Giving your tenants peace of mind typically goes beyond putting a padlock on a door. While that may work for the least picky of people, most renters want to know that their items are safe.
After all, just because an item is in storage doesn’t mean it’s not important to a person (Fun fact: one of the most expensive items ever stolen from a storage unit was a $1.5 million Superman comic book belonging to Nicholas Cage, which was later recovered. By the way, it is best to prohibit the storage of high-value items like this in your rental agreement and your tenant protection or insurance plan).
So, let’s dive into the importance of self storage security and the different types of self storage security solutions.
Importance of Self Storage Security
Self storage security systems not only help bring in customers, but they can also keep your business out of legal trouble (and save you money in the long run). Aside from keeping out thieves, of course, here are the top three reasons to invest in self storage security:
To Attract Customers
Items in storage are typically not “out of sight, out of mind.” Many people store important items because they simply may not have room at home or they may be in the process of moving. So, storage facility security matters. Studies show that 62% of renters are looking for appropriate security at a storage facility.
To Avoid Legal Issues
Proper security can help you avoid legal issues should something happen to a tenant’s belongings (of course, you should never guarantee security; simply highlight your security measures). Consider the case of Dilbeck v. Yates, in which a break-in resulted in a tenant’s items being stolen.
When the tenant initially signed the lease agreement, the facility manager stated that the facility had never been broken into before when, in fact, there had been several incidents in the past. The tenant argued that had he known that, he would never have rented in the first place.
The court ruled in the tenant’s favor, and the facility had to pay for the value of the stolen goods (just imagine if it had been that Superman comic book!). With enhanced security measures, of course, such an incident may never have occurred. Read more about security incidents in Inside self storage.
To Reduce Insurance Costs
If you’re building a self storage facility from the ground up, starting out with a high level of security can potentially help you get a lower insurance premium. And, if you’re renovating an existing facility, adding new security features can also improve your property from a risk-management perspective and potentially lower your insurance costs.
From an insurance underwriter’s view, building and security upgrades to older structures and premises are considered a positive action and may be reflected in the premium analysis. Of course, this is up to your insurance provider.
10 Types of Self Storage Security
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of storage unit security, what are some of the best ways to secure it? Here are 10 considerations that can help give your self storage facility tenants some piece of mind!
Fencing is a basic first step toward preventing theft, however, you don’t want to get so carried away that the facility looks like a prison. Even if you’ve installed many of the other security features on this list, you will still want strong fencing. Then again, you’ll still want to consider heavy-duty commercial fencing that is climb and cut-resistant in the following circumstances:
- You’re located in a high-crime area
- Your facility (or others in the area) have been targeted by thieves in the past
- You’re allowing cars, boats, and other large items of value to be stored outside of units
Perimeter Intrusion Alarms
Let’s face it: fences can be scaled or cut. So, along with perimeter fencing, you may want to consider perimeter intrusion alarms or perimeter intrusion detection (PID) solutions. These are installed to detect climb-over, cut-through, and break-through activity along your perimeter fence or wall.
Most systems work by detecting vibration or tilting (indicating a climb-over), using sensors to detect the lifting of gates or windows, or by using acoustic sensing technology. Either way, when suspicious activity is detected, you’ll be alerted and an interactive map can show you where the activity occurred (or at least a general location in the case of acoustic sensors). Most systems also sound an alarm to let the intruder know they’ve been detected.
Gate and Unit Access Control
The most basic self storage security systems consist of a keypad that opens a gate when the correct code is entered. More advanced access control systems integrate with your software and provide in-software alerts showing access histories, including who is on-site at any given moment (this includes not just tenants, but managers, lawn care teams, maintenance workers, and construction crews).
Advanced unit access control systems, such as the NOKĒ® Smart Entry system, use a Bluetooth electronic lock and total access control system that allows customers to access their self storage facility and individual unit from their smartphone. This prevents theft that can occur due to lost or duplicate keys. Nokē doors are much harder to break into, so they are not a popular target for criminals, who prefer low-hanging fruit.
