The papers have been smattered this week with stories of self-storage facilities being visited by counterterrorism officials. Because of bomb scares in Denver and New York, the FBI and Homeland Security Department distributed a document to police nationwide, urging them to visit with local self-storage facilities and work with employees toward uncovering suspicious behavior. The document states that self-storage units have been used to harbor terrorist activity in the past and could be used in such a way again. Specifically, the concern is the making of bombs.
Separate from the document circulated to law-enforcement by the Feds, an alert was distributed to thousands of self-storage managers, owners and companies by the Self-Storage Association, warning of the potential use of units for illegal and terrorist activity. (See "Self-Storage Association Issues Terrorism Alert to Facilities.") The alert begins: "Evidence from police investigations, foiled plots, and past terrorist attacks reveals terrorists have used commercial storage facilities, including self-storage units, to store explosives or other supplies prior to attacks."
The SSA document provides a list of potential indicators of suspcious storage use, including:
- Insistence on paying in cash, sometimes weeks or months in advance.
- Seemingly excessive concern about privacy.
- Visits to a storage unit late at night or at unusual times.
- Suspicious deliveries to the storage unit, particularly from chemical supply companies.
- Exhibiting nervousness or evasiveness when approached by rental employees or security personnel.
- Unusual fumes, liquids, residues, or odors emanating from units.
- Discarding of chemical containers in storage unit dumpsters.
- Stockpiling of cell phones, timers or similar electronic devices.
- Indications of burns or symptoms of exposure to chemical substances.
What do you consider to be your level of responsibility in this arena? Do you carefully screen tenants? Do you report suspicious tenant behavior to local officials, or are you wary or lazy about getting involved? If you think you can't make a real difference, consider Jordan Garand, the co-manager of Guardian Self Storage in New Windsor, N.Y. He helped authorities put a stop to a terrorist plot, simply by tipping off police about some suspicious tenants. Turns out the four men were intending to blow up Air National Guard Cargo planes and two Jewish facilities in New York City.
If you are a facility manager or owner, you may be feeling nervous about the possiblity of Feds knocking on your door. Don't be. Consider this a partnership in benefit to the nation. By cooperating with officials, you can build a stronger relationship with local law enforcement and put your customers' and community's mind at ease.
If you'd like to share your concerns and thoughts with fellow operators, chime into one of these discussions on the Self-Storage Talk online forum:
You might also want to arm yourself with more info about screening tenants and safeguarding your facility. Consider these articles from ISS magazine:
- Homeland Security: How does it affect your facility?
- Best Practices in Tenant Screening : Ensuring safety and improving Business
Have a safe and terror-free weekend.