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Locks Hold Their Own in the World of Self-Storage Security: Crime-Stopping and Marketing Power

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Consider your investment in high-tech security equipment. Without a barrier at the door, access-control systems such as cameras and door alarms can still be compromised. Cameras reassure prospects and customers and deter thieves, but they only record crime, not prevent it. Door alarms announce crime after the fact. Even with a tough padlock or disk lock, a self-storage slide bolt can be cut with a bolt-cutter. Only a cylinder lock stops crime at the door.

As high-tech security becomes more practical and cost-effective, hardware in the form of high-security locks, particularly cylinder locks, is even more important to balance and complement a facility security program. Security is only as strong as its weakest link. No matter how sophisticated, electronic security needs a backstop. Settling on a $5 backstop for a security system is short-sighted and dangerous.

Consider Cylinder-Lock Systems

Both a medium- and a high-security flush-mount cylinder-lock system provides a security level that complements costlier components such as access control, cameras and door alarms. Because the lock inserts into the door, bolt-cutters are useless.

Tubular-Cylinder LockA tubular-cylinder lock uses a circular six or seven pin-tumbler mechanism and a round “tubular” key. With enough key combinations (typically from 20,000 to 60,000) and quality manufacturing, the lock is much more difficult to pick or drill than a padlock or a disk lock with a standard flat key. Although there are battery-operated tools on the Internet that can supposedly pick a tubular lock, most of these tools are used on vending machines, which guarantee a payoff.

In addition, a drill with diamond tip can drill out the mechanism, but because drilling takes time and makes noise, it’s rarely practical for a thief to drill out a cylinder lock. Some manufacturers offer these locks with numbered keys, permitting an owner to order a replacement key from the manufacturer to open an abandoned or delinquent unit without having a key on the premises.

A high-security cylinder lock goes beyond the tubular mechanism and is based on a series of rotating detainer disks. The detainer-disk system has more than three million usable key combinations, and unlike the tubular type, there are no mechanized picking tools available on the Internet. Because of its hardened steel front and a steel internal disk, the detainer disk lock is also virtually drill-proof. This is the type of lock used at Double J Court, Hollywood Self-Storage and other high-security facilities around the country.

Differentiate Your Facility

Don’t be dazzled by technology. A break-in must eventually be stopped at the door. High-security cylinder locks, disk locks or padlocks will complement the technology-based elements of your security system. High-security locks are a one-time expense. Most operators “lease” them for free or charge a $5 or $10 administrative fee and deposit to their tenants, keeping the deposit if the renter doesn’t return the key. The lock usually pays for itself after two or three turnovers. At a relatively low cost, high-security locks provide active hardware security and a visible tangible market advantage in competitive markets.

After assessing electronic security for your facility, don’t neglect to take a look at the high-security lock options offered by your lock manufacturer. Ask for a lock with more than 50,000 usable key combinations or, preferably, more than a million, built around a keyway that cannot be compromised by Internet-available picking tools or a 48-inch bolt-cutter. For a small incremental cost, you can move ahead of your competitors, attract security-conscious customers and keep your facility out of the headlines.

Rich Morahan frequently writes articles and conducts seminars on security for a number of industries. To reach him, call 617.240.0372; e-mail ; visit

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