Fire Services working on mobile app that will help non-Chinese speakers

The Fire Services Bureau (CB) said yesterday that it is working on a mobile platform that will allow those in need of help to contact the firefighting authority. The platform will help non-Chinese speaking residents of Macau to better request assistance during emergencies.

The CB was asked by a journalist yesterday about the language proficiency of the Services’ hotline. The journalist said that when typhoon Hato hit Macau in 2017, many non-Chinese speaking help- seekers were not understood by the CB’s hotline. The bureau was asked about its preparations for this year’s typhoon season.

In response, Deputy Chief Cheong Chi Wang and 1st-level Chief Chan Meng of the CB said work had been done to improve the services provided by the call center. The bureau has also promoted officers with better foreign-language abilities to work at the call center.

Chan said, “we are regularly monitoring the center’s service. We will also keep an eye on officers who have graduated from English-language high schools or universities to guarantee the quality of services in English.”

Cheong also disclosed that the bureau was in the process of developing an electronic platform on which those seeking help can connect to the Fire Services to report their situation.

A typing function will be available on the platform, which will most likely be a mobile app. The feasibility of incorporating it into existing instant messaging apps, such as WeChat, is also being studied.

The service has been popularized in the mainland and many other jurisdictions, according to Cheong. Therefore, the bureau will study the experiences from the various jurisdictions to develop a platform that is suitable for Macau. The platform is unlikely to be ready this year, said Cheong.

The two officials were also asked how those in need of assistance can evaluate the severity of their situation.

For example, in one case during the passage of Hato, a part of a building’s roof that was almost blown away was not considered a severe incident.

“On that particular day, the Fire Services received more than 1,000 calls within an extremely short time,” said Cheong. “As such, it was impossible for the Fire Services to attend to all requests immediately. In those situations, the bureau will have to rank the severity of each case. Life-threatening conditions will be most prioritized.”

Additionally, Chan also introduced that on normal days, the CB’s call center is staffed with 20 dispatchers handling seven telephone lines. When typhoon signal 8 or higher is hoisted, both the number of staff and lines will be doubled.

Meanwhile, in first half of the year, the CB handled a total of 24,671 cases, a 6.5% rise from the same period last year. There have been 446 cases of fire, compared with last year’s 464 cases. The bureau attributed the fall to people’s awareness of potential fire hazards. Staff reporter

Categories Macau