Home Stagers with off site storage facilities - BE AWARE of your surroundings - original post May 2008

Home Stager with Home Star Staging

This blog was originally posted back in the spring of 2008 but as "member's only" and having been asked to re-post this by my staging friend Ginger Foust, I went back to find this and wanted to re-post for the public, because home stager or not, everyone should be aware of their surroundings no matter where you may go.

Not a moment goes by when I'm at my new location of the storage facility that I'm not aware - I keep my phone and my keys always handy as well as lock my car doors while loading (only leaving the trunk gate open). I have also memorized the street address of this location in case of emergency ever again.


Today I feel very fortunate

I believe I was almost a victim of a crime and my guardian angel and the "flight or fight" reflex kicked in.

I want to relay this incident that happened today at my off site, "secured" storage facility while I was working on loading my car for a job. Below is what happened and how you can be more aware and protect yourself if you too have off site storage.

I believe I live in a relatively safe area here in Plano, TX, however, we must always be aware of our surroundings.

I arrived at my units today to load my car for a light staging job I was doing this weekend

My storage facility is a nationally known company with about 4 other sites within about a 3 mile stretch along the same road this location happens to be on. I rented my units based on size, price and location as well as the fact that I could get them side by side. These type of units are really convenient because I can pull my car right up to the "garage" like opening and load and unload relatively easily. They fit my needs however they are in the very back part of the facility which is surrounded by an 8 Ft. chain link fence and 2 rows of barbed wire above that. These units also face an unused portion of a former railroad track and greenbelt. 

I began leasing these units last November when the weather was colder & without incident but I have noticed in the past few months as the weather has gotten warmer & on weekends that there often are groups of men congregating near the tracks to socialize or whatever and it has been bothering me to be there alone. In fact, I have called the police on 2 occasions prior to today because I had observed on two occasions activity that just didn't sit well with me.  It was typically on the weekends and mid-afternoon.

I informed the site management who have been somewhat understanding but unable to help because they do not have jurisdiction outside the facility unless someone trespasses. The site is "secure" with fencing and barbed wire (or so I thought) & I did call the police and would leave & I assumed the matters were being handled. It has been several weeks since I needed to be back there on a weekend and today was the day.

Against better judgment I did go to the unit alone late this morning.

As usual our weekends are jammed packed and my husband had charge of the kids and taxi duty while I assured him it was early enough to get what I needed done before any of the activity I'd observed in the past may begin if even at all.

I was nearing the end of my loading with both units fully opened and without incident or anyone around. I was also keeping my eyes open too for any of the possible activity starting or men starting to congregate. I had left all the doors to my vehicle open as I loaded to squeeze in any 'extra' items I could fit. (Only fellow stagers could understand how much we can pack in an SUV!).

As I was continuing my loading I began to notice a couple of guys heading down the greenbelt toward the facility (they were outside the barbed wire fence).

I still had items sitting outside my car ready to load as well as all gates open. Instinctively I felt I needed to watch and be aware of where they were headed but kept working and get finished as quickly as possible. I entered back into one of my units and watched from the inside back portion of the unit to see if they would pass and what they may do, observe, say or whatever else. Only one guy passed the fence outside my unit but very close to the fence, he was looking in at my unit but I don't know if he noticed me. It gave me great pause and I headed towards the front of the unit as he passed to see where he'd go. Before I got to the back of my vehicle I could hear the sound of the chain link fence rattling and he was already over the fence. I immediately got back in my unit and got out my cell phone (on my belt) and called 911.

As the 911 operator answered the man was up to my unit and I yelled "can I help YOU?!" with the phone in my hand and he paused, looked at me and then kept walking. I most thankfully think I caught him completely off guard.

Long story long, while trying to stay calm with the 911 operator asking me "what's the address of my emergency" I realized I DIDN'T KNOW THE EXACT ADDRESS of my emergency!

