One Storage|Mini Storage|Safety Issues of Mini Storage

Release Date: 18-10-2020

mini-storage-safety-202110-en

The recent tragic fire at a self-storage facility in Ngau Tau Kok indicates that we should have reviewed the operation of such facilities in Hong Kong long ago. "


According to the current government policy, simply using old industrial buildings for non-industrial purposes does not in itself equate to'rejuvenation'. It is actually illegal. "

 

The industrial center fire started on June 21 and was out of control for more than 80 hours. It became the longest burning fire in Hong Kong in two decades, and unfortunately killed two firefighters.

 

The fire started with a mini warehouse and self-storage facility on the third floor of the old industrial building. The facility is one of about 500 facilities in Hong Kong, serving more than 100,000 families. For these facilities, supervision is still a problem, because in Hong Kong there are no legal parameters for mini-storage centers and no requirements for the location of these facilities.

 

Experts from Hong Kong Polytechnic University said that self-storage facilities need to strengthen fire safety management.

 

He explained that under the current practice, officials are facing some difficulties when conducting fire safety inspections, which makes it difficult for them to determine whether they have violated the fire safety regulations. On the one hand, the client does not need to provide the owner with a list of stored goods. On the other hand, in order to maximize profits, the operator may divide the mini-storage into poorly ventilated compartments and pile up the goods on the ceiling to maximize the storage capacity.

 

This unfortunate combination makes small storage facilities prone to ventilated controlled fires, which is a more dangerous fire that occurs when there is not enough air to completely burn all combustible materials. Later, when oxygen enters the area, the fire ignites quickly, releasing a lot of heat and smoke, making it difficult to control. It is necessary to carefully monitor the high thermal radiation heat flux that may occur-it can reach more than 100 kilowatts per square meter (kW/m2) after "lightning", that is, almost simultaneously ignite most of the directly exposed combustible materials in the enclosed area-and its effect The possible impact of firefighters.

 

To make matters worse, the layout of many facilities is disorganized, including paths with many twists and corners. When a fire occurs, it may be very difficult for the people on the scene, especially in the thick smoke, it is difficult for them to get to the fire exit. The intricate internal structure also intensifies the fire rescue work, because firefighters have to work hard to find the source of fire in the labyrinth of corridors.

 

Due to the lack of supervision in Hong Kong, self-service mini-storage facilities are scattered in industrial buildings with different conditions. For example, industrial buildings built before 1973, including the Jintaowang Industrial Center, do not need to install sprinkler systems.

 

"Fortunately, mini warehouses are usually not crowded with people like shopping malls or subway stations. Otherwise, a fire in the premises may put many people at risk."

 

Experts from the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors said that the safety issues faced by self-service mini-storage facilities highlight a bigger problem-multi-purpose spaces in old industrial buildings. He estimated that there are about 500 old industrial buildings without modern fire-fighting facilities, and more than 300 of them have multiple uses-from dance or yoga studios and adventure game centers (including trampolines and climbing walls) to restaurants.

 

To complicate matters, many of these old industrial buildings are not up to standard due to the "chaotic" multiple owners. "These places are sometimes adjacent to small warehouses and tend to attract crowds," he said. "In terms of fire safety, they are not closely monitored by relevant government departments."

 

"Those who do not comply with the regulations should face the responsibility of the lease and may be terminated."

 

He explained that the number of these places has surged in the name of revitalizing old industrial buildings, but this concept of "rejuvenation" is fundamentally wrong. "Old industrial buildings need to be refurbished to meet modern standards. Under current government policies, simply using space for non-industrial purposes does not in itself equate to'rejuvenation.' This is actually illegal. It violates the "Building The Regulations and land deeds need to be handled by law enforcers."

 

In the long run, the government needs to decide how to supervise the mini-storage facilities and how to use old industrial buildings. At the same time, the government needs to strengthen inspections of such facilities to ensure that fire safety regulations are not violated.

 

Experts from the Land Policy Group of the Hong Kong Society said that it is necessary to recognize the role of mini-storage facilities in greatly freeing up home and work space and reducing storage costs.

 

He said that the government could consider mandating these facilities to be equipped with automatic sprinklers. This can encourage them to move to more advanced buildings and reward them for structural renewal and installation of sprinkler systems in old industrial buildings.

 

Although the government has announced that all mini storage facilities will be inspected citywide, Liu suggested that owners and mini storage operators should pay more attention when drafting mini storage and mini storage lease contracts to ensure compliance with fire safety regulations.

 

The owner can request the operator of the mini storage facility to comply with the fire safety regulations and the "Building Regulations". "In turn, operators should also clarify the responsibilities of their customers in complying with these regulations. Those who do not comply with the regulations should face the responsibilities stipulated in the lease agreement and the possibility of termination of the lease. By ensuring that this communication penetrates all stakeholders , It should raise their fire safety awareness and help ensure compliance at all levels.

 

Experts from the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors expect the industry to consolidate, because large-scale operators can often provide better quality and safety standards. Chen said that quantity is the key to the profitability of this industry, and larger operators are better equipped to move to buildings with automatic sprinkler systems.

 

He suggested that the government consider temporary permits for the mini-warehouse industry and put forward minimum requirements for on-site staff responsible for monitoring facilities.

 

Industrial buildings should have a fire management plan, which includes maintenance, staff training, fire action plans and recommended actions. For example, different units in a building may require different fire safety hardware-including active protection systems and passive features of the building structure-as well as different requirements for managing fire load density and flammable materials. Business personnel and management personnel should understand how to maintain evacuation routes and how to deal with fires. They should also fully understand the building's fire safety supervision methods and possible fire risks.

 

While the government makes policy decisions on whether to allow these facilities to operate in buildings without automatic fire sprinkler systems, building owners and managers should make themselves aware of their civil and legal responsibilities. They should also insure their property, which will involve an audit of overall safety.

 

Building surveyors can help educate the public about general design guidelines for small storage facilities and maintain the health and safety of industrial buildings. This is a good opportunity for surveyors and related professionals to intervene to help building owners raise safety standards to a certain level.

 

All content is for reference only. All the latest standards are announced by the government


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