Guide to Safe Types and Labels
Where do I Start
Safes are rated according to insurance
company classifications. Generally the higher the classification the more they will insure
the contents for. Burglary Ratings go from a "B" through a "I".
Burglary and Fire ratings will be explained later. The first place you start on
determining the type of safe you require is with your insurance company (ask them). After
all they are the ones who you are counting on for content replacement.
Usually only if you require a high insurance
coverage. Most high security safes as far as insurance companies are concerned are rated
only by the Underwriters Laboratory. Certifying that they have tested the safe under UL
Burglary conditions. Testing tools may include diamond grinding wheels, carbide or
diamond tipped drills. They also use devices that apply high pressure on the cutter during
the test. All tools must be portable. The most commonly found ratings are RSC (Residential
Security Container, five minutes testing), TL15 (15 minutes testing), TL30 (30 minutes
testing). Testing and ratings only apply to the door, as this is the primary place safes
are attacked. Anytime you see a UL label containing X6 then all sides were tested and
certified. Testing time is accumulated by actual working time (drill, cutter changes,
planning time, etc. is not included).
If your insurance company requires it
YES. Lets use some common sense. You would never place $10,000 dollars into a safe that
only cost $500 dollars (new list price), and you would never store cash and valuables in a
record safe. With a safe you are only buying time. The better the safe the longer time you
are buying. Any safe can be penetrated given enough time, knowledge and proper tools (yes,
including the bank). Of primary consideration is the type of threat you will experience. A
professional will not be attacking a safe in a residential environment. In a residential
environment you will be protecting from criminals who are looking for a quick grab and get
out (things that can easily be resold) If you are protecting the contents from Burglary
get a good burglar safe, if you are protecting from fire get a good fire safe. According
to national averages 60 percent of all businesses that experience a fire are out of
business within 6 months, Calling your customers and asking them if they owe you money
just does not work. This along with the high cost of totally rebuilding the account system
and records (IRS does not accept a fire as a reason for not having records, or filing tax
returns). If you haven't properly stored your computer records they will also be gone (how
much money have you spent on computer backup software and hardware) (another note Safe
Deposit boxes at the bank are not insured for contents) .
Generally the way a particular safe gains a
rating is for the manufacturer to provide UL Testing Laboratories with 3 safes and a check
for 10,000 dollars for the testing. If the safe passes the test and the company agrees to
allow UL inspectors to inspect the building process at later random times to insure that
the safes are still manufactured the same way, they get a rating. If it was for FIRE
testing the manufacture must also keep samples of the fire retarding material used in each
production run for later inspection. Other safes are tested by other laboratories under
varying, undocumented and unequal conditions. Other safes are rated by the manufacture
according to construction materials, and thickness. If the safe body has at least 1"
thick steel (or equivalent) walls, a door of at least 1" thick steel (or equivalent)
it is "C" Rated.
Most quality combination locks (Sargent and
Greenleaf, LaGuard, Mosler, Mos Hamilton etc.) have internal relockers built in to the
lock. This type of relocker locks the lock independent of the safe
combination. This device is usually tripped by the penetration tactics of unskilled
thieves (punching the dial). Quality Safe Manufactures also add additional relockers to
increase the time required for penetration. These type of relockers lock the Safe
independent of the lock, and include devices such as loaded springs, glass, and thermal
links. In the case of a Glass relocker the glass is positioned between the lock body and
the door, any attempt to drill through to the lock will break the glass and set the
relocker. Thermal links melt under the heat of a torch and set the relocker. In over 90
percent of the literature read you will find a reference that the safe includes a
relocker, but the only relocker found is the one provided by the lock manufacture. This
would be properly stated that the Lock has a relocker. Interesting how they take credit
for a relocker that was included by the lock manufacture, not the safe manufacture.
