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January 14, 2012

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Surprise fire drills to improve realism

UNANNOUNCED fire safety drills will be held in public areas this year to give a more realistic appraisal of emergency responses, Shanghai's police chief said yesterday.

And the city is to hire public safety specialists to uncover hazards and advise officials, said Zhang Xuebing, vice mayor and director of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau.

Many current drills and training programs are failing to improve the public's responses to emergencies, Zhang told local legislators.

"It is more valuable to hold emergency exercises without informing the public beforehand," Zhang said.

This echoed criticism from legislators that some drills were more like "a choreographed show, complete with script," than a true test of how people would cope with an emergency.

Zhang told how he visited local stores that boasted staff were well-trained in fire safety.

But Zhang said that in one store a member of staff could not even lift a heavy fire extinguisher, even though she claimed to be skillful in handling it.

The government also plans to hire experts to uncover and solve public safety problems, Zhang added.

Turning to security, Zhang said the city government will this year seek to establish through identity checks more accurately where people live.

The most recent survey showed that 50 percent of downtown Shanghai residents do not live in the address stated on their residency permits, Zhang said.

The current inaccurate picture affects Shanghai's public security, Zhang added, saying it hampered crime investigations.


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