Preventing Fires at Self-Storage Facilities

A fire broke out this week at an Aurora, MO self-storage facility resulting in losses for several tenants.

According to KYTV, one tenant reported that they had belongings in a unit for 16 years. Among their possessions was their marriage license, pictures of their daughter and supplies for a home remodel.

While a cause has not official been determined, it is suspected that someone may have been living inside of a unit illegally.

Meanwhile in West Virginia, a woman is suing a self-storage facility after her possessions were destroyed by water used to put out a fire that erupted on the roof.

As these cases demonstrate, fires are a risk that self-storage owners and managers must be vigilant against at all times.

Here are a few ways that you can help prevent fires at your self-storage facility:

1. Watch Out For Squatters

One of the biggest causes of fires at self-storage facilities is from people illegally living in units. Homeless individuals squatting in self-storage units may use candles, propane or kerosene to keep warm, and these of course can easily cause a fire.

Routinely inspect units and check security camera footage to identify any potential stowaways.

2. Prohibit Smoking

Cigarettes are another common cause of fires. Eliminate this risk, and encourage healthy habits, by banning smoking on your premises.

3. Check Smoke Detectors

Be sure to regularly check and test smoke detectors, and replace backup batteries as needed.

4. Install and Maintain Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers should be available throughout your facility in the event that a fire starts. Make sure that fire extinguishers are charged and not expired.

5. Perform a Routine Inspection Everyday

Your management staff should include checking for potential fire hazards among their end of day duties. For example, make sure the trash area is tidy and free of dangerous items like oily rags.

With proper prevention you can greatly reduce the risk of fires at your facility.

6 Ways to Prevent Break-Ins At Your Self-Storage Facility

Break-ins are an unfortunate fact of life, and self-storage facilities are no exception. 

In fact, some thieves operate under the notion that storage units are packed with valuables. More often than not, storage units contain household items of little value. However, it is extremely important that self-storage operators take every reasonable step they can to prevent the facilities they run from being targeted by burglars. 

It is also the responsibility of operators and managers to clearly explain to tenants that the facility is not liable for stolen items. Tenants should be required to obtain insurance coverage to protect the contents of their self-storage unit. 

Even with insurance, dealing with break-ins is never a pleasant experience. Such incidents can harm the reputation of a facility in a local community. Every storage facility should perform an annual security audit to ensure that they are doing everything they can to deter theft.

Here are several things you can do to make your facility a less desirable score for would-be thieves:

1. Install Security Cameras

Security cameras are a strong deterrent that makes thieves think twice about breaking into a facility. Often times self-storage thefts are a crime of opportunity, occasionally perpetrated by tenants themselves. Knowing they are under surveillance greatly reduces the temptation to steal someone else’s property.

Make sure your cameras are placed to cover entry and exit points. Check to make sure that your surveillance cameras are recording and backing up footage in the event of an incident. It may be a few weeks or more before a tenant realizes they have been burgled.

2. Require Disc Locks

Disc locks are the most secure choice for self-storage units. Due to the design, they cannot easily be cut with a pair of bolt cutters like regular padlocks can. While some customers might insist on using their own lock, making everyone comply makes everyone safer overall. 

3. Create a Gated Entry

A gated entry is a must-have for any self-storage facility. Entry is typically controlled by a keypad. Older systems may operate with a single key code, which can quickly be shared. For the best security, you will want to choose a more up to date set up that assigns individual codes to each customer. These will eventually expire when the customer moves, which help keep your facility more secure.

4. Request Patrols

Contact your local police department and request that officers check in on your facility from time to time while out on patrol.  An increased police presence is a surefire way to discourage scofflaws. 

5. Illuminate the Night

A well-lit facility is often the first line of defense. A dark facility creates an opportunity for burglars that can be easily avoided with proper exterior security lighting. Make sure that none of your lights are burned out, and that you have bright lights strategically placed around your facility.

6. Upgrade Your Security Systems

If you are looking to go above and beyond when it comes to self-storage security, there are a number of facility upgrades that you should consider. Everything from individual doors alarms to internal electronic locks that can be opened with a smartphone can be used to prevent storage unit break-ins from occurring. The industry is always innovating to create new security products, so it is a smart idea to see what new tech is available every now and then.