If you’re a smart self-storage operator, your facility is well-equipped with several layers of security. Staff and customers feel safe onsite. How do you ensure those critical components keep working as they should? It takes maintenance. Let’s look at some things you can do to keep your security system running smoothly and when you should call in a professional.
Fences and Gates
Your perimeter fence is your self-storage facility’s first line of defense. It’s simple to maintain but can be easy to overlook. Walk along the fence line frequently to check for tampering and wear. If you find damage, fix it immediately. If you’re good at do-it-yourself projects, you can easily handle repairs to your fence and non-motorized gate.
Once per month, perform a visual check of your gate and related equipment. Look for protruding or frayed wires, loose bolts, and anything that looks out of place. Bolts can be tightened, but protruding or frayed wires along with anything odd should be reported to your gate professional.
It’s important that the chain that moves your gate is properly lubricated. You can handle this yourself, but it’s a good idea to have a gate pro come in quarterly to check the function and safety of your gate and add some lubricant. If your facility is in a sandy or dusty area, you may want to add lubricant monthly. Simply clean the chain of any noticeable debris and spray it with a chain or cable lubricant, which you can find at any auto-parts store.
Your gate operator (motor) has a battery backup. It’s recommended that you replace the battery every two years, but you should bring in a pro to do it. This task sounds easy, but incorrectly connecting the wires can cause damage.
Finally, check your gate loops monthly to ensure they’re in good condition, and have a professional test them annually and make any repairs. Gate loops are installed by cutting into your concrete or asphalt, laying in the loop and topping it with a special sealant. Over time, the concrete or asphalt can crack and shift, allowing water to penetrate the loop. This degrades the electrical field, causing gate malfunction. The loop might fail to register when a vehicle is on top of it or when it’s clear. Either way, you have problems.
You likely have an access-control system to regulate your gate and general entry to your property. This system tends to be low-maintenance but should still be inspected regularly.
All access-control systems come with software to keep track of people coming and going from your site. This software typically integrates with your property-management software. It’s important to make create a backup of your access-control data every month. This ensures that if your computer suddenly dies, you won’t be stuck reconstructing your records. This doesn’t require a technician, but the manufacturer can provide technical support if needed.
Like all software, your access-control software will occasionally require updates. It’s important to stay on top of these. Your system will typically alert you when an update is necessary, and you can request tech support if you run into trouble during installation. A tech can also walk you through any changes that’ll affect your software use.
Like your gate operator, most access-control systems come with a battery backup that allows the system to continue working if the power goes out. Check the battery quarterly to confirm it’s working and replace it about every four years. To test it, unplug the control unit and try the keypad. If it doesn’t work, the battery needs to be replaced.
You can replace this battery yourself, but make sure the new one is an exact match. There’s usually information printed on the battery that’ll allow you to identify the model. You can always order directly from your access-control provider. When you install the replacement, connect the battery wires exactly as they were.
Keypads are easy to maintain, as the work is mostly aesthetic. Simply wash them with a mild detergent and water. Dish soap works well. The only thing to avoid doing is using a presser washer. Keypads tend to be waterproof, but only within reason. Clean as often as you feel necessary, but be gentle.
Video-surveillance systems can be intimidating and do require maintenance. It’s recommended that you clean your cameras quarterly. Wash the outside using a mild detergent and water; but be careful to not move the camera out of alignment, which is easy to do with some models.
If the camera view still looks dirty after you’ve cleaned the exterior, the interior probably needs a wipe. This can be problematic, as many manufacturers use distinct screws to prevent tampering. You’ll need a special tool to open the housing, and if everything isn’t put back together perfectly, moisture and dust can get inside, causing more problems. I recommend you have a professional clean the inside.
Finally, if you’re recording camera footage, you’ll want to ensure your recording device—usually a digital or network video recorder—is capturing footage and saving it for the desired amount of time. Most self-storage operators keep this data for at least 30 days. A quick monthly check can ensure all is well. If not, you may need to test your hard drive and possibly change some settings. If you aren’t comfortable doing this using the manual, get a tech to help.
Some self-storage facilities have an alarm system consisting of sirens, door and window contacts, motion detectors, and glass breaks, usually for the management office if nowhere else on the property. You can test a lot of these things yourself, just remember to notify your security company first. It’ll put the system in test mode and will know to ignore all alarms while you’re doing this work.
Test each system component monthly and replace batteries as needed. You can find lots of videos on YouTube to walk you through this, and most batteries are clearly marked and easy to purchase. Again, alert your security company in advance.
If your system includes photo beams, test them as part of your monthly inspection, but hire a professional to do an annual alignment check. The easiest maintenance you can do with beams is simply ensure they’re unobstructed.
If your perimeter fence includes a system that detects cutting or climbing, check it monthly for damage and include it in your other monthly testing. Look for separation or cracks in the wire. If repairs are required, hire a professional.
A little maintenance goes a long way toward ensuring your facility’s ongoing security and lowering your overall repair costs. Left unattended, little problems can become big ones. You can take care of some, but it can be cost-effective to have professionals help with others.
Paula Swanson is the sales and marketing director for Stor-Guard LLC, which specializes in security for the self-storage industry. She’s provided consults on numerous multi-million-dollar facilities and specified equipment for thousands of access-control and CCTV systems. For more information, call 800.651.3129; e-mail [email protected].