Security for Storage Units & Facilities
Storage units are not just popular on shows such as Storage Wars and Storage Hunters. Smart entrepreneurs recognize the opportunity associated with building and owning self-storage units. But catering to the almost 40% of Americans who have or seek a storage unit comes with a responsibility to ensure customers’ items stay safe. Prioritize security for storage units, and you’ll have plenty of happy self-storage customers.
(And don’t worry, storage renters. We have a few tips for you, too.)
Security Risks for Self-Storage Facilities
How safe are storage units? The answer involves several factors, each of which contributes to overarching safety for storage buildings.
Having a secure storage unit operation is more important than ever. Storage units aren’t just popular among individuals going through a life change, such as marriage or divorce. Renters also include those who are renovating, moving, protecting a collection, or remedying an overflowing attic or basement. And they’re increasingly popular as a “spillover solution” for businesses moving to smaller quarters as remote and hybrid work remain popular. With so many different groups using storage units, self-storage facilities make an attractive target for criminals.
No one is immune from storage unit theft. There are stories making the rounds online of “famous thefts” from storage units belonging to the likes of Miley Cyrus and Beyonce. The more valuable and rare the contents, the more tempting a unit is for thieves.
It’s easy to see why a criminal might target a self-storage facility. Unlike homes, no one occupies storage units, nor are there people coming and going regularly. About 40% of storage unit renters visit once a month. Another 11% report visiting every week. The remaining 49% visit far less frequently, meaning someone (or something) else must ensure the unit’s safety.
Security for Storage Units: The Basics
Creating safety for storage buildings, regardless of who you’re serving, requires a multifaceted approach to reduce the risk of theft and vandalism in these often high-traffic environments.
Location, Location, Location
Starting from scratch? If you’re considering building a storage unit facility, select a location that’s not only zoned appropriately and gets good traffic but is also in a neighborhood known for low crime and safety. Choosing a location is an important step, so do your due diligence.
Obviously, if you’re purchasing an existing storage unit business, the location is a done deal. It may require more thought and fastidiousness when it comes to security efforts.
Secure the Perimeter
A tall fence around the entire property, accompanied by several “No Trespassing” signs, can be a deterrent to would-be thieves (albeit a small one). A perimeter intrusion detection system is also a wise addition. These devices sense climb-overs, cut-throughs, and break-through activities by gauging vibration, tilting, or acoustic changes. In addition to notifying you, an alarm makes clear to the intruder that someone is on to them.
In addition, upkeep is important. A polished appearance sends the message that someone cares about the property. Maintain any broken fences, remove stray garbage, trim tree branches, and so on. Your customers will appreciate this, too.
Light It Up
As with most security scenarios, storage unit businesses need to invest in good lighting. Illuminate not only around the perimeter but also on all the units themselves. Motion-activated lighting is always a smart investment, as these fixtures generate lower energy costs than lights that are always on.
For the parking lot, entry/exit points, or driveways, flood lights and canopy lights are a great complement to the motion-activated lights. Customers will feel safer in full light, so any area that renters will enter is a candidate for always-on lighting.
Of course, these investments need to be supported with ongoing maintenance to ensure all dead bulbs don’t stay burnt out for long.
That tall fence is one level of access control, but you can always do more. Increasingly, storage unit businesses require customers and employees to use a unique access code at gates and doors. Not only does this reduce traffic to the people who need to be there, but it also allows a way to track the comings and goings of specific individuals. If there’s trouble, you have a (digital) paper trail.
While hiring security guards can be extremely expensive, there is no denying that a physical human presence onsite discourages criminals. Some storage units alleviate the cost issue by employing security guards only for certain times, like after-dark shifts or in response to a surge in crime.
Talk about 21st-century security. Some storage facilities invest in aerial surveillance, using a series of drones to monitor the facility. Imagine trying to steal something while a mini helicopter tracks you down.
Menacing? Yes. Necessary? Maybe, maybe not. You can get the same results with the right security cameras (without the risk of head injury).
New Alternative: A Smart Storage Unit Security System
While locks and fences are important items in the security equation, they can’t cut it on their own. And even “regular” surveillance cameras (like CCTV) that simply record ongoing events aren’t enough. By the time you access those recordings, the criminal is probably long gone, and busy police departments are focusing on higher-priority crimes.
Today’s customers want—and deserve—the most secure storage units. That requires security that goes beyond passive response to active prevention.
Deep Sentinel’s advanced self-storage security cameras take security to the next level by teaming AI with on-call guards who monitor activity on your property. Whether it’s loitering, vandalism, theft, or another threat, a Deep Sentinel guard will intervene at the first sign of trouble. The live security team neutralizes threats within seconds and escalates any crimes to the police on your behalf.
Deep Sentinel’s after-hours surveillance service is an excellent complement to the other safety tips and efforts above. Bolster your storage facility’s security plan by combining several tactics.
Renters: Secure Your Storage Unit
While storage facility owner needs to make security for storage units a priority, that doesn’t mean renters are off the hook. Keeping your valuables safe is a joint responsibility. Here are a few tips.
Choose the Right Lock
Let’s start with the basics: secured storage facilities need a good lock. Criminals want the path of least resistance to get to the goods. As such, they look for a unit with no lock or a weak lock. Cutting a lock on a unit is the most common type of burglary in the self-storage industry, so it’s worth the time to research your options and make a smart purchase. Even an expensive lock is a relatively small investment to keep your unit safe.
There are pros and cons to various padlock types. Selecting a bolt cutter-proof lock is definitely the way to go. Learning proper lockup procedures is also important. Once you’ve picked a facility and bought a lock, ask about the best way to secure storage unit latches and attach your lock.
Mind Your Contents
Be smart about what you place in your storage unit. If you have an irreplaceable, rare, or valuable item, consider getting a safe deposit box at your financial institution instead. Your insurance company might not cover everything in your storage unit, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Make an inventory of what’s in your storage unit. Just as you should document items you have in your home in the event of a fire, theft, or disaster, the same is true for the items in your storage unit. This is crucial if you need to file a claim for something that gets stolen or destroyed. Plus, you won’t waste time looking for an item around your house if you know it’s in your storage unit.
Speaking of insurance, make sure you’re insured. Many homeowners’ and renters’ policies cover items in storage facilities, but it’s best to learn that before the situation arises. Read your policies carefully and take out a supplemental policy if needed.
Sharing Isn’t Caring
If you invest in a storage facility, keep it to yourself for your own items. Don’t share the access code or key with family members or friends. It’s simply better and safer to limit the traffic at a storage unit property. In addition, it’s wise to keep quiet about the location of your unit and even your facility.
A spouse or attorney might be the exception to this rule. It’s helpful to have someone who knows about the unit in case you’re unable to access it for some reason.
Secure Storage Is the Best Storage
Security for storage units is critical, but not too difficult to manage. With intentional efforts by customers and facility owners alike, keeping self-storage secure can be a reality.