How to Buy a Safe for Your Business

The decision to buy a safe is a wise one. We all manage to collect all kind of valuables as our businesses grow. Whether it's software, computer backups, paper records, expensive computer chips, cash, or jewelry it must be protected.Deciding the type of protection you need is the most important aspect in choosing a safe.


Documents that need protection from fire do not usually need the level of protection that jewelry does from theft. Safes can roughly be divided into three categories:

Fire resistant, Theft resistant, and Data media.

Fire resistant safes are rated by the number of hours of protection. United Laboratories tests safes in a fire of 1700 degrees Fahrenheit. The tests range from hr. to 4 hrs. To pass the test the safe must keep the internal temperature below 350 degrees Fahrenheit. As paper burns at approximately 451 degrees this gives about a 100 degree cushion. Thus you will find that fire resistant safes are rated at hr, 1hr., 2hr., 3hr., and 4hr. Choosing which one is best for your firm will depend on the type of business you have and the response of your fire department. If your firm handles mostly paper work and is near a large city with a full time fire dept. you may choose to purchase a 1 hr. rated safe. If you manufacture flammable liquids out in the country you may want to get a safe rated at 4 hours. Most fire resistant safes are made of an outer sheet metal shell, fire insulation and a sheet metal inner shell. The insulation is usually poured wet then sealed up. In a fire this moisture boils off - helping to keep the interior cool. However in a fire the humidity inside the container gets to 100%. So, bag all your documents in zip lock bags to keep them dry. It is for this reason that fire safes are not suitable for the storage of data media, whether it is on disk, tape or CD. For extra protection against theft most fire safes can be bolted to the floor using the manufacturers bolt down kit usually available as an option. DO NOT put any holes in your fire safe. You will reduce your protection and void your warranty.

Data media safes are also tested in a 1700-degree fire. But the interior in these safes must maintain an internal temperature of less than 125 degrees. The humidity must not exceed 80%. Data media safes also have a specially constructed seal to seal the door to the body of the safe. In the event of a fire this seal expands to provide a temperature and humidity controlled hermetically sealed environment to protect your data. If you already have a U.L. listed fire safe or fire file there are small data media containers that can be placed in them. They take advantage of the fact that your fire safe will keep the temperature under 350 degrees. The data media inserts then only have to lower the temperature 225 degrees to be effective.


Next we have what are referred to as burglary rated safes. These safes are rated by how much physical attack they can take as well as how they are constructed. The UL also publishes standards for these as well as tests them. Their lowest rating is a "B" rate safe. It's constructed of steel, with at least " plate steel body and a "door. They range all the way up to a TXTL-60 which is rated for attack by torches, tools and explosives. I have included a chart listing the ratings on page three. As materials technology has improved, some manufacturers have come out with what are referred to as composite safes. A thick steel shell is filled with 9000 PSI concrete around a steel inner shell. Many of these are rated at 1 hr for fire and TL-15 for burglary. These safes are very heavy. A 25" x 27" x 25"composite safe weighs around 1000 lbs. A fire safe of the same size weighs around 300 lbs. Sub-categories of the above include wall safes, floor safes and depository safes. These take advantage of the construction of your building to help protect your valuable. Part of their usefulness is their concealability. Floor safes can be covered by carpet or a rug, while wall safes can be hidden in closets or behind pictures. (Just like in the movies) However, you have to realize that not only do you have to get on the floor to dial open a floor safe, you then have to reach down into it to retrieve your valuables. Most wall safes are only rated for a "B" burglary rating making them suitable for small amounts of cash or a weapon. Depository safes allow employees to deposit receipts into the safe without knowing the combination to it. There are certain safes that fall into the specialty safe category. These include cash handlers and pharmaceutical safes. Cash handlers are used mostly at convenience stores and gas stations. Their purpose is to keep the amount of money in the cash register at a certain amount by allowing the attendant to deposit money and retrieve change without having to open the safe. Pharmaceutical safes are intended to comply with state and federal standards for the storage of narcotics. These are typically fitted with a high security key lock so that an unauthorized user can not determine the combination. The keys are specially designed not to be readily duplicable.

A word about used safes. Safes for record protection have been built for over 100 years. During that time different materials were used to provide fire protection. They ranged from plaster to concrete to asbestos. While a used record safe may be a bargain at an auction, getting it home and finding out it has asbestos in is a nightmare. On the other hand most money chests are usually good deals. But before you put it in service it's wise to have it inspected and repaired by a qualified safe technician. By updating the combination lock and servicing the boltworks it can last quite a long time. If it locks up through a malfunction the opening and repair could be pricey. The current rate to open (not including repairs) a TL-15/TL-30 is around $450-$800. It's also for this reason that buying a safe that's locked up is usually no bargain. The movie portrayals of opening a safe by listening for clicks for a couple of minutes are fantasy.

Okay, you've picked which kind of safe you need - now, how big a safe do you need. This is much simpler. Safe volume is usually measured in cubic inches or cubic feet. Find yourself a box about 12"on each side ( 1 cubic foot, 1728 cubic inches) Using this as a guide determine how much volume you need. Then add 50% to the total to allow for future expansion and things you may have forgotten. This is the size of interior you need.

See? This gets easier as we go along. The last thing you have to choose is the locking system for your safe. Your basic options are, standard mechanical combination lock, key lock, high security key lock (keys can't be duplicated without authorization) electronic safe lock (combinations readily changed by user, dual custody) or a combination of any 2. That's it. You're done. Now call us to pick out what you want and arrange delivery.

Central Safe and Lock

706-538-0345

e-mail: sales@centralsafeandlock.us

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