With crime a constant concern, it’s time to consider a high security safe. Think about this for a second: when you take off your watches, your jewelry, put away your gun, or simply want to file away your birth certificates and will…where do you keep them? If you don’t protect your investments and personal information in one of the many home security safes available today, what’s stopping a burglary? A high security safe isn’t simply a luxury item, either – it’s a smart investment for anyone with any assets to guard.
Before you settle down and buy just any safe, however, it’s important that you assess your needs. Do you, for instance, want to use the safe simply for paper products? Do you want to simply store some extra cash in a strongbox some place out of sight? Do you have need to store your digital media and old films (VCR, CD-ROM, USB jump drives or external hard drives, old audio cassettes, etc.) in a secure place? These are all classified under different UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory) classifications, as the need for fire protection is clearly an issue.
Before you make an investment in home security safes, it’s best to know what to look for.
Consider the following, before you speak to a safe merchant like American Security Safes (a.k.a. “AMSEC®” safes), one of the top-shelf safe dealers on the market:
1. Become familiar with what kind of safes you can buy. Not all safes are created equal, there’s a strongbox that may be the most burglar-proof on the market, but does it protect as well against fire or water damage? There are plenty of sizes, shapes and styles available, but what would protect your contents the best?
Threat-specific safes are the first to consider. You may buy a wall safe or floor safe, or a stand-alone, or even a personal laptop safe. Location and function would guide your answer to the type of safe you’ll buy. Another distinction between home security safes is the locking mechanism. Locks come in the standard combination, electronic PIN style, key locks and various forms of biometric locks (including voice recognition, fingerprint, retinal scan).
2. Do a threat-assessment and analyze the need of your protection level. What are you trying to protect (the contents)? What am I trying to guard against (threat: fire, water, burglary)? The fact is that buying a “theft-proof” safe to guard digital media will guard against theft, but there is a real threat of fire that will need to be addressed. In such a case, getting a fireproof, high security safe designed for digital records will be the best bet. Another consideration is, if you will store small items such as watches and jewelry as well as other items, you should consider home security safes that offer organized shelving and drawers. Again, American Security Safes and other companies of their stature offer a number of products that will keep your valuables safe and organized as well.
3. Location, location, location! When you’re dealing with a high security safe, location is vital to maintaining the protection and accessibility of the valuables. You will also find that safes tend to be pretty large, especially if they have fire cladding and other options. Make sure that the safe is able to be mounted/bolted in place, and if you’re buying a wall or floor model, then you can be sure that these will be secure by their very nature as far as anchoring goes. Locating the safe in a garage, in plain sight, though popular – is a bad idea. Even if you don’t buy a concealed safe (wall/floor), you don’t want to invite trouble.
Once you’ve assessed the above, then you want to make sure that you buy from a reputable dealer. Make sure that you do your homework as far as company reputation, and that the safe is indeed a quality, independently-tested, and trustworthy safe from a trusted company. Quality producers of safes include FireKing, Honeywell, Sentry Safe and American Security Safes. There are others, of course, such as Guardall and AvidBiometrics – by no means is this an exhaustive list – the point is to be sure to look at consumer reports and independent reviews from the company you choose.
Here are a few more considerations you need to assess before buying from American Security Safes, or any high security safe company: Insurance ratings, and UL ratings. By “insurance ratings” is meant a safe that has been rated to answer concerns by the insurance companies, thus giving you a discount on your premiums. Simply buying a safe at a big box store won’t do – but not to worry: it’s not rocket science, either! The UL ratings system is explained further below.
Insurance Ratings of the High Security Safe
Before continuing, this article is designed to provide you with general information on the subject of buying a home security safe, and how the insurance companies have agreed upon a certain standard by which they determine their own liability and thus your premium. This is by no means a guarantee that your particular homeowner’s or business insurance provider will operate within these parameters, but the likelihood is they will agree with this information as stated.
That being said, here are the various ratings too look for when buying your safe – after you’ve discussed it with your insurance company. Better be safe than sorry.
