Are storage facilities safe? The most obvious answer is yes and no. Yes, storage facilities are designed to be safe. You have locks, gates, cameras, codes and protection from the elements. But there are certain elements of this particular industry that could present dangers for customers, owners and operators. For example, self storage facilities typically don't employ a large staff, which is great for ROI, but means that many facilities are not manned 24/7, creating an opportunity for emergencies to arise.
Many of the safety issues you will run into at a storage facility might not be immediately visible. It's important to plan carefully to ensure that you've considered every eventuality when it comes to the security of your customers and staff. Let's get a bit deeper into secure self storage and a few security issues you can head off at the pass with a little bit of planning.
Most Common Self Storage Facility Accidents
When we think of secure self-storage the first things that come to mind are typically locks and Gates. Unfortunately most storage facility accidents and injuries occur when we least expect them to. A few of the most common accidents at storage facilities include:
- Theft & break-in
- Illegal activities (think Breaking Bad)
- Trip & fall
- Crushing or broken bones (think falling boxes or moving equipment injuries)
Starting from here, let's explore a few different ways self-storage facility owners and operators protect their facility and their customers from injury or accident on-site.
10 Ways to Create Secure Self Storage for Customers & Owners
The security of your self storage facility goes well beyond gate codes and cameras. It's all about how well you're prepared for any eventuality on your property. As a business owner you need to be prepared for everything from fire and theft, to natural disaster or data breach. It might seem a bit overwhelming to consider every possibility, but I've pulled together 10 different ways you can focus on the security of your self storage facility while building trust with your customers.
Create a Secure Lease Agreement
It is your responsibility as a storage facility owner, to clearly communicate the rules and regulations of your property clearly to tenants. Your lease agreement should clearly state that That things like hazardous materials are not allowed to be stored on site. It is your responsibility as a storage facility owner to clearly communicate the rules and regulations of your property to tenants. ISS has helpfully provided a blueprint for informing customers about hazardous or toxic materials that are prohibited at your storage facility:
HAZARDOUS OR TOXIC MATERIALS PROHIBITED: Tenant is strictly prohibited from storing or using materials in the storage space or on the facility classified as hazardous or toxic under any local, state or federal law or regulation, and from engaging in any activity which produces such materials. Tenant's obligation of indemnity as set forth below specifically include any cost, expenses, fines or penalties imposed against the Landlord arising out of the storage or use of any hazardous or toxic material by Tenant, Tenant's agents, employees, invitees or guests. Landlord may enter the storage space at any time to remove and dispose of prohibited items.
Control Tenant Access
Considering most self-storage facilities offer 24/7 access to customers, controlling access may seem counterproductive. Controlling access isn't about restricting the access of customers, it's about building structures into your facility that allow you the freedom to control access if necessary. Consider adding in a clause to your rental contract informing the customer that you reserve the right to regulate facility hours, the right to request identification of people on the property, the right to inspect vehicles entering the property, and the right to change regulations as needed to ensure the safety of customers. Adding this provision into your lease both gives you the option of more control over your facility, and also tells your customers that you are concerned with their safety while at your facility.
Focus on Proper Lighting
Proper lighting in your storage facility is a huge deal, considering many accidents at self-storage facilities are due to inadequate lighting. Some of these accidents result in massive judgments against property owners, where the lighting was found to be deficient. You should also consider the security that appropriate lighting provides for visitors at your facility who may have to navigate internal hallways and buildings to reach their storage unit. For more information on the different ways that you can use lighting to ensure Safety and Security around your self storage facility check out this article from US LED on The Best Ways Self-Storage Facilities Utilize LED Lighting for Safety and Security. Remember, LED lighting is a cost saver as well. Read more on Maximizing Profitability: How Lighting Reduces Costs for Self Storage here.
Control of Loading & Unloading Areas
Loading and unloading areas are often overlooked when considering safety at a storage facility. Loading and unloading areas often have dollies, carts, cars and trucks entering, exiting and unloading. This presents a lot of opportunity for safety issues to arise. Focus on making any areas where heavy equipment or trucks move in and out very easy to navigate, with clear walking areas, lighting, signage and as much visibility as you can create, using open spaces, mirrors or even video equipment.
