security locks for container - Cerraduras de seguridad para Contenedores - Fechaduras de Segurança Para Contêineres

One of the numerous benefits of containers is their resilience, durability, and, above all, their security. Whether used for storage or for constructing dwellings, these qualities are fundamental.

The robustness of containers is essential for facing adverse weather conditions, resisting environmental degradation, and keeping animals and pests at bay. It is precisely this inherent security that attracts many people to containers.

If your concern is to prevent intruders from entering while you sleep or simply to hinder access in your absence, security is a common concern. A container, with its imposing metal structure and sturdy doors, conveys a sense of solidity and safety.

However, much of this apparent solidity is designed not only to deter intruders but also to withstand the adversities of a journey at sea. Containers spend most of their lives in transit, be it on ships, trains, trucks, or in storage facilities, all of which offer a certain degree of additional security.

It is important to keep in mind that by placing a container on your property, you are relinquishing some of this previously provided external security. Therefore, additional security measures need to be considered.

A container is more secure in its original state, and every modification, such as installing additional windows and doors, compromises not only its structural integrity but also provides potential additional entry points for intruders.

In this article, we will address the topic of security locks for standard container doors and also explore how to secure a container modified for use as housing. We hope you find these tips valuable for protecting your belongings and loved ones.

What do we mean by “security” for containers?

Before we delve into details on how to secure your containers, we must first clarify what exactly security means. By taking a systematic approach to understanding what security entails, you will end up with a more secure container and spend less money on unnecessary things.

In the context of containers (and the rest of this article), when we talk about ‘security,’ we are specifically referring to the field of physical security. Physical security focuses on protecting a tangible object or property and is distinct from areas such as cybersecurity or national security.

Security, for our purposes, has two main interrelated objectives:

  1. Property protection: preventing the container from being damaged and what’s inside (including people) from being stolen or harmed.
  2. Denying access: preventing unauthorized individuals from entering.

These two objectives are achieved through three methods: deterrence, prevention, and detection. We will define each method and provide examples of each, but first, let’s examine whether you actually need additional security as we’ve defined it.

Now that you understand what security means in the context of containers, you must determine if you have something worth protecting. If so, you need to assess how effective different options can be and whether the benefits justify the costs. To be clear, ‘protecting the contents’ includes preventing both theft and vandalism.

Certainly, it is essential to carefully consider intrusion risks:

When talking about intrusion risks, you should consider both the “who” (occasional thief, disgruntled coworker, desperate individual for various reasons, among others) and the “how” (access to tools, approaches and escapes, proximity to other structures and people, among other factors).

The “who” variable is relevant because different people can be motivated by different reasons. Understanding the demographics of your area provides a better perspective on who might be interested in your container. However, the “how” variable is more important and can be assessed and addressed more easily.

To understand the “how,” you need to look at the environment surrounding your container and your property from the perspective of a potential offender. While it’s impossible to address all scenarios, some examples can serve as a guide.

Would additional security measures be effective?

When considering additional security measures you could implement, it is critical to assess their effectiveness, especially within a broader system. A warning that announces the presence of an alarm in your home will not be effective if it’s turned off and hidden behind a bush. Preventive measures must be functional, comprehensive, and used correctly to produce an effect.

Regarding detection, an alarm is useful only if someone can hear it or remotely monitor it and respond before the intruder escapes. Security cameras are only effective if they allow identification of someone through facial recognition or license plate, for example. Detecting that something has happened is not enough, as you might only notice the theft the next time you check the container. Detection must be accompanied by an active response or identification to enable legal action afterward.

Finally, it’s essential to understand that, to some extent, you need to balance the three security methods. Even with high-quality prevention and protection systems, if an intruder can work noisily for hours to defeat these systems without being detected, the security system as a whole is ineffective. Additionally, for most security measures, their effectiveness tends to be quite binary. For example, a padlock offers no partial protection; it either works or doesn’t work, with no middle ground. The security of devices is as strong as their weakest point. Therefore, we urge you once again to critically assess the security of your containers and your property as a whole to ensure they are adequately protected, without developing a false sense of security.

Are additional security measures worth it?

Evaluating whether additional security measures are worth it is a crucial exercise because, as in many investments, security involves balancing costs and benefits.

The benefits of protecting your container are evident: preserving your belongings and the integrity of your home, as discussed earlier. You can estimate the value of this benefit by considering the time, effort, and money that would be required to replace what would otherwise be stolen or damaged. You should also consider the likelihood that the security measure providing these benefits will be effective.

