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Safeguarding Your Self-Storage Facility, Tenants and Staff Via Security, Relationships and Policies

Safety and crime prevention is vital to the long-term relationship self-storage operators have with their communities. Facility owners and managers should take a multi-faceted approach that focuses on security systems, local relationships and proactive procedures.

May 28, 2014

5 Min Read
Safeguarding Your Self-Storage Facility, Tenants and Staff Via Security, Relationships and Policies

By Frank Certo

As the busy season arrives, self-storage operators are abuzz with anticipation. For many operations, the next three or four months will make or break the entire year. Some of you are spending time and money to improve curb appeal, upgrade software, and accomplish other tasks to better accommodate the rush of customers. But what are you doing to ensure your store is and continues to be a safe place for employees, site visitors and tenants?

Safety and crime prevention is vital to the long-term relationship you have in your community and the growth of your business. Nothing is ever fool-proof, but we can be as proactive as possible by having a multi-faceted approach.

Focus on Security

When you first got approval to build self-storage in the neighborhood, some residents may have been concerned because other operators in the past allowed their facilities to fall into disrepair and failed to properly address site security. This may have led to crime and mischievous behavior that required the attention of local authorities. It may even have been a source of community tension.

Self-storage users now seek a higher standard, and facility operators who fail to live up to it invite bad behavior. It’s our responsibility to not let this occur. We want to maintain a strong relationship in the community and keep getting those referrals, so security is a must.

There are many types of systems you can use to provide security and peace of mind to customers and local residents. It’s best to use several layers of security to cover it all as best you can.

Perimeter fencing with secure access points is a basic necessity all stores should have. Fencing helps designate the operational lines. Secure gates slide or lift when a code is entered, and are tied into your software so customers can enter/exit the property safely and properly.

Lots of bright lighting and signage should indicate where fencing and gates are located. This allows local authorities to watch over the property and makes customers feel safe while visiting their units. In addition, keypads at the gate areas and building and elevator entrances prohibits folks who aren’t supposed to be there.

Video cameras and recording devices keep watch on the property at all times. Record activity to review later, if necessary. All main entrances, drive lanes and potential areas of suspicious should be under the eye of a modern camera, capable of picking up images at all times of day and zooming in when needed.

Alarms are obviously very important to the security of your self-storage facility. At minimum, the office should be armed and monitored by a reputable company that ties directly into local authorities and property staff. Individual unit alarms are a next-level system, and they can be wired or wireless. They tie directly into your management software and keep even current customers from sniffing around others’ units.

Finally, secure empty units with facility locks. Motion sensors can be armed and unarmed via codes in the gate software or set to automatically turn on or off according to your access schedule.

Strong Relationships

Your local police department and business community will be happy to know you’ve installed all these systems to help keep your business safe and secure. Now it’s time to leverage those relationships.

Provide the police department with a gate-access code and encourage them to patrol your property now and then. You can even offer a rental discount, or invite police or firefighters to conduct training at your site. If you do this, let tenants know verbally and via signage that you’ve partnered with local authorities to keep your facility crime-free. A sign stating, “K-9 Drug Dogs Are Trained Here” can ward off anyone considering using your facility for criminal intent. 

The next biggest relationship is the one with your security vendor. Make sure your representative understands how important safety and peace of mind are to your customers and local residents. Have a periodic maintenance agreement in place to keep all systems modern and in working order.

Finally, ask your tenants to report any suspicious activity to you. Those who frequently access your property can be an extra set of eyes. Make it easy for them to report anyone who looks mistrustful directly to you, or encourage them to call the authorities if they believe a crime is being committed.

Proactive Procedures

Now that you’ve installed the right equipment, it’s working properly, and local police are conducting routine security checks, it’s time to address the procedures you’ve put in place and spelled out in your operations manual. These will tell staff how they should handle day-to-day activities and crime prevention.

Training new employees on the importance of keeping all their senses alert when at the store and around customers can prove to be time well-spent. Routinely review your protocols for handling onsite criminal activity.

Starting with the move-in, managers should be proactive about explaining the property’s security systems and your expectations of tenants. This puts new renters at ease and speaks to your facility’s sophistication in this area. Again, this is your opportunity to enlist customers’ help in reporting suspicious activity. Neighborhood crime watches are also very effective.

Routine inspections of the property by the staff will keep any issues to a minimum and alert you quickly when anything does happen. You can also tap into your management software to review code entries, lengths of visit, etc., to monitor who’s accessing your property and when. Having strong routines and schedules for your operation, office hours, access hours, procedures, and appropriate signage will aid in the fight against crime.

The standing your business has in the community is extremely important and something we all hope to build on every day. Everyone should know your property is a safe place to be. This reputation can be established and strengthened through systems, relationships and proactive procedures that help keep our focus where it should be—on busy-season sales and revenue growth.

Frank Certo has more than 20 years of experience in recruiting, coaching and developing high-performance personnel. He’s had roles in sales management, operations and staff management for the last 15 years, many of which were in the self-storage industry. He’s currently the director of property management for Guardian Storage, which operates 16 facilities in Colorado and Pennsylvania. For more information, call 412.661.7368; visit www.guardianstorage.com.  

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