The Standard Storage body pleads for leniency

A mini-storage association slammed the government for imposing harsh fire safety requirements which it said would lead to closure of more than half of the storage facilities.
Hong Kong Mini-Storages Association, which claims to represent 70 percent of the local industry, called upon the government not to go too far as enforcement actions have caused 100 – or more than 10 percent – of the 885 mini- storage facilities in the SAR to shut.
Since last June’s deadly industrial building blaze in Ngau Tau Kok, which killed two firefighters and injured another 10, the Fire Services Department has, as of last Wednesday, issued 2,410 warning notices to 423 mini-storage facilities found to have violated fire regulations.
Association chairman Peter Hung Kai-kei said the industry, saddened by the blaze, has since been trying to improve fire safety.
Hung said association members have agreed on certain measures and the tasks are expected to be completed by the end of next month, including installation of sufficient signage to indicate the escape route and ensuring the distance to the building’s fire door from any spot of the facility should not exceed 30 meters.
But Hung said some requirements of the fire safety regulations are impossible to meet for more than half of the facilities, which are restricted by the structure of the industrial buildings they are located in.
One of the rules, for example, requires the total size of windows in a storage site to be no less than 6.25 percent of the total area. Another requirement, which is also hard for businesses to comply with, is the 2.4-meter distance between each storage unit of 50 square meters, Hung said.
He accused the government of having double standards, as it only warned mini-storage facilities about fire safety but not other tenants of the industrial buildings.
While it makes sense that business interests should not override public safety, the government “should not go too far and should consider the feasibility of the regulations,” Hung said.
He warned that more than half of storage facilities will shut in the coming year if the government insists on the requirements.
The association has hired fire engineers for counterproposals. One suggested the storage units be separated by fire resistant boards that can stop the spread of fire for 30 minutes.
The government should consider providing interest-free loans to storage firms that cannot afford the improvement works, the association demanded.
A spokesman for the Fire Services Department said the government is open to any feasible proposal that meet fire safety standards, adding that the mini-storage operators should rectify the problems as soon as possible.
“As to whether the operators choose to continue running the facilities or close them, it belongs to their individual business decision and the department is not to comment,” the spokesman said.