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Disaster Preparedness for Self-Storage: Building a Solid Strategy Before Catastrophe Strikes

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By Jessica Lamoureux

In the blink of an eye, you could be facing a disaster at your self-storage facility. Whether it be a natural disaster such as flooding, hurricane, tornado, wind or hail, or a man-made event such as arson, burglary, vandalism or a pollution-type exposure, a catastrophe could cripple your operation. Creating a disaster-preparedness plan will not only save you time and money, it could be the key to keeping your business afloat.

Creating Your Plan

A good disaster plan starts with a list of emergency contacts including the local fire and police departments as well as your insurance agent, electrician, plumber, and HVAC contractor. In addition, keep an updated list of employees, tenants and vendors readily available. This information should be backed up and retained off site. A site map or diagram, building plans, and bank-account records should also be kept at an off-site location.

For employee safety, maintain an emergency kit that includes blankets, a fire extinguisher, first-aid essentials, battery-operated lights, a radio, water, a whistle and basic tools. You also need to plan for disruption to your utility services. Determine which ones are necessary for continuing your business (for example, phone) and contact your local provider to see what back-up options are available.

To prevent arson, vandalism and burglaries, consider installing perimeter fencing of at least 6 feet high as well as a video-surveillance system with a sign advising the facility is being monitored. Central-station burglar and fire alarms are always recommended, especially for the main office.

Contact your local disaster-restoration company to see if it offers a preparedness assessment or related tools. For example, ServPro offers an Emergency Ready Profile you can access immediately through a mobile app. The profile stores critical information that can be provided to authorities such as the location of shut-off valves and areas of priority. Having this information at the ready can help minimize business interruption.

All of the items above should be part of your business-continuity plan and updated regularly. You can review and create your own plan at ready.gov. It should be shared with your insurance agent, who’ll use the information to present your facility to underwriters for the most competitive insurance policy. The more details you provide regarding your disaster preparedness and safety features, the better they can justify the application of credits to your insurance premium.

Establishing Protections

After a loss, your lease agreement is your first line of defense against lawsuits. As such, it should be written or at least evaluated by an attorney who specializes in self-storage. Your lease should be reviewed and updated regularly, especially when there’s a change in your state’s lien law.

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