Most of the safes currently in houses and businesses in the U.S. are simple insulated (fire) safes which may offer protection against fire, but are almost useless against a burglar, even if they have a combination lock. A husky teenager with a stout screwdriver can open them.
Most fire safes weigh at the most a few hundred pounds. Burglars can carry them away easily (eventually with the help of a “dolly”) to a secluded place where they can take their time and make any noise necessary to open them. Some of these safes are simple tin boxes which can be bought at the hardware store or office supply store…did you say a “safe”??? The danger of these not-so-burglar-resistant “safes” is that they tell a burglar where the valuables may be. They make his search shorter and his task easier while offering a very limited (if any) burglary protection.
Some old safes may be heavy and look imposing, but most of them do not offer any more burglar protection than the simple insulated safes, and moreover, their fire proofing has, in many cases, deteriorated to such an extent that they no longer even offer fire protection.
Simple steel plate safes (steel boxes) may be tool resistant and have U.L. labels to that effect, but anybody with a torch can make a hole several inches wide in any of them. It takes only a few minutes. Moreover, in case of a fire or an attack with a torch, these safes act like an oven, burning their contents very quickly.
U.L. labels may be used as a guideline as you determine your safe needs. They mean that a safe, or most often the door of a safe, has been tested by laboratory engineers using a very limited number of tools and/or methods of attacks, and has successfully resisted these attacks, under special laboratory conditions, for a given number of minutes.
There are a variety of combination locks available . Group II locks are the most common type on home safes today. They provide a 1, 2, or 3 number combination. Group I locks provide a greater degree of protection as they greatly decrease the possibility of even a skilled professional from “cracking” the safe by manipulation of the combination.
Electronic “pushbutton” locks are becoming more common. They offer many features not found on mechanical combination locks including ease of daily use, easy combination changes, and no reduction in levels of security. The convenience that an electronic lock provides makes it very attractive if the safe is to be used often. Electronic combination locks generally add to the cost of the safe.
You may be able to increase your security by having both a combination and a high security keyed lock on the safe. Again, you must weigh the cost and the convenience against your actual needs. Standard keyed locks will offer no additional protection to a safe. However the loss or the theft of a key is noticeable and action can be taken to remedy this loss or theft.
There are no miracles. Even small (l cubic foot internal capacity) safes cannot offer decent fire and burglar protection unless they cost about $1000 delivered and installed.
Safes must be properly encased. Their doors and locking systems must be properly designed and built. Free standing safes must weigh at least 400 to 500 lbs. (for an internal capacity of 1 cu. ft.), be properly anchored, and offer real fire and burglar (against tool and torch) protection. Some levels of burglary protection are not valid unless certain requirements pertaining to weight are adhered to. Tool resistant safes must weigh at least 750 pounds or be bolted to the floor to maintain their burglary resistant rating.
So do YOU need a decent fire and burglar resisting-safe? If so, your source of information and advice should be professionals representing one of the well established, reputable firms providing high security safes.
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