Joseph Leung Wai-hung, FSDSM, assumed the helm of the Hong Kong Fire Services Department as its director on 18 April 2020, leading a 10,000-strong fire and ambulance team to protect the city from fires and other calamities.
The new director commenced his fire service career three and a half decades ago when he was first appointed as a station officer after finishing the service’s rigorous training programme at the top of the class. He has been posted to an array of critical and demanding positions and has emerged as a respected, dynamic and visionary leader with wide exposure and an excellent track record. Chief among his strengths is fire protection and over time he has earned himself a reputation as the department’s in-house expert in that field. He rose to second-in-command in 2016.
Throughout his long years of service, Ir Leung distinguishes himself for his devotion, versatility and strategic thinking. His embrace of lifelong learning also allows him to shine in duties and responsibilities placed upon him. His outstanding performance won a Godiva Award (Best Overseas Candidate) under his belt from the graduate examination by the Institute of Fire Engineers in 1989. By making sustained efforts to pursue his further qualification as a fire engineer, he obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Engineering in 1999 from the University of Central Lancashire and became a chartered engineer in 2007.
Technically savvy, Ir Leung is also highly proficient in problem-solving and project management. He has been entrusted with a number of major projects, such as the review of Hong Kong’s law for regulating dangerous goods, the technical study on upgrading the department’s mobilisation system, the planning of a new training academy for fire and ambulance personnel, and the enhancement of fire-safety regulatory work for facilitating business licensing under a large-scale programme, to name but a few.
Ir Leung is an inspiring leader and a firm believer in open communication and mutual trust across the service. He has served on the Hong Kong Fire Services Officers Association and the Disciplined Services Consultative Committee, which afforded him an opportunity to foster effective communication between staff unions and the management. As then and now, the forward thinker attaches great importance to making sure the workplace is an environment conducive to free exchanges of ideas, which may in turn spark new possibilities.
Ir Leung is innovative in thinking. It was his proposal, back in the early 1990s on the use of abseiling to rescue persons who attempted to jump from height, that morphed into the formation of the now well-developed High Angle Rescue Team in the department, an elite specialist squad that performs rescue operations at high-angle locations in a city packed with super high-rise buildings and infrastructures.
Ir Leung is patient and tactful. During his years in the fire brigade, his public diplomacy and high communication skills have been leveraged. He was the principal spokesperson for the department at media briefings during the ‘Occupy Central’ movement in 2014, when the department was at the forefront of contingency actions.
Hong Kong has been confronted with successive challenges in the past few years. The new director stepped up to lead the city’s first line of emergency response at one of the most trying times yet – when it came under the full weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. Come July 2020 the territory was overshadowed by the third wave of outbreak, with daily reports of more than 100 confirmed cases. ‘Our members are doing all they can to fight back the virus; and they give the best of themselves whenever and wherever their services are needed, from handling suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients night and day.’
The new brigade chief exhorts members of his department to stay ahead of the curve in an age and time when firefighting and rescue operations have grown increasingly complex. ‘Firefighting is a high-risk job. It takes proper risk management, meticulous operation planning, adequate equipment and strong teamwork to accomplish each mission safely and efficiently. And no less important is each team member’s willpower. With a strong willpower, along with all other core competencies, a firefighter can overcome the toughest situations and complete every single operation,’ he added.
In the face of all the headwinds created by the COVID-19 virus, the director is determined to lead the department and equip its members with necessary training to conquer all the adversities, and help Hong Kong tide over the pandemic. ‘Despite this crisis and other challenges, we will remain steadfast to safeguard the lives and properties of our people. This is our mandate.’
For more information, go to hkfsd.gov.hk