By Mark Smith
Many people think of a safe as something with a huge round door from movies, with heaps of money or jewelry hidden behind. In real life, everything is a little different. Now safes are used almost everywhere – from apartments and offices to banks and government institutions. They are used to safely store money, jewelry, antiques, documents, and other valuables.
A safe is a reinforced construction made of metal, which is locked and intended to protect the contents from theft and/or fire.
A safe consists of the following parts:
• Latch mechanism (moving-out metal rods)
• Internal filling (shelves, additional compartments, drawers)
Modern manufacturers use strong alloys and smart technologies to protect the valuables from attacks of malicious people or natural disasters. Choosing among a huge variety of safes one with optimal functionality can take quite a long time, so let’s determine the most important criteria.
Safe choice criteria
As with any other means of security, before buying a safe you must decide on a few important things. Safes can be grouped according to their purpose (place of use), type of protection and lock.
So, before choosing a safe you must answer the following questions:
• Where will it be?
• What kind of danger will it protect the valuables from?
• What will be stored there?
• What is the volume of valuables?
Answers to these questions will help you choose the correct type, size, and model of a safe.
Grouping by purpose
There are five types of safes, depending on a safe location and its functionality:
Each type was developed for a certain purpose and may not satisfy the needs of its owners in a different situation.
Built-in safes are designed for apartments or private houses. They are “hidden” in furniture, niches in walls or floors. They are usually small, have 1-2 shelves, sometimes – a traser (an internal compartment, locked with a different key). For more safety, such safes have fastening holes or reinforcing bars.
When installing built-in safes, it is recommended to use anchor bolts that withstand a high tensile load – from 500 kg to 3 tons. Built-in safes are small and best for storage of small amounts of money, personal items, documents, and traumatic weapons, but can not boast of a high class of burglar resistance.
Hotel safes are similar in their installation and dimensions. These metal products have long become essential in the tourism market and an additional way to earn money. Hotel safes are used in hotels rooms and at the reception, they can be built in furniture and walls. A distinctive feature of these models is an electronic lock combination and a spare key lock.
For offices, private entrepreneurs, shops and similar companies the best choice is office safes. They come in different sizes, can be attached to walls or floors. There are built-in models for storage of printing, financial reporting, and cash. Office medium-sized safes can be used for storing important documents and thick folders-registrars. An office safe with drawers or several door-compartments will allow to conveniently store documents, archival records, and valuables. Most office safes are equipped with lockable internal compartments for forms of strict accountability or cash.
The highest degree of burglar resistance is typical for bank safes. Such models are used in banks or for personal needs to store large sums of money, jewelry, collections. Bank safes are large in size and weight, can be fastened with anchors to the floor or wall.
For a safe collection of cash or ensuring the safety of revenue prior to collection, deposit safes are used. Simple to use and reliable, they are indispensable in stores, currency exchange offices, beauty salons, and offices.
Drivers can also protect valuables left in the car by simply hiding them in a car safe. Such safes are small, but can easily fit keys to the apartment, documents or DVR. They can be easily installed in the car or trunk and usually have a key lock.
There are also exclusive safes that stand separately. They are large, have an attractive design and a high level of burglar resistance. Such safes emphasize the status of their owner and are used for storing large sums of money, unique collections, jewelry, antiques, and other exclusive items.
Owners of weapons, weapons shops and those who like hunting may consider buying a gun safe. It is designed to store weapons inside – with lodgments for pistols, racks, lockable compartments for ammunition and documents.
Grouping by the resistance type
Modern safes can save valuables from burglary, fire or both. Grouping safes in this regard is quite simple.
Burglar resistant safes
The main purpose of such safes is the protection of securities, money and other valuables from burglary. They can be used in any type of premises. Burglar-resistance is provided due to their design features:
• Body and doors made of high-grade sheet steel. Layers with reinforced or fortified concrete.
• Usage of alloys and composite materials.
