Inside Self-Storage Magazine 07/2004: Safeguarding Your

July 1, 2004

9 Min Read
Inside Self-Storage Magazine 07/2004: Safeguarding Your

Safeguarding Your Security System
Preserving gate, access, alarm and surveillance systems

By Chester Gilliam

We all know we need to change the oil in our cars every 3,000 miles or threemonths and that by doing so, we prolong the life of our vehicles and reduce theoverall amount of service that needs to be performed. Well, the same holds truefor your self-storage facilitys security system. Gates, gate operators,surveillance cameras, and access and alarm systems require regular preventivemaintenance.

In my experience, the majority of managers are more than willing to performthis type of service. In most cases, the problem is no one has conveyed to themwhat needs to be done and when. Security maintenance does not require a lot oftools, hard work or even specialized knowledge. In fact, it requires very littletime and can be done by almost anyone using a standard tool set.

Lets Start With the Basics

While you dont need many tools to perform your maintenancechecks, you do need some. Every site should have basic tools, including a set ofwrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, several types of pliers, hex wrenches, acordless drill, drill bits and, of course, a hammer (in the event none of theothers fix the problem!). These can be purchased from any hardware store and area must. You do not need to get top-of-the-line products, but buy good-qualitytools. Look for those that come in sets, as these are usually a bargain.

Now that we have tools, lets take a look at the componentsof our maintenance routine. We can divide the security system into five majorareas: gates, gate operators, access systems, alarm systems and surveillancecameras. While some of these require little or no maintenance, othersneed to be cared for on a regular schedule. The routine will vary depending onyour surroundings, which will be explained as we go along.


Gates require minimal maintenance with the exception ofrollers, hinges and paint. Its always a good idea to have a few cans oftouch-up paint on hand as well as a can of metal primer. Rust is not only aneyesore, it represents the metal being eaten away by corrosion. This weakens thewelds and surrounding metal and, if not attended to, will eventually causeproblems.

There is a variety of gate rollers and hinges. Some require nomaintenance while others must be greased regularly. A good rule of thumb is if apart has a grease fitting, it needs grease. You should lubricate hinges androllers every month. If you live in an area where you get a lot of moisture orblowing dust, you may want to grease them more often.

Also inspect all hinges and rollers for wear. Look for metalshavings on the ground surrounding them and at adjoining surfaces. Check foruneven wear on rollers and noises when the gate opens and closes. All of theseare signs something is not right. Sometimes, lubricating rollers and hinges willeliminate the problem; however, if it does not, call for service before the gatebreaks down. You know it will inevitably break down on the weekend or on aholiday! So get it fixed sooner than later.

Gate Operators

All gate operators require regular maintenance. The first step, before doing any work, is to turnoff the power. No one needs to get hurt. If yourenot sure if the power is off, find out before you do anything else.

Slide-gate operators with chains need their chains tightenedregularly. In general, a chain should not have more than 1 inch of drop from endto end. Never allow a chain to twist. It should be lubricated with chain lube at least once a month.If you live in an area where you get a lot of moisture or blowing dust, you wantto lubricate it every two weeks, without overdoing it. A light coating is betterand will attract less dirt. Do not use WD-40. This is a cleaner and will notprovide lubrication but just the opposite, drying the chain out and causing itto rust and eventually need replacement.

Swing- and vertical-pivot gate operators need their bearingsgreased once a month. Check with the manufacturer to find out which bearings andother items need to be oiled. Not all of them require lubrication, and not allmodels are the same. Get the specifics for your particular equipment.

With all gate operators, inspect drive belts and gears forwear every six months. Do not use belt dressing on drive belts, no matter howgood an idea it seems. Drive belts are designed to slip in the event somethingbinds. If they dont slip, somethings going to breakusuallysomething that costs a lot to fix. Visually check all moving parts for wear. Check to see if the gear box is filled with lube oil. Keep thegate, gate track and gate operator free of trash.

Inspect safety devices often, no less than once a week. Safetyloops can be tested by opening the gate and driving over the devices slowly whenthe gate begins to close. The gate should reverse and open. Safety edges can bechecked by simply hitting them with your hand as the gate begins to close.Again, the gate should reverse and open. Some gates may take a few seconds toreverse. This is normal and should not cause alarm. Remember, safety loops work off magnetic fields and may notdetect vehicles that are high off the ground or have aluminum or fiberglassstructures. Motorcycles and bicycles may not trip the safety loops either.

