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3 Essential Components of an Effective Self-Storage Security System: Fire Alarms, Burglar Alarms and Cameras

The implied promise of self-storage is that tenant belongings will be safe, but operators have to put systems in place to fulfill that expectation. This article explores the capabilities and peace of mind provided by fire alarms, burglary alarms and video surveillance.

Dean Mandichevski

December 14, 2022

7 Min Read
3 Essential Components of a Self-Storage Security System

The self-storage business model implies a promise that tenants’ stored belongings will be safe, remaining in the same place and condition while under lock and key. Things can happen that are outside of a facility operator’s control, but by using three critical security systems, you can help guarantee the well-being of your property and its contents. Let’s explore the use of fire alarms, burglary alarms and video surveillance and the benefits they can bring to your operation.

Fire Alarms

Fire-alarm systems fall into two categories, conventional and addressable, both of which are wired. Though wireless systems exist, we won’t cover them in this article since they’re quite expensive and meant to be installed in places where running wires are prohibited or very difficult to use.

Conventional fire-alarm systems have a simple design. In each zone, there are X-number of automatic fire detectors and one or more manual call points. Regardless of whether the fire notification comes from the automatic or manual caller, the control panel reports that there’s a fire in a specific zone, but the exact location can’t be shown. For this reason, this type of system is best suited for small self-storage facilities.

When installing the cabling for a conventional system, it must run from the control panel to each fire-alarm zone individually, and the cable should end after the last detector. A separate cable has to run to the sirens because no siren can be connected to an existing fire-alarm zone. Thus, a large amount of cable must be used when installing a conventional alarm switchboard.

In contrast, addressable systems are much “smarter.” A number of automatic fire-alarm callers, manual callers and sirens can be successively connected in a single loop, which reduces the amount of cable needed. Addressable control panels are labeled as such because each buzzer and siren has its own address. Thus, in the event of a fire, the panel can pinpoint the exact location that triggers the report.

The zones on an addressable control panel are virtual, which means it’s possible to program which detectors will make up one fire-alarm zone, such as a single storage unit. The only additional work that has to be done is the cable must be returned from the last fire detector to the control panel, which isn’t the case with conventional panels.

Conventional control panels are less expensive than addressable systems, but there’s added expense and burden due to the larger amount of cable required. Though addressable panels are more expensive, their advantage is the ability to capture the exact location of an incident and more efficiently assist in dealing with a potential fire.

Something else to consider when planning for a fire-alarm system is maintenance. This generally means periodically testing the system as well as perhaps cleaning and/or replacing detectors or other equipment. Though some fire-alarm systems may have the option to include fire-extinguishing mechanisms, this isn’t recommended for self-storage buildings due to the possibility of accidental triggering, the occurrence of which would surely cause damage to tenants’ belongings.

Burglar Alarms

Burglar alarms are another important component to the security plan for any self-storage facility, and they come available in wired and wireless systems. Wireless are less common in self-storage because they require constant battery monitoring and are generally recommended for situations in which digging into walls and installing cables would be expensive or not allowed.

In general, intrusion alarms are used to detect people or animals that manage to enter a protected area. The system can be connected to a third-party security-monitoring company or simply report to self-storage facility staff. Various types of detectors can be installed to protect a site’s external perimeter as well as the interior. There are even those that won’t react to animals weighing less than 40 pounds to avoid false alarms.

In general, it’s mandatory to install at least one siren per zone. Other key components to this type of system include the battery backup, keyboard, a remote alarm/disarming module as well as a communication module that links with a security agency, provides text notifications of an incident and has an application for reporting via the internet.

Some of today’s burglary systems have a lot of upgrade options, including smart technology. For example, some are capable of turning on and off lights as well as opening and closing doors, shutters and gates. Some safety mechanisms relate to water and can do things like report incidents of bathroom flooding, turn off water valves, turn on landscape irrigation and activate sump pumps. The list of possibilities is almost endless thanks to an increasing number of manufacturers and building-automation providers that have opened their proprietary protocols as well as the prevalence of open protocols such as KNX and BACnet.

Video Surveillance

Video surveillance is the most publicly visible of the three self-storage security systems discussed in this article. Like the others, it helps deter illegal behavior. The basic purpose, of course, is to monitor the premises and record any suspicious incidents. The added value is visually capturing the moment a crime is perpetrated, whether it’s theft, vandalism or something else.

There are two basic types of systems: analog and internet protocol (IP). Traditionally, analog systems use coaxial cable to transmit the video signal from the camera to a digital video recorder. More recently, some can deliver up to 8-megapixel resolution and audio through the existing coaxial video installation, including HDCVI (high definition composite video interface), AHD (analog high definition), TVI (transport video interface) and CVBS (composite video blanking and sync) formats.

The advantage of these cameras compared to the more expensive and advanced IP models is their lower price as well as the possibility of retrofitting them into an existing facility infrastructure without new cabling. That said, a helpful tip for self-storage operators who decide to invest in analog is to use network (Ethernet) cable vs. coaxial. This way, if you decide to upgrade your cameras to an IP system in the future, you won’t need to install new cables; you’ll only have to change the jacks.

IP cameras are connected to a network cable, such as Ethernet, that usually powers the system and allows the flow of audio and video signals. In addition to requiring only one cable, the advantage of IP systems is the cameras have the ability to record in higher resolution (12 megapixels or more) as well as lower light conditions.

Some newer IP cameras are equipped with artificial intelligence, which gives them the ability to recognize people, animals and other objects, including those that may be abandoned. They can also read and memorize license plates as well as identify when a burglary is taking place and automatically notify the police.

IP cameras also have the ability to record to their own memory card as well as a network video recorder (NVR) or computer server that has video-surveillance software. The cabling for IP cameras is much simpler than that for analog systems because the camera doesn’t have to be connected directly to the NVR or computer server. Instead, it can be connected to a network switch (switches with power-over-Ethernet functionality are often used), and the power can be either from a central (battery backup) or local point (power outlet).

Video cameras can be bullet or turret styles, with pan, tilt and zoom, 180-degree, 360-degree, thermal and other capabilities. Other functionality may be available, depending on the specific purpose.

Working in Concert

Though all three of these security systems are technically independent, there’s always the possibility to integrate them into a single building-management system, making any self-storage property truly smart. Installing fire alarms, burglar alarms and cameras will provide peace of mind to facility staff and customers as well as add value to your property. Most importantly, they’ll convey the positive message to tenants that stored valuables are safe from harm.

Dean Mandichevski is the marketing manager for Svoj Sklad in Macedonia, which opened in 2011 and is owned by Gal Dooel. Founded in 1993, the company owns and leases office, residential and warehouse space as well as brokers leases for third parties.

About the Author(s)

Dean Mandichevski

Marketing Manager, Svoj Sklad

Dean Mandichevski is the marketing manager for Svoj Sklad in Macedonia, which opened in 2011 and is owned by Gal Dooel. Founded in 1993, the company owns and leases office, residential and warehouse space as well as brokers leases for third parties

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