Self-storage has boomed over the last 20 years, and along with that boom, sites have sprung up in just about every town. So how do you differentiate your store from the site down the road?
What happens when the customer has a choice of where to store if multiple sites exist close by? In most cities, potential renters face that choice every day. It can be argued that they may choose a store based on price or special offers, but surveys show that security of their goods is paramount. Price is almost always further down the list. After all, would you store your goods at a site where you didn’t think they were secure?
Keeping Your Investment
Individual door alarms have had the biggest impact on self-storage security over the last 20 years. CCTV is the other clear solution for self-storage security. Surveillance—or the threat of it—has a big effect on renters, and they tend to behave themselves when they think their actions are being monitored.
What do these systems deliver? Simply put: an edge over the site that does not have them. The security of people’s goods has been one of the primary causes of a change in business patterns, especially for those sites that have little security when another store with all the latest security features opens up down the road.
To ensure you get the best value from the security system you have already installed, take these simple steps:
Maintain what you have purchased. Security systems are just like any other piece of equipment. Some components have a finite life—like batteries used for backups. Make sure that door switches are aligned and working, cameras are focused and in good repair. Create a regular maintenance schedule for the equipment. Clean keypads regularly. Also, don’t make claims that cannot be substantiated. If you have sign up that says “24-hour surveillance” and you don’t have anyone sitting in front of the monitor 24/7, you are lying and open to criticism or even legal action in the event of an incident. A better sign might read: “24-hour event CCTV recorded.”
Monitor your security system diligently. Many sites have systems installed and, for whatever reason, just don’t use them. You spent the money, so make sure you use the recorded information. Access logs and CCTV footage can reveal interesting tenant activity and, used diligently, can uncover undesirable activities and potential security threats daily. Make sure the management software link is working and the correct PIN numbers have been downloaded.
Know how your system works. A time will come when information will need to be retrieved from your systems. Access-control information and CCTV images can be extracted from most systems. As the owner or manager, it’s important you know how to retrieve the information. You will need it some day.
Archive information. Keep copies of CCTV footage and access logs if you believe you will need the information in the future. CCTV systems eventually override the images stored with new ones, and it could be too late if you want to recover important information later.
Check CCTV footage daily. Checking footage frequently can reveal after-hours activity that is not acceptable. If you see something you don’t like, act on it. Also, the images should be focused and exposed correctly. Poor images are of no use in the event of a security breach.
Never allow tailgaters. These are tenants who come in just behind another tenant and cannot be bothered to enter the PIN code for their space. A simple sign that shows a “$95 call-out” fee for false alarms usually fixes this. Also, tailgaters may not even be tenants, so don’t let them in.
Monitor who’s inside. Many door alarm systems will show the tenant has entered the site and has opened his storage space door. Keep your eye on these tenants. If you think it’s been too long for the door to be open, they might be up to something.
Have a Security Plan
Dealing with a security event is also part of the process. Do you have a plan? How would you deal with a hoard of reporters outside your office asking questions about seized drugs or the bomb-making materials authorities just found? Are your security records in order? Can you provide the information law-enforcement authorities need?
How you deal with these issues defines your business in the community, and the image of self-storage rests on your shoulders when these types of events happen. Staff members can easily be thrust into the media spotlight, only to say the wrong thing or reveal sensitive information if they haven’t been trained or you don’t have written procedures.
Also, as an owner you have a legal responsibility to look after staff security. Do you have a CCTV camera in the office to record any incidents with customers? Owners sometimes rely on the customer’s view of events and the staff often bears the consequences. Staff members know they have to be polite and courteous. When it all gets down and dirty, a CCTV recording of the event will be important.
The first murder of a self-storage staff member last September in Houston was sobering news to us. The tragic case highlights the fact that we must pay more attention to personnel safety. Don’t think for even one minute serious events won’t happen at your site. Serious events happen anywhere, anytime. You must be ready.
If you’re not sure what to do, contact the leading vendors in self-storage security. They have many years experience and can help you determine what security system will fit your budget and site needs. Also, budget to upgrade the security equipment at least every five years to keep up to date with the latest trends.
Market Your Security
Do not underestimate the importance of marketing your security system. It sends a strong message to the market that you have taken steps to ensure customers’ goods are safe. Customers assume their goods are safe, right or wrong, when they store with you. While the agreement might say, “all care taken and no responsibility,” the very fact that you have charged a fee for storage infers that the site will safeguard the goods stored. That’s how the lawyers see it as well. It’s better business to ensure the safety of stored goods than to have endless litigation.
As a staff member or manager, take charge. Don’t ignore these important points. Your own safety or other staff and customers are at risk if you don’t take security at your site seriously. Knowing your system will make you a more valuable staff member.
Dallas Dogger is CEO of Centreforce IT in Brisbane, Australia. Centreforce IT is the largest installer of access-control, CCTV and individual door-alarm systems in Australasia. For more information, visit www.centreforceit.com.au.