Security is vital to any self-storage operation. You must have a strong, reliable system in place to protect against theft, vandalism and other crime. It isn’t only necessary to protect the premises, it’s helpful in convincing customers of the safety of their stored belongings.
The challenge is there are so many equipment options from which to choose. What constitutes too little or too much? From the most basic must-haves to the latest, most advanced equipment, here’s a good, better, best approach to establishing your self-storage security system.
A basic security system for self-storage should include the following components at a minimum. The nice thing is some of them can be modified to enhance your scheme in the future, should you decide more protection is warranted.
Perimeter fencing and an access gate. To safeguard your facility against intruders, you’ll need an access gate and high, sturdy fencing around the property line. These act as your first line of defense. A stout, dependable gate is a must. At its simplest level, a gate can be manually opened and closed around business hours; but ideally, you should install a motorized gate connected to an access-control system.
Keypad or card reader. You’ll also need at least one access-control keypad or card reader at the facility entrance. Keypads are more common. When a tenant enters his unique code, the access-control system signals the motorized gate to open. Card readers work in a similar manner. Upon move-in, the tenant receives a personal card that he either swipes or waves in front of the access-control device to gain entry.
An access-control system is important because it helps you track who’s entering and exiting your facility. The accompanying software will record the time and date of every transaction, including any incorrect codes entered, failed swipes and access denials. To go a step further, you can integrate your access-control system with your facility-management software, which provides even more security options, including the ability to deny access when a tenant is past-due on rent.
Surveillance cameras. To round out a bare-minimum system, you need closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at your entrance and exit. They’ll help monitor all activity that occurs at those points and deter crime just by being visible. Most surveillance systems are expandable, making it easy to start with just a few cameras and later scale your coverage across the property.
While the above cover the bare necessities, additional equipment and devices can be incorporated to further bolster your self-storage security system. In some instances, these can be added as modifications to your base program.
Additional keypads. Adding extra keypads will heighten your overall security. For example, consider placing one at your exit in addition to your entrance. A delinquent tenant or non-tenant who’s been denied access might manage to get into your property by tailgating behind another vehicle; but unless he can also tailgate out, he’ll be stuck. This gives the manager an opportunity to catch him at the gate.
Consider keypads for other areas of the facility, too, such as the management office or restroom. This can help keep out unauthorized individuals. It can be especially helpful if the door to your restroom is outside the entrance gate.
Intercom. Adding an intercom to your keypads provides a clear, convenient way for tenants to speak with the manager if they have questions or require assistance. In an emergency, the intercom can be used to provide immediate communication.
Keypad camera. Some keypads can be modified to include a pinhole camera, which will complement your existing video-surveillance system. It’ll provide a close up view for visual identification of anyone attempting to enter or exit the facility.
Panic button. Separate from the keypad intercom, this is a reliable, silent way to directly alert the police or security team to an urgent issue. You can place these anywhere on the property. The management office is a common location.
Mobile app. Some access-control models allow tenants to enter the facility using a mobile app instead of a keypad code or entry card. This can be a nice convenience, allowing them to open the gate without having to reach outside their vehicle or step down from a tall truck or RV. This’ll be particularly appreciated during inclement weather; and in the age of COVID-19, using an app helps address the need for contactless service.
Lighting upgrades. Most facilities rely on lighting for safety reasons, but brighter lights can also enable video cameras to get a better view of activity occurring on site. Some enhancements to consider include light timers and motion sensors. Relay boards can also be used to tie your keypad into your lighting system.
Perimeter beams. While fencing is a physical barrier, a perimeter beam is an electronic sensor that detects any disruption to an infrared light stream. An alarm will sound when someone goes over the fence, for example. Like cameras, beams are an active security tool that can instantly alert you to disturbances on the property; and being able to respond quickly to an incident can minimize damage and danger.
Technological advancements have really improved the capabilities of self-storage security equipment. Here’s a rundown of the best devices and strategies you can deploy.
Segmented access control. If you have more than one structure on site or a multi-story building, you can use this to limit tenant access to common areas and his specific unit location. For example, an elevator keypad would only allow a customer to access his own floor. If he pushed a button for a higher floor, it wouldn’t yield any results. This can raise your level of security while helping you monitor site-wide activity.
Advanced security cameras. The best way to have eyes on your property is to place cameras in several spots that provide coverage well beyond your entrance and exit. Add to that, modern advancements have improved video resolution and made it possible for cameras to see in the dark, integrate with your local network and practically think for themselves! Here are a few models to consider:
- IP (Internet Protocol) camera: These high-definition cameras offer a bigger field of vision and a high-quality image. They receive and convert data to a local network or IP system, eliminating the need for a local recording device.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) camera: A camera that uses AI to analyze video has recognition capability. It’s able to detect unusual activities and potential threats and alert you to what’s happening in real time.
- PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) camera: This camera typically has a night-vision feature that can be set to trigger if something crosses within its view. It also allows the user to control camera movement and is equipped with an adjustable, optical zoom.
Individual unit security. Applying security at the unit level can provide a competitive advantage. Electronic monitoring provides tenants with peace of mind. For the facility operator, if offers convenience when it comes to handling delinquent accounts.
- Door alarms: These instantly alert you to a break-in. When integrated with your access-control software, you can also monitor and record the opening and closing of each unit.
- Electronic locks: Not only do these add extra protection, they eliminate the need for manual overlocks. When integrated with your facility-management software, they allow you to instantly overlock a unit when an account becomes delinquent. Once the account is paid, the overlock is easily released from within the software.
- Bluetooth-capable locks: These allow tenants to access their units and control their lock via their phone. This makes it simple and fast for them to move in immediately once the lease is processed.
Choose Your Level
Having strong, reliable security tells self-storage customers you’re a trustworthy business. Adding to the basics and providing more advanced features won’t only prevent and detect criminal behavior, it allows you to leverage your system as a marketing tool. Investing in top-of-the-line equipment can elevate your operation to another level, keeping your facility running smoothly and preventing unwanted incidents.
Sarah McDougall is a business development consultant for QuikStor Security & Software, which provides management software, access keypads, wireless alarms, video surveillance, website design and digital marketing to the self-storage industry. Using her background in marketing and graphic design, she collaborates with clients to develop and execute digital-marketing strategies that help their businesses grow. For more information, call 800.321.1987, email [email protected].