Security guards in apartment blocks and shopping centres could find themselves shocking heart attack victims back to life as plans get under way to introduce life-saving equipment to buildings.
Property management agencies are considering making defibrillators, which deliver electric shocks to restart heart beats, available in their properties.
"Heart disease is the second biggest killer of people, after cancer, in Hong Kong every year," said Fire Services Director Joe Kwok Jing-seung, who met members of the Association of Property Management Companies in November to urge them to install defibrillators.
The association's member companies manage 90 per cent of private buildings in the city and are also subcontracted to manage many public housing estates.
The association will meet next Monday to discuss how the plan could be implemented.
"In the US and Canada and other places, defibrillators are available, like fire extinguishers, for public use," Mr Kwok said.
The ambulance service has pledged that it will answer emergency calls within 12 minutes, but Mr Kwok pointed out that the first five minutes after a person suffers a heart attack were critical to a patient's survival.
"It's called the golden five minutes. If someone reaches the patient before us and if that person has the appropriate training and equipment, it increases the chances of survival," he said.
Last year, 6,031 people died of heart disease, compared with 5,866 in 2005.
Chan Shiu-kwan, commandant of the Fire Services Department's Ambulance Command Training School, said security guards who patrolled buildings and were available around the clock would be the ideal people to train to use the defibrillators.
"Just one day of training would suffice to use the public-access defibrillators," he said, adding that the equipment could also be installed in homes for the elderly, cinemas, airports and shopping malls where people could be trained to use them.
Modern defibrillators are portable and easy to use, with recorded voice instructions and automated mechanisms that warn the user if the victim really requires cardiac shock or not.
Medical sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki said the government should be more proactive in providing defibrillators in public places and to train designated individuals to operate the equipment.
"It could save a lot of lives. I don't think the government is doing enough. It needs to take the lead and provide this equipment in places like the MTR," Dr Kwok said.