Reviewing Your Self Storage Security Camera Footage

March 28, 2023

4 min

The only time I remember reviewing security camera footage was when my boss got angry and smashed a banana on his desk. We wanted to immortalize the moment.

Partly that’s because this was the greatest thing our cameras ever recorded, but partly because reviewing the footage was such a pain!

We didn’t understand the best way to review security footage - and for a self storage operator, that can matter. We’ll cover a few simple steps here to help make reviewing your security footage quick and easy.

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Most self storage facilities have security cameras, both for the security they provide and the peace of mind they bring to customers.

Customers are willing to pay more for good self storage security - and cameras are one of the major factors they’re looking for. When something does go wrong, though, you need to be able to use the footage to find the exact moment the incident occurred.

This could be a break-in, a car hitting a building, weather damaging a unit, an altercation between customers, or any of a million other incidents. Whatever it is, your tenants are going to be stressed, you’re going to be stressed, and there could even be time pressure to find the footage quickly!

How to Narrow Down the Time on Security Footage

The best way to review your security footage is to try and narrow down the time the incident happened. But this can be tricky, especially if the incident occurred overnight. You show up in the morning and a unit’s lock has been cut - what do you do next?

  1. Pick the right camera for the incident
  2. If you know the time, navigate to that portion of the recording
  3. If you don’t know the time, identify some visual marker that changed during the incident
    1. For example, if you’re trying to see which tenant drove into the door of a unit, you can look for the door to be damaged.
  4. Navigate to halfway through the footage. Check to see if the door is damaged. If it is, you know the incident occurred in the first half of the night. If not, you know it happened in the second half
  5. Navigate to halfway through the unexamined footage and check the marker again. Repeat this several times.
  6. In nine repetitions, you can reduce twelve hours of footage to a 3-minute section!

This may seem obvious to some, but it’s important to be prepared for stressful situations. Especially if you’re still using a slow technology like VHS, this tactic can help you find the moment you need without sitting at the monitor for an hour.

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Look for the Signs

If there is no obvious marker for the incident you want to investigate, you’re stuck in a much harder situation. For example, if someone claims their unit was broken into overnight, but the thief replaced the lock after cutting it, you’ll have to find the exact moment the thief was around.

According to ACS Security, you can keep an eye out for signs that something might be going wrong, even if there’s no particular marker to look for.

Look for loitering, or someone hanging around with no good reason to do so. If you see an individual, or several people, on your cameras that aren’t accessing a self storage unit or parking spot, that’s cause for concern. Follow the people you’ve found on your cameras to see if they might have something to do with the incident.

Of course, if your facility was closed when the incident occurred, anyone being on the property is cause for alarm. Try to follow anyone spotted on your cameras around - and take notes about what they do, what they’re wearing, and any vehicles they came in. This can help the police track down suspicious individuals.

Second, look for anyone trying to conceal their identity. Anyone on your property with the intent to cause trouble will have thought through the situation and tried to keep their face off your cameras. 

Of course, this won’t help if the person you’re looking for didn’t think they were going to cause an incident that day - but it’s something to start with. 

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You can’t always make viewing your surveillance footage quick and easy - sometimes it’s going to be a slog! 

There are a few steps you can take ahead of time to make the process as easy as possible when it inevitably comes up.

  • Position Your Cameras Well
    • Be certain that your cameras cover the entrances and exits, work areas, points where money exchanges hands, and anywhere people gather. If possible, cover your whole facility with surveillance equipment.
  • Use Timestamps
    • If your cameras don’t automatically have timestamps on the footage, find some that do. Timestamps will let you check other cameras around the facility at the same time, and they’ll help investigators (police, insurance, or otherwise) understand what happened.
  • Store Data Safely
    • When you find footage of the incident you’re investigating, be certain that you store it safely! Cloud storage is perfect for this, as even a data breach at your facility can’t reach the files stored on the cloud.

Here are some more of our favorite posts for keeping your self storage business safe!

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