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An Operator's Guide for Dealing With Self-Storage Fire: Prevent, Plan, Protect

Linnea Appleby Comments

There’s not much that strikes fear into the hearts of self-storage owners and managers like the thought of a facility fire. It’s the leading cause of extensive property damage in this business. As the saying goes, “proper prior planning prevents poor performance” and, in the case of fire, it’s doubly true! When a fire strikes, there’s no time to hesitate, as lives and property can be impacted in seconds.  
Proactive Prevention

Prevention is by far the best way to avoid a fire. Preventive measures are ongoing tasks and awareness encompassed in the daily routine of property management. Managers and owners should be vigilant in seeking and correcting all potential issues. Minimize injury and loss by following these simple fire-safety practices:

Electrical. Replace electrical cords that have cracked insulation or a broken connector. Do not exceed the amperage load specified for extension cords. Do not run extension cords across doorways or where they can be stepped on or chafed. Do not plug one extension cord into another. Never plug more than one extension cord into an outlet.

Know your tenant. It’s your responsibility to know what your tenants are storing and how it may impact the facility and other customers. If you see something in a unit that may be hazardous, you have every right to require that the tenant to remove it from the property. Be diligent and ask the same of your tenants.

Keep exits clear and well-marked. Keep storage areas, stairways and other locations free from waste, paper, boxes, dirty rags and other fire hazards.

Smoking. Do not permit smoking anywhere on the property.

Rental agreements. Audit your rental agreements to ensure compliance. Making sure agreements are signed and the proper insurance addendums in place will be immensely helpful in the event of an emergency. 
Plan for the Worst

Don’t assume a fire won’t happen at your facility―have a good emergency plan in place. By anticipating potential events, you can plan and practice how they should be handled. Just like you did in grade school, practice the steps that will be taken in case of a fire so there’s no hesitation. When a building is burning, there’s no time to read your operations manual.

Your company should have a well-written emergency procedure so each staff member knows what’s expected to happen and in what order.  This should include fire-safety training, how to identify potential hazards, and a specific policy covering how the staff should respond if a fire occurs. Your policy should include who’s called or notified, how the event is documented, and the method by which staff ensures that the property and people are adequately protected.


How you react in the event of a fire depends on how well you’ve prepared for one. This groundwork includes:

  • Knowing the location of the exit closest to your work area.
  • Posting the fire department’s emergency number on or near your telephone.
  • Being aware of the location of fire extinguishers around the facility.    
  • Knowing the location of the nearest fire alarm and learning how to use it.
  • Having an emergency-planning checklist that includes items such as what to take off site. 
  • Developing a good relationship with the local fire department. It should have the facility’s gate codes, contact numbers, etc. 
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