• Multilateral crossbar mechanism. Models differ in the number of crossbars, thickness, there are flat crossbars for the entire height of the door and passive crossbars.
• Relocking system. Locking bolts at a strong impact to the safe body.
• High-security locks with protection systems against various impacts (drilling, knocking out, selecting combination).
Because of this design, burglar-proof safes are very heavy – some models weight more than 150 kg. Therefore, they must meet the safety regulations for their installation. Most safes can be also anchored to the wall and floor.
The protective properties of such safes are determined by the class of burglar resistance (there are totally 13 of them) – the higher the class, the more time and professional tools are required for burglary. For example, H0, S1 and S2 class safes have an initial degree of burglar resistance and are not subject to certification.
A reliable protection of money, documents, and other items from the impact of critically high temperatures is provided by fireproof safes. They can be used for storage of archival records, important contracts, and forms. Fire resistance is achieved due to the following features:
• A layer of thermal insulation between thin steel walls (usually foam concrete);
• The air layer formed due to the multistage profile of the safe body and door near the ledge;
• A layer of fireproof sealant around the door perimeter increasing in volume at high temperatures.
• Protective properties of fireproof safes are specified in their description or technical documentation. The number means how long the content remains unscathed. A letter is an abbreviation of the type of content to be protected from fire. For example, fireproof safes of class 90B will ensure the safety of paper carriers within 90 minutes in case of fire.
Fire-resistant safes are easy to install, some models can be attached to the floor or walls. But keep in mind that they do not have a high degree of burglar resistance. For the protection of valuables from burglars and fire resistance, you can install a security alarm or consider multi-purpose safes.
If valuables must be protected from both intruders and fire, then fire-burglar-proof safes will help you out. They effectively combine protection from both types of impact, which is confirmed by special certificates or classes of fire and burglar resistance.
Grouping by type of lock
The lock determines both safe resistance to burglary and the ease of using it.
A key lock is practical and has a long service life. Such safes are reliable and have a low price, as a result, there is a wide range of their models and widespread usage. A user opens and closes the door with simple movements in several key rotations. Special certified mechanisms provide the necessary burglar resistance. Safes with a key lock are the best choice for both an apartment or office, as well as for banks. But if you do not want to always carry a key to access a safe or are afraid of losing it, it is better to purchase more advanced models.
Mechanical combination lock
A more advanced level of security is provided by a mechanical combination lock. Such safes are not as easy to use as models with a key lock, because you must dial a 4-digit combination using a limb ring with the figures printed. In doing so, you must accurately select a number on the match mark, otherwise, you will have to start all over again. A code of most such safes can be changed on your own. Safes with a mechanical combination lock can be used by those who prefer antiquity, have a good memory and a firm hand.
Electronic combination lock
The main advantages of this type of lock are its functionality, quick access to the safe inside and convenience. You simply enter the necessary combination, turn a special handle and a safe is opened. The code combination can be easily changed if necessary, and the risk of accidentally losing a key no longer hangs over the owner. Burglar resistance is provided by manufacturers in various ways: delayed opening, protection from combination selection (locking a keyboard for 5 minutes or more in case of a wrong attempt), connection to the protection desk.
Safes with an electronic combination lock are usually powered by simple AA batteries. They last for 6-12 months and can be easily replaced even with the door closed if necessary. Safes with a combination lock are more expensive than models with a mechanical-combination and key lock.
This type of lock is similar to the electronic combination model, but instead of a combination of numbers, it is opened by its owner’s fingerprint. This biometric parameter is unique, difficult to forge, but the cost of such safes is very high.
One of the latest trends in the design of safes is an increase in the burglar resistance by combining different types of locks. For example, a key and an electronic combination, a mechanical combination and a key, an electronic combination, and biometrics.
A safe is a useful and convenient way to store valuables. Just remember that there is no trouble-free protection. So do not tell others that you have a safe, do not skimp on a high-quality installation and equip the room with a security alarm.