Can Your Storage Facility Weather the Storm?

Jon Fesmire |

You’ve worked hard to grow your self storage business, so of course you want to protect it. Your facility’s biggest asset—the property itself—is the thing that’s most prone to damage from natural disasters. Unlike data, you can’t simply backup your facility elsewhere.

It’s critical to have insurance covering the most likely types of disasters for your area. However, there are also measures you can take to minimize damage from mother nature.

Lightning Storms

Is your storage facility located on a hill or mountain? If so, it has a greater chance of getting hit by lightning in a storm than a building at a lower elevation does.

Consider installing a lightning protection system. These consist of rods meant to take an incoming lightning hit, conductor cables that carry the electricity into the earth to ground it, and ground rods, which complete the path and safely discharge the electricity.

They do not attract lightning from just anywhere, but if a bolt is heading for a building, the rod (popularly called a “lightning rod”) can catch the bolt.

Floods

Flood water can cause terrible damage not only to the possessions of your tenants, but to your storage facility as well. How much damage? Well, that depends a lot on the materials your buildings are made out of. Unfortunately, protecting tenant items is beyond the scope of this article, though we recommend that if you live in an area prone to floods, you offer flood insurance and provide tenants with the information they’ll need to protect their items best. Flood-resistant materials, meaning materials that can withstand being in contact with water for long periods of time while taking little damage, include asbestos-cement board, concrete, brick, and waterproof mortar. Check out this list of flood damage resistant materials, by FEMA, for additional information. These materials are also helpful for withstanding rainstorms.

Earthquakes

Is your building earthquake proof? Of course, “earthquake proof” is a misnomer, as no building can be completely immune to the effects of earthquakes. If the ground shakes hard enough, any building can be damaged. However, there is a huge difference between older buildings and many modern buildings. In areas prone to earthquakes, buildings made of brick or stone on a solid foundation are extremely vulnerable. An inflexible structure doesn’t move with the sway of the ground and, depending on the severity of the quake, may crack or completely collapse, often killing anyone inside. Fortunately, in states like California, new buildings are designed to move with a quake and therefore suffer little damage. If your storage facility is in an earthquake prone area, learn its history. When were the structures built? Were they designed with earthquakes in mind? If not, look into retrofitting. While new buildings must be built to code in many places, older buildings must be retrofitted by the owner. If you live in Southern California, the Southern California Earthquake Center can help. If you live elsewhere, first check with the National Earthquake Information Center.

Tornadoes, Hurricanes, and High Winds

Here’s the problem with tornadoes: if your facility gets hit with the worst part of a tornado, there’s nothing you can do about it. However, there are measures to protect buildings from the high winds that come with being in a tornado storm, but not directly in its path of complete destruction. These include some interesting protections like stormproof doorsgarage door bracing systems (which may help with your roll-up doors), hurricane-proof retrofitting for walls and roofsstrongly shuttered windows using window clips, and more. If possible, have a basement under the office to use as a storm shelter in the event of a tornado, hurricane, or other windstorm. This may save the lives of you, your employees, and any tenants on site if such a storm suddenly hits. Various storms and natural disasters can be devastating. With the above tips, and some money out of pocket, you’ll be able to give your facility the best chance to withstand whatever nature throws at it.