Last Updated on October 19, 2020
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This article explores the uses of storage facilities for suburban and rural commuters prepping for “Get Home From the City” or “shelter-in-place” situations and other disaster planning. Using storage facilities as alternative urban shelters or urban caches this article opens the discussion to office workers with smaller vehicles, an apartment dweller who has limited space for storing prepping supplies in a bid to find alternative plans or ideas to survive a good number of scenario or “events.”
Prepping has so many variables and different individual circumstances one could claim it is as much an art subject to philosophies and theories as it is a set of technical skills to develop and deploy as actually needed. Fundamental assumptions I make are every human needs clean air, water, nutrition of around 2000-4000 calories daily based on activity, appropriate clothing, and shelter from the elements. Hygiene, health, and first aid considerations should come into planning. One assumption I hold is we are “bugging-in” at home and in our community. Getting our family home is our overarching family goal. We have great neighbors, and we tend to think there is safety in numbers, especially when it comes to our elderly and special needs neighbors. So, you might say we are “bugging-out” of the big city to “bug-into” our small rural town. Of course I respect other prepper’s planning.
If you are planning for TEOTWAWKI, SHTF, or Massive Civil Unrest the use of a storage facility may be an excellent way to have cached preps and shelters in a pathway as you fall back to your underground shelter, or base camp. Caching stabilized fuel, water, food, first aid and sanitation needs, or some other equipment may be prudent depending on your needs.
When an event takes place in an urban area, some apartment dwelling preppers may find the flexible storage unit a convenient part of their disaster preparations. Depending upon the level of infrastructure disruption of “the event” you want a suitable cache of supplies. In my case, it is possible the commute made into work may be impossibly gridlocked or no longer exist in the wake of an earthquake or flood and temporarily sheltering in place is a reasonable plan. Did I tell you we have a reservoir which could flood most of the city and wipe out the roads? A rubber raft or inflatable kayak is not a “far out” idea.
Storage Unit Choices
Storage units come in two broad categories. Climate controlled, and Non-climate controlled. All have some security, while more elaborate security systems are available as well. Climate controlled facilities are, generally speaking, more expensive than non-climate controlled storage units. Climate controlled or otherwise enclosed storage facilities are more secure and may have amenities such as electrically operated lighting offering or a precious outlet.
Storage facilities can come as small as a large closet 5’ x 10’, to larger units about the size of a two-car garage at 20’ x 20’, which could temporarily house a few people. There are intermediately sized units usually around 10′ × 10′, 10′ × 20′, about the size of a one-car garage, and 15′ × 20′, about the size of a large master bedroom.
Almost all storage units usually rent on a month-to-month agreement, which is good if a prepper moves from one apartment to another, the route of the urban commute changes, or if the nature of the event a prepper is planning for changes. One can quickly relocate or arrange for different preps.
One other perk of using storage units is insurance. In many cases, one’s existing renter’s or homeowner’s insurance covers damage or loss. Always check with your insurance agent or company to verify this point. If you don’t have renter’s insurance or suspect the overall coverage is low on the prep setup in storage then arrange insurance from the storage facility operator. Given the investment preppers make in their preparations, coverage can be a good thing to consider. If an unfortunate event occurs to the storage unit itself, a prepper may be able to replenish and retool much more quickly. For an apartment dweller, this may be useful.
Storage Unit Security
Larger storage units have no windows or daylight. They come with corrugated metal or in some cases Oriented Strand Board or (OSB) walls and are secured with the renter’s padlock. These spaces are accessed using a roll-up metal security door. Smaller storage spaces often use the hinged metal door to access outdoor buildings with all entries accessing directly to the outside.
Older or rural “Mini Storage” units are usually single level buildings with direct access through a metal door, directly to the outside. Urban Storage facilities are more likely to operate as a controlled-access facility. A controlled access facility may employ security personnel and extensive security camera systems, individual unit door alarms, and some means of electronic gate access such as a keypad or a proximity card. Bio-metric security options are the use of thumbprints or hand scanners that ensure access is granted only to those that rent, and are current on their rent. Storage facility operators are deploying bio-metrics as the technology becomes less expensive. An additional piece of mind is a prepper can expect most operators usually provide 24-hour access to their rented spaces. Non-climate controlled storage units can also offer possible shelter in a moderate climate. Depending on your disaster plan, a few bunks or cots, some water, and MREs, these storage units might serve as basic shelter for a family or small group, depending upon the event. Think of it as a tent with a secure steel door.
Even if climate-controlled storage facilities lose heating capabilities, one could still shelter from the extreme cold—especially with an outlet an electric heater may do the trick. Look for or ask about emergency generators and what power might be available and for how long the fuel supply is set up to last.
Most commuters will be aiming homeward, either afoot or waiting, burning precious fuel, stalled in traffic gridlock, so not only is a storage unit not a prime destination for most people in an event, it is a counter-intuitive place to ride out the storm briefly.
In simple situations, a hotel or motel is a great option depending on “the event,” Knowing one has a cache of pre-staged supplies near by will be comforting in times of uncertainty.
In some cases, loading docks are available, a great feature in you choose to order food, water, or other supplies delivered in pallets.
