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Barrie Buck: Keeping an eye on Phuket

PHUKET: Barrie Buck always sits facing the door when he goes to restaurants.

Thursday 21 November 2013, 06:05PM


Barrie Buck in a classroom at the SGS.
Barrie Buck in a classroom at the SGS.

He also categorises people according to the level of risk that they pose. He knows he shouldn’t, but it’s an ingrained habit after 25 years spent in the British military, and years of working as a bodyguard.

“I suppose I was always destined to be in the military,” says Barrie, as we sit in the Thalang office of security company Siam Guardian Services, where he works as general manager.

“For 31 years my father was in the military, and that was the life that I knew – I was always walking around with a gun in my hand and jumping out of dens and things like that. I grew up in military camps and went to 19 different schools.”

When he came of age, Barrie embarked on a colourful career that included serving in three war zones, training soldiers to remain “operationally current”, and all types of military parachuting, including HALO, HAHO, Tandem, and Military AFF (Barrie has done more than 5,500 jumps).

One of the most important things he learned from training people how to jump out of places, was how to have trust. “After every course I had taught, I had to feel happy that I would be comfortable in jumping out of a plane at night from 25,000ft with these guys at my side. If so, then job done!”

Eventually though, he decided to walk away from the service.

“In 2006 I left the military and my house in Oxford in the UK to come [to Phuket] and learn how to play the guitar and play golf.”

But like many who come to the island with plans of retiring, it didn’t really work out like that.

“The clubs have gathered dust and I can’t play a note,” jokes Barrie.

After two months on the island, Barrie started working in ‘security’ and providing protection for ‘personnel’ in Southeast Asia.

“I worked for rich people who thought that they needed protection, and for those who did actually need protection. I worked mainly in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand.”

Many of Barrie’s clients were wealthy and famous types, including several footballers.

“It sounds exciting,” says Barrie, “but a lot of it is just hanging around, and it can get quite boring taking the client from A to B or maybe C. It amounts to little more than babysitting.”

Sometimes though, Barrie’s job was made harder when the client wanted to go somewhere where they shouldn’t have been, such as illegal or illicit venues, or “dodgy clubs”.

After one particularly dodgy adventure in a Hong Kong fish market, Barrie had had enough of protecting certain ‘types’ of people.

“I’d had enough of being in situations that I couldn’t control, I’d had enough of that in the military.”

So in 2008 Barrie assumed the role of general manager at a new Phuket-based security firm – Siam Guardian Services (SGS).

“After a while, I noticed a niche in the market for providing quality guards that could speak English and were well trained. We started out with just a few contracts, now we have more than 30 contracts for marinas, schools, construction sites, private villas, resorts and hotels.”

At SGS, guards are taught English, self-defence, fitness, fire fighting, first aid, care in the community, lifeguard duties, and of course how to provide security.

As we walk around the SGS HQ, with its various training rooms, Barrie says that although SGS is slightly more expensive than its competitors, the level of service cannot be compared.

“Our guys are so well organised that we can really cut down on the ‘flash to bang’ [reaction time].”

How to remain calm and effective is at the heart of dealing with any scenario, believes Barrie.

“It’s not just a tsunami, snake bite or fire, it applies to everything. It’s how to manage, and then give people ownership of the situation.”

Regarding safety on the island, Barrie believes there is a need for security, but unlike some places, it doesn’t necessarily need to be overt.

“We should be able to open windows in Phuket and not have to turn our housing estates into Fort Knox, but the reality is that things on the island happen because of opportunists, or desperate people.”

He believes that by taking simple steps, everybody can make their home more secure and safe.

“My biggest fear is people who don’t take security seriously. Many foreigners come to Thailand and forget to do the basic things in keeping their property and themselves safe. Ninety per cent of theft is done by opportunists.”

“The Thai military and police have some good departments but there are just not sufficient numbers,” explains Barrie, “So people have to manage their own security and keep alert.”

Or call in the SGS.

Barrie’s top tips:

1. Keep your VNAs (valuable and attractive items) indoors and under lock and key.

 

2. Don’t advertise your belongings. If you’re sunbathing on the beach with an iPod and iPhone and then go into the water, don’t be surprised when somebody steals your possessions.

 

3. Close all windows and doors.

 

4. Leave the light on when you go out.

 

5. Get somebody to clear junk mail out of your letterbox.

 

6. Clean the locks so that they function properly.

 

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