As for costs, there are several considerations:

  1. Acquisition cost: This refers to the initial expense of purchasing a security measure, be it a lock, a fence, a camera system, among others.
  2. Operating and maintenance cost: This includes the tasks required to ensure that the security measure functions correctly and is kept in good condition. This can involve removing rust and painting on metal elements, lubricating hinges and locks, replacing batteries, monitoring alarms and cameras, among other activities.
  3. Removal and replacement cost: Involves actions that must be taken when a security measure reaches the end of its life, such as cutting off an old security box or replacing an obsolete camera. Removal and replacement can be costly and labor-intensive, depending on the installation method.
  4. Time and inconvenience cost: These are human costs related to security measures and are as significant as monetary costs. Each lock must be secured, each door must be locked, and keys must be at hand, requiring time and effort. You must be honest with yourself about whether you will actually use a specific security measure, given these implications.

The process of weighing the costs and benefits of security measures can be complex. As mentioned, assessing the value of benefits can be difficult to determine because you don’t know for sure how effective the system will be in deterring, preventing, and/or detecting an intruder.

Furthermore, costs can be uncertain. For example, will the company that sold you the alarm system still exist in five years to provide replacement parts?

The previous section provided valuable information to determine if additional security measures are necessary, if they will be effective, and if they are worth it. Now it’s time to analyze specific security measures through the three methods mentioned earlier in the article: deterrence, prevention, and detection. While these methods may overlap in certain cases, we have strived to indicate when a measure falls into more than one category.

1. Deterrence of Potential Threats

Dissuading potential threats is a crucial aspect of your container and property’s security. The primary goal is to convince potential intruders that it’s highly unlikely they will succeed in their attempt, thus discouraging them from even trying. This is achieved through strong visible defenses or indications that your container is protected.

Exterior Lighting: Exterior lighting plays an essential role in deterrence, especially at night when intruders expect to go unnoticed. Well-distributed lighting around your container is effective. Additionally, it’s advisable to have lighting mounted in elevated locations to reduce the possibility of tampering and to have a backup power source for the lights in case of power outages. LED lights are preferable due to their lower energy consumption and longer bulb life.

Occupancy Signs: Intruders seek clues about whether someone is home or not. Visible vehicle parking can indicate an empty home, so if possible, store your vehicle in a closed garage to conceal this sign. In traditional residences, electronic timers are used to turn on lights, televisions, or radios at specific times. However, in a container with no visible windows or doors, this is less effective. Modern home automation, allowing remote control of devices, can be an effective alternative. If your container has visible windows or doors, consider a home appliance control system.

Other Security Measures: Even if you don’t have a robust security system, the mere presence of security signs can deter potential intruders. Signs can sow doubt in their minds. Fake security cameras are a related option as they give the impression of surveillance. It’s also important to ensure that the tools or supplies needed to overcome security measures are not within reach of intruders. This includes avoiding leaving tools or supplies near your container that could be used to gain access.

Remember that deterrence is a fundamental aspect of security as it can prevent issues before they occur and keep your property and belongings safe.

2. Prevention of Potential Threats

Preventing threats is essential to deter or at least delay any attack or intrusion. While there is no 100% effective system against a determined intruder, it is possible to complicate the process enough to deter or capture them before they succeed. Prevention is based on implementing various physical barriers and security devices.

Security Locks with Fences: A fence can play a crucial role, both as a deterrent and as prevention. Intruders are less likely to target your container if it is surrounded by a fence. If they decide to try, the fence will either stop them or at least delay their progress. There are various types of fences, such as wood, masonry, chain-link, and barbed wire. The choice of the appropriate fence depends on several factors, including whether you need to see through the fence, the type of gates you will use, whether you will install it yourself or hire a contractor, the locally available materials, the aesthetic style you want to achieve, and the aesthetics of your container and the surrounding area.

Security Locks: There are various types of locks, but they all have in common the need to secure something. Locks are used on the handles of a container’s locking bars, which incorporate locking latches. It’s crucial to ensure that the lock you choose is of the right size, including the size of the lock body and shackle. Unlocking locks can be done through codes or combinations. Biometric and Bluetooth locks are less common options and are generally not recommended for most people.

Conventional Locks: Conventional locks come in various materials and shackle types, but they generally have a basic configuration. The shackle is more exposed in these locks, making them more susceptible to cutting or shimming. For added security, you can choose locks with extremely resistant shackles, such as those made of boron carbide. These locks are recommended for keeping honest people honest or for use in additional protections like a security box.

