Inside Self-Storage

MAY 2019

Inside Self-Storage (ISS) is an information source for industry owners, managers, developers and investors covering news, trends, facility operation, finance, real estate, construction, development, marketing, technology, insurance and legality.

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Page 27 of 47

The Importance of Communication Communication with customers is key. You want everyone to understand the steps you're taking before the storm and the procedures for reopening. Load a tablet or laptop with the company management software so you can access e-mail addresses and other contact information while evacuated; or you can designate a person at your corporate office to handle communication. It's important you obtain storm information only from official sources. We learned during Hurricane Matthew that while some residents were reporting little or no damage in their areas, other parts of our community were severely damaged. You can share information with customers through e-mail, your website, Facebook and other social media so they can get property updates, condition reports, your reopening schedule and other vital facts. If there was no damage at your facility, take and share photos. This will put your customers at ease. You can also post on local media sources to communicate with the community at large. Give people ways to reach you via social media, e-mail, text, etc. Set up a live chat if possible. These channels of communication must be clearly shared with customers before an event threatens the area. During the stress of an evacuation, tenants won't want to look up your contact information. Encourage them to put a link on their phone or save your e-mail or emergency phone number in their phones. Once the storm has passed and the facility is deemed safe, send a general e-mail to all customers about its condition, the reopening date and other pertinent information. If some units were damaged, call or send specific instructions to those customers. Schedule a time for them to examine their unit, but limit access so you can control when and how long each person is on site. Again, this can only occur after the facility has been cleared by authorities. Power outages can last days or weeks while utility providers install new towers, power poles, transformers, wires and connections. Even if your area hasn't been severely damaged, the source of your power may have been. It's helpful to have a back-up generator, multiple flashlights, hand-crank lanterns, battery-operated radio and battery back-up phone chargers. Don't forget extra batteries! If the power is out for an extended period, you may need them for emergency and exit lighting that may not be able to recharge. Emergency-management officials recommend you don't use candles, torches, gasoline, propane or other flammable illumination. Since phone service may be limited or roadways blocked, it could take longer for emergency services to reach you in the event of a fire. Keep printed copies of blank leases on hand so you can rent storage units to customers even if you don't have power. Accept cash, money orders and checks if you can't get credit card authorizations. If some but not all buildings are damaged, block off those areas. Those customers should get priority to move their items to other units once they deal with their insurance claims. Set aside new units in advance, preferably close to the tenants' existing spaces. Match their current rate so they don't incur a rent increase on top of having a damaged unit. One Step Further It's likely that many of your customers and neighbors stocked up on supplies before the storm. If they didn't need them, offer your facility as a donation drop-off for those in need. Coordinate with media to promote the effort. Include a company donation to help increase efficacy. Some great items to contribute include bottled water, shelf-stable food, diapers, baby formula, towels, cleaning supplies, new shoes and clean clothes. Take photos and post them on your social media pages to encourage others to help. Once donations are collected, use your moving truck or other transportation to deliver items where they're needed. When it comes to hurricanes, prepare for the worst and pray for the best. Expect long days, sleepless nights, exhaustion, a lot of stress and unexpected problems. If you can handle this situation well, your tenants will appreciate your efforts. As word gets around, it'll help build your facility's reputation and improve your site performance. Donna L. and Kevin J. Edwards are the former property managers of Plantation Storage and Plantation Wine Cellars in Bluffton, S.C., which is operated by Southeast Management Co. Donna joined the company in 2013, while her husband was hired two years later. To connect with them, e-mail LEARN MORE Learn more from authors Donna and Kevin Edwards in the video "Let's Get Physical! Self-Storage Safety and Site Maintenance," presented at this year's ISS World Expo in Las Vegas. DVD copies are available for pre-order now at Dealing With Power Outage 26 ISS I May 2019

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