Securing a peace of mind

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong is among the world's safest cities, with a consistently low crime rate. Violent assault is rare and burglaries uncommon. You don't see people carrying weapons, but what is visible is a strong police presence, right around the clock.

Hence, everyone - locals and visitors alike - can feel confident walking alone at night in Hong Kong.

Yet, when it comes to our most cherished space - inside our own homes - we all want that extra reassurance. Home is the one place where we should be able to fully let our guard down. Where security is not an option, but a given.

Bruce Schneier, American security expert and author, wrote in a 2008 essay: 'Security is both a feeling and a reality. And they're not the same.'

Broadly speaking, the rationale is that, even if crime rates seem statistically in your favour, we all want a piece of mind. So, on some level, we don't mind that other passengers boarding our flight are made to take off their shoes at airport metal detectors. And we all want that sturdy lock on our front door, even if we do live many floors up in a central business district high-rise.

That feeling is heightened in unfamiliar territory. Even though relocating to a new city is an exciting life-change, the thought can be a bit daunting, says Rene Holenweger, assistant general manager of Gateway Apartments in Tsim Sha Tsui.

'Security is a major consideration for newcomers to Hong Kong which, to them, seems a mysterious, hectic and unknown place,' Holenweger says. 'For newly arriving families, where the husband will often travel for business, he needs to be sure of the safety of his spouse and children.'

Most security-related questions posed by incoming residents will focus on their personal safety and well-being, as opposed to security of belongings. 'This is understandable, as household, furniture and equipment all the way down to the artworks are provided by Gateway Apartments.'

Of particular concern are issues of fire safety, response to medical emergencies, access control and floor patrols. Air quality 'unfortunately' also rates highly, Holenweger says. A large number of multinational companies have comprehensive safety requirements, designed by their own specialists, that Gateway Apartments needs to comply with before a lease is signed.

Good security should be a service that is blended seamlessly into residents' everyday lives. 'It is important that security doesn't become a nuisance, and that residents' freedom and privacy is maintained,' he says. 'Apart from our state-of-the-art security features, we are particularly proud of our Panic Alarm System. We commit to a one-minute pledge, for help to arrive in any apartment, once a panic alarm is triggered.

'We expect much more reassurance these days than just a guard stationed outside our building.' Gateway Apartments' security and safety features are kept behind the scenes and 'mostly go unnoticed'.

'A major achievement was our being certified as a 'Heart Safe Place' by the Hong Kong College of Cardiology. This is an ongoing commitment and we now have over 20 qualified first aiders and certified Automated External Defibrillator (AED) operators [who are] able to provide around-the-clock emergency assistance,' Holenweger says.

But even the best systems are only as good as their operators and at Gateway Apartments, operated by the Wharf (Holdings), there's an enormous amount of resources deployed into training.

'We conduct monthly fire drills and systems' testing leaving nothing to chance,' Holenweger says. 'Evacuation drills, in which residents always participate, are carried out regularly. Systems and staff knowledge are constantly reviewed and upgraded whenever necessary.'

It's nice to know that someone is watching over you, too. 'All residents at Gateway Apartments are registered and recognised by our security team, making any intrusion impossible,' Holenweger says. 'Deliveries, such as groceries and food, are always accompanied to the respective apartment.'

You might think that poor air quality is an unfortunate fact of life in Hong Kong, but Gateway Apartments also has that health concern covered. The building is consistently recognised for indoor air quality excellence following government testing.

'We have invested large amounts of money in our state-of-the-art air filtration system, as we know it's so important to residents,' Holenweger says.

'We are glad to say that we've overcome the problem, and that the indoor air quality of Gateway Apartments is better than the air outside.'