Advice for Storage Operators During the COVID-19 Quarantine

Jon Fesmire | March 30, 2020 @ 12:00 AM

It’s March 30th, and currently, the United States and the world are trying to slow the progress of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the respiratory disease it causes. Depending on the level of care provided, the death rate from this disease is between 2.3% and 7.2%. To put that in perspective, the death rate from the flu is 0.1%, so COVID-19 is much more serious.

We’re not writing this to be alarmist, but to state the facts, and to encourage everyone to stay safe. Shelter in place orders and, for those who need to go out, social distancing, are helping to slow the spread of the virus. The slower it spreads, the fewer people are likely to get it at all, and the fewer people will have it at one time, meaning that the health care system can handle cases better. That’s called “flattening the curve,” and it works. 

COVID-19 and Self Storage

Still, some people need to access their self storage units. They may have needed supplies inside. And that means a few people still need to man the storage facilities.

If you’re a storage facility manager or employee still on-site, like any essential worker, you need to take precautions to avoid getting the virus. Here’s what’s helping, and what you can do on the ground.

Online Rentals

Whether you’re a member of the Storelocal self storage cooperative, an independent operator, or another large storage company, you should have a method in place for new tenants to complete the rental process for storage units online.

The Tenant Inc. web platform that allows Storelocal members to do so has recently started to roll out an even more sophisticated version of online rentals including a 120-point identity verification process so that new tenants won’t have to talk face-to-face with a staff member at all. Once they verify their identity through this process, which entails taking photos of the front and back of any government-issued identification, as well as a selfie, the system will automatically issue them a gate code. This eliminates the need for customers to come into the office and have a human check their ID to make sure the renter is in fact who they say they are on the lease.

If you’re a Storelocal member, we recommend having the Tenant Interface set up in your office, to the side and away from where you usually greet guests. This will allow renters who come in to sign up and will help minimize social contact.

When You Have to Meet Face to Face

Many essential services, like grocery stores and the post office, are enforcing six feet between customers who don’t live together. In other words, if you live with your child, they can stand with you, but you should both stay six feet from anyone else.

You can do this in your main office as well. Mark the ground six feet from the desk with masking tape, and write “6 feet” on it in Sharpie. People will understand what this is for. Do the same six feet beyond that, and six feet beyond that. 

When you’ve prepared papers for someone to sign, or you need to hand them their lock, it’s okay to have them staying at that six-foot line. Set down the paperwork or the lock and step back to give them room to pick it up.

Additional Precautions for Essential Workers

When customers are not around, clean metal surfaces with Formula 409 or a similar product. The coronavirus can last for days on metal, which sounds absurd, but is true. Wash your hands approximately every 20 minutes. Do so for 20 seconds, and make sure the soap lathers. This tears apart microorganisms, including the novel coronavirus. If you’re lucky enough to have some hand sanitizer, keep it behind the desk and use it occasionally as well.

Do not touch your face, though you can wash your face after you have washed your hands. Viruses like this one usually get into our bodies through our eyes, nose, or mouth.

When you get home, shower, and do your laundry every night if possible.

Also, prefer warm drinks over cold. Autopsies on COVID-19 fatalities in China have revealed that the disease produces a thick mucus that makes it difficult to breathe. By drinking warm drinks like coffee and tea, and even just warm water, if you do have the virus, this can wash it down into your stomach where the acid will kill it. Less of the virus will make it to your lungs, making it more likely you’ll get a milder case of the disease. Finally, if you do suspect you have it, go the hospital. And, if you can, simply shelter in place.

Final Word

We at Storelocal produce quite a number of articles every year on self storage, moving, home organization, and more on our website, as well as StorageFront. We’d like to remind you that our articles are not written with the coronavirus in mind. Some of our advice, like, “get a bunch of your friends to help you move,” just won’t work during the quarantine. So, this is a sort of disclaimer. Follow safer pandemic practices until this has run its course.

Jon Fesmire
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