Want Your Stuff in Self-Storage to Be Safe? Here’s What You Need to Ask

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Imagine you’re standing outside a self-storage facility. What do you see in front of you? Thick-walled buildings with metal doors bolted and locked up tight? Security cameras? Access code keypads? A tall fence with iron spikes? Heavy front gates and a sign warning would-be burglars about the 24-hour surveillance system?

All self-storage facilities have … some of this stuff. Some places have all of it and even more, providing maybe some peace of mind to anyone storing there.

That’s the idea anyway. But that’s not how it always works.

Colorado’s KDVR News tells us that a certain Denver-area self-storage facility has been burglarized at least fifteen times since January of 2017. That’s right, fifteen! (Which is exactly how many games the Cleveland Browns have won since January of 2013.) From the report,

“In many of the cases, the locks had been cut off and people renting the units weren’t aware their things had been stolen until Public Storage alerted them.

One renter told us he lost everything from leather chairs to sports equipment in February while another renter even lost her deceased parents ashes.

Another man lost $8,000 in items.”

The facility in question? They have iron gates that will not open without the required code. They have surveillance cameras in place. Some of the units are located along the interior corridors of the restricted-access building, providing an even extra layer of security.

So how does even one theft occur, let alone fifteen thefts?

For starters, in at least one instance the facility’s security cameras were, according to the police reports, “not plugged in.” In many instances, the locks on the doors to the burglarized units had been cut, which requires nothing more sophisticated than a stout pair of bolt cutters.

But come on … fifteen times?

We see two possible explanations. Someone who is renting a unit, and therefore has the necessary codes to get into the place, is going in at night (or maybe even the middle of the day) and popping other people’s locks. Assuming the facility’s management is interested in putting a stop to things, they would have checked their security footage and shared what they saw with the authorities.

In terms of that place in Denver, according to KDVR’s report, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Which leads us to our second possibility: the series of thefts could just be an inside job by anyone from a low paid employee to a corrupt head of the company.

No, we don’t have proof of either of these happening at the facility in question, and we aren’t making any direct accusations here. Maybe there are a couple of guys out there who are really good at hopping fences and slipping into locked buildings – and then slipping back out and hopping back over the fence carrying their loot which, in one of those cases, included leather chairs. I’m just saying.

So how can we protect our stored belongings when we don’t even know who we’re protecting it from?

The simple answer to how to best protect yourself is to eliminate as many potential culprits as humanly possible. Look for these things in mass in a self-storage facility:

  • Serious exterior security
  • High fences with iron spikes
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Code-controlled gates and doorways

But even these offer varying degrees of security. Questions to consider include: Do the cameras record grainy still-shots of moving objects or HD video resolution? Is the footage monitored in real time by a human being (who is not sleeping) or does it just get stored somewhere until a theft has already occurred? Are the codes for the gates and doorways changed regularly? Is each customer assigned a unique code to detail who has come and gone when?

You should even ask if a facility records the license plates of vehicles entering and exiting the premises, or whether they check photo IDs of people on their way in. Also, is there is a backup power supply for all those codes and cameras in case of an outage? Don’t be shy about asking such questions. These are things you are paying money for and need to know.

What else should I know?

Other important variables (which you don’t even have to ask about) include

  • If the facility is well-lit at night
  • If the facility is located in a higher-crime area
  • What the surrounding environment consists of, such as, does it stand in developed suburbia or out in a landscape of abandoned lots and industrial parks?

There are also things you can do yourself to decrease your chances of being victimized. Using a lock the facility provides may be convenient, but your better bet is to get your own lock. Law enforcement types and criminals alike will tell you that a padlock is no match for the well-equipped thief. A disc lock or a cylinder lock (if the facility can accommodate one) is much more difficult to cut.

While we don’t recommend it, if you must put certain valuable or irreplaceable items into storage, put them in the rear of your unit to make them less visible and thus less vulnerable. And for the protection of everything you are storing, be aware that while a self-storage provider may offer some kind of coverage against fire, flood or catastrophe, they are under no legal obligation to do so. What’s more, they will, by and large, refuse to be held accountable for any loss due to theft. Most facilities will require renters to have their own insurance policy for their belongings, but your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, even if it covers stored items, may not allow for reimbursement for items damaged by mold, mildew or infestation, regardless of who may be at fault.

And finally, do a little searching at home.

A quick Internet query may turn up some bad news about the self-storage facility that looked so good in person. Now, whether one incident at this or that place may not be grounds for outright rejection in your book. That’s your call. But fifteen thefts in ten months?

You might want to keep on searching.

Quick Thinking Helps Two Nearby Movers Prevent a Disaster

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Down in Albuquerque, NM, two movers were just finishing up a job when they encountered a woman panicking, saying something about a fire behind her home. The men went to see what was going on, and upon seeing the flames jumped into action.

According to KRQE Newsone of the men remembered that there was a fire extinguisher in their truck. Unfortunately, that would only last for so long, and once it was empty the movers began kicking dirt at the perimeter of the fire, managing to keep it contained until the fire department showed up.

The obvious moral of the story is two-fold; One, make sure your trucks are properly equipped. Fire is a hazard in any season, and in the summer heat that potential for disaster only grows. And two, keeping a cool head in the heat of the moment can literally prevent someone’s world from going up in flames.

This is huge because accidents happen all the time. North of the border, sadly, disaster recently played out. In a suburb of Toronto, Canada a six-year-old boy was riding his bicycle when he was struck and killed by a moving truck.

