By Rachel Adams
Running a successful self-storage facility involves much more than keeping rates competitive and occupancy high. While operators are consistently seeking new ways to attract customers, the basics of a well-run facility cannot be ignored. And what's more essential than safety and security?
These two components go hand and hand and are critical to facility operation. Your grounds must be free of safety hazards for tenants, visitors and employees. Your staff must promote safety at all times as well as take steps to deter crime and increase security. Following are six key ways for operators to protect their business from crime while keeping employees and tenants out of harm's way.
Security Starts at the Gate
All facilities should have a gate system, cameras and individual unit door alarms, says Jon Loftin, vice president of business development for PTI Security Systems, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based manufacturer of access-control and security systems. "The more bells and whistles you have, the less likely your tenants will be the victim of a crime.”
The majority of facilities today incorporate a variety of security components, including gates secured with access-control keypads, video surveillance, wireless door alarms, intercoms, motion-sensor lighting, and even management software that includes 3D site graphics to let managers know what’s happening on the property at all times.
In today’s tech-savvy environment, self-storage tenants expect lots of security features. Not only do operators face greater risk of crime without proper security in place, they may even lose customers to competitors that offer greater protection. "From a business point of view, a storage business having security will have a competitive edge over a facility not having security," says David Essman, director of marketing for Sentinel Systems Corp., provider of self-storage property-management software and security-access systems.
Enforce Safety Procedures
To protect employees and tenants, facility operators should outline and enforce safety procedures. Gina Six Kudo, general manager for Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif., said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) guidelines are a great tool for operators. "If you read up and follow the OSHA guidelines, you'll find you have most every situation covered,” she says. Some examples of safety procedures include marking wet floors with caution signs, designating a spotter for any employee using a ladder or power tool, and wearing proper attire and safety devices when performing various tasks.
Never leave a bucket of water unattended. Instead, post caution signs so tenants are aware of wet floors. [Photos courtesy of Gina Six Kudo, Cochrane Road Self Storage]
Some operators also choose to implement a crime-watch program. Kenny Carlough, president of Denver Storage Consulting in Colorado, monitors crime at his facilities by placing a sticker on each lock. In the event someone cuts a lock to steal from a unit and replaces it with a "decoy," a manager will notice the missing sticker. "The benefit to this is knowing that someone didn't break into a unit on your property and then replace the lock to throw off suspicion," Carlough says. "Without the crime-watch program, a unit can be [raided] months or years prior to the tenant coming back to check the unit."
Monitoring tenants after the move-in can help operators keep tabs on potentially unsafe situations before a problem arises. Carlough uses a program called "Know Your Tenant," which encourages managers to go above and beyond normal expectations to be the "eyes and ears" of the facility. This means walking the grounds when tenants are moving in, paying attention to the types of items going into the unit, checking dumpsters for drug paraphernalia or other suspicious items, and making sure no chemicals are being stored.
JoAnna Goldberg, director of marketing for Storage Village, which has four facilities in Maryland and one in Virginia, monitors tenants via security cameras. While there’s no official screening process, tenants who request 24-hour access to the facility must pass a background check. This keeps activity low on the site after hours. "Most tenants only have access during business hours, limiting the number of people who can be on the property when a Storage Village employee is not present," she says.
Maintaining for Safety
Operators agree proper facility maintenance is one of the most important ways to keep a facility safe. From asphalt cracks to leaks to poor lighting to faulty gates, regularly monitoring all aspects of a facility allows owners and managers to keep tabs on potential hazards and address them before accidents happen.