As the public has learned more about the self-storage industry and the kinds of items they believe tenants keep in their units thanks to shows like “Storage Wars,” theft and vandalism have become more prevalent at our properties. These crimes can sometimes be attributed to poor security measures, but even a well-protected facility can become a target. Here are a few reasons why:
- High-risk areas: A facility in a high-crime area will most likely become a mark, not only because of the location but because the units are often cheaper to rent, giving would-be thieves ready access.
- 24-hour access: This gives criminals the time and freedom they need to study the area, from the physical barriers and security systems in place to the people who work on the property and fellow renters.
- Unmonitored security: Many facilities have outdated surveillance systems with no real-time footage or video monitoring.
- Human negligence: Incidents sometimes occur because employees aren’t being paying attention or a tenant discloses property details to a third party.
If you don’t want your self-storage facility to fall prey to criminal behavior, it’s going to take more than passive security measures. The following advice should help you minimize potential losses.
All self-storage facilities should have security equipment in place. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a modern property without technology such as automatic gates, surveillance cameras, alarms, lighting, motion-detection systems and more. Some sites are even using identity verification at their gate (facial or license plate) and electronic door locks.
The challenge is some technology can invite cyberattacks. If the system or software controlling your systems is compromised, the attackers may walk away with valuables or even critical data. For this reason, pay keen attention to the cybersecurity aspect of your business.
Invest in high-quality physical infrastructure for your self-storage facility. Simple installations such as a chain-link fence or bar gates are easy to compromise and, therefore, ineffective at keeping criminals at bay. A fortress-style layout in which the buildings are along the perimeter of the property are best. Bolster this with an automatic gate and keypad so only valid tenants can access the site. Add extra layers of security for restricted areas such as your boat/RV storage and wine storage. If you can, hire a security guard to enhance surveillance and ensure no there’s no unauthorized access to your facility.
Even with technology in place and access properly restricted, you still need a team of self-motivated self-storage employees who are committed to your company’s values and purpose. As you improve your security system, make sure you’re also training staff on how to keep the site crime-free. The following behaviors should seal any loopholes that could compromise your security:
- Enforcement: Your employees are responsible for implementing and enforcing any security-related decisions and actions.
- Vigilance: Staff should regularly monitor the premises as well as customer or visitor behaviors.
- Responsiveness: Some tenants may have unique needs and even concerns about the safety of their items. Employees should listen to these needs and act on them appropriately.
- Responsibility: Facility employees are the backbone of your storage business. They’re also charge of creating an environment that promotes security, awareness, confidence and trust with tenants.
In some cases, crime occurs with the help of a rogue employee. It’s critical to conduct a thorough background check on all candidates before hiring.
You might also rethink your company policies. Strict, no-tolerance rules around security can minimize laxity and negligence. It also enhances accountability, as every employee becomes motivated to do their part. Understanding that people play a crucial role in enhancing self-storage security, invest in your team. Support their well-being, pay them well, introduce flexible work schedules and provide other incentives to retain great staff.
To keep your self-storage facility safe, understand your neighborhood and the risks of theft or vandalism. Prioritize security by implementing the above tips. Mix and match measures until you find what works best for your property and team.
Jen Avery is a writer specializing in self-storage topics for National Storage Affiliates Trust, a self-administered, self-managed real estate investment trust that acquires and owns self-storage. For more information, call 720.630.2600.