Not much is known of the details. All we can say is please be careful, this summer and all year round. Because sometimes kids, and those around them, are not.

Why You Shouldn’t Ever Drive Without Night Flares

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Any of you guys remember your very first day as a mover? I remember mine. It involved a crew leader named Frosty and a crewman (me) hiding behind a highway divider at one in the morning.

(more…)

Don’t Try to Beat the Heat: Tools for Knowing When it’s too Hot to Work

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[Synopsis: We have to work, no matter the heat. Let’s just make sure we don’t get beat by it.]

In our industry, business is busiest when the heat is hottest. Yes, the crazy days of summer are coming fast, and it is time once again to put it in high gear.

But as our days fill up and our crews are stretched to the limit, let’s not forget that even superhumans like us are still human. Even while we tell ourselves to keep cranking no matter what the thermometer says, our bodies can only put up with so much. If we don’t pause to take care of our bodies we can lose a lot more than a few minutes of daylight.

As the Omaha World-Herald reported in August of last year, a moving company employee who was packing and loading boxes inside a truck on a day with a heat index of 112 suffered a heat stroke and, though transported to a local hospital, died that same day.

“If you’re working in those extreme triple digits, you’ve got to train your workers to recognize the symptoms of heat stroke and seek immediate medical attention,” said Darwin Craig of the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In this article WebMD covers symptoms, treatment, risk factors and prevention as related to heat stroke. They also give information for recognizing and treating heat exhaustion.

There is also an app provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Association called the Heat Safety Tool, which provides the heat index and risk level of any given work site. It’s a free download for both Android and IOS, and is available here.

We’ve all been out there, sweating it up in the heat, kicking butt without thinking of slowing down until the job is done. But hey, that sun and that heat don’t care how strong and determined we are. So let’s take this issue seriously so we can all get our jobs done safely.

Freight Trains, Fires and Live Wires: A Three-Part Case for Safety

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Hazards abound in the transportation industry. Some are avoidable, but much more must simply be managed. Here we take a look at three incidents that remind us to take note – and action – to avoid disaster.

Chester, Virginia

In late January a perfect storm of bad planning, bad equipment and really bad timing, left a truckload of stuff – not to mention some of the truck – all over an ill-designed road.

It appears an Atlas Van Lines driver was trying to navigate a tight turn that left his trailer straddling two sets of train tracks. The railroad warning mechanisms in place, we are told, were not operating when the driver of the truck rolled up onto the rails. We are also told that the truck had stalled and was reported as ‘abandoned’. Regardless, it came as a surprise to all involved when a CSX freight train came rumbling around the bend.

This google-eye view of the scene of the accident helps to understand how it all could happen. These pictures, meanwhile, help us all see the value in proceeding with caution – even when we don’t see any warning signs.

Article with Photos of train crash: http://www.nbc12.com/story/27991295/tractor-trailer-crashes-into-train-in-chester

Herbertsville, New Zealand

Meanwhile, way down south, Britton Housemovers Ltd. has just been fined $60,000 for failing to show some common sense. The hefty amount comes as a result of a December 2013 situation involving a downed power line, some downed livestock and some movers with an attitude even further south than Herbertsville.

Apparently, Britton’s house movers clipped a power line along their route and, rather than stop and deal with it properly, just kept on rambling forward. Moments later the live wire did in several sheep and two dogs while a group of (fortunately well-behaved) school children waited for the bus nearby.

The lesson here is clear: Take responsibility. Be responsible. Rectify your mistakes before they electrify someone.

Carlsbad, California

And lastly, we take a look at the case of the Burning Bekins Truck. We aren’t exactly given an overflow of information as to how the truck caught fire or what Ms. Langdon was or wasn’t told concerning the details of her coverage. What we do know is that the customer thought one thing, the moving company another, and the result has been a firestorm of negativity by Ms. Langdon.

We see all too often the problems that can arise when the specifics of a customer’s coverage are not adequately conveyed or understood. Yes, we have a responsibility to explain everything and the customer has a responsibility to understand. There must be accountability on both sides – which is the only way to ensure, in the case of catastrophe, that no one gets burned.

We go into great detail on the subject of insurance coverage and liability in this month’s feature article. Be sure to go over all the fascinating fine print and know your stuff well enough so you are able to explain to each customer in clear, simple terms how much each form of coverage actually covers.

This way, down the road, there will be much less chance of one of your customers starting a fire online.

Beating Back Old Man Winter: Safety Tips

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Old Man Winter's Truck

And Staying Safe in the Process

Last month at a moving company warehouse in New Jersey, employees found themselves scrambling to find the cutoff valve to a gas line that had been struck by a forklift. While it is true not all of us have forklifts – or warehouses – the looming winter gives us good reason to go over a few safety points.

FEMA lays out a comprehensive checklist for keeping ourselves, our spaces and our vehicles safe in the extreme cold of winter (no wise cracks from those of you in the south please). Here are a few salient highlights:

  • Along with insulating pipes, FEMA suggests allowing faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing. Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Carry sand with you, to improve vehicle traction. Even if you are only loading/unloading consider having some on hand. It also helps you keep your footing on icy steps and front walks.
  • Maintain a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing. Fuel additives may help as well.
  • Check the oil in your vehicles for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone knows how to use them. Fires pose an increased risk in cold weather as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • A good amount of FEMA’s advice might be common sense but it never hurts to refresh the memory and double-check to make sure we all (in the north) are ready for Old Man Winter.

You guys down south, you can just keep your jokes to yourselves…

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Photo Credit to B K

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