Disk, Round, or Circular Shackle Locks: Disk locks have a circular design with a small exposed shackle. What sets them apart is that the shackle is curved and doesn’t have a spring like conventional locks. Instead, when you turn the key, the shackle is physically pulled out of the way.

These security locks consist of two halves of metal that fit together from front to back. It’s important to note that, in lower-quality locks, these pieces can separate or be crushed by a strong impact, which could allow unauthorized opening of the lock. Therefore, it’s essential to acquire a high-quality model to ensure security. In general, ‘Diskus’ locks, manufactured by ABUS in Germany, are considered among the highest quality in the disk lock category.

Closed Shackle Security Locks: Closed shackle security locks resemble conventional locks but have a lock body that extends to cover most of the shackle, offering protection against manipulation.

However, this feature also reduces the clearance around the shackle, which can make it challenging to remove it in some applications. These locks are not as common as other types of locks discussed.

Bolt Seals or Straight Shackle Locks: Bolt seals are often used to secure roll-up metal doors, as found in some areas. Unlike the curved shackles or hook of other types of security locks, bolt seals feature a straight shackle, making them resistant to tampering. They are effectively a specific type of closed shackle lock.

These locks are likely the most common you’ll find on containers. When purchasing a bolt seal, it’s essential to ensure that it is made of hardened materials, as some foreign security seals may appear solid but are not as tamper-resistant. The bolt seal shown below has a brass core with a steel cover, which is preferable to a solid brass body. If possible, look for a high-quality lock with a steel body, even though it may be more expensive.

Lock Box: A lockbox is not a lock itself but a metal cover placed over a conventional lock or another type of lock, increasing security. As locks are often more affordable compared to other lock types, in some cases, purchasing a lock and a lockbox separately can be a more cost-effective option.

It’s important to note that the lockbox is removable, unlike most security boxes to be discussed later. Therefore, this is a factor to consider.

The primary consideration when using a lockbox is to ensure there is sufficient space to use the lock with the lockbox installed, as the latter can limit movement. The lockbox shown below has a slightly higher cost but offers good protection.

Security on Personnel Doors: Ensuring a personnel door on a container is essential for maintaining security. Here are some important considerations to improve the security of a personnel door on a container:

Type of Door: The door’s construction is crucial. Fireproof or hurricane-resistant doors typically have better construction and are more resistant to intruders. You can opt for solid metal doors or those with multipoint latch mechanisms, but these options can be expensive and, for the most part, unnecessary for the majority of container owners.

Security Hinges: Hinges are crucial for doors, especially those that swing out. They should have non-removable pins. A concealed hinge pin is an option that prevents the hinge pin from being removed. You may also consider screw-on hinge pins or screws on the door to keep the door securely in place.

Considering these factors can significantly enhance the security of a personnel door on a container, providing peace of mind and protection against unwanted intruders.

Security Bars for Security Doors

A security bar for security doors is a solution that accommodates the limitations of personnel doors, providing a durable metal barrier in front that can be opened when not needed. While it’s not common to find kits for sale, their construction is relatively simple.

These security bars, by necessity, have external hinges, so it’s crucial to ensure that the hinge pins are not removable, as discussed in previous security measures. Additionally, it’s important to understand that a high-quality security bar does not justify the use of a low-quality exterior door, as the bar does not fully cover the door.

If someone could easily breach the door or punch a hole in it, they could still gain access to the interior, even if the security door bar is in place. They likely won’t be able to take large items, but they could obtain smaller items. The security door bar shown below is a typical example of what we are describing and even includes a built-in lockbox, which we recommend. It is possible to fabricate a security door bar that covers more of the door, but this can make it heavier and more complicated to use.

Electronic Security Locks

While there are numerous variations of handles and door locks with locking mechanisms on the market, all essentially perform a similar function. The choice of a door lock should align with the level of security needed for the specific door.

As we advance to heavier and more secure doors, it’s important to consider whether the metal sheeting of the container walls can become a weak point in the security system, as mentioned earlier. We do not recommend exotic doors with multidirectional locking pins or other complex features.

However, we recommend electronic locks for people who share their container home with large groups of family or friends or for those who rent out their container home. These electronic locks solve the key management issue by using combinations.

Most models, such as the one shown below, can support dozens of different combination codes for various individuals and allow remote locking and unlocking via a Wi-Fi connection and home automation systems. It’s also possible to opt for a mechanical combination lock, but it usually allows only one combination and cannot be remotely controlled.

