A Tour of Your Most Critical Self-Storage Security Components, From Entry to Exit

Security plays a principal role in a customer’s decision to rent at your self-storage facility. They want to believe their items will be safe. Following is a summary of the most important components to leverage in each area of your property, from entry to exit.

Paula Swanson | Aug 10, 2022

Without investing in security, self-storage operators have no marketable product. Nobody wants to rent space where they believe their belongings will be damaged or stolen. The more protection you can offer, the better customers will feel about doing business with you, and the more likely that thieves will bypass your property and look for an easier target.

In determining which security components to include at your facility, it’s helpful to see things through the eyes of a customer, from the moment of first driving into the entrance up until the final exit. Let’s go on a bit of a site tour to see where the most important pieces to your system reside and how they keep people and property safe.

At the Facility Entrance

As a customer drives up to your self-storage facility, they should notice a highly visible perimeter fence. It should be tall, hard to penetrate and topped with a climbing deterrent like spikes or razor wire. Whether you choose a block wall, chain-link or wrought-iron fence, this is your first line of defense

If you’re in a high-crime area, consider an accompanying alarm system, which can detect when someone tries to cut or climb over the fence. This can be tied into the office alarm system and is monitorable. It can also be smart to install outdoor sirens that sound when activity is detected. Though these systems tend to be expensive, they’re worth the investment.

The fence should be accompanied by an electric gate. If your self-storage facility remains open when your management office isn’t, automating your gate with a gate operator and access-control system is a must. A fenced-in area that’s open and unattended isn’t secure. An automated gate allows you to control access and when it is granted.

Next, let’s look at the access-control device. A keypad in which the customer punches in a code is the most basic system, but there are now many more options. For example, it’s common to see intercoms and cameras built into the keypad for added convenience and security. Customers can quickly get help if needed, even after hours, and the person who answers their call can see the person with whom they’re speaking.

In some cases, the customer can simply tap the keypad with a proximity card or fob, open the gate with a mobile app on their phone, or scan their fingerprint into a biometric reader. It’s also possible for the camera at the gate to read the tenant’s license plate and allow access that way. Whatever option you choose, the user will be impressed with your easy and secure access.

As they pass through the gate, customers should notice a camera. It should have a high enough resolution to clearly capture an image of the driver, their vehicle type and the license plate. If your state issues only rear license plates or you plan to use a separate gate for exiting, you’ll want to evaluate the need for multiple gate cameras.

In the Management Office

Unless a self-storage customer rents online and is able to move in without interacting with staff, they’ll wind up in your management office, which is a great place to highlight your facility’s security features. For example, renters are typically impressed when they see multiple large screens showing live video coverage of your property. A smaller facility can usually show all camera feeds on a single, large monitor.

Keeping these highly visible will allow staff to keep an eye on what’s happening on site while deterring would-be thieves who don’t want to be caught on video. In this sense, the screens serve a security and a marketing purpose, demonstrating that you take security seriously.

Also, consider using alarms. You can install motion detectors, door and window contacts, and sirens with strobe lights. Glass breaks are also helpful. Though the system has visible components, such as motion detectors and cameras, it’s designed to make noise and alert law enforcement when there’s an issue. You can even hire a company to monitor all security activity.

Another component you may want to add is a panic button that can be placed in an inconspicuous spot or even on a remote control that fits in an employee’s pocket. This device can help trigger an alarm. When paired with a door strike, it can even lock the office door. There are numerous options available that can be programmed just about any way you prefer.

Along the Buildings and Drive Aisles

Now, let’s explore some of the security components your self-storage tenants see when they’re on their way to their unit. First, they should notice cameras covering the drive aisles. Ideally, staff should be able to monitor a vehicle’s progress as it moves from one coverage area to another. Depending on the sophistication of your video system, an automated sequence can show this as a series on your monitor. Your facility size and location will determine the level of coverage needed. Reputable security professionals can help you determine what’s prudent for your property.

Let’s say a customer has rented an interior unit. If you’re controlling area access—and this is highly recommended for facilities with multiple floors or buildings—they should encounter a keypad when they enter the building where their unit is located. Keypads can also be used in multi-story sites to control access to upper floors. Of course, this tenant should also see cameras inside the building. You don’t need to see every hallway or unit, but you should be able to track a person’s movement.

In high-crime areas, or if you want to differentiate yourself from competitors, individual unit-door alarms are also a good idea. These come in hard-wired and wireless options. Though customers may not notice their alarm system unless you’ve marketed it as a security feature, they’ll certainly be aware if they open their unit without first disarming it. Usually, it’s disarmed when they enter their unique code at the facility entrance gate or building keypad.

If a self-storage customer is on premises at night, they should notice a lot of lighting, which helps video cameras get better quality coverage and is a huge deterrent to thieves who prefer to go undetected in the dark. Statistics show a well-lit facility is less likely to be broken into or vandalized.

Just bear in mind, there will be situations in which you can’t light every area to your liking. Most municipalities have regulations around outside lighting. Though you want to optimize site security, you must also consider the needs of neighboring properties, particularly residences. A local lighting specialist will be able to find a solution that works best for you and your neighbors.

At the Exit Gate

The final security component your self-storage customers will see is the exit gate, which may or may not be separate from the facility entrance. Either way, make sure you have camera coverage of vehicles leaving. A keypad here is highly recommended. Customers tend to feel more secure if the exit is controlled, plus this allows you to keep track of when people leave the property. Also, if an unauthorized party has managed to tailgate their way into the site, they’ll be trapped at the exit.

Peace of Mind

As you can see, a combination of components can provide any self-storage facility with a strong security presence. A well-designed system will help customers feel better about leasing from you and give you a much more marketable product.

The items outlined above are the essentials of a basic self-storage security system. New tools with robust features regularly make their way to market. Though no system can completely stop criminals, working with a professional who understands the industry can help you find the best solution for your facility.