Over the years, my parents have moved around quite a bit. Each time they’ve relocated, they’ve found themselves in need of a storage unit. I used one during my transition between graduating from college and moving into my first “adult” apartment. My husband and I needed one last year while we renovated our first home.
Although the reasons for needing a storage unit vary, when it comes to storing your personal belongings, one thing remains the same: Everyone wants to make sure their stuff is safe and sound.
For starters, if your storage space lacks climate control, it is especially important to focus on keeping your things safe and in their optimal condition during the oftentimes extremely hot summer months. Even if your particular unit is temperature controlled, fire safety is still something to consider. Fortunately, there are ways to organize your belongings and arrange your storage unit in a way that facilitates a safer environment and helps to enhance your own personal fire safety.
Begin by loading your items into your unit in such a way that you can easily access the things you are most likely to need during your rental period. For example, if it’s the end of the summer and you are storing your lawn mower or other lawn equipment, you wouldn’t want to place it in front of your Christmas decorations that you will be using before you need to pull your mower out of storage.
Likewise, make sure you don’t pack things into the unit so tightly that you will have to pull everything out to access something in the back. Leaving space for airflow around your items and keeping a makeshift aisle will help you not only move within your unit easier, but it will also help with fire safety, by creating a pathway for firefighters to enter in the event of a fire and by helping to prevent potentially hazardous items from going unnoticed over time.
Finally, try to avoid stacking things as much as possible. Personal injury can result from things falling down on top of you or other items. If you must store things on a shelf, for example, make sure to place the heaviest and most dangerous items closer to the bottom.
Follow the Rules
Self-storage facilities have rules and guidelines related to what you can and cannot store for a reason: not only are many of them required by law, but they are also in place to keep your belongings and those of other tenants safe and secure on the premises. Always adhere to these rules, especially as they relate to toxic substances and flammable items. Just in case it’s unclear, here are some of the self-storage basics:
- Do not store flammable liquids like gasoline, alcohol, paint or lacquer thinner, turpentine and lighter fluid. They produce invisible, highly explosive vapors that can ignite from a tiny spark a good distance away. Drain the gasoline from that lawnmower before putting it away for the winter. In addition to the fire safety aspect, it’ll help preserve your engine and gas lines.
- Also prohibited are “inherently dangerous” items like fireworks, plant fertilizers, chemical cleaners, corrosives, explosives, ammunition, narcotics, and waste of any kind (hazardous, toxic or biological).
- Never put oily or greasy rags into the unit. If it does become hot in your unit, a greasy rag can combust (many house fires have begun with greasy rags thrown into a dryer!).
- If you are storing items like freestanding space heaters or mini appliances, do not plug them in or connect them to extension cords.
It’s important to note that fires in self-storage facilities are extremely rare, especially when the rules are followed. At the same time, they’re called accidents for a reason, and there’s no way to foresee when they are going to happen. All you can do is prepare now to eliminate the possibility of a fire as much as possible and make sure you’re ready if one does break out.
To help with that, here are a few other things to keep in mind when it comes to creating the safest storage facility possible:
- Observe all non-smoking rules when in and around the facility. Always make sure that you put out cigarettes or cigars completely if you smoke outside, and always dispose of smoking materials properly.
- Alert facility personnel if you notice any other tenants breaking any of the fire prevention rules, including those related to the storage of hazardous materials.
- Notify facility personnel immediately if you notice an electrical outlet or wire that needs attention.
- If you are storing valuable or important personal items, be sure to place them in fireproof safes or metal boxes inside your unit. Although this won’t necessarily protect them indefinitely, it may keep them safe while firefighting professionals eliminate the danger.
- Finally, look into purchasing fire protection insurance for your unit. Many facilities offer this for an additional charge per month.
What other fire safety tips can you apply to your storage unit?
A lawyer-turned-DIYer, Rheney Williams writes for Home Depot about topics including fire safety, organization and storage. During Rheney’s current renovation of her home, she had to use a storage unit and likes to share clever tips and advice she has learned that will keep you and your belongings safe. For more info on fire safety, please visit homedepot.com.