Generally speaking, storage facilities have carts, hand trucks, dollies, or other material handling equipment for use by renters. Speeding up one’s load to storage may keep the curious from understanding what you may have, protecting your vital resources later in an event. For apartment dwelling preppers this may be a great solution as the prepper can draw small lots of supplies in without alerting neighbors to the depth or foresight of the preps they have made.
A hotel or motel is a great option, depending on the facts at hand. (e.g., I need to shelter in place while poor driving conditions are improved.) Unlike hotels and motels, storage facilities dot most cities industrial and commercial zones in urban areas. However, these are not high traffic areas after working hours as a hotel or motel is more likely to be in high traffic areas.
Storage facilities are generally used to store excess, somewhat valuable possessions. (e.g., recreational vehicles, personal watercraft, small boats, autos, unused furniture, random belongings which are expensive but not immediately needed.) It seems unlikely there will be a rush to access storage facilities early on.
Self-storage facilities lease to a variety of residential and commercial tenants. Commercial tenants will most likely be accessing the facility during working hours. Again offering more privacy and peace while sheltering in place or loading out.
In an “urban event,” most commuters will be aiming homeward, either afoot or stalled in traffic gridlock, so not only is a storage unit is not a prime destination for most people in an event, it is a counter-intuitive place to ride out the human storm briefly.
If you live in a suburban area or rural community, depending upon your situation either size storage unit or storage environment could make sense. For example, if you work in an urban center and only need access to a couple of Pelican cases of survival items and a small supply of food to get home, then a closet-sized storage unit located upon an alternative pathway back home may be a good strategy. Food, water, weapons, tools, protective gear, first aid supplies, and even secondary transportation such as a rubber raft or small scooter or motorcycle housed in a small storage unit with some stabilized fuel might save the day.
What if you have family members or coworkers who need access to survival items and a small supply of food to get home? Again a closet-sized storage unit arranged upon an alternative pathway back may give easy access to cached food, water, weapons, tools, protective gear, even secondary transportation such as a rubber raft, small scooter or motorcycle, and stabilized gasoline could be located in a 5” x 10” storage unit. On the other hand, one could take shelter, if appropriate, in a larger storage unit for say seventy-two hours or until conditions were again suitable for travel homeward.
My preps are not very exotic, but my situation is not very extreme. We live in a rural community and commute into a medium Midwestern city. My wife and I live 35 miles from our places of work. Traffic conditions to do with accidents, sports events, concerts, and driving conditions around weather, or if errands or shopping on the way home are needed come into our thinking and conversations regularly. Far away from me, on Interstate 80, my East/West axis lays Iowa City (Hawkeye’s) and Lincoln, Nebraska (Cornhusker’s). It can mean a notable surge in traffic when going home. Adding to Highway 80 interchange is the intersection of a major North/South route, Interstate 35 running from the Twin Cities to Kansas City and beyond into Texas all the way to the coast. Also, national wrestling championships and the Iowa State Fair create significant traffic volume in their turns. In a worst case scenario happening while we are at work, it might be a tough situation to bug in. We may be on foot.
Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and civil unrest are not events for which we need to prepare. If we did have to address those events, most of the preps would need to solve for those same fundamental assumptions. For us, however, wind chill or heat index is serious business when considering moving on foot depending on the time of year.
However, we use the humble “mini storage” or storage facilities to cache food, water, first aid supplies, and protective wear and things such as respirators, and a rubber raft. (In our plan, worst case, we need to cross three bodies of water, and a bridge over any of them might be out or impassable.)
I assume I will have a car radio, (unless you are planning for an Electromagnetic pulse or EMP strike.) but I still cache a Red Cross emergency radio with our supplies. It has solar, battery, and hand crank power supply, so this covers a lot of potential problems.
I don’t plan to monitor first responder communications, but other preppers may find scanners or cell phone apps useful. If preppers were to pool resources and split the cost of a storage unit, the group might consider their preps in a community light. There is also safety in numbers.
Individual Pelican cases or locked trucks might hold vital personal supplies such as body armor, ammunition, medicines, respirators and so forth in a larger group space. A group might consider getting respirators which all use the same filtration and stock a few extra in case.
A group or team might also might all agree upon stocking ammunition for one pistol caliber, one rifle caliber, and one shotgun gauge to stow.
Even the human body has some duplicate organs, kidneys, limbs, ears and eyes. Any competent military engineer designs redundancy into the plan. Back up generators for the emergency generator. Wind and Solar power. Wood stoves or heat tab stoves, MREs but some fresh food, is possible. Water filters and stored clean water with maybe a purification method.
Assume no satellite and be relieved when it survives and operates. A collection of maps, street, topographic, and larger road maps may be a good idea. Manual lensatic compresses are needed to back up any GPS navigation products.
As you might discover there are small or large storage facilities which can help a prepper in an apartment or a commuter who needs not carry every prep back and forth from home to work. (It is understood there are essentials on board.) Small facilities may work well for individuals or couples. Larger storage units may provide shelter or a base for a group to ride out an event and eventually get home. As preppers, we are problem solvers before the fact. Potential situations are things we know may come to pass. For most preppers, it is as much an intellectual pursuit, a thought exercise to solve. Maybe a storage unit fits into your disaster planning.
Good luck to you all.
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