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Home-safe-home for staffers

In an increasingly high risk world, companies bringing senior expatriates into Thailand, or even providing housing for non-Bangkok origin local staffers, will need to consider carefully how best to house these valuable human resources, along with their families. Bangkok and other localities in Central, Eastern, Northern or Northeastern Thailand are not currently considered high risk localities, certainly lower risk than Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta or particularly Manila, although higher risk than Singapore or Hong Kong.

In this, the first of a series of articles on human resource safety and security, we will cover the subject of personnel housing safety and security. For these insights we are indebted to Chuck Krueger, Regional Representative of the Ackerman Group for the Asian Region, based in Bangkok, and his USA colleague Mike Ackerman, a world leading expert on security and safety issues.

Location selection

In selecting a suitable location, it is appropriate to find out from neighbours and well-informed local sources such as street stall sellers, whether there is a history of local violence or robberies. Compounds with restricted access such as "mu ban" have advantages, but one also needs to check out the crime rate, as these can also be targets for thieves if not properly supervised. Access to schools, hospitals and fire stations is also important. The local police station should also be identified, as some, though unfortunately not all, police teams can be of help rather than hindrance, although their cooperation may need to be facilitated.

Whether an apartment or a stand-alone house, perimeter walls need to be inspected, with sufficient height and well-lit.  A well-guarded gate is recommended, with restriction on access for both pedestrians and vehicles. If the residence is in a private compounded, the gate should be equipped with electric automatic opening and closing devices, as attackers often conceal themselves to await drivers alighting from their vehicles to open or close gates.

The parking area for vehicles should ideally be enclosed and covered, with separate parking for guest vehicles. The whole area needs to be monitored by CCTV with continuous recording. It is necessary that the CCTV facilities should have controlled access because attackers usually seek to demobilise such facilities in order to limit evidence.

There needs to be direct access by elevator or stairway to the building lobby, rather than immediate access to residential floors. Ideally both residents and guests should pass through the lobby before gaining access to elevators up to residential floors, with some kind of electronic card control desirable to select and limit access to each particular floor.

Building access needs to be controlled at all times, and it is desirable that a lobby receptionist be available to advise residents of guest arrival, or be advised in advance of expected guests. A balance needs to be assured between convenience and security: too much control can be annoying while too little is risky. It is necessary in particular to ensure that children are safe and protected when accessing elevators especially when not in the company of adults.

Individual Apartment Security

Units should be located above a second floor, to render access by intruders through windows to be impossible, including climbing adjacent trees. High-rise apartments may be at risk because in Thailand many fire-fighting facilities do not reach beyond the twelfth floor whereas apartments nowadays often reach 30 or 40 floors. One needs, therefore, to determine what facilities the apartments have for individual fire control.

Entry doors need to have solid double locks and optical viewing. There should be no windows in proximity to the entry door which might enable an illegal entrant to break the glass and reach through to open the door from the inside. Balconies, if existing, need to be unreachable from other balconies or public areas, with windows or doors fully lockable. Any roof access or skylight needs also to be protected to prevent illegal access.

Alarm Systems

There should be an alarm system, both to warn occupants of any intrusion, but also to enable such occupants to contact the 24-hour reception desk to alert regarding intrusion. There also needs to be a smoke detector to alert against fire. In terms of sensitivity, this needs to be sensitive enough to detect the onset of fire, but insensitive enough not to alert the use of tobacco smoking or normal cooking activities.

Domestic employees

A very high proportion of theft, and even some violence, is perpetrated either by insiders, whether workers or persons linked to them. When domestic servants are hired, it is desirable to check references and use best efforts to determine past records. If domestic servants leave employment for any reason, keys, if held by such persons should be returned, but locks should be changed or re-set for new combinations. Domestic workers should be instructed only to admit known persons, and be present whenever contractors are present within the premises. Those present in the premises, as well as general building personnel, should be instructed not to provide any information to telephone or personal callers about residents.

Individual residences

When a family prefers to stay in an individual house rather than an apartment, a number of special concerns arise. It is generally wiser to locate in a controlled compound providing security, both at the gates and also by regular patrols. Otherwise the family will be at greater risk or have to provide individual security services at higher cost. Perimeter walls need to be high enough to prevent illegal access, far enough away from any building, and preferably adequately illuminated at night time. Gates also need to be insurmountable.

There needs to be adequate communication between the gate and the house interior, to identify entrants to the compound before admission. As with apartments, parking needs to be enclosed, with direct access to the household. Doors and windows require special protection, as most houses will have rooms at ground floor level. Alarm systems are necessary, but it will be more difficult in Thailand to provide for access to outside help. If the house is in a gated community, such outside help should be available, but if an individual house, then at least there should be access to a company linkage. Since it is now possible to link CCTV cameras to mobile smart phones, this facility, should be installed, to enable 24-hour surveillance of the house from a distance.

Interior Safe Havens

Whatever type of accommodation is selected, it is desirable to provide for a "safe haven" to which family members can retreat in case of danger. This should be a room with a strong door, no interior windows, and ability to communicate with outside assistance, whether the apartment reception, the gated community control, or friends and neighbours. The ideal safe haven would be a master bedroom with attached bathroom and availability of water supplies. Whatever precautions are taken, there will always be risks, but taking precautions will mitigate of risks and assure better safety for staffers and their family members.

Christopher F. Bruton, 45 years in Thailand, is Executive Director of Dataconsult Ltd, a local consultancy. He can be reached at Dataconsult’s Thailand Regional Forum provides meetings, seminars and extensive documentation to update business on present and future trends in Thailand and in the Mekong Region.