Inferior locks do not include a built in relocker. Stay with quality safe and lock
Lets look at an in-floor safe, because the
safe is surrounded by concrete, heat rises, and with the dust cover on you have an air gap
(all things required for good protection). This type of safe offers very high burglar
protection, and very good fire protection, but because the UL Testing Laboratories can not
certify each and every installation they carry no UL rating. Many other testing
laboratories exist, but their has been no agreed upon testing procedures. Take for
instance a standard "UL 1 Hour Fire" label this indicates that in a 1700 degree
fire the interior will not exceed 350 degrees. This 350 degree offers a high safety factor
because paper ignites around 425 degree. Under UL testing the safe is placed in an oven
and heated to 1700 degrees held there for one hour and allowed to cool (total heating time
is more than 1 hour, heat up and cool down time) the contents must remain below 350
degrees. Other laboratory testing may shove the safe into a 1700 degree furnace (already
hot) for one hour remove it foreseeable cool it down (water) and then check the contents.
Total testing time much less than a UL 1 hour label test. (Fire Departments agree that
the average residential fire is 1500 degrees, for 20 minutes). Because of all the
marketing gimmick statements (double wall, triple wall, quad wall) Fire labels on GUN
safes carry the biggest degree of non-conformance testing that I know of. If you see a non
UL label of 1200 degrees for 30 minutes, just what does that mean? How was it tested? Guns
do not generally require fire protection to survive a residential fire. When people
purchase a gun safe with a fire rating, they usually get important papers stored inside,
or get general purpose shelving inside and used for Residential Security Containers.
Additional Fire rated containers should be placed inside this type of safe for important
Definitely NOT computer media
(tapes, discs) required 120 degree protection with less than 80% humidity. Also the UL
ratings on DATA safes require a drop test simulation of a burn through on a 3 story
building. During this test the safe is heated to 1700 degrees for one hour allowed to
cool, re-heated to 1700 degrees then dropped 3 stories onto rubble and hosed down (just
like the Fire Department). When the safe is cooled the instrumentation inside is checked.
Data ratings can also be obtained by storing a "Data Container" inside a UL
rated one hour container. A data container is tested to ensure that in a one hour 350
degree temperature (inside another UL 1 Hour Fire Rated safe) the contents do not exceed
120 degrees and stay below 80 percent humidity.
BSteel Constriction with doors less that 1" thick, body less than ½" thick.
Depends on the safe, and purpose you
intended to use the safe for. Generally if we are talking Burglary protection, Steel, is
Steel, if it has a good quality combination lock on it, door hinges are good, and even if
it has been previously penetrated and properly repaired it is hard to go wrong. Very good
values exist in UL rated safes that have had the door penetrated, and properly repaired
(UL labels must be removed).
If the purpose is for Fire Protection do not consider any old safes as they used a concrete material as the heat retardate material, this works fine on new concrete, but as the concrete ages it dries out, loosing its fire resistance. This type of concrete material has a tendency to crack and crumble, you will never know of the concrete condition inside the iron casing. This type of undesirable safe can easily be identified by the stair step design of the door edges. Although many of these old safes are very beautiful they have more of a nostalgic value than a fire protection value.
Find a reputable dealer one who
specializes in safes. Stay away from, discount general merchandise stores, and big "box stores"
as they seldom know the safe business. Armed with the proceeding information you can quickly ascertain
who knows their business. If you feel uncomfortable with their knowledge find another safe
dealer. Take a very close look at warranty information. Is it serviced by the company who
sold it? Or does it have to be returned to the manufacture for repair. Most Gun Safe
manufactures require that you ship the safe to them at your expense, and prepay the return
shipping to obtain any warranty repair (east to west coast could cost 500 dollars each
After all you are spending your money, and accepting the safe dealers recommendation on protection. Question them, inspect all used UL rated safes in their inventory if the door has been penetrated, and the labels not removed, this is a good sign that money is more important than honesty, or a poor understanding of ratings. Take future needs into consideration. It is an expensive proposition to move a small safe just to replace it with a larger one.
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