Theft, vandalism, graffiti, break-ins, employee safety, destruction of property, and lawsuits are all common concerns among self-storage owners and operators. Although there are many precautionary measures available and in use today, unlawful and criminal activity seems to lurk around every dark corner, pushing self-storage facilities to advance toward high-tech security.
In self-storage, security is progressing far beyond the traditional tools, gaining strength through products or services approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In fact, the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002 (the SAFETY Act) even provides liability protection to promote the creation, deployment and use of anti-terrorism technology. Simply put, if your facility uses Act-approved products and services, you’re given some protection against liability in the event of malicious or criminal acts.
Protecting Yourself, Taking Action
You may think you’ve never experienced a terrorist attack against yourself, your property or your tenants. The truth is, if you’ve ever experienced theft, threats, violence, physical harm, vandalism, break-ins or graffiti at your facility, you may have been a victim of a terrorist act.
Under the SAFETY Act, a terrorist act is defined as any criminal activity, malicious attack, injury or harm to a person or property, including financial or personal loss. “At one time or another, you’ll inevitably run into these types of issues,” says Ray McRae, vice president of Storage Solutions, an Arizona-based self-storage provider with more than 42 locations.
As a facility operator, you have the right to defend the safety and security of your facility. This should become a natural sell and added value when you speak to tenants and prospects of the advanced security measures you provide. When it comes to protecting tenants, their property, your facility and staff, security should never be taken lightly or second-guessed.
Many storage operators claim their facilities are secure, but their measures often appear meager to trespassers, criminals and vandals looking to commit their next crime. Commonly used tools have their weaknesses: gate codes can be observed or distributed, alarms can experience false positives, video cameras are rarely monitored around the clock, and even well-lit perimeters and fences have their fallacies, such as missing links and broken light bulbs.
McRae believes in creating an environment where customers feel safe knowing their cherished belongings are protected. “Use technology when it’s affordable and proven. Then give your team members the knowledge, skills and tools to accomplish this task. Work with local law enforcement whenever possible. Most important, be committed,” he says.
Having a security system in place can aid in keeping criminals at bay, but having the right technology, products and security services can make a world of difference.
Using QATT Technology
Having the proven and effective technology to prevent terrorism before it happens is a key to deterring threats and mitigating risks. Self-storage owners and customers now have access to Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology (QATT), that which is designed, developed, modified or procured for preventing, detecting, identifying or deterring acts of terrorism, or limiting the harm such acts might cause.
According to the Homeland Security and Defense Business Council, a company that implements technology designated or certified per the SAFETY Act has the right to seek immediate dismissal of civil claims if sued following an act of terrorism. It has the same right if sued for property or personal injury damages caused by failure of QATT.
Following is a breakdown of some SAFETY Act-approved security options available to maximize a self-storage facility’s safety and security.
Third-Party Video Surveillance
This is one of the most impactful ways of catching criminals in the act while protecting against loss or property damage. The advancement of high-speed, broadband technology allows real-time surveillance through the Internet or “cloud computing,” at low cost of ownership. It allows third-party security providers to watch network-enabled cameras from a remote location without being seen or heard by trespassers.
Remote surveillance also gives vandals the impression they’ve penetrated your security without notice while first responders (on-site managers, police, etc.) have already received a call and been dispatched. Real-time, off-site video surveillance allows for live visual verification, the elimination of false alarms, and escalated response priorities.
Depending on your surveillance needs, a third-party monitoring service is like a “virtual guard” watching over your facility. Intervention specialists are paid to watch cameras and respond immediately to suspicious activity. Unlike self-storage managers, they have no interruptions from customers or other distractions, eliminating gaps in video monitoring.
Most third-party surveillance services provide direct access and time-stamped video snapshots of live events, which can be e-mailed to first responders while malicious or suspicious events unfold. This outweighs the post-event video-retrieval process that can be lengthy and cumbersome.
Additionally, intervention specialists don't rely on a triggered alarm to alert police that criminal activity is in progress; they give a proactive vs. after-the-fact response. The human intervention behind the technology makes the difference.
There are many benefits to converting to a video-surveillance solution through cloud computing, which allows you to view, store, protect, process, transmit and securely retrieve information from a single point of access. Internet-protocol (IP) cameras are highly recommended, as they offer maximum compatibility and enable service providers to remotely monitor large quantities of cameras. If you currently have analog cameras or CCTV, don’t despair. With minimal cost, analog can be enabled to transmit data via the Internet for real-time remote surveillance.
Managed video hosting works hand-in-hand with remote surveillance services and allows facility operators to access live and archived video feeds through one convenient Web portal. Most storage facilities today use an on-site storage device such as a digital video recorder (DVR). However, DVRs can experience reliability issues or even be stolen by criminals wanting to cover their tracks.
With video hosting, your footage is stored safely and securely off site. This protects crucial evidence from being accidentally deleted, erased or removed. This service also allows you to log in to one interface or Web browser from your computer, laptop or cell phone while having simultaneous access to multiple videos from any Internet connection.
Although most cameras can be accessed directly, there are limitations for out-of-date security systems, networks or data-storage devices. For example, if there’s more than one person accessing a camera, the video quality deteriorates or the connection drops off. The user experience is directly related and limited to the user’s Internet connection. Unless you have an in-house data center with abundant upload bandwidth, your site can only support one remote user at a time due to the size of video data.
Video-hosting providers have solved the problem by routing the data through secure data centers (hosting the video online), allowing multiple users simultaneous access via the Internet, with no degradation of quality. Ideally, this service works best for customers managing multiple cameras at multiple locations, but it’s also cost-effective for owners of a single facility. You have 24/7 access to your live or archived video, with the flexibility to choose how many days of archived video you store.
Now that we’ve analyzed the security options and weighed the industry standards, let’s outline some of the benefits of choosing products and services approved for the SAFETY Act:
- Low cost of ownership―no DVRs, expensive monitoring equipment or software upgrades
- 24/7 remote camera access of multiple locations from one login, anywhere, any time
- Human intervention specialist who can catch criminals in the act
- First responders receive actionable intelligence
- Proactive vs. after-the-fact investigation
- Decreased loss and mitigated risk
- Lawsuit liability protection
Investment decisions are about doing what’s best for your company and, ultimately, your customers, so choosing the right security system shouldn’t have you caught between a rock and a hard place. Choose to advance to a more robust security system that positively impacts your bottom line. Remember, vendors that display the SAFETY Act designation logo offer products and services approved as QATT, providing proven effectiveness and levels of liability protection to users.
Jason Benedict is the marketing manager for Iveda Solutions, a subsidiary of Iveda Corp., a provider of online security technology including video hosting and real-time video-surveillance services. Iveda was awarded the SAFETY Act designation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology provider. For information, call 800.385.8616; visit www.ivedasolutions.com.