When it comes to installing security at a self-storage facility, partnering with the security-equipment manufacturer results in a stronger system.

June 19, 2008

7 Min Read
Avoiding Installation Problems in Self-Storage Security

It’s 3 o’clock in the morning and you’re sleeping like a baby. Suddenly, you’re awakened by the telephone and hear, “Hello, this is Sgt. Taylor from the police department. We are at ABC Storage, and the alarms are blaring and lights are flashing. Can you meet us down here right away?”

You get dressed and head out into the night to meet the police. Come to find out, it’s a false alarm. You think, “Well, that no-good access-control company sold me faulty equipment. This is the third time this month I’ve been awakened from a sound sleep only to find nothing!” We have all experienced this or at least know of scenarios like these.

This is a story of two facilities, ABC Storage and XYZ Storage. Both companies planned to open January 1 on the same major highway, and both chose the same access-control manufacturer to deliver what each thought was a complete solution. If that’s the case, how in the world can the employees at XYZ Storage get a good night’s sleep? They have the same equipment, so why is ABC Storage having such a terrible time? The answer is much easier to figure out than you think.

ABC Storage opted to have a friend of a friend, Jimbo, install the equipment. It saved the owner big bucks. After all, how difficult can it be to install a low-voltage, state-of-the-art security package? Jimbo worked for an electrical contractor for a few years—it’s a no-brainer. ABC Storage has already saved money that will go to the bottom line. The owner laughed as he thought about driving XYZ Storage out of business due to the savings that were already stacking up.

The XYZ Experience

The owner of XYZ Storage, meanwhile, is a deliberate man. He took the time to work with his access-control manufacturer, and listened to suggestions to have a meeting with a local, experienced installer. Then he considered his options.

The owner realized a solid security solution begins with planning—the more of it, the better. Every facility owner has a different definition of “security,” and the aim is to map out a plan unique to each facility. One thing he didn't realize, however, is that when security features are integrated into construction rather than installed after the fact, the result is a tighter, more cost-efficient, marketable security system.

The owner was asked by the installer to share the floor plan of his facility and take him on a tour of the facility. He initially protested, but was informed that an efficient solution is more than just allocating funds for keypads, cameras, door alarms and intercom systems. The owner was involved with the recommendations of where the security components would be placed, as well as the reason for the placement. Another benefit was the owner now understood that local codes regarding conduit requirements exist, and how important it was to pay attention to other key elements such as grounding, surge suppression and power requirements. It was a few hours well spent.

Soon after the meeting, XYZ’s owner received a detailed, professional package for the equipment and installation that made the process both educational and practical. He compared this package to one he had received from an out-of-state provider who never took the time to walk the site, nor explain the company’s business model. They faxed a quote and a few information sheets.

The owner of XYZ Storage realized what model would best fit his business. It was better to invest in a quality system upfront, rather than cut corners with a less expensive system that would inevitably cost more in the long run. He understood the return on investment, and offered tenants a professionally installed security solution that included exceptional customer service. The site opened on time, did what customers were told it would do, and is now sitting at 92 percent occupancy.

ABC’s Tale

ABC Storage opened nearly three months after XYZ opened its doors. Jimbo and his crew of out-of-town laborers placed the blame squarely on the access-control manufacturer for lack of support, faulty equipment—you name it. All the owner of ABC cared about was that deadlines were missed, and money and customers were being lost to XYZ before the facility could even open.

A month before the opening, the owner decided to investigate Jimbo’s claims regarding poor support from the access-control manufacturer. It turns out that Jimbo’s stories were inconsistent. To the owner’s surprise, the access-control manufacturer seemed quite professional. The manufacturer gave the owner information regarding numerous conversations with Jimbo, and had attempted to bring him up to speed. The owner discovered a harsh reality—Jimbo’s crew had little to no experience in self-storage and had never installed this type of system.

The owner learned the hard way. Jimbo took some shortcuts, leaving out critical components like using the right wire and adhering to local codes requiring the use of conduit. Jimbo is not a bad guy; he just had no idea of the complexities involved and the importance of purchasing all the equipment from the manufacturer to provide a total solution.

In addition, the security components were laid out poorly, which resulted in an inconvenience for tenants. Some of the products were not even bought from the security manufacturer, but instead purchased at places like membership clubs and the Internet. How does this stuff get serviced? If that was not bad enough, a local city inspector informed the owner that Jimbo is not a licensed installer and, therefore, wasn’t aware of the ordinance regarding gate installations. The gate had to be re-installed before the site could officially open. This cost a few thousand dollars in addition to delaying the opening. They were indeed trying days, as time and money were lost every day.

Finally, ABC Storage opened 75 days after XYZ Storage, which was already renting units, getting referrals and making money. ABC Storage had finally moved in some tenants, but ended up losing a few due to the failure of the advertised video surveillance, which was sent back to the membership club for repair. The keypads only worked intermittently, and the door alarms continued to randomly go off. The gate re-installation cost more than twice the amount that had been saved by having Jimbo install the system. Even worse, the delay in opening had an effect on existing tenants and, quite possibly, future tenants.

Make the Right Choice

I think we all can see where ABC Storage went wrong. The sure-fire plan to save money backfired. Jimbo and his crew, though highly recommended, contributed to a negative experience for existing and future tenants. The security system failed because it was never properly installed.

In the long run, ABC Storage grew tired of losing tenants to its rival, XYZ Storage. ABC held an emergency meeting and decided to invite the access-control manufacturer to visit the property. During the meeting, the manufacturer advised the owner to hire a factory-trained professional to help and gave him a contact. XYZ called and a factory-trained installer arrived. It took three days to correct the issues. The installer pulled new wire, dug trenches and installed the conduit according to code. Once finished, ABC Storage had a working model that could finally compete with XYZ. Today, things are improving, but occupancy is still only 82 percent.

The two sites are fictional, but the story is one that I have heard too many times. If self-storage owners take the time to plan a complete, customized security solution with a manufacturer who recommends a factory-trained installer, the security installation problems are reduced immensely.

The goal should be to build a triad of responsibility that consists of manufacturer, installer and customer working in unison to build a partnership. The partnership will last beyond the opening and far into the future.

Insist on this type of treatment, and only use equipment that has been tested and approved for use by the manufacturer. It may take a little time, but at least you won’t be getting up at 3 a.m. to answer your phone.

Randy Johnston is the director of sales and development for Asheville, N.C.-based Digitech International, which has provided comprehensive, innovative security tools for the self-storage industry for more than 25 years. Digitech is part of the Chamberlain Group. For more information, call 800.523.9504; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.digitech-intl.com.

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter
ISS is the most comprehensive source for self-storage news, feature stories, videos and more.

You May Also Like