Are self storage units safe? What affects self storage safety
November 26, 2021
If you’re thinking of putting some of your things into storage, you might be wondering about the level of self storage safety. Are self storage units safe? Or is there a chance you’ll open your unit to find all of your things stolen?

Thankfully, most self storage facilities take security seriously, so there’s a good chance that your things will be nice and safe. But some facilities are more secure than others, with taller perimeters, more cameras, and staff members who make security a priority.

In this article, we explore the various factors that affect how secure a self storage facility is, and what you can do to pick one that is well protected, keeping your personal belongings nice and safe.

What affects self storage safety?

The security of a self storage facility is affected by a variety of factors, including on-site security, the area, and who has access to the unit. These are the most relevant factors to consider when choosing a self storage facility:

On-site security

On-site security has the bigger effect on how secure a facility is, and covers quite a few elements.

  • Facility perimeter—a sturdy, tall fence or wall that is difficult to climb will act as a good deterrent against thieves. Even better if the fence has barbed wire on the top. Ladders can be used to gain entry of course, but the taller the wall, the bigger the deterrent.
  • Cameras (even fake ones)—can every area of the facility be watched through a camera? If so, security is probably good quality. And fake cameras are another deterrent that can put thieves off.
  • Facility lighting—if the facility is well-lit at night, with few areas for burglars to sneak around in, there’s a better chance of them being spotted. Good lighting is yet another deterrent too.
  • Security guard—a round-the-clock guard who patrols the facility will help to improve its security. And if there isn’t someone on site, there may be someone keeping an eye on the cameras offsite, who can quickly call the police if they spot a break-in.
  • Entry points to the facility—how many entry points are there to the facility? Are they all manned or being watched by a security guard? The fewer entry points into the facility, the better.
  • Alarms—is every access point alarmed and tested on a regular basis? Are there any motion detectors equipped for no-access areas, or activated out-of-hours?
  • Storage unit locks—many facilities ask you to use your own lock for the unit, but some have fancy electronic locks that are opened with codes. These can usually be overridden by staff members if required, which is a security risk.

Area

Poor areas with a low socioeconomic status tend to have higher levels of crime, and if a storage facility is located in the area, there’s a higher chance of it being broken into. This can be offset with good security of course, so a facility in a poor area isn’t necessarily unsafe. But you may want to check the crime stats in the area before deciding whether to choose a storage facility—Queensland Police have a crime map where you can see the frequency and types of crimes in that area.

Poor areas are also likely to have dodgier clientele, who may use the units for illegal purposes, or be tempted to break into neighbouring units. Over in America, self storage units have started being used to store crystal meth, and even to cook it. You can imagine the fire and health hazards this poses for other customers.1 While this seems less likely in Australia, it’s worth thinking about.

Storage unit access

In many cases, a storage unit is kept locked with a padlock or other method for which the owner has the only key. In this case, it’s safe to say that nobody is going to be accessing your unit without breaking the lock. But units that use electronic keypads might be accessible by staff members who can override the locking mechanism for emergencies, like when someone forgets their code. This makes these types of units less secure, especially if the facility hires unscrupulous staff members who want to make a quick buck. Again, this is unlikely, but it brings us to our next point…

Respectable staff members

If the facility hires a bunch of crooks to manage security, nobody will be surprised if storage units start getting broken into. This is obviously a tough one to assess from a customer’s perspective, but see what kind of vibe you get from the facility’s staff members. Customer reviews are also a good place to look before deciding on a facility, as disgruntled customers are highly likely to post a negative review if their things have been stolen.

Building maintenance

The safety of your items isn’t affected by thieves alone. Storage facilities can be ravaged by fire, pests, or a structurally unsound building, which might destroy your precious belongings. To be extra cautious, you might want to check the following:

  • The fire policy for the facility, and whether alarms and sprinklers are tested on a regular basis.
  • Whether the building has had recent safety inspections and passed them.
  • Whether the building is regularly sprayed for pests such as termites, which can devour wooden items like furniture.

The perimeter of the facility may also require some upkeep to ensure that it’s sound. Any cracks, holes, and structural issues will make the building easier to break into, so should be tackled quickly to keep security tight.

Visitor monitoring

Many self storage facilities try to make things convenient for their customers, who can enter the premises and access their unit easily. But a facility can make things even more secure if they introduce a sign-in policy to the building, as it helps them to keep track of everyone who has been inside, and investigate any instances of theft that might occur. But in reality, more reasonable security measures like solid fencing, bright lighting, and monitored cameras are a more convenient way to improve security.

Are self storage units safe—summary

So—are self storage units safe? On the whole yes, but it depends on a variety of factors. To achieve top level self storage safety, a facility needs good fencing, plenty of cameras, alarms, and regular building maintenance, to name a few. If the facility takes its security seriously, and values the safety of its customers’ things, they’ll likely implement plenty of measures to protect them.

References

  1. Alexandra Koehn, 2020, Customers still locked out of storage building months after alleged meth lab explosion, News, Channel 5 – Nashville
  2. Charles Thompson, 2021, Police recover a pound of meth, gun after drug arrest in Carlisle, Penn Live

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