Do You REALLY Need A Safe?

You may not think you need a safe! But you actually use one or more practically every day. Chances are you need one in your home or certainly in your business. Here we discuss types of safes, their ratings and more.

There is a lot of mystery surrounding safes, their contents and the people who break into them. It has been that way forever. Our first and biggest enchantment with safes was a 1986 TV special by Geraldo Rivera that was so much ballyhooed that the old expression “anticipation exceeds reality” comes to mind. This YouTube video was a promotion by Rivera on Al Capone’s Vault.

The fascination with safes extends to big screen movies where some of the most exciting and popular movies of all time revolve around safes and how to rob them. Such movies as Heat, Dog Day Afternoon, Bandits and Inside Man are some of the most popular.

Some of our favorite heist movies are Oceans 11, The Italian Job and Heist with Gene Hackman. What exciting fun to watch!


Heist-the Movie

There is lots of suspense and intrigue involved in stealing something that belongs to someone else which is why so many novels and movies that entertain us revolve around safes and the characters that break into them.

What Are Safes?

One of the more encompassing definitions of a safe is from the online encyclopedia Wikipedia that defines “a safe as a secure, lockable box used for securing valuable objects against theft or damage from fire.” It goes on to say that one face of the safe should be removable or hinged to form a door and that the body and door may be cast from a metal such as steel. Safes may vary in size and dimensions all the way from huge vaults that may be more than room size as a bank vault down to simple boxes to hold petty cash.

Charles and Jeremiah Chubb received a patent for a burglar resisting safe in 1835. The brothers and English inventors produced locks from 1818. The Chubb name was synonymous with security for over 150 years. In 1886 Henry Brown patented a fire retardant and accident resistant receptacle for storing and preserving papers.

For older generations, images of stagecoaches traveling cross country with an armed guard guarding the strongbox were the basis for many an old TV series.

Types of Safes

Generally speaking, there are 10 different types of safes that we carry with varying specifications.

  • Home safes that can be both fire-resistant and burglar resistant and have a combination or time lock.
  • Gun safes which are by far the biggest in size of all noncommercial safes. Some of them may hold up to as many as 45 rifles or small enough that they may only hold one handgun.
  • Biometric safes that only open with a fingerprint scan.
  • Hotel safes are big enough to hold small amounts of cash and valuables and usually only seen in hotel rooms.
  • Wall safes are recessed into a wall so that a painting or other wall covering would conceal it. It is usually not that big and may contain two or three shelves.
  • In-floor safes are usually meant for commercial businesses although they may be used at home. These fit into a recessed hole in your floor with a combination lock and handle on top.
  • Digital electronic safes operate using a digital keypad to open the door.
  • Diversion safes are common everyday items that you see around a home that contain hollowed out interiors to hide valuables rather than secure them.
  • Can safes are a type of diversion safe using food, cleaning or other product cans. Again the interior is hollowed out to hide rather than secure small valuables.
  • Drop depository safes are almost exclusively used for businesses, usually containing a slot where a money bag can be deposited.

Safes are differentiated further by the type of specifications for them. Some of those specifications could be:

  • burglar resistant,
  • fire resistant,
  • resistance to environmental factors such as water or dust, or
  • the type of lock, for example, a combination lock, key, electronic or time lock.

Some of the most stringent legal requirements placed on manufacturers of safes are for gun safes. And the standard for pretty much the whole United States is established by the Atty. Gen. of the State of California which follows the Department of Justice regulatory standards for gun safes.

Some of their requirements are:

  1. That the locking system is an electronic or mechanical lock with at least 10,000 possible combinations.
  2. The lock shall be protected by a case-hardened (Rc 60+) drill-resistant steel plate, or drill-resistant material of equivalent strength.
  3. It must have a minimum of three steel locking bolts operated by a separate handle and secured by a lock.
  4. The exterior walls should be of the least 12gauge thick steel and doors should have two layers of 12 gauge steel.
  5. Hinges for doors should be protected to prevent the removal of the door.

For most people, homeowners and businesses alike, the two most important factors for a safe are fire and burglary resistance.

Fire resistance includes insulated drawers and lids that can withstand a fire event for a half-hour, one hour, two hours or four-hour durations. Obviously the longer the event, the more protection is needed and the higher the cost. The temperature for paper combustion is 450 degrees.

Burglary resistance is rated on the duration of the attack by a burglar in 15-minute intervals and the type of tools to be used in their assault. Those tools include mechanical and electrical devices including power saws, cutting wheels and cutting torches. Some safes are tested to meet the challenge of an explosive charge with nitroglycerin.

Here we want to acknowledge that the internationally recognized underwriters laboratories write the standards for fire resistance and the actual testing of safes. These standards are among the most rigorous and respected standards in the world which include testing for heat and vulnerability to attack by a safecracker. They also test safes for their durability when dropped from 15 feet which is roughly equivalent to one story. They rate their fire safes by hour ratings starting with a half-hour going up to four hours.

Who Needs A Safe?


Bank Safe

Everybody in America that has a checking or savings account uses a safe called a bank. They provide the best security for money and personal possessions with a safe deposit box. Nearly everyone who owns a car has a glove compartment that can be locked which can also be considered a safe. Your car could be considered a safe too because it can be locked.

Given the frequency of home burglary, with one out of six homes being targeted every year, a safe should be in your home to protect your valuables especially if you own any considerable amount of jewelry, collectibles such as stamp collections and especially if you own handguns or rifles. We use a general rule of thumb that if you own $500 or more of any of these items you should keep them in a safe.

What Type Of Safe Is Best For You?

For most people, a diversion safe or can safe provides the best protection for smaller items up to and including a single handgun, jewelry and other smaller items against burglary. Again, please note that this is a way to hide these items not secure them. Obviously, if you have guns or rifles you should have a gun safe. Guns and rifles are a high-value target for burglars. If you have $500 or more of jewelry or collectibles you want to keep them in a home safe that provides a certain level of both fire and burglary resistance.

 Have you ever used a safe of any kind in your home or business? Please share your experience. We want to hear your thoughts.