The holiday season is a joyful time, but it can also be stressful. The combination of holiday expenses and obligations, foul weather, cold and flu season, financial pressures, and end-of-year work deadlines can get the best of anyone at one time or other.
With that in mind, this is an excellent time to create increased awareness among your self-storage operator clients. Stressed-out customers may react harshly to anything that adds further problems to their lives at this time of year. For example, if a self-storage facility customer should slip and fall on the premises causing a painful injury, their reaction may be more severe due to some of the factors outlined above.
To avoid the risk of potentially serious claims or other negative occurrences, self-storage operators and managers should make the effort to minimize and prevent these situations by revisiting the basics of providing a safe and hazard-free facility. Here are some factors worth considering. And remember, since no list can be all-inclusive, consult with your self-storage clients individually to address the specific exposures found at their facilities.
Winter Risk Management Tips for Self-Storage Operators
- Snow & Ice Removal – Slip-and-fall incidents on ice or in snow can cause severe injury. Additionally, heavy snow can cause roof collapses that can damage customers’ stored goods, seriously injure customers, damage your buildings, and cause disruption to your facility. Consider contracting with a properly insured and licensed snow/ice removal company that can remove snow and ice from walkways, driveways, and rooftops. Many of these companies will agree to come to your facility automatically when certain weather conditions occur, such as an agreed-upon amount of snowfall or an ice storm. Check with your insurance agent and attorney for proper contract wording between your facility and the snow/ice removal company.
- Lighting – Be sure your facility has the proper lighting as may be required by local or other laws or ordinances. Consulting with a reputable lighting expert is always a worthwhile idea. Remember that daylight hours during the holiday season are shorter.
- Walkways – Make sure all public areas are hazard free and clear of ice, snow, or accumulations of water or moisture. Make sure all walkway surfaces, including stairs, are in excellent repair.
- Facility Security – Consider working with a security expert to evaluate your overall facility security system. Ask him for recommendations that you can discuss with your attorney and insurance agent. Your customers and the general public expect an environment that is safe and secure.
- Security Gates – Security gates are often a source of bodily injury or damage to property and are often considered an attractive nuisance to children. Now is an excellent time to have them checked by a licensed expert to ensure they are serviced and operating properly. Also, make sure your moving security gates have the proper signage and operating instructions. Children should not be allowed to play with or on these devices, so proper signs, and even fencing, may be ideas worth considering.
- Fencing – Check all facility fencing to be sure it is in good repair and suitable for its intended purpose.
- Leak Prevention – Check structures to be sure no leak potential exists and that all doors and working parts are in good order. Nothing can be more stressful to a customer than discovering that their stored holiday items have been damaged due to leaks.
- Fire Prevention – Be sure all fire prevention devices are serviced including documented checks on all fire extinguishers.
- Tenant Lease Agreements – Review your lease agreement to ensure that it includes clearly worded language stating that your facility does not provide any insurance for stored goods. Also review language concerning the prohibition against storing hazardous, toxic or flammable materials inside storage spaces. It is wise to consult your attorney and insurance agent to ensure that your contract is in order.
- Documentation – Talk with your insurance agent and attorney about what kind of records you should be keeping to document key activities such as inspecting fire safety equipment, maintenance and/or repairs to your powered security gate, and routine inspections of existing lighting to include repairs and bulb replacements.
- Claims Reporting – When a customer advises you of an incident that could be the basis for a claim, report it immediately to your insurance agent.
- Patience and Understanding – People tend to expect patience and understanding from others during the holidays even when they sometimes do not demonstrate it themselves. When the stress mounts, take a deep breath and stay focused on providing excellent customer service.
These suggestions are important to businesses and customers year‑round. At this time of year, in particular, they can help you and your customers have a wonderful holiday season.