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Setting the Security Level at Your Self-Storage Site: Choosing a Lock System

By Rich Morahan Comments

To operate a successful self-storage facility, you need a security plan, including features to attract customers and deter criminals. A good security program broadcasts those features. Gates, fences, lights and cameras can make a facility look secure to a renter or crook.

But none of those features will keep out the thief who rents a unit to gain access to your site. To stop that bandit, you need a lock—and not just any lock, a security lock.

It’s time to face up to the real world of self-storage—no more “your lock, your key.” Your tenant is a transient. He has no long-term interest in your business and its security. He doesn’t even know much, if anything, about security. He shouldn’t be choosing a lock. Do you put your own lock on your car or hotel room? If you let your renters set the level of security at your site, you can be sure of one thing: There won’t be any security.

You’ve made all the other decisions about your business. Now, at the most vulnerable spot, don’t turn over the reins to a casual person off the street. It’s his property, you say, but it’s your business. If you require renters to have tenant insurance, as you should, your renter can recoup his loss if his unit is robbed. You are the one who will lose … your reputation, sales and investment. Bad security will cost you, so act accordingly. Require an appropriate level of security for your market.

The Padlock: An Invitation to Steal?

The most basic self-storage lock is the padlock. It has pin tumblers, 500 to 1,000 key combinations, and a hardened steel shackle. This lock is easily broken with a bolt-cutter. It’s also relatively easy to pick. If you Google the phrase “bump key,” you’ll see how even an amateur can open this lock and remain undetected until the renter returns—and blames you. You see these locks at self-storage facilities, but this type belongs on a yard shed, not a storage unit.

The Disk Lock: Moving Up, But Don’t Ignore the Keyway

A disk lock with a dimple-type keyway.The disk lock is a significant upgrade over the padlock. The shackle is “hidden” inside the round shape, making the lock virtually invulnerable to a bolt-cutter. It takes some time and noise to break a disk lock. But if it’s built around the same pin-tumbler mechanism as the standard padlock, it’s just a “round” padlock. It can’t be cut, but it can be picked or “bumped.” Picking takes time and some skill. Bumping can make anyone an expert. Don’t know what “lock bumping” is? Just Google the phrase and get alarmed.

Fortunately, a number of disk locks on the market feature dimple-type keyways, with dimples and grooves cut into the side of the key. They can also be bumped, but with much more difficulty.

Even with a secure pick-resistant keyway, the disk lock still hangs on a latch, and some clever thieves have discovered you can cut the slide bolt around the latch about as easily as you can cut the shackle of a padlock.

The Cylinder Lock: Are We at Last in the 21st Century?

The cylinder lock solves that problem. It inserts right into the door. The cylinder-lock system has been around for nearly 30 years, but at last it appears to making its mark. One version is built around a push-in cylinder, which provides convenience as well as security. We all know tenants might ask about security, but what they really want is convenience.

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