Window Security

While extremely security-conscious property owners may choose not to install windows or place them only behind final doors, in many containers, windows are incorporated into the sides.

Windows are often the most vulnerable part of the container, as something as simple as a stone can break the glass and allow entry.

Container Security Locks

Therefore, it’s essential to consider some form of security device for exterior windows. The choice depends on whether you prefer a permanent or mobile solution.

Window Screens or Grilles

When seeking a permanent solution, the most common options are screens or steel bars. They effectively work to keep people away but, since they are permanent, they can make your container look like a prison and limit the view through the windows. Expanded metal screen is an alternative that prevents small objects from breaking the window, although it’s not as secure as bars due to the thickness of the metal.

Window Bars and Screens

Window bars on the left and screens on the right provide permanent security.

Window Covers

A window cover is similar to a door bar lock but is made of solid metal due to the lower security of windows compared to doors. You can generally choose from options like horizontal, vertical, or a barn-style sliding horizontal style. Your container’s design and layout may limit some of these options.

It’s important to highlight that vertical and casement options require non-removable hinge pins, as mentioned in other security measures. As with security locks on door bars, we recommend using a lockbox on window covers.

The vertical opening option is especially appealing, as when the window cover is in the “up” position, it provides a pleasant shade that reduces direct sunlight on the window. However, this will require bottom-to-top support or top-to-bottom cable to hold the cover.

Lock Box

In this context, we’re not referring to a box used to store money or the lockbox that real estate agents use to store keys. We’re talking about a box that covers a lock on a container to make it more resistant to cutting or removal.

Typically, these boxes are made of steel and have one side or bottom open. They are attached to the container and force people to access the lock from only one direction, making angle grinders, chisels, bolt cutters, and other tools ineffective.

Furthermore, depending on the design, a lockbox can protect the lock from exposure to rain, snow, and ice, prolonging its lifespan.

The main difference between a lockbox and a lock shroud is that the former is permanently welded to the container. Therefore, it’s recommended to acquire a lock AFTER the installation of the lockbox to ensure there is enough space to open and close it properly.

While many of the security locks and locking devices described earlier can work with a lockbox, the most common application is for a conventional lock placed between the doors of the two ends and locking them together.

The most common type of lockbox is custom-made and welded to your container, either by you or the container dealer. In the image below, there’s a typical example of a lockbox welded to the end doors of the container, and you can see the latch on the left that will be covered by the lockbox on the right. A lock is placed through the latch to secure the doors together.

Lock Box

If you don’t have access to a welder or prefer the option of removing the lockbox, there are also bolt-on alternatives available, as shown below. However, some modifications may be necessary if you wish to use them on locations other than the end doors.

3. Real Threat Detection

In the context of container security, detection is the last method that can make a difference. The idea is to have a system capable of recognizing the presence of an intrusion, monitoring it, recording it, and possibly triggering an appropriate response.

Guard Dog

A guard dog can play an essential role at three levels of security. Its mere presence can deter some intruders, and a proper sign that there is a guard dog on your property can also help. When an intruder approaches, the dog can stop or completely halt them. Furthermore, the dog’s barking acts as a detection mechanism whenever someone nearby can hear it and respond. In the case of a large and well-trained dog, it could even actively intervene against the intruder. The choice of the dog’s breed and temperament is crucial for its function as a guard dog.

Security Alarm Systems

Alarm systems provide both deterrence and detection functions in the field of security. Although the system itself can be discreet, a visible warning signal can persuade potential intruders to stay away. These systems are designed to detect any attempt at intrusion and notify you about it. The foundation of an alarm system is its sensors, which can include motion sensors, heat sensors, sound sensors, contact sensors, glass break sensors, and others. When these sensors detect an irregularity, the system typically triggers a loud alarm, alerts a monitoring company, or notifies you through phone calls, text messages, or other means.

Here are two options: you can set up a loud alarm to scare the intruder before they can carry out their intentions or send a silent notification remotely to try to catch the intruder before they commit a crime (if you or the authorities can respond quickly enough). Many alarm systems have a backup battery that provides additional protection in case the intruder cuts the power.

The first system below is very simple, with two window/door sensors and a motion detector. Another alternative would be a standalone battery-powered alarm that can be connected to a larger battery and an external solar panel if you need a completely independent solution.

Transitioning to more advanced systems will provide additional sensors and remote controls, but most importantly, wireless notification through phone calls or text messages. Remember that you’ll need to acquire an affordable GSM SIM card to get service for the wireless notification module. Besides the one shared earlier, there are numerous options available at different price points.

