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Storage Unit Security: the Basics



Working in the storage industry as I do, I’ve had a Google Alert set up to email me any mentions of self-storage in the media. While I’ve been able to keep abreast of industry news this way, I’ve also been shocked to discover how many storage unit break-ins happen nationwide. Now, when viewed against the total size of this massive industry, only a miniscule fraction of storage facilities ever experience crime—and as we all know, bad news sells papers, so when something does happen it’s bound to be hyped by the press. But the fact remains that storage unit robberies do happen—despite how easy they are to prevent. The problem is a lack of customer awareness.

If you’re going to pay upwards of $50 a month for a storage unit, you probably place a lot of value on the things you store. And if you value those things so highly, you’ll want to make sure they’re safe. Here are some easy, basic tips that will make your storage unit virtually impregnable.

Choose the right facility: go for a facility that offers 24/7 video surveillance. Cameras deter criminals and help capture them after they’ve committed the crime. Ask the facility manager if they employ security guards at night. Some facilities feature units where the lock is built into the door—these are extra sturdy and safer from the elements as well. Any facility should be surrounded by a security fence over 8 feet high as well as a gate that closes at night. Climate controlled units are almost always housed inside one large building, meaning that there’s an extra door for a thief to get through. These extra amenities will often cost extra, but if you’re storing anything of high value then the expense is certainly worth it.

 Get the right lock: we highly recommend disc locks. These are much harder to break than padlocks as the shackle is much less exposed to thieves and their bolt cutters. If you can’t go with a disc lock, find a padlock of the highest quality materials—nothing but boron or stainless steel will do.

Make your valuables hard to find: hide valuable items in the back, behind and underneath less valuable items like furniture. While labeling your boxes is a good idea for staying organized, you might want to make up a code for what’s really inside—thieves will go for a box labeled ‘jewelry’ right away. This is especially important as thieves will often target units they know to contain valuable contents—if someone sees you moving that box of jewelry into the unit, they might decide to come back and take it. Just don’t forget your codenames.

Change your codes if they get out: if someone else learns your access codes, you’ll need to change them right away. Divorce is a common cause of storage crime: a jaded ex-spouse might not agree with the judge’s division of belongings and could attempt to reclaim their property. If you’ve recently gone through a divorce, change your codes and keys to prevent this from happening to you.

Brian Shreckengast is a writer at, one of the world’s largest search engines for discount self-storage. For more advice on storing and moving, check out the SSD blog.

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