Whether you own a facility or are just renting space, security should be your top priority for your self-storage unit. Everything gets stored here from business inventory to that ugly lamp Aunt Ethel gave you for Christmas. Well, maybe you hope for NO security on the latter.
In any case there are steps both owners and renters can take to make sure that stuff stays put. Check for these if you rent space yourself and keep them in mind for your own facility.
Security vs. accessibility: a delicate balance
You need to balance the amount of security with the need for accessibility. The more security there is the bigger the headache to get to the stuff. If something very valuable is being stored it’s probably worth the headache. For that extra set of bent golf clubs? Not so much.
In either case, as a facility owner you will find that certain basic security measures will help bring customers to your place, plus you want to keep the losses you are liable for to an absolute minimum.
As a renter you will want to check to make sure the facility you plan to use has the basic security you expect. The type of security on a metal storage building tends to differ by geographic location, the facility policy, and the cost of installation, maintenance, and monitoring. It’s best to do a site visit, if possible, to see what you are getting into.
Securing the premises
Security takes a multi-layered approach from the physical to the electronic.
- Hours of operation. An easy step to take, especially if the neighborhood isn’t safe, is to limit the hours the facility is open. With fewer hours of access there is a better chance of noticing unauthorized access during the off hours. It also limits the chance someone could be hurt or robbed while visiting the unit.
- Controlled access. The best defense is…a good fence. The facility should be completely fenced in with plenty of lighting and a controlled entrance. Particularly if the facility is in a rough area the more lights there are the better the renters will like it.
Add to that an electronic gate that requires a key-code and a password personalized to the user. Information on who was on the property and when can be stored digitally in the case of trouble. The gate should be sturdy enough to withstand the constant opening and closing as well as deter drivers from trying to ram through it.
For the best security, you can add controlled access to each individual unit to prevent one customer from moving items out of someone else’s unit without permission.
- Video surveillance. Providing video surveillance makes it possible to monitor 24 hours a day. The price has come down on cameras and video surveillance equipment making it more cost effective than ever. The video feed can also be stored digitally so thieves can’t destroy it and it’s easily accessed if needed. Place at least one camera prominently on the entrance gate and others to the building or unit doors, along driveways and hallways, and in the management office.
Video surveillance is a selling point to most people who use these facilities and can be the differentiator between your facility and the one down the road when it comes to attracting customers.
Another option is to pay for an off-site monitoring company.
- Locks. Electronics are great but physical barriers are needed as well. Remind renters, and yourself, to lock the units before leaving. The recommended type of lock will not have a long shackle; instead a disk or cylinder lock that will be proof against bolt-cutters should be applied to the unit door.
Another tip: store the most valuable items in the back of the unit. This keeps loss due to a smash-and-grab approach to a minimum.
- Management. Having a manager live on-site can be a cost effective security practice. While this doesn’t necessarily provide 24 hour visual monitoring, the fact that someone is there can act as a deterrent. It can also save you on wages because you will be offering living premises as part of the job.
If you are allowing deliveries limit the hours allowed and make sure the manager has a hold-harmless agreement before allowing him or her to access a renter’s unit for deliveries. For an extra fee you can offer a lock-down facility where the manager must be present anytime a unit is accessed whether by a renter or someone else.
Finally, cultivate a good relationship with local law enforcement. See if you can get your facility monitored on a regular basis by a cruiser or a brief stop.
There are many choices in steel self-storage spaces. Security is often the first thing renters look for as they shop for a place to temporarily store items during a move or to store them long-term. Many small business owners use these units to store inventory, making it security an excellent investment and business differentiator.