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Hong Kong Self-Storage Operators, Building Owners Comply With Only 4 Percent of Fire-Safety Notices

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Update 6/16/17 – Of the 764 Hong Kong self-storage facilities cited for fire and safety violations by the FSD and Buildings Department, just three are in full compliance with new regulations. In all, less than 5 percent of violations have been corrected. As a result, the FSD is “considering prosecuting five to six operators who have done nothing after receiving notices,” an FSD spokesperson told the source.

Since notices were issued last year to 86 percent of storage operators in the region, 53 facilities with violations have shut down, Chui Man-leung, deputy fire chief, told the source. Peter Hung Kai-kei, chairman of the Hong Kong Mini Storage Association, indicated 100 facilities had to close in the last year for various reasons.

The Self Storage Association Asia (SSAA) has been working with government officials to reach a compromise on new requirements. As issued, “usable space will be cut down to 30 to 40 percent if the requirement is met,” SSAA Executive Director Luigi La Tona told the source.

The FSD accepted a counter proposal from storage operators in which they’ll be allowed to bypass the 2.4-meter gap rule between units as long as they use building materials that can withstand fire for 30 minutes, Man-leung said. However, the SSAA is also trying to change a requirement for 1 meter of headroom clearance, according to the source.

“This is the most stringent [set of self-storage requirements] in the world,” La Tona said. “We can meet the principle of smoke and heat distribution by perforation.” Perforation would be achieved by making holes in unit walls, extending to the ceiling, according to Hung Kai-kei.

Paul Pang Tat-choi, chairman of the fire discipline advisory panel of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, disputed the criticism that new requirements were too harsh and suggested laws should be enacted to further regulate the self-storage industry.


3/30/17 – Months after government officials cited hundreds of Hong Kong self-storage operators for building, lease and safety violations following two devastating fires last summer, operators and property owners have complied with just 128 of 3,524 notices (3.6 percent) issued by the Buildings and Fire Services Departments, according to a finance committee paper from the Legislative Council. As a result, the government may begin to prosecute those who remain out of compliance, the source reported.

“The departments will consider instigating prosecution against the persons in charge of the mini-storages as well as the owners of the premises concerned who have failed to comply with the notices and orders without reasonable excuse,” Joshua Law Chi-kong, permanent secretary for security, told the source.

In its investigation, the Fire Services Department (FSD) inspected 885 self-storage facilities and issued 2,548 fire-hazard notices to 453 operators. As of Feb. 28, storage operators had complied with 117, or 4.6 percent, of those citations. The Buildings Department separately inspected 836 storage facilities and issued 976 orders to 455 operators, which included 488 removal notices, 487 repair orders and one discontinuation. Of those, 11, or 1.1 percent, have been completed, according to the source.

With the government increasing its scrutiny on building and occupational safety, FSD indicated it will add 33 positions during the next two years. Among those will be 24 appointees responsible for inspections and safety enforcement in industrial buildings, the source reported. Additional duties will include prep work for introducing relevant legislation and handling fire-safety complaints.

The Self Storage Association Asia, whose members represent about two-thirds of the industry’s gross floor area in the region, has been working with Hong Kong officials to find a workable compromise to help storage operators meet fire and safety regulations.

Sources:

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