Home Fires

Hong Kong is a densely populated city with buildings closely packed together. Therefore, when a fire starts, it can spread within seconds and cause a great disaster. In average, there are about 10,000 fire emergencies in Hong Kong every year that cause more than 300 casualties per annum [1] and the loss of property. Previous serious fire accidents like the Mei Foo Sun Chuen Fire in 1997, Fa Yuen Street fire in 2011 and Ngau Tau Kok mini-storage fire in 2016 show how fires affect communities at large. People can be harmed from burns as well as smoke inhalation. Thus, it is important for us to know how to prevent fires from breaking out and how to survive during home fires. Below are some suggested tips for your reference [2] [3] [4]


Prepare Now

  • Develop a fire escape plan. Ensure that the escape routes are free form obstruction and designate a meeting place with your family.
  • Make special arrangements for the sick, the aged, the disabled and the young, who cannot escape by themselves.
  • Ensure that the smoke stop doors, ground floor exit doors and roof exit doors of the building are not locked. Keep them closed to prevent smoke and fire from spreading in case of fire.
  • Participate in fire prevention talks and fire drills organized by the building.
  • Report any fire hazards to the Fire Services Department by calling 2723 8787 or dialing 999 for emergency.

Survive During

(You can click here or the above image to view the video.
Source: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)

  • If a fire breaks out in your unit:
    • Keep calm.
    • Tell everyone in your unit to leave.
    • Escape using the nearest staircase.
    • Break the breakglass unit in the corridor to activate the fire alarm.
    • Call 999 to report the fire when you are safe.

  • When you hear the fire alarm:
    • Respond and act quickly.
    • Stay in the unit if the situation allows. If there is a fire, call 999 to inform the Fire Services Department.

  • Before leaving the unit:
    • Evaluate the risk of escaping from the unit and promptly decide whether to stay in the unit or to leave.

  • If you decide to stay in the unit:
    • Close the door and seal any gaps around it with duct tapes and wet towels.
    • If smoke continues to enter the unit, call 999 and inform the Fire Services Department of where you are trapped.
    • Move to a smoke-free room.
    • Show the firefighters your location by hanging a bed sheet or waving a towel at the balcony or by the window.
    • Keep calm.

  • If you decide to leave the unit:
    • Bring along your getaway kit, containing
      • Keys
      • Mobile phone
      • Wet towel
      • Other items, e.g. water, identity card, charger, money and octopus card, torch, whistle, first-aid bag, prescription glasses or drugs if applicable
    • If the corridor is free of smoke, leave the unit as quickly as possible and remember to close the unit door.
    • On your way out of the building, close whatever doors you pass along the escape route. This may limit the spread of smoke and fire and reduce damage.
    • Escape through the nearest staircase and do not use the lift. If there is smoke in the staircase, escape by another staircase immediately.
    • If there is no staircase with a safe passage, return to your unit or try knocking on the doors of other units until you find a safe place to take shelter.
    • If smoke is blocking your way, crawl along the floor, as the air is fresher near the ground.
    • If your clothes catch fire, stop immediately, drop to the ground and cover your face with your hands. Roll over continuously or back and forth until the fire is out. If you or someone else cannot stop, drop and roll, smother the flames with a blanket or towel. Use cool water to treat the burn immediately for 3 to 5 minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Get medical help right away by calling 999 or the Fire Services Department.


Be Safe After

  • Contact the disaster relief service, such as the Social Welfare Department and the Red Cross if you need food, daily necessities, medicine and financial assistance.
  • Check with the Fire Services Department to make sure your residence is safe to enter. Be alert to any structural damage caused by the fire.
  • If you are insured,contact your insurance company for detailed instructions. You can also contact the property management office on matters concerning fire damage restoration.
  • Conduct an inventory of damaged property and items. Do not throw away any damaged goods until an inventory is made.
  • Begin saving receipts for any money you spend related to fire loss. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company.

Note:

  • [1] Adapted from Fire Statistics, Hong Kong Fire Services Department.
  • [2] Adapted from Community Engagement, Hong Kong Jockey Club Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute.
  • [3] Adapted from Fire Safety information, Hong Kong Fire Services Department.
  • [4] Adapted from Home Fires, Ready (Official website of the Department of Homeland Security of the United State).



Wildfires

Wildfire advances rapidly upward and windward on a grass slope in dry weather. Wildfires are a significant threat to human lives – many of us will remember the wildfire on Pat Sin Leng in 1996, which killed 2 teachers and 3 students, left more than 10 people severely injured [1] [2]. Wildfires can also destroy ecological environment on a large scale. A few years after the tragic incident, another major hill fire occurred in Pat Sin Leng again in 2004 and destroyed more than 10,000 trees [3].

Nowadays, our countryside is more frequented by local people and tourists for hiking, barbeques and camping activities. On the days of the Ching Ming and Chung Yeung Festival, many people visit the cemeteries in rural areas to pay respects to their ancestors. Almost all wildfires in Hong Kong are caused by human negligence such as people lighting fires (e.g. when barbequing and cooking outside of designated areas of country parks) and grave sweepers not extinguishing joss sticks and paper [3]. More than 120 wildfires can occur on the day of Chung Yeung Festival alone every year [3]. Thus, preventive measures and suitable responses are essential to safeguard our lives and ecological systems. Here are some suggested tips for your reference [4] [5] [6]:


Prepare Now

  • For the sake of safety, handle flammable materials with great care.
  • With the exception of designated barbecue sites or campsites, never light a fire.
  • Smokers should refrain from smoking and all cigarette-stubs or matches should be completely extinguished before being discarded into rubbish bins.
  • Wildfire is difficult to detect in daytime. Always pay attention to flying ashes or the smell of something burning. If a wildfire is spotted, leave the fire scene immediately.
  • Do not underestimate the rapid speed at which wildfire can spread. Do not continue your journey in case of a fire nearby or you may become trapped in the fire.
  • Be alert when the Fire Danger Warning is issued, indicating a low humidity level and a higher probability of a fire outbreak.

Survive During

  • When there is a hill fire, stay calm.
  • Never attempt to extinguish a hill fire indiscriminately, except when the affected area is very small; you are in a safe place; or you can quickly evacuate from the fire scene.
  • Avoid escaping in the same direction of the prevailing wind.
  • Choose the path that is the easiest for escape.
  • Find a place with less vegetation for escape.
  • It is easier and quicker to escape through existing trails.
  • If the fire is imminent and there is no way out, you should cover your exposed skin with wet clothing and then make way to the already burnt area. This can minimize the chance of being injured. To conserve energy, never run uphill if the situation permits.
  • Do not run into shrubs or grasslands, as fires usually spread extremely quickly and the temperature may soar in these areas.

Be Safe After

  • Listen to authorities to find out if it is safe to return and whether water in the area is safe to drink.
  • Avoid hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris, and live embers. The ground may contain heat pockets that can burn you or spark another fire.

Note: