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A Preventive Maintenance Plan for Your Self-Storage Security System

To perform its best, your self-storage security system needs proper care. While some maintenance tasks are better left to professionals, here are preventive steps you can take to keep things working as they should.

It’s a busy day at your self-storage facility. Two new customers have arrived to finalize their online reservations, and a third just walked in and requested a tour. Plus, the phone has been ringing all morning with inquiries about your latest promotion. These are the days operators love!

Unfortunately, today is about to become a nightmare. Amid the swarm of prospective tenants, a call alerts you to a problem with the front gate. It’s stuck halfway, and there’s a line of cars on either side trying to pass. Everything in the office must be put on hold so you can deal with this emergency. You call in a technician, who finds rocks lodged in the gate track.

Luckily, you can avoid a scenario like this one by performing some simple preventive maintenance. While many repairs and tasks are better left to a professional, there are several routine checks that can be performed by onsite staff to keep security equipment working smoothly. Below are some steps, organized by component. It’ll be up to each individual to determine his skill and comfort level and decide what falls under “do-it-yourself” and what should be left to a tech.

Door Alarms and Latches

If your facility has individual unit alarms, regularly check the doors to ensure the alarm and magnet haven’t been lost, removed or tampered with. Check roll-up doors for failing or flat rubber, as this may cause misalignment that can trigger false alarms or malfunction. Many alarms have user-serviceable/replaceable batteries. Depending on your facility-management software, there might be a low-battery report you can run to identify problem sensors.

Also, test the functionality of your door latches. Open, close or slide any moving parts to check for resistance or sticking. For overlocks, make sure corresponding keys fit all the way into the keyhole without obstruction.

Keypads

Keep keypads clean and free of spiderwebs, dust and other debris, and check often to ensure each key works properly. Watch for any that are hard to push or seem too loose. Each should register on the screen when pressed. One suggestion is to create a test code with all 10 digits. Perform your test, and then clear the code from the system to prevent unwanted access via fishing.

If your facility is in an area where temperatures fall below freezing, there are heaters that can be added to keys. Anti-freeze sprays are also available.

Any maintenance that involves opening the keypad housing is often best left to a service professional. Check with your vendor for recommendations.

Cameras and DVRs

The big one here is to make sure camera lenses are clean. Keep them free of dirt, dust and spiderwebs, wiping them monthly, if not weekly. If your facility is unpaved or offers vehicle storage (e.g., lots of dirt in the air), more frequent upkeep will likely be necessary.

Routinely cleaning your lenses will make a huge difference in nighttime visibility, especially if you’re using infrared “night sight” cameras. Dust will catch the light from the emitters (behind the lens) and reflect it, creating a blurry, snow-blind effect.

Insects and spiderwebs can also cause issues with camera focus, and they’re likely to blame if you notice your digital video recorder (DVR) logging an unusual amount of blank footage. Bugs crawling across the lens can cause a camera to detect motion when there’s no actual human activity, triggering unnecessary recording. All that blank tape makes finding incidents more difficult and fills up the hard drive faster, creating shorter storage retention.

Checking your cameras for other pesky “false motion” triggers should be part of your prevention plan. Branches, leaves or anything else that might move in the breeze, or even traffic on a busy street, can cause the DVR to record more than needed. Clean up camera views as you’re able by trimming trees and bushes. What can’t be physically removed or altered can often be remedied by “masking” those problems in your DVR software, so the recorder will ignore motion in those limited areas. Clearing problem items and masking can greatly increase your storage capacity and significantly reduce the amount of irrelevant footage.

Gates

When it comes to self-storage access control, your gates and motors carry the lion’s share of the work. Frequent inspection are crucial to keeping them strong and operational. Run the gate through an open/close cycle and perform a visual and auditory check at least once a week. Watching and listening closely can tell you a lot about the health of your gate. Points to inspect include:

Chain tension and lubrication. A chain that’s dragging on the ground can collect dirt and other debris that could become lodged in the gears, causing the gate to stick or, worse, motor failure. Ensure the chain doesn’t droop excessively.

Lubricating is fairly easy but must be performed with chain lubricant only. This can be found at your local gate motor-supply store, or even auto- and bike-parts stores. Simply remove the motor cover to expose the main gears, then run the gate through a regular open/close cycle. Spray the lube on the chain and gears, allowing the cycle to bring the chain to you.

Signs of rubbing or straining. Listen for sounds of wheel strain or rubbing. Any squeaking could be an indicator of failing wheel bearings, which can cause extra strain on the motor and lead to overheating, wear, damage and possible failure. The state of the bearings can make the motor’s job easy or nearly impossible.

Also check that the motor isn’t straining. If it seems to be overworking, confirm with the manufacturer that your motor is rated for the weight of the gate.

Rollers and track. Examine guide rollers for signs of wear and the gate track (in front of and behind the gate motor) for debris, dirt, rocks or anything else that may interfere with operation. The track can be easily swept with a stiff broom, or you may opt to install a sliding-gate brush kit to do the work for you every time the gate opens and closes.

A Maintenance Schedule

Developing a schedule for preventive maintenance can help ensure your security equipment is fully functional at all times. Be aware of issues before they catch you off guard. Create a realistic timetable that meets the size, traffic volume and unique needs of your individual facility. You may even want to schedule a visit from one or more service technicians to walk the property with you and provide insight. Depending on your facility-management software, you can even set maintenance reminders. For example, you might receive a notification to check the cameras on Building A for cobwebs every Tuesday.

When to Call a Pro

It never hurts to call a professional! Any technician will tell you that many complex service calls could’ve been remedied in less time and with less expense if the self-storage operator had called him in the first place. Any time you feel out of your depth or there’s any doubt about what to do, bring in a pro. Depending on your aptitude and experience, the company may be able to offer suggestions over the phone before a tech visits your property.

Taking small steps to maintain your security equipment will pay off in the end. You’ll be less likely to be interrupted with emergencies and receive fewer tenant complaints. Finally, you’ll have a system that functions properly if a security event occurs.

Sarah McDougall is a marketing assistant 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 to help their businesses grow. For more information, call 800.321.1987; e-mail smcdougall@quikstor.com; visit www.quikstor.com.

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