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Maintaining Office Security

Continuing our series on various aspects of preventive security for staff and visitors, we are pleased to present the following interview with Matthias Hoffrichter, Business Development Director, PCS Security and Facility (Thailand) Ltd. This explains some of the issues involved in maintaining security of office and factory premises to assure the safety of both staffers and visitors. Security can come alongside some inconvenience, but this is surely better than suffering potential damage and injury from terrorism or violence.

- What kind of security services do you offer, to what types of premises and whereabouts, in Thailand and internationally, with how many staff?

Some of our clients are so familiar with our guards that they say “PCS is everywhere in Thailand”. With nearly 30,000 staff you will certainly find us at many places, in Bangkok and upcountry. But we still see plenty of room to grow. We offer security services mainly in six key sectors: offices, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, education and retail.

Increasingly we are replacing guards with CCTV and electronic systems like access controls and intruder alarms.

OCS, our British mother company, was founded in 1900 and is still family-owned. Today we are operating in 50 countries with 87,000 experienced employees.

- We have heard that there are new regulations in force about the accreditation, training and educational background of security staff. What kinds of rules now apply and how far will these rules result in better quality security services?

Yes, these are quite complex regulations which are both advantage and challenge. Among the new regulations, guards can only be Thai nationals: no more foreigners. They must have a certain educational level (Mathayom 3) and have received a defined training, background check and certification by the police. Of course it is good and desirable to lift the standard. Especially since PCS has always, even long before the law, only employed Thai nationals as guards and put great emphasis on training. Better education, quality, background checks will definitely help to deliver high standard guarding in Thailand. However, the majority of the guards in Thailand – and we speak of as many as half a million guards – do not have the educational level as required by the new law. Because if they did, they would also have other, better paid options than working as a guard. Here the new law definitely is a challenge: once these guards leave their job, for example to help during rice harvest in their hometown, the new law does not allow them to be re-employed for their lack of education. PCS and other security companies are still working with officials to find ways to address these challenges while maintaining the positive elements of the law.

- What are the main risks that may arise to premises, other assets and staff located there? How does Thailand rate in comparison with other countries where you operate?

The terrorist attacks in European countries and the US have definitely increased public awareness. And while this threat is certainly a very real one, also in Thailand, it is still one with a lower likelihood than in other countries. Security agencies and also embassies are rating only the south of Thailand as a high risk area. In terms of premises, like private and commercial buildings, the main risks are still internal theft and burglary.

- There are often conflicts between security and convenience. How can you reconcile these alternatives?

Everyone wants their office, their children’s school and their home secured. But are they willing to accept the inconvenience that comes with security?  Probably many are not. Some managers are upset when they are not recognised and then asked for their ID card. Some tenants in a condominium want everyone to be stopped from parking in the wrong place, but not themselves. It is important to regularly make employees, management and tenants aware that it is exactly the inconvenience that stops a burglar or even a terrorist attack. The job of security is to Deter (a person with malicious intent), Detect (a threat), Delay (create time to call police support) and Deny (entirely prevent the event from happening). None of this is possible without causing a certain degree of inconvenience – and we do our best to discuss this with our clients and their staff.

- How can you provide effective security service on a continuing basis when people tend to relax their attention over time? What are the main problems about enforcing constant security?

Maintaining attention is one of our key challenges. PCS is addressing this through stringent supervision, procedures, technology like tracking a guard’s tour points, training and job rotation. One of the main problems is familiarity: the same guard in the same place can lead to problems as people become friendly and then could come with requests for favours etc.  Rotating guards through different positions and posts is an important way to “keep them fresh”.

- What happens when people either inside the company, or visitors, refuse to cooperate with security provisions? Do you have problems with visiting top executives who should set an example, but often fail to do so?

This happens more often than one would think. PCS works with the clients to establish a sense of urgency and an atmosphere of understanding. Further, some clients may place a photographic organisation chart in the guards booths so the guard is informed who they are, especially in advance of high ranking visitors from overseas. However, this can lead to uncertainty and provides an opportunity for a security breach. With client management supporting the measures, for example in staff meetings or with big signs at the entrance of shopping malls, it is usually possible to “ease” the situation and allow for better cooperation.

In general I would like to point out that – pretty much as always in life – it helps to try and understand the person in front of you. In our case this means recognising the security guards who work very long hours on a minimum wage job. The great majority of them are doing a very diligent, caring, dedicated service. They help to make your home, your workplace, your shopping mall, your school a better place. Give them a smile occasionally, let them know you notice and help them to do their job. They do it for you.

Christopher F. Bruton, over 46 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.