How prepared is Hong Kong for a terrorist attack? Fire service rolls out guidelines for how to respond to emergencies
- Authorities are concerned people are too often more interested in filming emergency situations rather than taking cover
- MTR firebomb attack in February 2017 given as an example of a situation where bystanders put themselves at risk
Fire service authorities are to issue a checklist and guidelines to Hongkongers next year on how to respond properly to terrorist attacks or other emergencies. It follows a firebomb attack on an MTR train in Tsim Sha Tsui last year, when many people remained on the scene to film and take pictures rather than taking cover.
Describing the situation as “not ideal”, Wong Wang-leong, the senior divisional officer of the Fire Services Department, said the guidelines would be available online in the first six months of next year and that authorities had the duty to increase awareness among the public so people are prepared to escape in the event of an emergency, whether it be in Hong Kong or abroad.
“Many people focus only on doing live reports on social media, being unaware of the danger of the situation they are in. This sort of thing is not ideal,” Wong said on Monday.
The firebomb attack in question took place during the evening rush hour in February 2017, when 19 people were injured, spreading panic among commuters.
Rather than retreating to safe place after a man hurled a petrol bomb on a packed train, some people stayed to take pictures and videos.
“If you’re in a foreign country, how would you get to a safe place if, say, a car started driving into people on the street? How would you help treat the wounded using whatever you have on you, such as belt or towels, before first respondents arrive?” Wong said.
He added that the authority would also distribute information leaflets to visitors at control points and hotels featuring general safety tips for hiking and advising on activities to be avoided during typhoons.
The Security Bureau established an interdepartmental counterterrorism unit in April to enhance the city’s counterterrorism capability and preparedness.
The unit comprises 43 officers from six disciplined services; the Fire Services Department, as one of the members, is responsible for educating the community on how to respond in emergency situations and to raise their awareness of dangers.
As part of the effort, the department set up a 60-member Community Emergency Preparedness Division last month to communicate with the public.
On Monday, the authority also launched its official Facebook page which features the department’s mascot “Anyone” – a blue mannequin, played in videos by real firefighters. The name is intended to convey the sense that any member of the public can play their part in assisting in times of danger. The page aims to spread information about fire prevention, first aid and ways of escaping to safety.
Wong, who is also the division head, added that the department would also make good use of the platform to convey prompt information regarding breaking news situations and to quell false or unfounded rumours.