Choosing the right safe for your home – Burglary resistant and fire rated safes as part of home security. Without ever having set foot in your home a criminal probably already knows three important things about you. The first is that you keep some sort of cash and jewelry laying around the house. The second is that these valuables can probably be found in your master bedroom. And finally, there is a strong chance that you have not taken the time to secure these items in a burglary resistant safe.
Contrary to what alarm monitoring service providers would have you believe, a home security system by itself cannot guarantee that all of your valuables will be protected from theft. It would be great if safeguarding your valuables were as simple as signing up with ADT security and installing one of their yard signs on your front yard.
The reality is that there will always be a percentage of burglars who will not be deterred by an alarm system. In my community, the police response times for residential alarms hover around fifteen minutes. This may be a good response time, but the bad news is that a burglar can be in and out of a home in under five minutes.
By the time the police get around to responding to my alarm call, the burglar will probably be half way home, and deciding how best to spend his new-found wealth. The only way to effectively protect small expensive items such as jewelry, watches, coins, collectible’s or any extra cash you may keep on hand, is to store them in a UL rated burglary resistant safe.
If you are currently shopping for a safe, you will soon find that the market is literally flooded with choices. Everything from inexpensive security chests costing twenty dollars, to high-security floor safes that will set you back almost two hundred thousand.
The amount that you will ultimately pay for your safe will be determined by three primary factors. The UL burglary resistance rating, the storage capacity of the safe and its fire rating.
How is the burglary resistance rating determined?
The burglar resistance rating of a safe is determined by how long it takes a criminal possessing the proper tools to open the door, or to create an opening in the body large enough to remove the valuables inside.
Some models can be opened in under five minutes by your teenager using only a screw driver, while others carry security ratings that allow them to store millions in cash and jewelry, and are, in essence, miniature bank vaults.
There are a couple of accepted methods used for rating the burglary resistance of a safe. It is the opinion of many in the security industry that the two-part rating system utilized by Underwriters Laboratories is by far the most effective method currently in use for rating a safe.
The first part of the UL burglary resistance rating deals with the tools, methods and strategies that a criminals use to open a safe. They can be broken down into two main groupings; tools and torch attacks. Tools refer to drills, cutting instruments, hammers, prying bars…etc. Torch refers to any of the variety of cutting torches that may be used to breach the walls, or door of a safe.
The second half of the rating is based on time. It answers the question of how long it would take a criminal to compromise a safe using either of the first two methods of attack or a combination of both.
Some examples of common UL safe ratings
TL-15: It Certifies that the safe offers at least fifteen minutes of protection from a tool attack. Including drills, sledge hammers, and prying bars.
TR-30: This rating guarantees that the safe being tested will defeat a cutting torch attack, and keep the contents safe for at least thirty minutes.
TRTL-60: A safe that carries this rating will defeat both a tool and a torch attack for at least one hour. The only safes that go higher than this rating are those that are hardened against attacks using high explosives.
If you are like me, your first instinct will be to go for the safe carrying the TRTL-60 rating. That is until you realize that the prices quoted for these safes will often be more than the value of the items that will be placed in them. This level of protection is only really needed for business that deal with large amounts of cash, or jewelry.
How much protection do you really need
If you already have a monitored alarm system installed, a safe that is certified by Underwriters Laboratories for fifteen minutes against tools and cutting torches, or a TRTL-15 may be the best choice for you.
Fifteen minutes of protection may not seem like much, but you need to keep in mind that a safe with a fifteen-minute burglary rating was tested under perfect conditions. It was attacked by a team of professional safe technicians, with access to the right tools, blueprints of the model being tested, and the benefit of working in a well-lit room with no fear of being arrested.
In the real world, a burglar may or may not know the model of your safe, its location, posses the correct tools, and will be working against your home security system as well as the response time of the police.
A safe that may be rated for only fifteen minutes in a testing lab will offer a minimum of forty-five in a real-world situation. It is this forty five plus minutes that needs to be compared against the response time of your local police department when judging the real protection offered by a safe.
What about fire rated safes
Most items of value in your home will fall into one of two categories, those that can be insured and replaced, and those that can be insured, but are irreplaceable. A fire rated safe is perfect for protecting things like collectible’s, historical documents and family heirlooms. Items that once they are gone, they will be lost forever.
350 degrees, it is at this temperature and above that, paper begins to char and will eventually burn. The fire rating of a safe is determined by how long it is capable of maintaining an interior temperature of 350 degrees or less while being engulfed if a fire ranging from 1200 up to 2000 degrees.
Most household fires will be brought under control within thirty minutes of the fire department showing up on the scene, and they often average around 1200 degrees. For most homeowners, a UL rated 350 fire safe that offers 30 minutes to hours worth of protection is more than adequate.
The higher rated fire resistant safes are only appropriate in situations where the fire will burn hotter and take longer to bring under control, such as in a warehouse, or a large commercial establishment.
Placement and installation
Properly locating and installing a safe is just as important as choosing one with the proper level of burglar and fire resistance. If a safe is small enough and not bolted down, it can easily be removed from the home and transported to a secondary location were it can be forced open.
One of the reasons that I recommend that you consider a UL rated TL-15 safe is that they are required to weigh at least 750 pounds, or posses a design that allows them to be bolted down to a cement sub floor. These two requirements will ensure that your safe cannot simply be carried out your front door and loaded into an awaiting car.
If your safe is not designed to be bolted down, you will have to take extra steps to ensure that it is concealed properly. This may require you to place it in a location that will be extremely hard for someone not familiar with your home to find.
When choosing a secure location for your new safe you also need to ensure that it is not so inconvenient that it would prevent you from using it regularly. A burglar resistant, fire rated safe is just one more layer of protection that you can add to your existing home security system. The initial cost is the reason most often given for not purchasing one, but what price can you place on peace of mind.