One reason tenants will often choose one self-storage facility over another is they have a sense of safety and security on the property. For this and many other reasons, ensuring a protected environment for employees, customers and guests should be a top priority for your business.
Let’s be frank: Even when you take all possible precautions, a storage site can be dangerous. Most properties are staffed with only one or two people, which can leave them vulnerable to crime. There are driving hazards to cars and pedestrians. There’s always the potential for disaster such as a flood or fire. An accident can happen anywhere at any time, but being prepared for potential hazards and emergencies can change the outcome, potentially reducing negative effects.
Thankfully, there are many steps you can take to ensure your self-storage facilities are safe. Read on to learn what they are.
The first step to safeguarding your self-storage facility is to create a written safety manual that addresses various scenarios that could occur and how to react to each. From natural disasters to hostile tenants, there should be protocols in place to curtail damage or injury and keep everyone protected.
Your safety manual should be printed and accessible to anyone who works at the facility and incorporated into training for all employees. It should also be reviewed regularly and updated as needed. Here are some things it should include:
- Contact information for emergency first-responders, facility owners, your management company (if you have one) and utility companies
- Facility map with evacuation points
- Location of safety and security equipment
- Instructions for manual operation of gates and doors
- Emergency-preparedness procedures (how to secure the building, who to alert, how to communicate with tenants)
- Guidelines for what to do if someone gets injured
- Guidelines for interacting with customers, media and the public during a crisis
- Incident record-keeping
- Follow-up plan, including channels to be followed
Parts of a self-storage manager’s job may require the use personal protective equipment. For example, during routine maintenance work, gloves and safety glasses should be worn. Here are some items that should be on site and available to staff:
- Gear for cold weather and ice, such as traction cleats that clip onto shoes to prevent slippage
- A first-aid kit containing bandages, eye wash, gauze, hydrogen peroxide, etc.
- Bottled water for emergencies
- Flashlights and emergency lighting
- An AM/FM radio
- Smoke detectors
- Fire extinguishers
All these must be properly maintained and replaced as necessary. Also, make sure your business adheres to all Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. These differ by state, so it’s important to have them on hand and regularly review them with your team.
Your security system is designed to keep people and property safe. In addition to employing traditional components such as cameras, an access gate, perimeter fencing, etc., here are some things you can do to enhance protection:
- Cameras in the office and around the property can help managers and tenants feel more secure. Point out your cameras and security monitors to customers and guests. This not only alerts them that they’re being recorded, it can make them feel safer.
- Install a panic button behind the customer-service desk. If a manager feels threatened or a crime occurs, he can simply push it to alert authorities.
- Install a pedestrian gate next to the vehicle-access gate for people on foot. This will reduce the possibility of injuries related to the drive-through gate.
- Provide gate codes to local authorities including police, the fire department and other first responders. This will allow them quick access and the chance to become familiar with your facility.
- Allow authorities to use your facility as a training ground for K9 units, which serves a great crime deterrent.
- If you have an onsite apartment, consider renting it to a police officer.
In addition to using safety and security equipment, it’s imperative that staff be trained on how to ensure their personal safety and remain calm under pressure. Here are some essential tips to follow:
- When showing a self-storage unit to a tenant, never go inside, as this could put you at risk of being locked in.
- Always carry a phone when you’re away from the office so you can get help if something happens.
- Be extra vigilant when handling money. When leaving the office to make a bank deposit, be aware of your surroundings. If you feel like you’re being watched, take a different route or wait for a better time to complete the task.
- If you feel unsafe when dealing with an upset or hostile customer, push your panic button or call out to another employee. Ask the customer to leave the premises.
One the easiest ways to keep tabs on safety concerns is through regular facility inspections. Daily walk-throughs can help you prevent and resolve any issues. Look for the following:
- Do building and unit doors close properly?
- Are downspouts secure on the building?
- Are there any holes in the perimeter fencing?
- Are they any uneven surfaces or potholes?
- Is there any debris (trip hazards) that needs to be cleaned up?
- Are there any signs of pest infestation?
- Are cameras working, with lenses clear of grime and other impediments?
- Is the video recorder working?
- Are gate emergency codes functional?
- Are alarms working?
Identifying and addressing these issues right away is vital for the safety of everyone who works at or visits your property.
Though there are many dangerous situations that can arise at a self-storage facility, there are also tools and training to help prevent or minimize them. Create a safety manual and conduct regular staff training. Invest in security. Conduct regular site inspections. Tenants want to feel secure when storing their belongings, and it starts with you taking these simple safety measures.
Patricia Shields is director of human resources and Melissa Stiles is director of marketing for Storage Asset Management, a property-management and consulting company that specializes in self-storage. The company manages more than 200 properties along the East Coast. For more information, e-mail [email protected]; visit www.storageassetmanagement.com.