Article by the Planning Department
Photographs by Lee Meng-Ming
Since taking office, Mayor Hu has placed a great particularly emphasis on public security. In addition to improving the city's fire and rescue equipment and supplies and instilling the notion of disaster prevention, he has also increased the crackdown on the nine major illegal industries to ensure the safety of Taichung residents.A little over three years ago when he took office, Mayor Jason Hu demanded that the fire department insect the fire and safety equipment in Taichung City buildings. The result was an inspection failure ratio exceeding fifty percent. Only three months later, the failure ratio dropped to ten percent.
First Place in Fire and Safety Efforts
Since 2002, the list of places to inspect has not only grown each year, the frequency of inspections have increased to meet the increasing demand. The goal is to ensure safety from fires in Taichung City buildings.
Since July of 2002, Taichung City has been placed first, in the Ministry of Interior's evaluation of the "Boosting Fire and Public Safety" efforts for the nation's 23 counties and cities nearly every year. Moreover, the city has been recognized several times by the Central Government as the only "Superior Unit" among the nation's 23 counties and cities.
In his first year in office, Jason Hu has appropriated twenty-seven million NT dollars from the city's budget without tapping into the National Fire Agency's general budget subsidy to procure an aerial fire engine with a 50-foot ladder capable of reaching 16 stories.
Even though aerial fire engines are essential, it is the buildings' fire fighting equipment that is the key to fire and rescue. Therefore, maintaining a complete set of usable fire and safety equipment is crucial. In recent years, the city's fire department has kept up with continuing inspections and demanded business owners contract professionals for assistance; businesses found in violation of building codes and fire and safety regulations are cited and given a deadline to administer correctional measures. As a general effort, inspections of public safety have been administered and called to attention. Prior to the Lunar New Year holidays, in accordance to the annual plan, the city government has also conducted public safety inspections of supermarket complexes, department stores, movie theaters, and any high-traffic public arenas.
Basically, Taichung City's public security has shown considerable improvement. In terms of incidents, the number of fires occurring per population of ten thousand was 3 cases in 2001; in2004, the figure had decreased to 1.34 cases a drop of 57 percent, a record low fire incident figure over past years. Property damage from fires has also declined annually from the average $74 per capita in 2001 to an average of $27 per capita in 2004, a drop of $47 per capita on average or 63 percent. These figures show that the fire department's efforts to boost disaster relief and Fire prevention have taken effect giving residents more security.
Fire fighters are essentially our "protector gods". However, "prevention" is actually more important than "disaster relief".
To keep fires from occurring, promotional measures are an important approach. In addition to organizing fire prevention programs for major holidays and festivals, the fire department has conducted "Family Fire Prevention Passport" activities in schools to instill these concepts in people "while they are young".
Furthermore, the city government is aggressively working to implement the inspection and correction filing system. Property owners on file for inspection are required to contract fire prevention technicians or professional inspection and correction agencies to inspect and file their fire and rescue equipment. The city is also working aggressively to promote the fire prevention management system. Presently, the number of businesses in the city that are required to have a fire prevention manager is 2, 289; among them, 2,282 businesses, nearly 100 percent, have already hired a fire prevention manager and implemented a fire prevention plan.
Catching Illegal Acts to Secure Safety
In the nine major industries, if public safety management work is not properly carried out, it poses as a hidden bomb that jeopardizes the lives of Taichung residents.
Establishing a tranquil, comfortable, and safe living environment is not only what residents expect it is also the responsibility of the government. The city government must safeguard legitimate businesses but also exercise its power without compromise against illegal operations.
In 2002, a total of 2,802 businesses have been inspected: deadline for correction numbered 676 cases, property owner and occupant penalized numbered 1,288 cases, and usage injunctions numbered 691 cases. In 2003, a total of 2,988 businesses had been inspected: deadlines for correction numbered 540 cases, property owners and occupants penalized numbered 1,238 cases, and usage injunctions numbered 810 cases. In 2004, a total of 2,783 businesses have been inspected: deadlines for correction numbered 114 cases, property owner and occupant penalized numbered 1,067 cases, and usage injunctions numbered 657 cases.
The purpose of these inspections by the city government is not to "penalize" or to "increase revenue" instead it is hoped that through penalties the goal of improving building safety can be attained.
In cases with major violations, an evaluation result will determine whether water and power disconnection or partial demolition will be enforced. In 2002, water and power disconnection was enforced in 91 cases and partial demolition was enforced in 85 cases. In 2003, water and power disconnection was enforced in 91 cases and partial demolition was enforced in 154 cases. In 2004, water and power disconnection was enforced in 146 cases and partial demolition was enforced in 138 cases. These actions have effectively halted the growth of illegitimate businesses.
Increasing Supplies to Facilitate Rescue Efforts
It is said that, "to get the job done right, one must have the right tool". In order to enhance the quality of fire and rescue service, the fortification of rescue equipment is not to be overlooked. While government budget is tight, social resources have come in time to offer aid. Since 2001, some eight charity organizations, temples, and groups like Taichung City Lion's Club300-C1 chapter, Wan Chun Temple, The Chen Family Association where Captain Chen De-Wu of the Chun She volunteer fire division is a member, The Second Credit Cooperative, Nan Fu Tang, North District Chuan Shin Fu De Shrine, Yuan Bao Temple Management Committee, Da Keng Trail 6 Serene Sea Guan Yi Gazebo have generously donated eight ambulances and equipment.
The government has also worked to appropriate funds to procure fire and rescue equipment. In 2002, one 50-foot aerial fire engine was purchased; in 2003, one water tank fire engine and one reservoir fire engine were purchased; in 2004, three water tank fire engines, two reservoir fire engines, one chemical fire engine, and one rescue supply truck were purchased. However, they are still unable to keep up with the rapidly growing city of Taichung. As a result, in recent years, the fire department continues to seek a budget increase from the National Fire Agency for the procurement of more supplies.
The Taichung City Fire Department also has an important innovation in progress, which is the establishment of a disaster relief and rescue command dispatch system. If people telephone with an emergency or in an agitated state where they are unable to communicate their location, the fire department's command center will be able to trace the location of the telephone signal and effectively grasp any disaster related location and information without forgoing any rescue opportunities.
"Sidewalk Safety" is the city Urban Development Bureau's major project for this year. The goal of the project is to provide safe passage space for women, children, and students, and decrease the incidents of ride-by robberies and thereby uphold city image and appearance and community security. The Urban Development Bureau has acted with an "iron fist" to demolish any object obstructing passage such as fixed illegal building additions, fence walls, and roll-up doors.
As the result of everyones efforts, Taichung City has moved away from its image of a "fire city". However, we must strive for improvement. All of our efforts are for one goal; securing the life and property of all residents so that everyone can live safely, without worries, and in peace.