I proceeded to tell what I could, "I'm at the 'ABC' (I'm protecting their name until further notice) storage facility located north of P. Road and on Ave. K, behind the CC shopping plaza facing the RR tracks.  I even told him I didn't know the number! The operator asked me many more questions,  including the number on my units, description of the man, kept me calm and stayed on the line until he said "the police units are on site" and we hung up.

However, the cruisers actually never showed to my  units. After calling 911 back and reiterating that there were 3 or 4 other storage facilities owned by this same company on this same stretch of road and not knowing my exact location I once again gave them the nearest landmarks to this facility. They ended up being at the WRONG SITE!

By this time I didn't see the man anymore, he had gone around the front of the building and while I was still on the phone with the operator this time I quickly completed my loading, closed & locked the units and sat in my car until the police finally arrived about 25 minutes later from the first call.  I was not pleased (there's more to this below) but I was relieved and thankful that nothing actually happened other than a very big wake up call.

Here's what I want to share with you for future safety precautions.

  • Know your surroundings. Even others who use the same facility are complete strangers to us and we need to be aware of who is around us (inside or outside observable gates) when we are busy loading or unloading. It's easy to become distracted when busy and feeling 'secure'.
  • Keep your cellphone on you and charged
  • Work in pairs whenever possible. Another set of eyes and hands is always helpful as well as much safer
  • Memorize or write down the physical address to the location of your off site storage facility if ever there's an emergency
  • Know the exact number or letter (or both) of your units
  • Never leave your purse or wallets exposed in your vehicle.
  • Consider where your unit is and the safety issues it may involve based on location. I never imagined this back side, gated, unit would be a problem when I leased it last November until the weather got warmer and the 'activity'  started. I called the management today and explained the situation and they are looking into moving me to a more secure location on site.
  • Make sure your local PD have access to your sites security code to enter the facility.  I didn't know this was even done until today and another SNAFU was that the police couldn't access this particular site. Not only did they not have this facility on record for the address but didn't have the necessary security codes to enter the gate!  I had to relay my own access code to the operator as the officers entered it into the pad out front!

Please be careful out there and truly I am very thankful that today went without real incident however it was a perfect "crime of opportunity" situation that was mercifully avoided and I felt the need to share the experience to help others be safe.

Secure it forward....

UPDATE: May 8, 2008

Since Saturday I have contacted, met with and spoken to the site management, the General Manager and the Plano PD to let them know my concerns. I have been given the opportunity to move my units from the back portion of the property to a more secure location on site and they've given me enough time to do it on my schedule.  Plano PD are aware of the groups of men congregating and they have also been in contact with the management on site. They now have the correct address on file as well as access codes to gain entry should they ever need to again.

I do feel more safe knowing all the right things are in place. I still won't take for granted my surroundings and will keep a watchful eye however it's comforting to know that people responded and listened and understood the seriousness of the situation.

Thank you ALL for your kind comments and concern! It is so appreciated!

Posted by

Home Staging Dallas - Karen Otto

Comments (13)

Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

Great lessons are to be learned from this post Karen.  Thanks for the mention.


May 03, 2009 08:10 AM
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging, www.homes

Thank you for reminding me about this one Ginger and I'm happy that you are more aware now too.

May 03, 2009 09:48 AM
Brian & Marie Spray
www.DFWAreaRealtors.com - Action Realty Group - Frisco, TX
Frisco TX Realtors

Karen, we must never forget 3 words "Watch your back"!  A friend of mine was working on his car in his own driveway when all of a sudden a thug wearing bandanas over his hair and one over his mouth was sticking a gun in my friends neck demanding "Give me your money now!!!"  He didn't have any on him so the thug started to push him to the house.  My friend called out to his wife as they approached the door, she cracked the door open, saw what was going down and slammed it back shut!  She ran to the bedroom where they have their own gun and called the police.  Apparently the slamming door startled the thug and he ran off.  Things could have gone really bad that day!  God was watching over them that day thats for sure!


ps. watch your back

May 03, 2009 10:09 AM
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging, www.homes

You are absolutely right Brian!  God was watching over your friend & family that day and we must always watch our back in every situation.  I am the captain of my neighborhood Crimewatch and I totally know the drill - you just never know what you're going to do or how you'll react under the circumstance, so it's best to prepare before hand. Not live in fear just be aware.

