By James Biesterfeld
The security program at your self-storage facility should be managed like any other special project, but when is the right time to start planning? By far, the best time to start is prior to construction, when the plans are still "wet," so to speak. This way, you won't have to worry about retrofitting your facility, which can involve more cost in the long run. If you must retrofit, then so be it. Whatever phase of development you may be in, it's never too late to think about security management.
So, how do you proceed? You have three options: First, you can organize your own security program, but be prepared for a serious time commitment in research and planning. Or you can hire an alarm company that would be responsible for providing and installing the bulk of your technical security equipment. The upside to this option is dealing with professionals; the downside is those professionals have a vested interest in selling you a specific product--theirs. Your third option is to hire an independent consultant, the benefit to which is you have a professional who should be able to handle all aspects of your program. On the other hand, consultants are generally more expensive, and you will still have to find contractors to provide equipment and installation. Whatever option you choose, get ready, for it is now time for you to develop The Plan.
In developing your security plan, you must first identify your threat. What is it you want to protect? What are your biggest security concerns? Once you have answered these questions, visit your local police department's crime-prevention representative and learn about the nature of criminal activity in your area and how it may apply to your facility. This information will be critical.
Every good program has a plan, and security is no different. Your plan should include each of the following:
- Policies and procedures
- Access controls
- Physical security
You must develop solid policies and procedures to operate your security program. These should include such things as client contracts, hiring/termination procedures, training programs for employees, fire safety, etc. Once you have completed this task, you have the solid foundation on which your security program will rest. Conducting pre-employment background checks, facility inspections and even background checks on prospective clients will all be a part of your policies and procedures. Strict adherence to those procedures must be practiced in order for them to remain effective.
Your access-control system will provide the manner in which employees, clients and visitors will enter your facility and move around within it. You will have policies regarding the flow of people and vehicles into the facility, and your physical security program will have the technology to enforce it.
Your site's physical security is the hardware of your program. Fences, gates, lights, locks, closed-circuit television and even your landscaping all mesh together to provide the protection you require for your site. Your technology needs will be based on where your site is located, the level of crime in the area, etc.
Once these aspects have been evaluated, you may then determine the level of technology required. You may opt for high, tubular, steel fences supported by superior lighting and cameras at integral locations. You may choose to augment this formidable perimeter with landscaping of natal plum or bougainvillea, or hearty bushes with long, pointed spines, along the interior of your fence line. Use of "beam" systems inside your perimeter is another technology option. Access into the facility through the use of an electronic keypad system or proximity card system is also beneficial to access controls.
Take all these elements into consideration, put your plan together, then implement it. As you can see, no one aspect of The Plan stands alone. Each part is important and supports the other pieces of the whole. Once your plan is complete, put it to work for you. Review it every so often so it remains a viable part of your business structure. Make changes as they are required based on new or improved data.
The security of your facility is no small undertaking and could result is major capital expenditures. But in our modern world, a security program is essential in reducing your liability potential across the board. The better your program, the lower your risk.
Planning is the key. Training keeps it going.
James Biesterfeld is a retired special agent (counterintelligence) for U.S. Army Intelligence, where he specialized in counter-espionage and counter-terrorism. Presently, he is the owner of Sovereign Executive Services, a California-based security consulting firm. Interested readers may contact him at 888.50.THREAT.