Customer & Storage Facility Locks & Locking Mechanisms
Customers should be responsible for providing their own locks or locking mechanisms for their self-storage unit. While you can and should be carrying these sorts of retail items for customers who have not planned ahead, requiring a customer to use their own lock or locking mechanism gives them ownership over the security of their space. Remind customers that locking up their unit is their responsibility, but that you and your staff will be on the lookout for unlocked doors and may secure them for the customer if necessary. This is saying both “we will help lock you up if you forget” and “if you are living in there - you will likely be locked in at some point!”
Help Customers Avoid Physical Strain
Physical strain and injuries from lifting, moving and shifting heavy boxes and furniture is an issue at most self-storage facilities. Well you can't protect customers from hurting themselves you can provide equipment that will make this less likely. Consider making dollies hand trucks or moving straps available to customers at your facility to ensure they have everything they need to safely move heavy belongings in and out of their unit. Some storage facilities even offer pickup, storage, and drop off services for customers - but if this is too much, consider creating Partnerships with some local moving companies that could potentially offer these services to your customers. This is a great way to build connections and trust with your local business community, and while customers might not take advantage of the service, they will certainly appreciate the option.
Protect Against Identity Theft & Data Breaches
Identity theft and data breaches are becoming the status quo, and the Self Storage industry is no exception. It is your responsibility as a business owner to ensure that all your customer data is safe within your system. Once you've been hit by a ransomware or data breach attack, paying the ransom doesn't necessarily ensure that customer data won't be sold on the dark web at a later date. Honestly, it's probably already been sold. The only way to protect against identity theft and data breach is to deploy management and security software that will stop these types of attacks before they start. In their article What is Data Breach and How to Prevent It, Fortinet has published several data breach prevention best practices, which include;
- Use strong passwords
- Use multi-factor authentication (MFA)
- Keep software up to date
- Use secure URLs
- Educate and train employees
- Create a response plan
For more information on Understanding the Need for Cyber Insurance, read here!
Reduce Fire Risks
When self storage facility owners think about security they often overlook the issue of fire. It's not uncommon for a fire to crack concrete or melt metal, resulting in the need to rebuild your entire facility. Ceasefire reminds us that fire can cause damage in many different ways aside from direct damage. For example the water firefighters use to put out fires can and will destroy areas of your facility. Smoke damage can also be extensive and expensive to clean up. After a fire it can take months for you to reopen your facility resulting in lost rent and finally a fire could certainly cause damage to your businesses reputation.
Protect Against Theft & Break-in
Considering the set-it-and-forget-it structure of most self storage facilities, theft and break-in can certainly be a problem, as thieves see these facilities as unprotected targets. Well some facilities might rely on human labor to provide the 24/7 security they need many self storage owners are increasingly relying on technology like security video cameras and motion sensor lighting to secure self storage facilities.
Create Clear Storage Facility Signage
Clear facility signage is another great way to ensure the safety and security of your facility. Signage to help customers find their way around the facility (for example, naming your isles or posting maps) is just the beginning. Make sure that you think about signage that informs visitors about any safety hazards on the grounds, and ensure your contact information is available throughout the facility to ensure that the customer feels connected to the owners and operators, even when they visit the facility alone.
Managing Accidents at your Self Storage Facility
The way that you manage accidents at your storage facility will play a major role in how secure customers feel working and storing with you. If you followed all of the security best practices above it's very unlikely you could be held totally responsible for any accidents or injuries on your site.
Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself is to clearly communicate all rules and regulations of your facility to your customers when they first rent from you. While we know that accidents can and will happen, make sure that you prepare yourself for every eventuality, by making emergency information easy to find and readily available around your facility for both customers and for managers. Finally, train your employees on how to handle emergency situations at your facility, and get a lawyer on retainer to protect you as soon as any accident occurs.
Secure Self Storage | Final Thoughts
Secure self storage goes well beyond locks and gates. People feel safe when they are heard and communicated with. The more preparation you make for any eventual accidents or issues on your site, the less likely customers are to be surprised and angered when these accidents do happen. Put yourself in a trusted position with both your customers and their belongings, by carefully considering safety before it becomes an issue. For more information about ways you can secure your storage facility and simultaneously secure the trust of your customers visit the Radius+ blog, or reach out to the ManageSpace community. We are here to help you see your space differently!