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Trends in Security Technology for Self-Storage: The Latest Features and Capabilities

By John Carlisle Comments

Most self-storage managers will say their second most dreaded phone call is to a delinquent tenant to collect late rent. Their least favorite? The police.

Although the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that crime in the United States has been slowly decelerating since the 1970s, self-storage operators know theirs is not a theft-free future. However, technology innovators are constantly devising new answers to ongoing problems.

Joe Dahlquist, product manager for Chamberlain Access Control, says self-storage operators often fall into one of three categories when selecting security technology: those with modern, newly built operations that demand the latest and greatest; those with middle-of-the-road facilities, who are budget-conscious and looking for reasonable solutions; and those with smaller facilities, who are looking for simple, basic equipment. Where they fall on that spectrum, as well as their size and location, determines what they buy, so trends vary.

Randy Johnston, national self-storage specialist for DoorKing Inc., says the current top priority for operators is cutting costs. “Reliability and return on investment are key, especially now. When 2,500 to 2,600 facilities were being built each year, it wasn’t as important,” he shares, alluding to the domestic slowdown in self-storage development. Now suppliers must provide technology that’s not only effective but efficient and beneficial to the bottom line.

John Fogg, general manager for Sentinel Systems Corp., has observed many facilities are bundling their access control, alarms and cameras into one security budget. He says as a general rule, a comprehensive security investment costs $100 to $250 per door, $1 to $3 per square foot, or 2 percent to 6 percent of the overall cost of building a facility.

So, what works to keep out thieves, desperate tenants and undesirables? “Locks and gates keep honest people honest,” Johnston says. Anyone wanting to break into a facility badly enough will find a way to do it, but good security measures can do much to eliminate crimes of opportunity and scare off a vast majority of would-be criminals. In no particular order, Johnston lists gates, keypads, alarms, locks, cameras and tracking systems as the pillars of today and tomorrow’s security products.

Access Gates

The day has come when even the most rural of facilities has at least considered installing an access gate. Dahlquist notes sliding gates outnumber swing gates 10 to one, with vertical-lift gates composing only a small percentage because of their high cost.

One of the most common gate-security issues is tailgating, where an unauthorized vehicle follows another into the drive-up area before the gate closes. To prevent this, Dahlquist proposes three options:

  • Anti-passback technology on gate keypads. This keeps one tenant with an access code from sharing that code with the driver immediately behind him. Anti-passback requires a certain amount of time to elapse before a single code can open the gate again.
  • Quick open and close times on gates.  Similarly, an accelerated close time at first, but a sudden slowdown as the gate gets close to latching.
  • Overlock systems tied to the gate-entry code.  Tenants or visitors cannot tailgate into the facility but must enter the code at the gate to disengage the overlock and open the desired unit door.

In addition, Fogg suggests requiring drivers to enter the appropriate code upon exit as well as entry. Even a driver who successfully tailgated into the facility would be forced to tailgate out, which is likely to thwart a drive-up thief. If the tailgater somehow acquires a valid exit code, the gate could be set up to honor only codes that have been entered twice (entry and exit) in a certain time span.

Johnston says gates of the future will be more compliant with UL 325, an industry-standard safety regulation that dictates how gates must function. He also envisions gates with embedded computers that sync with interior and exterior lighting, creating a unique lit path to each tenant’s unit when the gate is accessed.

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