Self-storage Facilities: Part 1 - Lightweight Metal Storage Buildings

Joseph T. Berry discusses how firefighters operating at self-storage facilities can be at great risk of being exposed to dangerous objects and hazardous materials.


Self-storage facilities are a booming business nationwide. Consumer demand for storage units can be found everywhere, from cities and suburbs to rural areas. In April 2006, The New York Times reported that there are 45,365 self-storage facilities in the U.S. They cater to the storage needs of...


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J. Obtain a generic code from the storage facility to reduce the need to damage the security gate by forcible entry.

K. Visit self-storage facilities in your response area and discuss your concerns with the operator.

L. Conduct hands-on drills with your department. Pre-plans work and they save lives, especially firefighters.

M. Conduct a fire inspection. It is unlikely that you will be able to gain access to individual storage units, but the first step is to identify where hazardous materials or chemicals are stored (i.e., automobiles, boats and propane tanks). Ask the operator to display placards where hazardous chemicals or materials are stored or a transcript of what is stored and where throughout the facility.

N. Ask the operator to furnish Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) in a lock box for the fire department, if possible.


Joseph T. Berry served for 31 years with the FDNY, where he worked as a firefighter in Ladder Company 24 in midtown Manhattan before he was promoted to lieutenant and worked in the South Bronx in Engine Company 73 and Ladder Company 42. He worked on the Ladders 3 Bulletin: Firefighting Tactics Procedures in Tenements and Ladders 5 Bulletin: Private Dwellings and Brownstone Buildings. Berry served as a member of the Division 6 Safety Committee and on five line-of-duty death investigation committees. He also worked on the department’s lightweight residential construction and probationary firefighters manuals.