Video Surveillance for Self-Storage: Modern-Day Considerations for Building a Camera System

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By Tony Gardner

In the 1940s, the Germans first used closed-circuit video systems to monitor a rocket-launch pad in Peenemunde, Germany. In the decades since, video surveillance has become a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives, from traffic-light cameras to pinhole cameras inside self-storage facility keypads. But how can these new systems benefit your facility? What’s different about the systems of today from those installed by Siemens in Germany during World War II?

In the 1970s and 80s, most video systems consisted of a black-and-white monitor, some form of mechanical multiplexor to display all the cameras onto that single monitor, and perhaps a time-lapse VCR for recording. Finding specific recorded video on the tape was an exercise that tested the most patient of people, and even when found, it was typically too grainy to be worthwhile. It really wasn't until the beginning of the 21st century that affordable and useable video surveillance became available for the self-storage industry.

A closed-circuit TV camera system.

When it comes to this technology, there’s no single right answer as to the "best" system to install. However, there are a number of factors to consider when building a video system for your facility. These include:

  • Budget. A self-storage operator could opt for a basic system that covers only a few public areas or have dozens of high-end megapixel cameras installed to cover each hallway.
  • Lighting. Is the facility well-lit at night? Just like the human eye, a camera needs some form of light to monitor activity. If lighting is sparse, then the operator should account for that by installing cameras with infrared LEDs built in to allow a camera to see in low-light conditions.
  • Area. Is the facility in a high-crime area that requires additional cameras? Is vandalism a concern, or do you have a problem with graffiti on a back wall or alley?
  • Competition. This is the equivalent of keeping up with the Joneses. If your competitor down the street just installed a high-end video system and is promoting itself as the safest place in town to rent, then you’ll likely have to do something on par or better to keep from losing prospects or existing tenants.

Of course, there are many other considerations each facility owner must weigh. One that’s often overlooked is how the system will be monitored and by whom. Unfortunately, many facility owners install a video system then forget about it, thinking its mere presence is deterrent enough. Others look at it only after a crime or incident has occurred. There are many ways to be interactive with your video system to not only ensure a safe environment for your tenants but to keep your finger on the pulse of the operation.

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