If your safety loops were cut into the pavement, check thelines where the wires are to make sure there are no exposed wires and the sealerdoes not have cracks. If you find cracks or open spots, you can use a concrete orasphalt filler to seal over the loop wires. In areas where the paving is crackedaround the loops, care should be taken to ensure they cant get damaged bymovement or moisture. Here, too, you can use filler to seal the area.

If you are not sure about any maintenance items, contactsomeone who can show you how to care for your gate system. Gates and gateoperators differ greatly from one manufacturer and model to the next. What you did at one site may or may not be appropriate for thesystem you now have. You can get information from your installer or themanufacturer. Most manufacturers post this information on their websites.Get the right information before you attempt to do any maintenance work.

Access Systems

With the technological advances that have been made in ourindustry, little service is required on access systems. The only thing youshould do is to inspect conduits for breaks and exposed wires. This is best donein early spring and late fall.

Most breaks occur when there are changes in weather from oneseason to another. By visually inspecting the conduits and junction boxes aswell as where keypads attach to stands and buildings, you should catch problemsbefore they get out of hand. Look for places water could get into conduits orkeypads. As with any issue of this type, you should get a qualified installer tofix the problem. If you do not have someone to call, contact your equipmentmanufacturer. It can refer you to someone in your area.

Alarm Systems

Alarm equipment falls into the same set of standards as theaccess system. Theres not a lot to do for maintenance except inspect conduitruns. However, when it comes to switches and wires, there are some things towatch.

When a tenant moves out of his unit, check to ensure it isclean and take the opportunity to inspect the alarm. Look to see if the wiresare tied off and out of the way. Make sure wires running through the unit arenot hangingthese could get caught in a rolling door or accidentally damagedby a customer. Ensure the switch and magnet are not loose, damaged or missing.Also ensure they align with each other and there is not a gap greater than 2inches between them. With latch-type switches, check to see the door latch doesnot hit the switch and the track is not bent in the switch area. Close and openthe door, then look to see if you get an open and close notificationon your site-activity report.

These actions take only a few minutes, but by doing them, youare also investigating potential problem areas such as the door and latch. You can avoid problems with the alarm system and the nexttenant by allowing for repairs while the unit is empty.

Surveillance Cameras

As with the alarm and access systems, make sure the conduitsto surveillance cameras are not broken, especially where the flex conduit goesinto the camera housing. There should be no exposed wires. Clean the outside of the camera-housing window once or twice ayear. Use a soft cloth and no abrasive cleaners.

Once a week, make sure the cameras are actually recording.Review a tape or recorded image so you know you are getting something stored. Dont take it for granted that because the record light ison something is on tape. On VCRs, clean the heads with a commercial-gradecleaning system once every six months and change tapes every 12 months. (Youshould be using one tape for every day of the month.) Check the cameras afterdark to ensure they are in focus. They can look great during the day and be outof focus during low-light conditions. This can make a big difference at the timeof playback.

Its the Little Things That Count

With any type of equipment, check with your installer and/ormanufacturer to find out what maintenance can be done to keep your system in topworking order. Not all systems are the same, and you can do more harm than goodif you do not follow the correct procedures. Check to see if there are specific types of lubricantsrecommended by the manufacturer. And remember safety first. Never work on asystem if you are not sure or if you are uncomfortable with the task. It reallyis better to be safe than sorry.

These maintenance processes can be done in a few hours eachmonth. Thats not a lot of time when you consider how long you could bewaiting on parts and service in the event something breaks. By being aware ofyour site, you can head off trouble. The more active a manager is on a property,the fewer problems the site experiences. By taking care of the security systemand letting your tenants know it, you will earn greater respect for yourself andyour site. Customers will get the message that you value their business.

Chester A. Gilliam works for Centennial, Colo.-based Wizard Works SecuritySystems Inc. and has been involved with self-storage security systems for 18years. For more information, call 303.798.5337 or e-mail [email protected].

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