How to Safely Use a Self-Storage Unit

Safely using a self-storage unit requires multiple layers of security. Both the business and the customer can work to protect the buildings and their contents, reducing the chances of theft, injury and property damage. 

This article will explore how to safely use a self-storage unit,  including what you can do to keep yourself and your belongings safe while using it.

What the Storage Facility Can Do

When you’re shopping for the right self-storage unit facility, look for signs that safety is a priority. In addition to checking out the website and the property itself, research your options through the Better Business Bureau, customer reviews and other resources.

Secure Surveillance

Effective surveillance is both digital and analog. A facility with top-notch surveillance may cost a little more, but it’s worth it to protect your items.  

Cameras should watch every area of the facility, running and recording 24/7. In addition, a good digital entry system records who’s coming and going via entered security codes. If codes are required for indoor storage, if you use the elevator for example, those codes should only give you access to the area of your own unit.    

Some facilities have staff on site around the clock; others don’t. While a person can’t see every single thing happening at the facility, they can take fast action when something is suspicious.

Restricted Access

Only current customers should have access to the storage facility, and only the customer should have access to their self-storage unit. To be extra secure, the facility may have:

  • Quality fencing around the entire property
  • Gated keypad entry that requires a code
  • A way to lock individual units (often you have to buy your own lock and put it on a sliding lock, so even the facility staff can’t simply access your property)

Customer Safety

You deserve to feel safe at the storage facility. In addition to the access safety, facilities should provide basic safety measures, including bright, well-maintained lighting and security alarms.

Fires are unlikely in a self-storage unit. Yet, certain customer behaviors increase the risk, such as storing hazardous materials or operating an illegal drug lab in the facility (this actually happens). Smoke detectors and sprinkler systems can greatly reduce these risks, and linking smoke detectors to security alarms is a great extra step for self-storage facilities to take.

Storage Facility Maintenance

Notice if a property is not well maintained. Broken fences, glitchy keypads, bad lighting and even unkempt landscaping aren’t good signs. Any security or safety measure that doesn’t take priority means your stored property could be a little less safe.

Also notice if staff is rarely or never on site. Digital surveillance is great, but a clearly staffed facility is less attractive to potential thieves

What the Customer Can Do

Bolster the facility’s safety and security measures by being proactive. The following tips will protect your property, as well as you or your family as you use the self-storage unit.

Choose the Right Self-Storage Unit

Select a unit that’s large enough for your belongings, erring on the side of too large rather than too small. The more space you have, the more safely and conveniently you can position your items. 

If you’re concerned about a unit being accessible from the outdoors, consider an indoor unit for added protection from tampering and the weather.    

No matter what unit you get, check for cracks and/or leaks right away, and report any issues to the staff.

Get Insurance

Many homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies include coverage for items in a storage unit. If yours doesn’t, consider any coverage offered by the storage facility itself. These plans aren’t usually expensive and cost far less than replacing damaged or stolen property.  

Keep an inventory and pictures of the things in your self-storage unit, especially anything highly valuable. If you can avoid keeping irreplaceable things (photos, heirlooms, etc.) in a unit, we recommend that. You could also consider a climate-controlled unit to protect delicate items (we talk more about that in a recent article on the five most-popular stored items).

Store Items Safely

Never put prohibited items in your self-storage unit. Generally, facilities don’t allow explosive or combustible things (such as the propane tank with your grill) or other hazardous materials. Working on vehicles and other mechanics is not usually allowed. 

Do not put anything living in your unit--animals are definitely not allowed, and plants will not fare well. Perishable items (like fresh produce and meat) are a bad idea as they can attract pests. 

Stack bins and boxes safely, with large, heavy boxes on the bottom. Using plastic bins is a great way to prevent moisture damage. Cover mirrors or other breakable items with bubble wrap to prevent breakage and contain sharp pieces.   

Leave strategically placed aisles in your self-storage unit so that you don’t have to climb over anything to get what you need. Finally, put a high-quality lock on the outside of your unit--one that is resistant to bolt cutters or tampering.

Visit Safely

If possible, visit your self-storage unit during the day and when the facility will have staff on site. It’s also wise to bring someone with you, day or night--there’s safety in numbers, and a buddy can be helpful in moving heavy items or helping in case of accidents. At the very least, bring a well-charged phone.  

Never share your entry code with anyone who doesn’t truly need access to your self-storage unit. Limiting access means less chance of theft and better safety for all customers. 

Most of the time, self-storage facilities are safe for you and your property. Taking these steps on how to safely use a self-storage unit will keep it that way.