One of the benefits this bad economy is providing locksmiths is the opportunity to sell more safes. People are afraid and are buying safes in record numbers. Many people are buying safes either from a mass merchandiser who sells a few models from one or maybe two suppliers, or from companies that have little expertise selling safes. The customers think these safes will protect their valuables. The term protection and valuables often have different meanings for the person purchasing a safe and the person selling the safe.
To avoid confusion and sell the right safe, always talk to the customer to find out what they consider valuables and protection. According to my resources, the sad reality is that customers are being sold the wrong safe and/or a safe that won’t meet their expectations.
BURGLARY, FIRE, BURGLARY/FIRE?
Safes come in several varieties, based on function: burglary (money) safes, fire safes and burglary/fire safes. Money safes are designed to protect against burglary, not against fire. A standard burglary safe will not protect paper money against a fire. Burned or stolen, either way it’s gone!
Fire safes are designed to protect their content from fire. There are a number of classifications for fire safes. These include protection for paper and computer media. For paper, there are different times of protection, 20 minutes and one hour as examples.
Standard fire safes do not provide protection against burglary even though the illustration on the cover of the container may show money, jewelry and papers.
A money/fire safe can provide a degree of protection against fire and burglary. Many different safe configurations can provide both.
To help locksmiths and customers, most safes have labels indicating construction information and the degree of protection offered. Burglary safe standards are used by insurance companies. Having safe standards provide the insurance companies a basis for what can be insured and for how much.
'C' and 'B' RATE SAFES
The basic burglary safe standard used by insurance companies is the “C” rate safe. This “C” rate safe must have at least a 1-inch thick steel door. The five sides of the body of the “C” rate safe must have at least one half-inch thick walls. The safe must have an Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) rated combination lock and relock. Slots or hoppers are not allowed. This is the minimum for a “C” rate safe. There is no physical test for a “C” rate safe standard.
A safe whose door or body is less than the minimum “C” rate requirement, while having a UL rated combination lock and relock, is a “B” rate safe. Most basic fire safes are automatically considered “B” rate safes. This is the lowest rating given. “B” rate safes are the most popular safes, the most available and the least expensive safe.
Burglary safes that have more protection than the “C” rated safes include the standard “E” rate safes and the UL Burglary Classification TL-15 and TL-30. As the level of burglary protection increases, the container weight and the cost increase. The insurance company rated “B”, “C”, “E”, etc. safes are not physically tested; they meet physical specifications only.
A safe rating label indicates the minimum standards to which a safe has been rated. Not all brands of the safes in a specific category offer the same protection.
Safe ratings have changed over the years. An important change to be aware of is the equivalent option. For example, a “C” rated safe must have a one-inch thick steel door or material providing equivalent resistance. Fire, gun and burglary safes can gain the equivalency (composite) option by having the exterior and interior thin gauge metal with fireboard (or special cement between) and hard plate. Know the make-up of the walls and the door of every safe you sell.