How To Buy A Quality Fire / Burglary Safe – What To Look For, Things To Consider

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Safes come to you in one of three basic themes: fire, burglary and hybrid safes. I’m not going to get into one manufacturer versus another but I will instead focus on what questions you need to consider in order to get what you want. If you own guns and wish to not only protect them from fire and theft but also wish to keep them secure from small children, a good gun safe, wall safe, handgun safe, fireproof gun safe, etc. should be on your list of safes to consider.

Fire Proof Safes

If you want to protect your paper, CDs, cash, firearms, handguns and identification from destruction, should there be a fire, then you are looking for a fire safe. A fire safe is designed to control the environment within the safe and protect it from outside temperatures that would damage your heat sensitive valuables.

This is accomplished with insulation in the walls and smoke seals around the door that expand in a fire. You will find your typical fire safe to have walls and a door at least 1″ thick all around and even thicker depending on the fire rating of the safe. The rating is in half hour increments which measures the containers resistance to escalating temperatures over that given time period. One or two hour fire safes are common and should meet your needs.

Home Burglary Safes

If you are buying a safe to protect your valuables from theft and are not concerned with the threat of fire then you are looking for a burglary safe. A burglary safe is designed to remain intact and prevent unauthorized opening for as long as possible.

Thick steel walls and doors will resist crowbar, torch, and drill attacks for as long as the safe is rated. A burglary safes rating is determined by how long it can stay secured against an expert with the best available equipment. 15 minute (TL-15) or 30 minute (TL-30) safes are the most common and will present a formidable obstacle to a would-be thief if properly bolted down and secured in place.

Home Safes Features

A major component of the safe is the lock that secures the door from opening. Large telephone style electronic key pads and regular dials are a couple of the popular styles. The electronic digital locks offer quick and very user friendly models that can be a real advantage to users with poor eyesight or hand and wrist issues. Dial locks are more reliable and offer many more combination possibilities.

When safe shopping pay attention to the inside dimensions of the safe because it will be significantly smaller than the overall size of the safe due to the thickness of the walls. Take the time to measure where you are planning to put this safe, stair cases involved or tight hallways. Take into consideration how you will get it from your driveway to its final destination.

Moisture will destroy a safe quickly or render it useless. Fire safes are particularly susceptible to moisture because it causes the insulation within the safe to swell. Basements that flood or are dank most of the time are not the place to locate it.

Knowing a little bit about safes before you go out to buy one will show the seller that you actually put some thought into this and will increase your chances of getting exactly what you want.

Keith
Certified Locksmith
New York

Further Reading and Additional Resources

A book that I can’t recommend highly enough, written by a friend of mine, Daniel Berg, is The Ultimate Guide to Home Security (click here to check it out): it covers, in far greater detail than I can here, locks, alarms, cameras and surveillance, security systems, do’s and don’t’s, security checklists, lighting, and even DIY secret hiding places that you can construct on your own at home for your valuables.

Also, I’d recommend that you have a look through Amazon’s selection of residential safes–look at the features, read the reviews, compare prices, etc. Get a good idea of what’s available and how much it costs.

Amsec’s ‘Choose A Safe’ Tool – How To Buy A Safe – Very cool page where you just answer some questions about what you need and it makes recommendations for you.

California Regulations Concerning Gun Safes via Winchester’s Gun Safe Website

List Of California Approved ‘Locking Devices’ (gun safes) via Winchester’s Site

Winchester Gun Safes Homepage

Gardall Safes Homepage

Gardall’s ‘Safe Buying Tips’ – Safes, How To Buy

‘Ask A Locksmith’ Public Forum At Locksmiths101.com

1 COMMENT

  1. 😕 Overall, I agree with Keith, Certified Locksmith and Safe Technician. He wrote a great article. There are a few things to note that are important:

    FIREPROOF OR FIRE RESISTANT?

    One thing to note: Safe Manufacturers avoid the word “Fireproof”. Most of them use: “Fire Resistant”. Depending on the type of material in your home, some fire safes will NOT give you enough protection. A general rule of thumb is to go with a safe that has at least a one hour fire rating. This applies to fire safes, gun safes, burglar and fire safes and any safe that you want fire resistant protection.

    WHAT WILL A FIRE RESISTANT SAFE PROTECT?

    We do NOT recommend that you put CD’s or DVD’s into a fire resistant burglar fire safe. They will not survive. You can put money, paper products, jewelry, guns, coins, bullion and other hard metal items in a fire resistant safe.

    WHAT SHOULD I PUT INTO A DATA/MEDIA SAFE?

    Here are the items you should put in Data/Media Safes:
    Collector cards, stamp collections, photos, photo negatives, CD’s, DVD’s, Tape Backups, Computer Media. These should be put into a Data/Media Safe ONLY. A low budget alternative is to put a “Media Cooler” into a 1 hour or greater fire resistant safe. This costs less and will protect the data/media items I have listed above. Here is the main reason why you should use a Data/Media safe: They are rated to keep the inside temperature below 150 degrees farenheit. Standard Fire Resistant safes are rated to mainatain an inside temperature of $350 degrees or less. Photos, negatives, stamp collections, etc. will melt or be damaged if you allow the temperature to exceed 150 degrees.

    We have been in the safe and vault business for 59 years. We have some great articles published on our web site which will give guidance to any prospective buyer of a safe . Check it out at:

    https://www.safeandvaultstore.com/content.php?c=help

    Once you have read the articles, you can try our “Safe Selection Wizard” to help you find the right safe for your needs. Try it out at:

    https://www.safeandvaultstore.com/

    Buying a safe is an important decision and we hope we can help you make the right decision based on what you will be putting in the safe. It does not help you at all to put an expensive Stamp Collection in a fire resistant safe when it should be put into a Data/Media safe.

    Hope this article helps everyone make the “safe” decision!

    Dye Hawley, Safe and Security Consultant
    SafeandVaultStore.com

    Spokane, WA.

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