Law and Enforcement


Guests are told to remain in their rooms in case of fire alarm: Ben Cowling says this is a “disaster waiting to happen”

Advice given to quarantine hotel guests to stay in their rooms upon hearing a fire alarm is acceptable, but guests wouldn’t be prosecuted for leaving their rooms, according to Fire Services Department (FSD) responding to questions on the issue.

Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s top epidemiologist, Benjamin Cowling, Chair Professor of Epidemiology at The University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, sounded the alarm on written advice given to quarantine guests which, he said, were “a disaster waiting to happen”.

Written instructions given to Cowling upon his arrival at a quarantine hotel said guests should “remain in your room and call Operator ‘0’ if you have any queries”.

Similar instructions are thought to have led to the deaths of four people in a fire in a quarantine hotel in Taiwan in July last year, with guiests afraid to leave their rooms in case of prosecution.

But FSD says each designated quarantine hotel (DQH) has a “round the clock fire manager” who “should be well prepared for handling fire alarms”.

“Upon the actuation of fire alarms, DQH staff shall immediately proceed to the suspected fire location to ascertain the situation. After that, they should inform the confinees of the prevailing situation using real time communication tools. If the situation warrants, staff of DQH should guide/evacuate affected confinees to the location of designed Assembly Area / Point,” says FSD in a written response to Transit Jam.

FSD also says guests “would not be prosecuted for staying in/leaving the room of the designated quarantine hotel if it is due to fire evacuation”.

It was unclear from FSD’s response whether this meant guests were safe from prosecution upon only an official evacuation or whether this rule would apply in the event of a guest taking it upon themselves to evacuate upon hearing the fire alarm.

FSD did not yet respond to follow-ups.

Leave a Reply