In a larger container, you’ll need additional sensors. Many budget systems offer the option to expand with additional sensors sold separately. Furthermore, you’ll find systems that offer remote monitoring, which requires a monthly fee but allows a monitoring center to call the police if necessary. Before investing a lot of money in an alarm system, remember the primary goal: to scare the intruder with loud noises or notify someone who can respond in time to catch the intruder in the act.

Security Cameras

When it comes to container security, security cameras represent the last line of defense. We can divide these cameras into two groups based on their intended function: live monitoring and recording for later viewing.

Live Monitoring Cameras

The first type of security cameras is designed to record any attempted intrusion and transmit these images or videos in real-time. While these systems can be integrated with alarm systems, here we’ll focus on standalone security cameras.

Live monitoring cameras include models for indoor and outdoor use. Indoor models are usually meant for monitoring babysitters, pets, or workers, while outdoor security cameras are ideal for protecting your home. However, outdoor cameras cover a broader area, which may require multiple cameras depending on your situation.

Outdoor areas are typically more active than an empty container, which can make it challenging for detection algorithms to function properly. These cameras require a high-speed Internet connection and continuously record, sending the information to a remote server.

When they detect motion, the camera sends notifications to your device, allowing you to view the video before, during, and after the event. This enables you to decide whether to respond personally, call the police, or take other actions.

Regarding the camera itself, several factors should be considered. Most cameras nowadays are wireless and operate via Wi-Fi, although they still require access to a power outlet near their intended location. You should also choose a camera with infrared recording capability for proper night vision and a resolution of at least 1080P to identify vehicles or faces. There are 4K cameras available on the market, but they require a high-speed Internet connection. Some more expensive cameras offer remote pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) motion features, which can replace the need for multiple cameras, depending on your container’s layout and the surrounding area.

When purchasing a live monitoring camera, remember that the physical camera is only part of the solution. What really differentiates models is the software and ecosystem, including the mobile app, detection algorithms, cloud storage, etc. However, much of this ecosystem is only provided if you pay a monthly fee, which means the camera represents not just a one-time cost but an ongoing commitment. If you choose not to pay the fee, you may lose features like online cloud storage, the ability to set specific detection zones, or adjust detection sensitivity.

The best security cameras come with advanced features, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms that help filter out motion that doesn’t represent a threat. When buying a live monitoring camera, we recommend choosing a reputable manufacturer that offers feature updates and security, high-quality monitoring software, and cloud storage options. Below is an example of a major network equipment manufacturer.

Recording Cameras for Later Review

This second type of security cameras maintains recording capability but doesn’t require an internet connection. In exchange, you’ll have to forgo features like off-site cloud storage, mobile alerts, etc. However, this avoids the monthly monitoring fee and makes it easier to use 4K cameras.

There are camera systems that include multiple cameras and a recording unit that’s placed inside the container and records images for hours or days on a hard drive. You should ensure this recording unit is in a secure location within the container to prevent an intruder from taking it or damaging it.

These systems are more expensive and complex, so we won’t go into details. Instead, we’ll focus on tracking cameras, also known as game cameras, that operate independently. These cameras are typically used by hunters and wildlife enthusiasts to observe animals at times when there is no human presence. However, they are also an excellent option for home security. They operate on batteries and require a separate memory card for storage. They usually don’t start recording until they detect motion to preserve the battery. To view the captured images or videos, you’ll need physical access to the camera.

Due to their camouflage appearance, these cameras are ideal for hiding from intruders. Placing one of these cameras near your entrance will allow you to record the license plates of vehicles entering the property, which can be helpful for identifying intruders. A security camera system is something you hope you never need to use, but simply knowing it’s in place can provide you with greater peace of mind.

Conclusion on Security Locks

If you’ve made it to the end of this article, congratulations! Security is a broad topic that requires adequate space for explanation and exploration.

We hope you have a clear understanding of what’s involved in security, whether additional security measures are suitable for your container, and which specific types may be the most appropriate.

It’s important to remember that not everyone can be deterred, and it’s true that any preventive measure can be overcome by someone determined enough.

Instead of spending a fortune on locks, we recommend some reasonably priced options that will keep most intruders at bay, along with a parallel focus on some form of detection system that meets your needs.

If you’d like to consult with our container security experts regarding security locks, you can visit the provided link here.

We would like to hear about your experience with any of these security methods or container security in general. Please feel free to share your comments below.

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