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Self-Storage Security Primer: An Overview of Basics for Facility Operators

Before investing in self-storage security, operators should review the security options available today.

April 26, 2011

6 Min Read
Self-Storage Security Primer: An Overview of Basics for Facility Operators

By David Essman

Your specific needs for a self-storage security system may vary compared to the needs of your competitor, but there are several items most facility operators will have in common. These include a perimeter fence, motorized gate, access-control keypads, individual door alarms and several security cameras, just to name a few. Your security system will be comprised of several, if not all, of these items to offer your customers and property the best protection possible.

There are several good reasons to provide security: protecting your investment, providing comfort to customers who entrust their belongings to your care, and the protection of your staff and tenants. Before you make that big investment, however, lets review the security options available.

The Access-Control System

The keypad access-control system, combined with your perimeter fence and motorized gate, could be considered the primary piece of your security system. This system permits customers who have a proper pass code to gain access inside the perimeter fence, and keeps those who dont out.

These systems, especially computer-based ones, are loaded with many other useful features catering to the self-storage business. Some can restrict access to all or a select group of customers to specific hours. For example, you may wish to limit most tenants to office or daylight hours while still permitting preferred customers 24-hour access. In addition, you can automatically implement special holiday hours.

Another nice feature available in several access-control systems is the ability to restrict customer access to certain areas on your property. For example, you might have several buildings on your property and want to limit a customers access to the main gate entrance and the building that contains his unit. To accomplish this, a modern access-control system can usually support 50 or more keypads. Elevator control is another system feature, which can restrict elevators and floors to tenants having space in those areas.


Although not always one of the first things to come to mind, lighting can play an important role in the overall security of your investment. This holds especially true at locations offering 24-hour access. A well-lit storage business will be more of a deterrent compared to one poorly lit with many areas where a predator or vandal could lie in wait. Conversely, a well-lit property is inviting to tenants at night, as well as a great selling point in marketing your facility to customers.

Modern lighting for your investment is more efficient and economical than ever before. In addition to exterior lighting, consider automatic-lighting controls for indoor storage hallways. This system will automatically power up and down in specific areas of the buildings as tenants enter and exit your property through your security system.


Intercoms are a great complement to your security system. More operators are positioning intercoms and keypads throughout their self-storage properties. Its beneficial to the manager and tenants to have a means of communicating with one another. Whether your tenant is having trouble with a roll-up door or theres an emergency, intercoms with a few easy-to-read instructions placed throughout the business are a good selling point and safety measure.

Individual Door Alarms

The most expensive piece of securityand possibly the most beneficialis the individual door-alarm system. Its a worthwhile expense when it comes to protecting your facilitys reputation and your customers property. Individual door alarms will alert the manager as well as anyone else on the property of a door being opened without proper authorization. The person opening a door must have first entered the proper security code in the access system. If not, the system will sound sirens, and activate strobes, cameras, and even auto-dialers, if configured.

The individual door-alarm system consists of switches on each of the storage-unit doors, and electronics to relay the door status (open or closed) to the main security system controller, usually a computer in the office. Theres also software for the PC and cabling throughout the storage buildings.

The systems are really simple to incorporate into your facilitys construction, but do cost a little extra. Few operators regret this investment. Such a system will either keep you competitive or give you the edge in your market. In many markets, it can even bring you a higher rental income.

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)

Another system that plays a popular role in self-storage security is the closed circuit television system (CCTV). A modern CCTV system usually consists of three main components: video cameras, a video monitor and a digital video recorder (DVR).

The DVR is obviously the video-recording device, but what you may not know is the modern-day DVR offers many new and exciting features that the video tape recorder of yesteryear didnt have. This includes the ability to record video from its cameras only when theres movement in camera view. This means you no longer have to record hundreds of hours of useless videoyou only record the good stuff.

Another advantage is your DVR records to a hard disk, not a videotape. If you wish to view recorded video from a certain day at a specific time, you can select that day and time on the DVRs menu. Another exciting feature available on many DVRs is the ability to view live or recorded video over the Internet from an offsite location.

Along with the DVR, todays video cameras record in much lower light conditions than ever before, in color, and the resolution is far superior than those of 10 or 15 years ago. The cost is always coming down, and quality video equipment is available on almost every street corner or the Internet. One note of caution: Be careful to avoid buying too cheap, or out of the trunk of a car.

Quality and Performance

Security for self-storage facilities has come a long way in the last few decades. Features, capabilities and costs have improved. There are many more sources for the equipment, as well as professionals to perform the installations than ever before. The more competition your suppliers have, the better pricing youll receive for their services and products.

Still, if you work too hard to find the very lowest price in town, you may inadvertently compromise on quality and performance. Speak with numerous suppliers, obtain pricing from each source and make the best educated decision you possibly can for your self-storage business.

David Essman is the director of marketing for Sentinel Systems Corp., a Lakewood, Colo., manufacturer of self-storage software and security systems since 1975. Mr. Essman has been with Sentinel since 1995. Prior to that, he worked extensively with computer-based products and electronics since 1983. To reach him, call 800.456.9955; e-mail [email protected] ; visit www.sentinelsystems.com .

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