Burglary, Social Media and Your Reputation

BurglaryAlthough there is no nationwide data on the specific number of burglaries that take place in self-storage facilities each year, the magnifying power of the Internet may promote the misconception that this type of crime is a common occurrence. This can be harmful for a self-storage business if potential customers get the wrong impression about the industry as a whole or your facility specifically.

If a tenant were to make a comment about a burglary or other illegal activity at a self-storage facility on a social media platform such as Facebook, Twitter or Yelp, that one complaint could be seen by existing customers and hundreds of potential customers in a matter of minutes. Implementing a social media policy that identifies the person in the organization who is responsible for monitoring and responding to such posts and specifies the appropriate response is critical to help prevent long-term reputational damage to your business.

Risk avoidance is an important risk management strategy to combat the risk of burglaries as well as the risk of reputational damage. The fact that self-storage facilities maintain no care, custody or control over tenants’ stored items may lead a facility owner to believe that a self-storage business would have no exposure in the event of a burglary. However, an exposure may exist if a claim of owner negligence is determined. With that in mind, it is critical that owners and managers take steps to avoid potential claims of negligence related to burglary.

Elements that need special attention include the following:

    • Lighting – Darkness is an asset to criminals. Inspect light fixtures, bulbs and automatic switches or timers daily to ensure proper operation.
    • Gates – A malfunctioning gate may allow unauthorized people to access the property. Inspect gates and keypads regularly to ensure proper operation and make repairs as quickly as possible.
    • Fences – Criminals may cut holes in fencing or take advantage of damaged sections to access your property. Inspect fences regularly and make repairs as quickly as possible.
    • Premises Inspections – Daily inspections should be conducted and documented to include locks, lighting, gates and fences.

In addition to these aspects of physical security, conducting criminal background checks of employees and tenants remains a good deterrent of illegal activity on the premises. However, this is a topic self-storage business owners should discuss with an attorney prior to implementation in order to understand applicable state laws related to this matter.

Risk transfer, in the form of insurance coverage, is another key strategy to protect a business in the event of a claim resulting from burglary. It’s a good idea for facility owners to schedule a coverage review with their insurance agent to discuss their policy including customer goods legal liability and limits for general liability and umbrella coverage. Implementing proper risk management strategies can help self-storage business owners avoid damage to their reputation within the community as well as potentially costly claims and lawsuits.

Mike Schofield
President and CEO