The most effective way to deter crime at a facility is to have the security system prominently placed for tenants and criminals to see. The security devices should be housed in sturdy cases and mounted in strategic places, out of harms way but clearly visible. The system's support devices and wiring should be installed neatly and unexposed to potential tampering. The self-storage facility should have adequate lighting for clear video monitoring and to make tenants feel secure. The access-system keypads or other entry device should hold up to the abuse of a would-be intruder and include tamper switches that will trigger an alarm if disturbed.
Facilities that are manned only during daytime hours should be protected with controlled gate access and individual door alarms. This not only controls entry to the facility but offers distinct protection for each unit. For enhanced security, facilities can add a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system consisting of cameras strategically located throughout the property. CCTV helps the manager see the entire property and gives customers an enhanced sense of security. If a crime occurs, it will be recorded and archived as evidence.
Facility monitoring can be bolstered by connecting fire-exit doors with a system that sends the manager an instant audible warning when a door is tripped. The system also automatically switches office monitors to the camera focused on the relevant door. During nighttime hours, facilities simply switch to an off-site monitoring station.
Monitoring stations keep vigilance over a facility by selecting which camera viewpoints to monitor. They can also track a facility's activity through the on-site access-control system, which maintains a complete detailed log of all site visitors and activity. Multisite operations can benefit greatly by tying all these features to one call center. Controlling and monitoring all facilities from one central office reduces manpower needs and saves precious resources.
For added security, a digital video-recording system can be used. All activity viewed through the CCTV network can be recorded onto a hard drive. Masses of video can be easily saved on DVDs or CD-ROMs. Digital video allows operators to monitor facilities' real-time or historical activity via the Internet. All video is recorded and cataloged by date and time for instant viewing. A good digital recording system records at 128 bits for clarity, and each frame is encrypted for authenticity in court, if necessary.
Gate Systems and Security Zones
A facility is accessed and door-alarm monitoring begins with an automatic gate-access system. This system carries out customer-profile checks by accessing intelligent customer information from the main computer system, including account delinquency, access hours and authorized zone access. Once a customer has gained access to the facility, he can follow a series of steps to gain access to his unit and stored property. Automatic lighting and surveillance should be set up to follow a customer's activities throughout the facility.
Secured storage zones can be used for the security of more precious and valuable storage items, such as wine collections or records storage. Higher security devices such as biometrics scanners or wireless remote-entry systems, which are more sophisticated and harder to penetrate, can be used to create these security-intensive zones. Biometrics scanning reads the unique patterns of a user's fingerprint or retina. The system stores the patterns as a code calculated by the unique scan, and only those with the recorded prints can enter the secured area. A remote entry device is also recorded as a calculation based on the unique transmission of the remote entry device.
A facility can be split into secured storage zones and public areas according to an operator's preference. Unauthorized persons wandering into a secured zone will trip a silent alarm and cause a camera switch to view the unauthorized activity at the management office or remote monitoring station. The monitoring station can communicate with perpetrators via a facility communication system including loud speakers.
With individual unit alarms, an alarm is activated should a unit door be opened without a specific customer's code being entered. The central station is alerted with the unauthorized intrusion and appropriate actions can be taken to protect the customer's possessions. Additional features can be used to announce the intrusion, such as sirens and lights.
In addition to deterring crime, security systems add value to a facility. As a capital improvement, the security system can be amortized on the financials and add equity to the property. Security also makes a facility more marketable. Tenants are looking for added safety to protect themselves and their possessions when on the property. If a prospect is shopping for a self-storage unit, he is likely to pay more for the facility with controlled gate access, individual door alarms and a surveillance system.
Security for self-storage can be as simple or complex as a facility requires. The most important aspect of the security system is its reliability and flexibility, offering customers ease of use, personal safety and peace of mind.
Lance Comstock is the president and CEO of PTI Integrated Systems (formerly Preferred Technolgy Inc.), which he purchased in 1998. The company has grown from five employees to an 88-employee worldwide operation, with offices in Baltimore, Brisbane, Australia, London and Scottsdale, Ariz. In 1989, he founded Classic Security, a security-installation company, which is now known as PTI East. For more information, visit www.ptiaccess.com.