By Kay Miller Temple
They’ve plotted. They’ve planned. They know which camera, which gate, which unit is vulnerable. Criminals are imaginative. They’ll always be working on their next great heist.
With modern security technology, self-storage facilities can minimize the chance of seeing their business appear in tomorrow’s crime headlines. Without compromising customer service or your bottom line, do you have all the components you need? Here are a few things you can add to your security arsenal to minimize crime and maximize facility revenue.
Standard Components, New Functions
Some products, like access gates, keypads and video cameras, have remained steady staples of self-storage security, but their features have evolved to include many more options. New wireless and mobile technology provides a lot more flexibility to facility owners and customers alike. Remote-access tools are also hot on the market.
For example, keypads come customizable with a variety of amenities. Some models work via a mobile app that allows users to enter their access code via their smartphone or other device. Other features include intercoms, pinhole cameras and proximity readers for card or key fob entry. “Keypads are being sought after due to the adaptability to each customer’s specific needs,” says John Boire, an electrical engineer for Stor-Guard LLC, a company that specializes in security solutions.
Video cameras have also improved. Software can link a camera to a specific door opening and include a time stamp. "This allows the operator to have instant viewing, rather than the typical search through countless hours of DVR files," Boire says.
As security amenities become more automated, the difference for operators is apparent on their bottom line because automation improves revenue, says Tony Gardner, vice president of QuikStor Security & Software, which provides software and security products. "Operators are looking to cut costs, get more from their security and access-control solutions, and expect more value-added functionality from their security solutions," he says.
Hot Sellers: Alarms and Controllers
An improved economy has caused many self-storage owners to open their purse strings for the purchase of door alarms and controllers. This year, QuikStor has seen a “dramatic upswing” in wireless unit-alarm sales. "More and more operators are acknowledging the value in setting themselves apart from the pack by offering a higher level of security and peace of mind to their tenants," Gardner says.
Individual door alarms not only provide proactive theft prevention, they can serve as a marketing advantage. Jon Loftin, vice president of business development for PTI Systems, which provides hardware security systems, says having door alarms improves a facility’s public image. "No one wants a security breach to be the first thing people see about the facility when potential customers search the Internet for self-storage," he says.
Also on the hot-commodity list are door controllers. Those that have the ability to run on a network are especially popular. "The controller’s information can be sent over a network and be received at a main office, which allows the operator to see and control the activity of a remote site," Boire says.
2016 Gate Changes
Gates are among a facility’s most valued security components, and important changes are coming in 2016. Underwriters Laboratory (UL), an independent safety company that provides certification for electrical products, is changing codes for automated gate systems and gate-associated devices, referred to as UL 325. Predictably, these updates will trickle down to fire and building codes.
The changes will only apply to new installs of vertical-pivot, horizontal-slide and swing gates, but not barrier gates. The changes involve new ways that communication between the gate and its intricate protection devices, such as photo eyes and contact sensors, must happen, says Brian Fritz, the national sales manager for Autogate Inc., a company that manufactures vertical-pivot and lift-gate entry systems.
"Typically, if a photo eye fails to work now, the gate will continue to function," Fritz says. "In 2016, the gate will not function. If the photo eye dies, is absent or is otherwise inoperable, the gate shuts down. 2016 will make it hard to cut corners and also make owners aware if a safety device is not working.”
Though creating a secure property is a top priority for self-storage operators, there’s no avoiding a discussion about price. John Fogg, general manager for Sentinel Systems Corp., a provider security components, says that to meet today’s security needs, a self-storage owner should expect to pay about $1 to $3 per square foot for his system. Loftin says the investment should be approximately 5 percent of the overall cost in the budget for new construction. "Remember, this is for access control and security that every customer uses every time he visits the property," he says.
To get the most bang for their buck, owners should consider installing components that serve a double role, both protecting the property and functioning as a marketing tool. For example, a predominantly placed security monitor in the management office allows the manager to keep his eye on the property and tells tenants and prospects that the operator cares about security.
The Operator’s Role
Although technology is essential to site security, one of the most important barriers to crime is not a product for sale—it’s the person behind the counter. Not only does the manager make decisions about who can rent a unit at the property, he’s the one responsible for ensuring tenants understand the facility’s security features and benefits.
The reality is, despite a robust security system and an operator’s best efforts, theft can still occur. It’s important to make this clear to prospective tenants, says Len May, owner of Easy Move Mini Storage in Grain Valley, Mo. May reviews the list of things he does to prevent crime with every new customer. He also provides them with a list of important actions they can take. "Make sure the customer is aware of what is considered normal for theft deterrents and the things you offer that are extra," he says.
The self-storage industry is largely defined by its security. Needs change over time, making a one-size-fits-all-and-forever solution impossible. Glimpsing into the future, security companies are promising even more sophisticated wireless technology geared to avert crime and offer convenience. From lighting to modern wireless amenities, reviewing what your facility’s security layers are—and could be—can add to your bottom line, and attract and retain happy customers.
Kay Miller Temple is a physician and recent graduate from the master’s program at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. To reach her, e-mail [email protected].