B-Rated for “Security”
The B-Rating sounds an awful lot like a poorly-made movie from the 1950’s, with poor content and melodramatic actors being chased by a giant cockroach. When talking about high security safe ratings, however, it’s an industry and insurance standard. These home security safes have at the minimum a ½ inch-thick steel door, and ¼ inch-thick steel walls and floor. The lock itself must be drill-resistant, using what’s called a “hard-plate,” which should shatter most drill bits. Unfortunately, most in this class are not fire-resistant, so that is a concern. There is usually an anchoring bolt pattern around the base, to secure the safe in place if it’s the stand-alone variety. As far as a high security safe goes, the B-rating is the minimum insurance-rating for theft.
TL-15 Rating (UL)
This is a high security safe that’s often used to store jewelry and other valuables. Jewelry shops and dealers, as well as pawn shops and other similar businesses use these as a minimum protection. This is a UL listed insurance rating, and they are both fire-rated as well as theft-rated. A TL-15 rating means that it is “tool resistant” for up to 15 minutes, meaning that an average burglar, given that amount of time, may be able to break in given typical burglar’s tools.
The fire rating will be another stamp altogether, being rated for the internal temperature given an outside fire temperature of around 1500-1800 or so degrees, as well as the duration that the safe can maintain the internal temperature. For example, a TL-15 safe may also be “Class 350/2” which means the internal temperature would reach 350 degrees F maximum, and it can maintain that temperature for 2 hours. Typically, however, TL-15’s are rated to withstand fires at 1700 degrees F for an hour duration.
TL-15 home security safes are usually of composite build, having different materials that perform various functions from theft-proofing to fire-proofing. They have a 5-inch-thick door, body of 2-inch-thick construction, and bolts that are 1-1/2 inches, double re-lockers and a hard plate that withstands drilling.
A quick note on “re-lockers:” this is a theft-proof security feature that re-locks the door in case the thieves manage to drill out the hinges. Hardened pins are thrust into various points of the door, re-locking it against the attack. The best re-locking mechanism available, so far, is a tempered glass-plate re-locker. Look for it, or ask for it, when you shop.
TL-30 Rating (UL)
This is thought of as perhaps the best rating in home security safes. These are used very often in commercial applications, and are a solid high security safe. This rating of burglar safe uses several re-lockers, and a dual hard plate system. There are also ball bearings between the steel plates. Standard fire resistance on this safe is a 1-1/2 hour fire resistant rating from UL.
Other UL ratings:
Those were the basics in high security safe ratings, and should be your minimum standard for buying a safe that you want your insurance company to grant you a discount on (again, check with your insurance agent before you buy!). Here is a glimpse of other ratings you will find on American Security Safes and other home security safes:
Tool-resistant home security safes that protect against attack from all six sides – not just the front/door as the TL-15/TL-30: TL-15X6 and TL-30X6. These have thicker steel on all 6 sides, and are a better high security safe choice if you’re guarding more valuables or simply can afford the added protection.
Then there’s the torch/tool-resistant safes: TRTL-15X6 and TRTL-30X6, and TRTL-60X6. Obviously by now, this means that – for all 6 sides of the safe, you can expect your belongings to withstand any torch or tool-related burglary attempts for 15, 30 and 60 minutes, respectively. You can also find the top-of-the-line, end-of-the-road for theft and all break-in attempt models, at a premium price: torch/explosive/tool-resistant safes, Class TXTL-60X6. It doesn’t really get much better than that…yet.
European “Grade 1” Safes
American-made or American-bought home security safes use the system above, but the Europeans use a different standard. This rating corresponds to the American TL-15 rating, although there are slight advantages to the Grade 1. For starters, the fire resistance is tested at 2000 degrees F for an hour, compared to the U.S. TL-15, which is only tested to 1700 degrees. (The average house-fire temperature rages at about 1200 degrees F.)
Other features are that the Grade 1 safes are 70% or so lighter than a TL-rated high security safe, with no exterior hinges. Definitely worth a look as you shop for safes.