Thanks for sharing!

May 03, 2009 11:09 AM
Karen Eubank / Eubank Staging

I'm forwarding this to everyone I know who has a storage unit! Great information Karen!


May 03, 2009 03:27 PM
Cathy Lee
CL Design Services Home Staging - Danville, CA

Karen, My storage unit has someone living on the premises 24 hours a day and two guards constantly circling on motorized carst during operating hours.  Do you have these benefits-if not I would move to one that does.

May 03, 2009 05:16 PM
c m
Colorado Springs, CO

Great post Karen.  Our site also has a family living on the premises, but one of our units is at the back, bordered by a broken chain link fence, and an empty lot.  There are no railroad tracks, and no reason to congregate, but that is not reason to let down my guard.  Great reminder!

May 03, 2009 06:18 PM
Michelle Finnamore
Toronto GTA, Alliston, Newmarket - Vaughan, ON
Preparing your property for sale

Hi Karen, thank goodness you had presence of mind. Never ignore your gut instincts. Every stager should take note of this, it can happen at a job as well. You maybe don't know the neighbourhood where you are working intimately and forget to keep your wits about you when starting a job. Thanks for posting this again as I missed it the first time round.

May 04, 2009 12:15 AM
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging, www.homes

Thanks Karen!

Hi Cathy, we don't have any like that that I know of around here and I suspect if we did, I probably wouldn't be able to afford it. There is someone living on the premises and I can see the unit thay live in from my new location.

There is a manager who lives on site here Cheryl and I see some "regulars".  I also back up to a working garage that has guys in there all the time and I can see them and they can see me - I feel much safer when there are legitimate business people around conducting business, but I'm still cautious.  I've heard that sometimes the open doors to those closet type units are also used by people to sleep in at night or get away from the elements at many locations - I won't ever use those that are open and not secured by a code.

You're right Michelle, it can happen on a job - I always take the key from the lock box (if there is one) while I'm staging and lock the door - even if there is a showing I want them to knock so I'm not surprised by them. Now that I think of it I should have a sign that says "staging in progress, please knock if key is not in box"

May 04, 2009 01:02 AM
Peg Prather
Vancouver, WA
Vancouver, WA

There are many lessons within this lesson. One of them is this: when you call 911, you are talking to a person sitting at a desk in a closed building. They can't see what the responding police officers see, and are often too eager to hang up on you when they find out that the officer is "in the area". Don't let them!

Be firm with 911 dispatchers when you call,and don't let them hang up on you until an officer has eyes on YOU! (This is for in-progress incidents and emergencies, like your situation.) 

I'm glad that you were aware, pro-active about your safety, and held everyone accountable.

May 04, 2009 05:40 AM
Terrylynn Fisher
Dudum Real Estate Group - BuyStageSell.com - Walnut Creek, CA
HAFA Certified, EcoBroker, CRS, CSP Realtor, Etc.

This was a good post the first time around, I remember it well.  It does give you an "ah hah" moment and when you are along and feeling something...you listen.  Thanks for the reminder.  Hope to see you in Houston on the 2nd....smile.

May 06, 2009 08:06 PM
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging, www.homes

You're right Peg, that was a lesson learned!

I'm working on getting there Terrylynn!

May 07, 2009 01:44 AM
Lynn911.com ~ Dallas Real Estate Agent Top Team
Dallas Houses for Rent Dallas Apartment Rentals Lynn911.com - Dallas, TX

Karen, what a shame however unless we store our personal items, and professional supplies on property we at risk storage unit.  $1000's can be lost.  When I staged my investment properties I use an empty rooms at my personal home for storage  AFTER we closed the office and etc. in  our warehouse/ contractor  location

May 13, 2009 01:29 AM