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How secure is your yard and facility?

By Connie Lannan

March 19, 2024

For most rental operations, nicer weather means the beginning of the busy season. That can mean two things: increased business with lots of equipment moving in and out of your yard and facility, and thieves ready to take advantage of any distraction that activity might pose.

To make sure you stay vigilant with your security protocols, Ed Craddock, owner, True Value Rental of Bay City, Mich., says the old phrase “It takes a thief to catch a thief” is a good one to take to heart. “I have referenced this often when I see weaknesses in a rental property,” he adds.

With that in mind, Craddock and Chris Dahmer, ECP-SM, general manager, Arvada Rent-Alls, Arvada and Littleton, Colo., suggest taking the following steps so your busy season can be profitable for you and not for thieves.

First, get a good idea of what security issues might be lurking at your operation. “Pick an evening — just after dusk is best — and park in front of your business while it’s closed and just study what you see. The best security practices may still not stop theft, but if we make it as difficult as possible, they will move on to something easier,” Craddock says.

Dahmer did that when his operation installed new lights and cameras at both locations. “We came down at night to look at our cameras, lights and potential entry points. We wanted to see where our shortfalls were and what we can improve on,” he says.

Lighting: Check to see whether the area is well-lit. “Are there any lights that you thought should be on that are not?” Craddock asks.

Cameras: Both agree that cameras showing all areas of your facility and yard are essential. “Cameras cover both the interior and exterior of our facilities,” Dahmer says. “We are looking at upgrading our camera system with an AI feature that can analyze the situation to see whether police need to be dispatched or if it was just a cat running through the yard,” he adds.

Fencing: “Is there any damaged fabric, low or dark spots, or items close enough to climb over?” Craddock asks.

Dahmer says that about five years ago the company’s Littleton operation was surrounded by a wood fence. “You couldn’t see in. We were told from the previous owner that they had issues of break-ins. We changed the fencing to chain link so you can see in. We have not had any issues since doing that because there are no places to hide. Everyone can see in and see what is going on,” he says.

Gates: Both stress the importance of looking at the security around your gates. “Use a case-hardened 3/8-in. chain with a matching quality lock. During business hours, these locks should be brought inside or re-locked so they can’t be switched out with the thief’s lock while no one is looking. Always park something big just inside the gate at night to block access,” Craddock says.

Besides parking equipment inside the gate, Dahmer also has “lockboxes hanging on the gate so our employees can easily access the keys to that equipment if they need to get in the facility after-hours. Employees have to have a code to get inside the lockbox,” he says.

“We also have security systems on the facilities and gates. If any gate opens, the security system will instantly be tripped. Our employees know they have to disarm the security system before opening any gates. Every single employee has their own security code. We don’t share codes. If an employee leaves, we just delete that one code,” Dahmer says.

Business vehicles and equipment on the lot: “All vehicles should be locked. Never leave items in cargo areas or cabs, keep the windows up and doors locked at night. Use these vehicles to help secure vulnerable areas if needed. If possible, park vehicles so the fuel tank/cap is visible from the road,” Craddock says.

Equipment: “Remove the keys at night from your equipment and secure them in a safe or difficult location(s) that can’t be easily found by thieves,” Craddock says.

Dahmer also uses electronic ignition on his skid steers. “You have to have a code to turn them on. They have no keys. We have a code on our contracts, which we change out regularly,” he says.

Trailers: “It is best to not store equipment on trailers,” Craddock says. “Why make it easier for the thieves? Use a good-quality coupler and/or tire locks even if they are stored inside a fenced area.”

Windows and doors: “Keep the exterior building doors well-lit at night and uncluttered,” Craddock says. “Less-visible doors should have something blocking the entrance from the inside with keys removed whenever possible.”

In addition, look at what you can see inside your showroom windows. “Avoid placing interior inventory near this area that is of high value, easy to carry away, is popular, etc. When this is not feasible, use security cables and locks attached to more stationary items,” Craddock says.

Dahmer learned this lesson the hard way. Thieves broke into his Arvada operation in 2023 through one showroom window that had not yet been replaced with tempered safety glass. On the suggestion of another rental operation in the area, Dahmer and his team have since added security shutters all over the front of their building.

“Now when you pull up, there is no exposed glass — everything is covered with a metal security shutter. They are mechanically powered so we can raise them up with a switch once we get inside. Our front door is glass and the security shutter comes down in front of the door. It takes a key to raise the security shutter,” Dahmer says, adding that he also uses special security latch covers on all the doors, which can prevent someone from prying a door open.

Bulk fuel tanks. “Shut off the power to these nightly and secure the fill caps and nozzles,” Craddock says.

Tools used for theft. “We are rental stores. We have bolt cutters, grinders, etc. Store these types of items out of the view of customers while they are inside the showroom area — or at least remove/secure them at night. If they are studying your inventory during operating hours, you don’t want them to find these tools and use them to complete their theft,” Craddock says.

Develop relationships with area police. Both Craddock and Dahmer say having a good relationship with local law enforcement officers is critical. “Ask if they can do a perimeter check whenever they are in the area. Show them your vulnerable areas to focus on,” Craddock says.

Dahmer says the police patrol his locations. “A lot of times we see the Arvada police parked in our yard in the early hours of the morning as an extra security,” he says.

In addition, Dahmer has even had local law enforcement come to his locations to do security assessments, which were free of charge. “They were eye-opening. The police brought wonderful suggestions,” he adds.