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Lawmakers approve landmark legislation to improve fire safety

05/31/2023 09:11 PM
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Firefighters work on putting out a fire at factories in Tainan
Firefighters work on putting out a fire at factories in Tainan's Annan District on May 10, 2023 in this illustration photo provided by a private contributor.

Taipei, May 31 (CNA) The Legislative Yuan on Tuesday passed a slew of amendments to the Fire Services Act, with the aim of improving fire safety at business premises, marking the most comprehensive legal revision in decades.

One amendment scrapped a rule that had originally given businesses a grace period to make improvements to malfunctioning or noncompliant firefighting equipment at their premises, stipulating authorities will now fine businesses as soon as infractions are discovered.

It also raised the fine from NT$6,000-NT$30,000 (US$195.2-US$976) to NT$20,000-NT$300,000, and said financial penalties may be imposed multiple times if necessary improvements are not made in the prescribed time period.

Given high-rise buildings and underground structures are more vulnerable to fire risks, another amendment mandates that such buildings establish a disaster prevention center staffed with qualified first responders.

If businesses fail to comply with on-site fire safety inspections or investigations, they will face a maximum fine of NT$100,000, another amendment stipulates.

To facilitate rescue missions, fire departments will now be able to request access to an individuals' cell phone to help locate their position.

Due to a shortage of certified Fire Safety Officers, a deadline to retire "technicians in related specialized professions" who are currently authorized to operate, inspect and repair firefighting equipment has been delayed.

The deadline, originally three years from now, has been pushed back to five years, to allow more time for 5,000 certified Fire Safety Officers to be recruited and trained.

The National Fire Agency says that following the amendments, it will consult with relevant agencies and organizations to make corresponding changes to the Enforcement Rules of the Fire Safety Act and 21 other secondary legislation within six months.

The Executive Yuan, the administrative arm of Taiwan's government, submitted the bill to the legislature for review on March 24. The 27 amendments that were cleared Tuesday represent the highest number of changes made to the Act in 36 years, according to a statement from the Ministry of the Interior.

The bill was put forward in response to the Cheng Chung Cheng Building fire in Kaohsiung in 2021 that killed 46 and injured 43 and the Partyworld KTV fire on Taipei's Linsen North Road in 2020 that killed six and injured 67, according to the statement.

Also on Tuesday, lawmakers cleared the Firefighting Equipment Personnel Act through the legislative floor, which mandates that Fire Safety Officers are licensed by the Ministry of the Interior.

Under the Act, Fire Safety Officers must have at least two years of practical experience, be registered with The Ministry of the Interior and have obtained a license before they can practice their profession. Examples of the places Fire Safety Officers work as stipulated by the Act include working in-house for construction companies or being hired to perform inspections or repairs at venues.

The Fire Safety Officers will have two years to obtain the license, the Act stipulates.

Those that carry out this type of work without one will be fined between NT$200,000 and NT$1 million, and financial penalties can be imposed multiple times if the offender continues.

Interior Minister Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) described the legislation as an important milestone that provides a legal basis for the regulation of Fire Safety Officers. He adds that it is expected to improve fire safety across different types of venues and public places.

(By Wang Cheng-chung, Chen Chun-hua and Sean Lin)


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