Preventing Malfunctions of Your Self-Storage Security System
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By: John Fogg
Posted on: 06/08/2013


Whether it’s a video camera on the fritz or an access-control gate that unexpectedly opens and closes at random moments, self-storage security components can fail just like any other electronic. However, there are steps operators can take to minimize their security machinery from going haywire to keep their property, employees and tenants safe.

The risks of a security system going wrong are usually due to human error. In most cases, a little bit of attention to the system and components will prevent the majority of issues that can arise. This should be part of the security philosophy of a site. If a system is installed and configured correctly, it should be a smooth-running operation. How security can go wrong is by failing to pay attention to the initial details of a security system.

Installation 101

Security-system wiring is low-voltage and needs to be installed separately from the standard electrical runs throughout the site. It should be in separate conduit, with no splices in wire runs. Ensure the conduit is not susceptible to moisture or weather. Wire pulls need to be smooth so no wires get nicked or cut. Neglect these details, and it leaves the potential for things to go wrong later.

The initial setup of the security software program is imperative. Once all access, alarm and monitoring devices are correctly installed and configured, the site security should be in place. Security systems are designed with a specific structure and protocol to accomplish their goal, and devices require a specific address in the software program. Groups of units become security zones that must be listed correctly. Alarm wires should be terminated in the prescribed position to communicate with the door table in the computer, and time zones need to be scheduled accurately.

Regular Upkeep

Site security does require diligence from the self-storage manager or others who operate it. Most malfunctions or breaches occur because the system is not used properly. Is there someone on site reviewing camera and gate activity? Are there exit devices in place so the customer is required to log out as well as in? Does the manager know if someone is spending large amounts of time at the site? Are security checks being done throughout the property, or is it all being administered from the office? These are things operators need to consider.

In addition, the facility should be well-lit to discourage criminal activity. Operators should make sure they enter the customer’s information correctly in the system at the time of move-in so no one is accidentally granted access he should not have. Operators should also note if the door table has inaccurate information causing false alarms. When there is a false alarm, is it immediately addressed by the manager, or is the system simply shunted, or worse, shut down?

Tech Support

Of course, devices fail from time to time. Electrical storms and surges can damage equipment. When something fails, it’s time to call the security manufacturer’s tech support. They can troubleshoot the devices to determine if they need to be sent in for repair or replaced.

Through the years, electronics can become more susceptible to failure. How old is that keypad out there at the entry gate? When is the last time the chain on the gate was lubricated? Have you looked at the latest features for security to see what’s new? Do you have a plan in place to periodically replace older equipment with newer, more reliable, feature-rich components?

These are some of the questions and concerns that should be addressed to eliminate or greatly reduce mishaps at the site concerning security. The shrewd operator will handle these details before something can go wrong, thereby eliminating most uncomfortable security situations before they happen. This will give the operator/owner peace of mind and give tenants confidence that their belongings will be safe.

John Fogg has been in the self-storage business for more than 25 years. He’s the general manager of Sentinel Systems Corp., a Lakewood, Colo.-based manufacturer of property-management software and security-access systems, individual door alarms, wireless door alarms, camera packages and more. For more information, call 800.456.9955, ext. ext. 405; e-mail; visit