exit from the working area was a double security door which had been locked. Things were made worse because there was no sprinkler system.

Fire Protection Bureau Deputy Chief Fire Officer Lam Chun-man said the working group was considering reports from the Housing Department and the Buildings Department as well as responses from the public before making final suggestions.

'From the responses we had it seems as though most of the bodies were behind the plan,' Mr Lam said.

The regulations would apply not only to banks, but to Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club off-course betting centres, supermarkets, arcades and other commercial premises.


It is estimated the installation of sprinkler systems would cost about $100,000 for buildings of 230 square metres.

Mr Lam said: 'New buildings are inspected by the Buildings Department and the Fire Services Department before people are allowed to move in and most have good fire safety precautions, but the problem lies with the older buildings.


'At the moment, it has not been decided whether a licensing scheme will be introduced for all these commercial premises or whether a self-regulatory system backed by random checks will be used.' Chu Po-kwong, 32, was charged with 13 counts of murder following the bank fire and is awaiting trial.