Although self-storage operators often fixate on site “security,” not enough emphasis is placed on “safety.” While these two seem to go hand in hand, it’s important to review safety issues regularly, two to four times per year. Here’s what should be evaluated:
Gates. Gates are a great security item for any self-storage site. Most every facility that uses them has the electronic version. These are typically equipped with a safety device that prevents them from closing on cars or people. Does yours still work properly? It’s easy for an electronic eye to get pushed out of place, making this important function of the gate suddenly a liability. Make sure yours is working properly.
Emergency lights. Are the batteries up to date? Do all the lights function properly? These can easily get knocked around by tall items on carts. Many storage facilities can be a maze for folks who are unfamiliar with the layout. Proper exit signage and lighting is vital. Make sure to keep them lit.
Cameras. It’s a good idea to review your camera system at least quarterly to ensure it’s recording correctly. If you notice cameras are no longer positioned correctly, you should review the tape and carefully check your facility. Someone may have moved it out of range for a reason that is not to your benefit. Find out and fix the problem.
Elevators. Are your emergency telephones working in the elevators? Step inside and try to make a call. If someone gets stuck inside your elevator, you’ll want to be sure they can get help immediately. Check the elevators and phones on a quarterly basis.
Lights. Check to see that your lights are working properly. This can help you save money as well as add to site safety. Indoor lights on motion sensors will ensure tenant areas are well lit when needed. Outside lights should be checked at night to make sure they are working and are bright enough to adequately light the facility.
Safety equipment. Take an inventory of emergency and non-emergency equipment, such as a first-aid kit, gloves, goggles, wet-floor sign, etc. Replace any missing or worn-out items.
The annual inspection of the fire extinguishers is imperative. Your county may have additional requirements for the fire-prevention systems at your site. Keeping these up to date is not only critical, it can be life saving.
Tools. Review the facility tools and equipment used at the site by staff and tenants alike. Check that cords are not frayed and items are being handled and stored properly. This includes roll-up doors as well as locks, dollies, carts, etc.
Chemicals. Check the handling and storage methods of all cleaning supplies and chemicals used at the site. See if the MSD sheets are current and legible. Our rental agreements are generally clear about the storage of hazardous materials, but are we guilty of violating this clause ourselves? Take an inventory of the chemicals and make sure you do not have a problem fermenting unknowingly.
Physical property review. Walk your facility with a critical eye toward safety. Are there places where accidents could happen? Are traffic patterns clearly marked? Are there bollards in proper places as needed? Repairing potholes, re-striping directional arrows and adding cautionary signage can help with safety issues while adding value to the site as well. Walk the perimeter of your site, too. You might be surprised to discover graffiti, safety issues or disrepair that needs attention.
Staff training. Is your staff properly trained to handle specific incidents such as a tenant injury, natural disaster, fire or other eventualities? Make sure you have a written policy for how your staff should respond. Include staff members in your safety review of the site so they can see what you look for when you do your review. Also, make sure they have an emergency contact list of people and phone numbers, and know who and when to call. Training also needs to include how to deal with the media. Be prepared by letting employees know who the media contact person is. All inquiries should be directed to this person to avoid confusion.
Procedures for safety when making bank deposits, opening and closing the store and even when showing a potential renter the facility should be part of the new hire training for staff. In addition, employees should understand your expectations in the event of a robbery or other incident.
When a crisis arises, you want to take immediate action. So, while you are considering the security items at your site, take time now to train your staff and put a safety policy in place. Security is a good thing, but security teamed with safety is much better.
Linnea Appleby is president of PDQ Management Solutions Inc., a Sarasota, Fla.-based company that provides full-service facility management, consulting, startup services, auditing, management training and more. She is also the managing director for the Florida Self Storage Association. For information, call 941.377.3151; visit www.pdqmanagementsolutions.com.