All of us in the wonderful world of self-storage management have had to deal with one kind of security issue or another, such as a person cutting a hole in the fence to break into a unit, or the professional burglar who rents a unit intent on robbing others. Then there’s the ex-spouse who empties the unit, or vandals who break into an RV through the window.
As a facility manager, how can you convince prospects that you are a safe storage alternative to their home or business? It starts with some simple daily steps.
It’s imperative to walk your property several times per day to see if anything is out of whack. Always visit new customers while they are moving in, just to say “Hi” and to take a peek at what they’re storing. While walking the facility, look for problems that need immediate attention ... and take care of them.
Make sure your security cameras, video recorder, gates, etc., are all working properly. How is the lighting at your store? Are the aisles well-lit at night? Are cameras working properly, and are the images they record clear? Are the gate-access points working correctly, and do you know when each and every customer is on site?
Do you check your unit hasps after a customer has moved out? Do they close in the way they should? While you’re checking the hasps, take a look at the interior of the unit. Are there any signs on the walls that need to be changed? Can a person from the next-door unit get into that unit?
The Power of Locks and Cameras
These steps can minimize potential theft, but are they enough? I just saw a video in which a guy opened a deadbolt lock with a simple device and a quick hit with a hammer. This is disconcerting. How many of you have locks that can be opened the same way? What can you do to prevent this from happening at your site?
Why not invite your local law-enforcement agency to train at your facility? Post signs around the facility letting customers know that officers train on the premises. To reinforce the idea, donate a unit to them and, in return, ask them to drive by the facility a couple times per day during and after business hours.
Another idea is to sponsor a half-day seminar for your customers to discuss the issue of security. Most police departments have a public-service officer who would be willing to lead a discussion on how you and your tenants can help make your facility safe. Publicize the event, make it a community-awareness issue, and you may get some help from the local media or rent units to new customers.
You should also post large and colorful signs around the facility touting your cameras and video surveillance. Also, encourage each customer to purchase insurance against theft and other losses. Compare your storage facility to a tenant’s garage. Would he insure his own personal garage and the contents if he was storing stuff at home?
Taking the Right Measures
Nothing a storage operator does can guarantee that customers’ goods will be safe at all times from all possible theft. Make sure your tenants have a good lock on their units and purchase insurance. Also, be diligent in your walk around the facility several times daily to ensure everything is as it should be, and try teaming up with law enforcement to minimize the risk of theft.
A little effort can go a long way. Remember, if you do something right, your tenants may tell 10 other people; if you do something wrong, they will tell 100. It’s easier to prevent break-ins than to deal with them after the fact.
Mel Holsinger is the president of Professional Self Storage Management LLC. Based in Tucson, Ariz., the company manages more than 40 facilities in Arizona, Colorado and Texas. Holsinger has been in the self-storage industry for more than 25 years. He is a frequent speaker at industry tradeshows, a contributing writer for Inside Self-Storage magazine, and a faculty member of the Self-Storage Training Institute. To reach him, call 520.319.2164; e-mail [email protected]oselfstorage.com.