A safe is not always as safe as you think it might be.
Typically, the average small safe you see sold in places such as large Big Box and Discount stores are not really safes at all. They are usually minimum security fire-resistant containers with a combination lock, and no burglar resistance whatsoever. The best place to shop for a safe is a place that specializes in them.
Acme Lock and Safe has knowledgeable personnel that can help you by explaining the differences between various types of safes, and can steer you in the right direction according to your needs. At a specialty shop you will get a better product with better service. I have even found that the basic products we sell are priced comparably with these large stores.
Safes are constructed in various manners, some in accordance with Underwriters Laboratories strict tests to meet minimum requirements for burglar and / or fire resistance.
Fire Resistant Safes:
Fire Resistant Safes are available in one, two, or four hour fire ratings, and are labeled as to the rating, preferably with a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) label that confirms the approved rating. They may also contain an impact, or drop rating. You would not want your safe to survive a fire, only to drop through a burnt out floor to the storey below and then have the door burst open upon impact with the ground or floor below! Fire Resistant safes are tested in furnaces at 1700 to 1800 Degrees F. and then removed after one, two or four hours, depending on the rating, and then opened. The inside temperature is measured and should not exceed 350 degrees F. Paper chars at 451 degrees F.
Fire Resistant Data Safes:
With the proliferance of computer disks, negatives, film and other media, there are specialized data safes designed to protect this valuable type of data from fire. Disks, negatives and film cannot stand heat above approximately 125 degrees F. and computer disks can also be affected by magnetic fields. Data Safes are designed and tested for a fire rating of 125 degrees F. They also contain a magnetic field barrier and a steam, or moisture barrier. They are also at a price premium over standard fireproof safes.
Burglar Resistant Safes:
Burglar Resistant Safes are available with or without the fire ratings described above. They are available in different Burglar Resistant ratings according to UL's strict testing and guidelines.
If you are buying a safe for business requirements and storing large amounts of cash, you should check with your insurance company to see if they have any minimum guidelines for the rating you need. They may very well say that you require a "Class 2" (TL 15) or higher burglar resistant safe for this type of need. Burglar Resistant safes are classified in the following categories:
- B-Rated (Residential Burglar Resistant Rating with a 1/2" steel door and a 1/4" steel body) or composite body.
- C-Rated (A little better than the above with a 1" steel door and a 1/2" steel body)
- Class 2 (TL 15) - Tool resistant by professionals for minimum 15 minutes net working time*. Only the door is attacked. The body must be 1" of steel or greater and the safe must weigh at least 750 lbs or have provision for anchoring.
- Class 3 (TL 30) - Tool resistant by professionals for a minimum 30 minutes net working time. Only the door is attacked. the body must be 1" of steel or greater and the safe must weigh at least 750 lbs or have provision for anchoring.
- Class 4 (TL TR 30) - Tool/Torch resistant by professionals for 30 minutes net working time.
- Class 5 (TL TR 60) - Tool/Torch resistant by professionals for minimum 60 minutes net working time. The safe must weigh at least 1000 lbs or have provision for anchoring.
- X6 the addition of X6 (i.e. TL-60X6) means that the requirements apply to all six sides of the safe and not just to the door. It can only apply to a rating of TL-15 and higher.
- TX - the addition of TX means that the safe will resist nitroglycerine and other high explosives for a specific amount of time.
* net working time does not include time spent not actually working on the door. In reality the time needed for opening is much more than minimum net working time.
In Floor Safes:In floor Safes are specially designed and constructed to be installed in a concrete floor or concrete block. These are designed primarily as burglar resistant safes, with no fire rating, however when installed properly in concrete they do provide an excellent degree of fire and burglary protection. They are available in B-rate, C-rate or TL 15 rating. B-Rate is usually sufficient for the average home
Depository Safes:Depository safes will have either a slot, or a front or top load rotary hopper to facilitate the deposit of cash by employees who do not have the safe combination. These are usually built as B-rate burglar resistant safes and do not have a fire rating because of the opening into the safe. If you require a Class 2 or Class 3 ( TL-15 or TL-30 ) depository safe, the hopper or drop chute must be enclosed behind a locked door with a combination lock which puts the price up considerably. However, a small B-rate deposit safe can start less than $500.00
Things to be considered when you are purchasing a safe:
- What are you going to use the safe to protect? Records, Computer media, Valuables, Cash?
- What hazards are you trying to protect against. Fire, Burglary or both?
- What is the expected total value of the items you want to protect? Include in this figure any future needs.
- Does your insurance company have a minimum level of security or safe rating requirement for insured valuables?
- Where will the safe be located? What is the maximum weight that the floor will safely support in that location?
- How much space do you have available to locate the safe in? What obstructions to door opening are in that area?
- What is the volume of the items you wish to protect?
- What are you willing to spend to achieve the level of protection required?
- You can buy small personal safes which can be bolted down for less than $100.00.
- Small fire safes can start at less than $200.00.
- Small data / media fire safes can start at around $400.00.
- Small residential type Burglar / fire safes start around $700.00.
- B-rate depository safes can start at less than $500.00
- Commercial TL15 burglar resistant safes can start at about $1200.00 and go up into thousands.
- Commercial TL30 Burglar resistant safes can start less than $3000.00 and go up into thousands.
- You get the general picture ! You really do get what you pay for.