skip to Main Content


NSDR Journal

Vol. XVI No. 4

November 1999


By Robert F. McLaughlin

This article explores the features you should consider if you are either purchasing a safe for the first time or upgrading and replacing an older safe.

  1. COST: You will receive the level of security that you pay for… Safes are not cheap… but remember… What are you trying to protect? Your complete inventory that amounts to years of building? … or a lifetime effort and accomplishment of investing or collecting?

High security safes vary in the range from $1,000.00 to $10,000.00, based on the level of protection you need and the size of the safe.

You should expect a wide variety of prices in the many safe categories, as well as, varying delivery and installation fees.

It is up to the buyer to evaluate the relative importance of the differences.

  1. INSURANCE DEMANDS: If you have the need or wish to insure the contents of the safe against burglary, your insurance underwriter will advise that a certain minimum Underwriter Laboratories (U.L.) tested, approved and labeled safe be utilized.

Every insurance underwriter has some formal guidelines. Their willingness to insure the contents of your safe is dictated by the degree of security your safe offers against various types of burglar attacks.

It is also important to note that the U.L. rating of the safe is a major part of the policy acceptance but also location, alarms, etc. are part of their consideration. It is a compilation of all the security factors.

  1. BURGLAR PROTECTION: There are several U.L. safe ratings, each one offering more protection than the other.

Many of them no longer exist in current manufacturing or have lost their popularity since the cost difference is so small and the degree of protection is so high.

The most popular U.L. ratings used today are the TL-15, TL-30, TL-30×6 and TRTL-30×6.

TL-15: This safe will resist entry when attacked on the door only with the common hand tools, picking tools, mechanical or portable electric tools grinding tools, carbide drills, and pressure applying devices or mechanisms for a total attack working time of 15 minutes.

TL-30: This safe has the same testing as the TL-15, but will resist attack for a period of 30 minutes.

TL- 30×6: This safe offers the same 30 minute protection as the TL-30 above, but it resists attacks on all six sides.

TRTL-30×6: This safe offers the same six sided, 30 minute protection as the TL-30×6 above but in addition resists attacks from oxy-fuel gas cutting or welding torch (quantity of gas consumed in one test limited to 1,000 cubic ft. combined total oxygen and fuel gas).

It should be noted that the attack time as so indicated, does not mean that the safe only resists for the indicated time. This is a minimum allowed for the rating.

  1. FIRE PROTECTION: Underwriter Laboratories has established three major categories which express the degree of content protection from attack of fire.

Class A..4 hour protection at 2000° F.

Class B..2 hour protection at 1850° F.

Class C.. 1 hour protection at 1700° F.

The most popular in the coin and jewelry industries are the Class B and Class C.

The “2 hour safe” Class B, keeps the interior safe temperature below 350° F, even if the outside temperature reaches 1850°F.

The “1 hour safe” Class C, keeps the interior safe temperature below 350° F, even if the outside temperature reaches 1700° F.

Also in the heat testing, a reheat test and a mechanical drop test are included.

Most materials resist heat to a point, but steel being a conductor, offers a very little resistance and cause an oven burning effect on the contents. Today’s state-of-the-art composite safes dissipate heat and offer great resistance to heat.

  1. CONSTRUCTION: Basic state-of-the-art composite safes offer the best protection against burglar attacks and fire.

Older safes were built for attacks by burglar tool and techniques in existence at the time the safe was built. Today with high-tech new compound nuggets buried deep within a high stress concrete aggregate, with internal drill deflector bars that are encapsulated between extra hard steel plate penetration is extremely difficult… if at all possible.

  1. SIZE: Consideration must be given to the proper size of safe. Do you have the sufficient dimensions for trays or storage containers? What about an unforeseen need for additional room for memo items, consignments or just more room for items not previously considered. The best answer is to figure exactly what you need, the DOUBLE IT! Also, please remember that buying an additional safe at a later date can be costly; and also that once you have invested in a high security safe, the next size larger costs very little more.
  2. WEIGHT/INSTALLATION: The location of the safe is important for maximum efficiency and access by you. The weight of the safe must be considered. Floor bearing capacities limit the location. Ground floor is the best, elevators can be a problem, because of their capacity, doorways also limit access. A safe can only be installed if the floor and access pathway allows. This also may determine the SIZE of safe you can purchase.
  3. LOCKS: There is a great variety of locks that are available both in operation, security and convenience.

The basic safe is usually equipped with a main combination lock. This main lock many times has an additional auxiliary key lock. These locks either main or auxiliary, can be the mechanical combination, key or electronic keypad design.

The electronic lock allows immediate lock programming and changes as well as it can be connected by a duress (silent alarm) contact in the security system.

  1. BOLTWORK: Most safes are supplied with bolts on the hinged and leading edge door. Today, most high security safes are supplied with door bolts in ALL DIRECTIONS to defend against attacks on all four directions. Also, the less moving parts in the interior boltwork design offer the best security. Multiple welding of parts, multiple gearing offer a better chance for failure.
  2. RELOCKERS: The best security in a safe is offered by internal relockers. These can be either active or passive. They are hidden in the door and when the safe is attacked by jack hammer, heavy shock, high speed drills, carbide desk, torch, and explosives, they cause the system to lock the bolts closed.
  3. ALARM SYSTEMS: Many safes are equipped with external alarm contacts and also internal (out of sight) alarms can be provided. Heat sensors and motion sensors can be also supplied.
  4. INTERNAL SECURITY: If internal security is a consideration a method of utilizing the main and auxiliary lock on the main safe door can be affected. Also, internal (private) lockers are supplied many times. There are sophisticated systems where even a microprocessor with a modem can activate an internal lock by telephone.
  5. WARRANTY: This is a very important factor to consider. Usually the safe manufacturer will offer a one year warranty on parts, labor and material. In many instances your safe suppliers will extend the warranty.
  6. SERVICE: Make sure you safe supplier is a reputable firm. You cannot afford to be able to open your safe. A good service operation will offer complete and maximum service.

Several national safe suppliers have trained installers who are local in your area and who will service your safe when required.

  1. TRADE-INS: This is always a problem. You will probably get a much higher price. Most safe companies may not offer you a high price, since the safe either may not have a U.L. label, or it may be an old plate steel version that does not offer adequate protection to make it marketable.

You may want to consider your old safe as storage location with minimum security. If you wish you could get ride of it, the best way is to try selling it yourself.

  1. USED SAFES: As a final consideration, thought must be given to the NEW vs. OLD concept. The old safe may be less costly, but remember… most old safes do not come with warranties, boltwork and locks not previously in good condition could cause a LOCKOUT which no one can afford.

Also old used safes are usually plate steel without fire protection and made for burglar attack by dated tools and techniques.

Invest a little more for the MAXIMUM SECURITY you need. You will rest easy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back To Top