Last year, a Texas self-storage manager was badly injured by a malfunctioning gate operator. She knew the gate wasn’t working properly, but rather than wait several days for the access-control company to send a repair tech, she tried to fix it herself, losing a piece of her finger in the process. Thankfully, she received immediate medical care and recovered from the injury, but the repercussions could have been far worse. What if the gate had fallen on someone? What if it had closed on a customer’s car and injured the driver or passengers? What if the manager had lost more than a fingertip?
An outdated or poorly maintained access-control system is more than just a service-call inconvenience. It can cause real harm to customers and employees. While upkeeping components might seem tedious or costly, it’s far better to act now and keep everyone safe than to court disaster.
Here are a just few news stories from earlier this year that help demonstrate the importance of security equipment in maintaining self-storage site safety:
- Police arrested a man who broke into several storage units in Jacksonville, N.C., after he was seen on the facility’s surveillance video footage.
- Police arrested a man and a woman in connection with self-storage burglaries in Pittsburg, Kan., after surveillance footage showed them breaking into units and attempting to steal a vehicle.
- A woman fought off a knife-wielding attacker at an Orlando, Fla., self-storage facility. She was in her unit when he came up behind her. It’s unknown how the man, who was not a tenant, accessed the site.
- A man believed to be living in his unit in Glade Spring, Va., died in a fire ignited by his space heater.
- A homeless woman was found living in a Virginia Beach, Va., self-storage unit with 20 cats. It’s unclear how long the woman had been living in the space.
These incidents point to the same general problems with most access-control technology: A keypad code is easy to get your hands on; a gate operator is easy to get around; and a surveillance camera is passive, not reactive. Also, when people ignore safety protocols, there’s a good chance someone will get hurt.
While you can’t prevent every possible accident or crime, there are steps you can take to minimize their occurrence and impact. Start by regularly screening your self-storage site for potential hazards. Here are some areas on which to focus:
Staff. Employees are the most important element in maintaining a safe property. Owners should provide a facility manual that covers what to do in an emergency, proper use of equipment, location of the first-aid kit, and employees’ responsibilities. They should also provide regular training on these policies and procedures.
Tenants. Make sure your customers are abiding by all site rules. They should never live in their unit, use electrical items such as space heaters, or store forbidden items such as gasoline, fireworks, fertilizers and other hazardous materials. Make sure each tenant uses his own code to enter (and exit) the property. If you see a customer doing something dangerous—for himself or anyone else—speak to him about it immediately.
Security. Your security system is designed to provide access to paying customers, deny entry to those who don’t belong, and keep everyone safe. Regularly examine your gate, perimeter fencing, lighting and cameras. Proper maintenance of these items will ensure they stay in good working order and continue to do the job they’re intended to accomplish. Don’t hesitate to call in a professional when it’s warranted!
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. There’ll always be customers who disobey the rules, security components that break down, and people who breach your well-placed systems. Being aware of what could go wrong can go a long way to preventing these incidents. A vigilant storage operator spots problems before they occur and act to make his site safe for all.
Information for this article was supplied by Jeff Fickes, regional director for Storage Asset Management Inc.; Derek Hines, an Internet-marketing specialist for West Coast Self-Storage; and Will DeBord, product manager for the Nokē Smart Entry division at Janus International, a global provider of self-storage doors, hallways and smart security solutions.