Installing a Self-Storage Security System: Choosing a Professional, Design Considerations and More

When it comes to self-storage security, your goal is to create a visibly safe environment that reassures tenants, encourages prospects to rent with you and discourages potential wrongdoers. This article provides insight to choosing a system installer, addressing issues of site design and more.

John Fogg, General Manager

May 29, 2015

7 Min Read
Installing a Self-Storage Security System: Choosing a Professional, Design Considerations and More

The installation of the security system is one of the most important contributors to the success of a new self-storage development. Site security consists of many factors that must be properly managed.

Before designing and installing your system, you need to establish a philosophy to determine what role security will play and how each piece will tie together. Each site has unique needs, so you’ll want to make decisions based on your individual property. Your goal should be to create a visibly safe and secure environment that reassures tenants, encourages prospects to rent with you and discourages potential wrongdoers. Here are some pointers for choosing and working with the installer, addressing site-design considerations, and ensuring a successful installation.

The Installer

The right security installer can make or break your ability to provide a secure, marketable self-storage facility. It can mean the difference between a smooth-running operation and an ongoing maintenance issue. To find a great installer, talk with other operators in the area and ask who set up their systems. You should also ask your security-equipment manufacturer for recommendations. Keep in mind that your best choice may not be the closest geographically.

Your security installer should be involved in the design stage of your self-storage project. Bringing him in early enables him to develop working relationships with you and the other contractors involved. A professional installer can even give the architect input on design for the buildings, office and gate layout. He can also work with the electrician or general contractor to indicate conduit runs and any special needs.

Your installer will make decisions that require your input, so make yourself available to him. It’s also important that your installer be accessible if you have concerns.

System Design

When it comes to your site’s security design, the most important consideration is the gate location, which should be addressed before the building layout is finalized. Proper placement of the gate in relation to the access point, office and buildings is paramount. It should be influenced by safety, office position and zoning.

First, there needs to be enough space for vehicles to pull into the property and out of traffic. (This includes rental trucks driven by inexperienced drivers.) Once off the road, the traffic flow becomes “left-handed,” with entry and egress to the left. This is to accommodate keypads or other access devices on the driver’s side. You need 15 to 20 feet from the keypad to the gate itself.

Billy Fogg of Rocky Mountain Access Controls installs rollers on a slide gate at Morgan County Mini Storage in Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Wimmler and Sentinel Systems Corp.)Next consider the layout of your buildings. Setting buildings around the property boundaries (with the doors facing in) creates a natural barrier, eliminating the need for much perimeter fencing and allowing panels to run between the buildings. It’s recommended that buildings run parallel with the long dimension of the property. An exception would be multi-story buildings that are placed to block sunlight or limit snow melt. You also want to create sight lines so you can see the storage units from the office. This visibility deters would-be thieves.

Also consider any unique aspects of your project and any “special” security that may be required. Various building features may warrant add-ons. For example, more hallways will necessitate extra surveillance cameras. Additional access points will increase the number of keypads and entry devices needed. Certain types of storage yield special restrictions such as vehicle parking, climate control, wine storage, etc. Elevators also require special access control, and you’ll want to identify special lighting needs.

Discuss all these requirements with your installer. Ideally, you’ll meet with him early in the design stage to head off any problems. Establishing the lines of communication in the beginning will make the security installation flow smoothly.


The security installer will usually work with the electrician or general contractor to specify wiring needs for the system. Your security system requires low voltage, so the wiring will be run through PVC conduit underground.

The security wiring needs to be kept separate from the standard electrical wiring and should be contained in separate conduit. It may be run in the same trench, but it needs to be at least 12 inches apart. This eliminates bleed-through between high and low voltages. Skipping this will cause “noise” in your data lines. At that point, the only solution is separating the runs, which can be a nightmare to correct after completion.

When it comes to conduit, more is better. The diameter is also important. Even if you’re not planning to install security throughout the buildings, it’s best to use a 2-inch minimum. Undersize conduit and junction boxes will make the task of pulling wire difficult or impossible. Keep in mind that cameras will require a “home run” back to the office from each location.

Unused conduit should be capped during construction until needed. Leaving it exposed risks contamination with dirt, water, rocks and concrete, which can render it useless.

Security manufacturers can provide specifications for the type and gauge of wire to be used. In some cases, the manufacturer will provide the wire; in others, the installer may choose to procure it locally. Discuss this with the installer before starting the work. Wiring is the lifeline of the system, connecting devices throughout the property and back to the office. This communication is vital, and the proper wire is necessary to ensure the system performs correctly.

Tips and Tricks

There are many things that can go wrong during the installation of a self-storage security system. Incorrect installation will lead to a faulty system and maintenances issues. Here are some helpful tips to follow and a few pitfalls to avoid:

  • Careful planning now will avoid the need to compromise on security later. It’s difficult to add security once the site is open for business.

  • Don’t purchase the equipment from one company and then contract another to install it. Purchase the system from the same person or company doing the installation. This gives the selling entity more incentive to do the job correctly. It also increases your warranty coverage.

  • Once you’ve chosen the installer and approved the bid, give your authorization by signing the contract. If a deposit is required, provide it. Most installers need scheduling time to block out the days or weeks necessary to complete the work. Signing the papers gives your development calendar priority with the installer.

  • Your installation professional should be the one who ties in the system devices and brings them operational. He’ll work with you and the manufacturer to configure the parameters. Items to consider include access-hour time zones, access levels to different sections of the property, and the door table for individual alarms.

  • Leave enough time at the end of the construction phase to install the security system correctly. Ninety percent of the project may be finished and buildings completed, but the installer still needs time to complete his part. If you’re adding individual door alarms, he needs access to each unit.

  • Don’t sacrifice aspects of your security philosophy because you’re over budget in other areas of the development. Just because security is one of the last pieces to be installed, that doesn’t mean you should shortchange it.

  • Consider your budget carefully. Your security system will cost between $100 to $250 per door and $1 to $3 per net rentable square foot (or 2 to 6 percent of total project cost), depending on the components, manufacturer and installer.

  • Don’t cut corners! This is especially true when it comes to installing conduit and wire runs.

  • Let prospective renters know you have state-of-the-art security. It can be mentioned in all of your marketing efforts to entice new customers. Advertising, office presentation and informational signage should emphasize all the site’s security components.

Follow these guidelines, and they’ll contribute greatly to the success of your investment. You’ll not only proud of your self-storage facility, you’ll have peace of mind and more profit.

John Fogg is general manager for Sentinel Systems Corp., a provider of property-management software and security-access systems. He has been with the company for 22 years and in the self-storage industry since 1986. To reach him, call 800.456.9955, extension 405, e-mail [email protected]; visit

About the Author(s)

John Fogg

General Manager, Sentinel Systems Corp.

John Fogg is the general manager for Sentinel Systems Corp., a self-storage software and security manufacturing company. He’s been with the firm for more than 25 years and in the self-storage industry since 1986. To reach him, call 800.456.9955; e-mail [email protected]; visit

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