Lighting and Motion Sensors
Bright lighting is essential for any self storage facility as thieves are wary of well-lit locations; flood lights, area lights, and canopy lights are all good options for creating a secure environment. Motion sensors are also ideal, even if you offer 24-hour access. Renters will appreciate the lighting, and burglars are more likely to back off if lights are triggered while they’re trying to creep around in the shadows.
As a bonus, motion sensor lights can greatly lower energy costs (and lengthen the lifespan of expensive LED lights) because they’re only triggered by movement.
Video surveillance is a no-brainer, providing an ideal way to thwart burglars, deter crime, and monitor activity on-site. There are many types of security cameras available, with DVR motion cameras offering the ability to pan, tilt, and zoom to monitor activity in the facility.
Any time motion is detected, these cameras can also record high-definition surveillance footage onto a secure hard drive (where it is preserved for future reference) and save it to the cloud. They will continue recording until the motion has completely ceased. This is better than continuous monitoring, as it makes it easier for security experts to find what they’re looking for if there is a break-in.
Some of these cameras also have the option of sending notifications to the owner’s or manager’s smartphone when motion is detected. Some brands can also alert the tenant of motion, heat, and access. Cutting edge solutions use AI to help filter out motion from wildlife, so only unwanted behavior is detected.
Relationship with Local Police
If you haven’t begun construction on your facility and are scoping for a new location, it’s always a good idea to try to set up shop near a police station. Not only will officers be nearby in the event of a break-in, but thieves are much less likely to attempt a robbery in the first place if they know the cops are just around the corner.
No matter where your facility is located, you can build a strong relationship with local law enforcement. When law enforcement officials contact you about police matters, be as cooperative as possible, while still protecting tenants’ rights.
You can also make your facility police-friendly, even posting a sign that says police are welcome. Offer your property as a training location for drug and bomb-sniffing canine units. Boost your Wi-Fi signal near a dark area of your property that could use law enforcement presence and invite local police to park there during breaks, while writing up reports, or other fieldwork when they need a place to get things done. Offer donuts and coffee. You might even consider opening a police substation on-site.
On-site security is a great deterrent when it comes to thieves but it can be very costly. So, while we don’t necessarily recommend them at all times, they’re a great temporary option if there have been a rash of break-ins in the area or your facility has recently been targeted by thieves.
A well-kept facility can deter criminals. Keeping up with the features around your storage facility can go a long way by telling criminals that the people who own and run the property keep a close eye on it.
Plus, keeping up with maintenance helps boost security measures, too. Fixing broken fences and keeping your security equipment up-to-date are a few simple ways to up your curb appeal. You should also trim long tree branches that block windows or cameras, and within several feet of your branches to make it easier to see potential criminals.
Aerial surveillance is another method of maintaining secure storage facilities. One self storage operator hired a company to watch the feeds of hundreds of drones over their facility. If someone suspicious entered the premises, they were able to hone in on them with one of the drones to get a closer look.
These drones can also be equipped with AI motion detectors, so you only need to review the footage of what is determined to be unwanted behavior. This type of surveillance gives you an overhead look at your entire property, and more drones mean more angles and opportunities to keep a close eye on everything.
Many camera systems now offer video analytics, where AI detects unusual activity and sends you an alert. This is often done via a cell phone push notification on an app.
Video analytics can provide unique detection capabilities as they collect data and automate access control. This includes license plate recognition, crowd detection, tracking people, and face recognition software.
Don’t Skimp When It Comes to Self Storage Security!
Secure storage facilities are quickly becoming the norm, and today’s renters have certain expectations when it comes to protecting their belongings. Not only can self storage security help attract customers, reduce insurance premiums, and help you avoid legal trouble, but it’s also a way to compete with REITs, which typically have larger budgets and employ these means of security.
If you’re looking for advice or help setting up your self storage security systems, consider joining the Storelocal cooperative. You’ll get exclusive deals on vendors, lower your operational costs, and align with self storage industry thought leaders who have additional insight into security.
Interested in learning more about cooperatives or need some self storage ideas? Join Storelocal now.