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No Power, No Problem: Options for Access Control When There’s an Outage at Your Self-Storage Facility

If the power goes out at your self-storage facility, do you have a contingency plan to keep your access control operational? Here are some important items to consider regarding gate components, backup systems and effective customer communication.

April Lee

September 14, 2022

5 Min Read
Options for Access Control When There’s an Outage at Your Self-Storage Facility

How often does your self-storage facility experience a power outage? If you can think of at least one incident in the last year, you should develop a plan to manage future disruptions to the business. Whether you operate a manned or automated property, keeping your access control running during an outage is a crucial step to preserving customer satisfaction and site security.

Outage Prevalence

If you think your self-storage property is immune to power outage, consider that there were more than 32,000 outages in the U.S. in 2018, according to power-management company Eaton. California was the worst offender with more than 4,000 incidents, earning it the title of “Blackout Queen.” Texas ranked second with more than 1,600 failures during the same span. The other states that round out the top 10 are:

  1. New York

  2. Michigan

  3. Ohio

  4. Pennsylvania

  5. Washington

  6. North Carolina

  7. New Jersey

  8. Illinois
     

Critical Gate Components

With the average power outage lasting around 90 minutes, it’s important to know which security components are necessary to run your self-storage access gate. Depending on your system and setup, several may be at play.

Gate. Your gate will automatically stop in whatever position it was in at the time of power failure. Usually, the gate is closed; but for busy facilities and during daytime hours, you might find that your primary access point is left wide open or somewhere between open and closed.

Gate motor. This is the access hub, the workhorse behind gate function. It relies on communication from a physical remote or access-control device, such as a keypad, to know when it should open and close.

Keypad. This component communicates with your management software to determine which visitors should be granted or denied access. If it recognizes the code entered as valid, it’ll trip the gate relay, causing the gate to open.

Exit loop. This can be installed in lieu of an exit keypad. Also known as a “free exit,” this device is typically installed under the driveway, triggering the gate to open as a vehicle rolls across it.

Internet. One gate-access component that’s often forgotten is the web. While modern keypad systems have a memory and can function without it, they still rely on an internet connection to receive data from online sources like your website. This link can be directly through your onsite modem or a cellular service.

Backup Options

So, how do you keep access control running at your self-storage facility when the power goes out? When considering alternatives to use during an outage, make sure the power source can fuel all the necessary systems. You may need more than one source depending on your access-control location points. Also, facility staff will need to know how to safely switch power for your access-control system from the electrical grid to the backup system.

There are generally three ways to power your self-storage gate in the event of an outage:

Manual operation. When staff are on site, it’s as simple as having them physically open the gate for the duration. While this solves the issue of customer access, it also poses a security risk, unless someone is outside checking IDs for all visitors.

Solar panels. With a battery backup, these can be a reliable option for any facility. If planned correctly, the access-control components can even be entirely grid-independent. This is the best option for unmanned sites where outages are frequent. Just keep in mind: If your gate relies on city power for normal operation and you’re considering solar as an alternative, you’ll need a plan to switch the power from the grid to the backup system.

Generator. This is probably the easiest replacement. Most modern generators have a push start, making them an easy solution to get things powered in a hurry.

Customer Communication

Any time a power outage lasts more than a few minutes, communicating with your self-storage tenants can help prevent frustration and unsafe situations. Of course, if an outage is planned, you’ll have plenty of time to prepare them for what to expect when systems are offline. Depending on the severity and length of the outage, you may also need to warn service providers and co-workers.

Emails and texts are a great way to quickly notify all tenants when there’s an unexpected or planned outage. In the case of the latter, you can tell them when it’ll take place and how it’ll affect facility access. Most management-software systems allow you to quickly and easily explain circumstances to customers.

Updating or posting facility signage is a quick and easy way to let tenants know what’s going on. At manned sites, it’s particularly easy to put up a sign quickly.

Though most cell phones will work during a widespread outage, cellular service can be disrupted. Keep in mind that prolonged outages can also hamper users’ ability to keep their phones charged and operable.

Plan of Action

Of course, once you’ve devised a power-contingency plan, it’s critical to document it. This is often one of the most overlooked steps when creating policies and procedures. Whether you use a physical manual or an online tool like Google Docs, put your plan in writing, including who’s responsible and how to keep the self-storage facility running smoothly.

April Lee works in sales and marketing for QuikStor Security & Software, a provider of security and software solutions for the self-storage industry. She’s been with the company since 2008, working in various capacities including accounting and technical support. She’s been directly involved with developing multiple blogs that generate more than 100,000 organic pageviews each month. For more information, call 800.321.1987; email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

April Lee

Business-Development Consultant, QuikStor Security & Software

April Lee is a business-development consultant at QuikStor Security & Software, which provides management software, access control, wireless door alarms, websites and search engine optimization to the self-storage industry. She has a background in accounting, Web design and digital marketing, and formerly managed a large RV-storage facility. For more information, call 800.321.1987; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.quikstor.com.

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