your life in the hands of the building owner by John A. Herbert

fire safety, fire survey, Hong Kong buildings

Considering Hong Kong’s maze of skyscrapers you might be surprised to learn that the Hong Kong fire department does not routinely check your building. After opening building fire safety, and your life, rests with the building owner. Once a year the building owner must engage a Registered Fire Services Contractor to check the fire fighting equipment, that is the theory.

scmp photo

Credit: SCMP

However, when fire engulfed the Kai Ming Building in Wan Chai in April last year [1] it was initially reported by the media that firefighting equipment was unstable causing delay tackling the fire. The investigation report from fire services department revealed the building fire certificate expired a month before the fire, and firefighting equipment was actually switched off [2]. If the fire started on a higher floor, the consequences are unimaginable.

The SCMP article Is Hong Kong ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ on fire safety published in February 2017, includes an interview with our director John A. Herbert about the Hong Kong regulatory system for building fire safety. It is strict, by any standard, but the fire department never re-checks afterwards. Although the mini storage unit blaze at Ngau Tau Kok [3] forced a rethink, and hundreds of premises were checked, it was limited to mini storage units only.

Sadly, that is just the tip of the iceberg, the fire regulations allow residential buildings without any sprinklers, we have designer offices, and other public spaces, that avoid scrutiny. So in a fire, your life rests in the hands of the building owner.

About the Author

John A. Herbert is a veteran Building Services engineer, with more than 30 years experience, he was educated in the United Kingdom and has been working across Asia for more than two decades advising international and local companies. He is a Hong Kong Registered Energy Assessor (REA), and a BEAM Professional.



  2. 4 May 2016