By Robert Toy
When it comes to the safety and security of your self-storage facility, your gate is an extremely important component. You’re expecting it to work 24 hours, 365 days a year to let in customers and keep out criminals. If your gate is broken, security suffers. To help keep this important access-control device from causing headaches, consider these important guidelines:
- First and most important, maintenance on gates and gate operators should only be done by trained professionals. Gate operators can cause injury or even death if you’re not careful. As such, this article is for informational purposes only.
- Gate manufacturers will have their own suggestions for maintenance and may have a more frequent schedule than what’s below. It might include extra items. Always defer to their instructions.
Gate Types Overview
There are four main gate types in the self-storage industry: slide, barrier arm, vertical lift and swing. Your maintenance program will depend on your gate type. Below is a quick summary. The accompanying table shows a suggested maintenance schedule for each type (be sure to click through to page two of the article for more information).
- Slide gates can be cantilever types with rollers mounted on posts and a counter-balance, or track types with rollers that run on a “V” track set into the ground. They can be driven by a chain or hydraulic rollers.
- Barrier-arm gates are common and usually paired with a manual or motorized slide gate. They’ll include an aluminum, composite or wooden arm that rises to allow vehicle passage and automatically closes once the vehicle is through.
- Vertical-lift gates are made of pickets connected to the gate arms through pivot points. As the arms are raised, the pickets "fold" into a smaller space.
- Swing gates are less common. The motor is attached to a pivot arm, which is then attached to a hinged gate that swings open like a door.
Safety devices are intended to prevent your gate from closing on a vehicle and are an important part of your gate system. These will either be a vehicle-detection “loop” or an electric eye.
I recommend using a loop even if the operator is equipped with an eye. With electric eye, the vehicle must be in the gate path to be detected. A loop, on the other hand, will detect a vehicle while it’s still a few feet from the gate and can react quicker. (A common misconception about safety loops is they work by detecting weight, when in fact they detect ferrous metals, such as iron and steel.)
Test the safety loop by driving a vehicle onto the loop (but not under the gate) while the gate is closing. The gate should stop. Depending on the gate operator, it may even reverse to the open position. Also, check to ensure the loop wires aren’t becoming exposed. Patch as needed.
Test the electric eye by covering it with a piece of cardboard as the gate is closing. Again, the gate should stop and possibly re-open depending on type. Make sure all hardware holding the eye in position is secure.
Generally, the gate should stay open so long as a vehicle is on the loop or blocking the eye. Neither device should “time out” and allow the gate to close while an obstruction is present.
Gates have caused serious injuries and even death. To reduce the possibility of this happening, gate operators now have built-in entrapment detection. External detection devices can also be attached. These should be tested to ensure they’re operating properly. Important: Always stay clear when the gate is in operation!
Some gates have safety edges attached to the bottom or ends. These contact devices must strike an object before they react. They’re activated as the gate is opening or closing, depending on which end of the gate the device is attached.
An overload device uses the current draw of the gate motor to detect entrapment. The safety circuit senses a spike in the motor. If this spike exceeds a pre-set value, the gate is supposed to stop, reverse a short distance, and then stop again. Some gate operators are equipped with an audible alert that may require a manual reset before resuming normal operation.
To test an overload device, a technician will trigger the gate to open or close and then push on the end of the gate to simulate striking an object. The gate operator should act as prescribed in the manual. If not, the sensitivity setting may need adjustment.
Depending on your local fire codes, your gate may include an emergency opening device. This could be a key switch inside of a fire-department lockbox, or a strobe light or siren-activated sensor attached to the gate operator. This device should be tested regularly to ensure it’s operating properly.
In areas with cold weather and ice, take extra precautions. Consider the following:
- Some gate operators may be equipped with heaters for the gearbox or other items that may be controlled by a thermostat so they only turn on below a set temperature. Ensure they’re operating correctly before the onset of winter.
- Clear any snow or ice from the gate or safety-device path.
- Try to keep the gate itself from gathering ice. This is especially important for lift gates because extra weight may prevent them from opening. It may be smart to open the gate periodically to help prevent buildup. This process can be automated using your access-control software or a programmable timer installed in the gate operator.
Keeping your facility’s gate and gate operator running smoothly is critical to your site’s overall safety and security. Preventive maintenance completed by a trained professional will ensure these important components operate correctly and last longer.
Robert Toy is an engineer with PTI Security Systems, which offers access control, door alarms and other site-security products for self-storage. He has worked in the industry since joining Doug West & Associates in 1992. For more information, call 800.523.9504; visit www.ptisecurity.com.