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The Basics About Safes

Protecting valuables is the first thing most people think of when they think of a safe; protecting things like jewelry and cash from theft. However, a safe serves other important purposes. For instance, keeping guns, weapons and medications out of children's hands or protecting important documents and photographs in the event of fire, flood or other disaster.

Not any safe will do, depending upon your needs. There are several considerations when choosing a safe. Safes are rated in several ways, how long they can withstand drilling or a blowtorch, how long they can protect the contents in the event of a fire, how well they can protect the contents from water, how well they can protect digital media and whether the safe can withstand a drop without breaking open. Other considerations include the capacity, whether it will be installed or freestanding and whether it can be carried away in a burglary. Safes are also drop tested. This isn't just for whether a burglar can get the safe open by dropping it, safes can fall through the floor of a building in the event of a fire or other significant structural damage.


Consider what will be protected in the safe. Important documents might include passports, wills, insurance documents, birth certificates, social security cards, tax returns and other important records. Sentimental items like letters, photos and mementos. Cash, precious metals, coin or stamp collections, and jewelry can take a lot a space; be sure to allow for everything. DVD's, family movies, photo albums, computer disks, data storage devices, all sorts of electronics and electronic media can be stored in a safe and may require a large space. Guns, weapons, medications are often stored in a safe for safety purposes, special safes are available for storage of large weapons such as rifles and shotguns.

When selecting a safe choose one that has been rated by a reliable organization like Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Safes are typically rated by the length of time they can withstand certain conditions while protecting the contents of the safe. For example, UL uses a rating TL30 to indicate that a safe has been tested and rated to withstand 30 minutes of drilling. A rating of Class 350 1-hour indicates the UL heated the test safe for one hour to reach an exterior temperature of 1550 degrees. During this time the safe must maintain an interior temperature of less than 350 degrees.

An alternative type of safe is the diversion safe. Diversion safes are disguised as common household objects, such as an electrical outlet or a can of bug spray. These special devices allow you to place a valued object in them, making them difficult to discover. This type of safe is not secure against entry, nor will it resist high temperatures. This type of safe is fairly inexpensive, has the advantage of being very difficult to discover but has the disadvantage that it offers only a small amount of storage space.

Choose a safe based upon what is being protected and how long it must resist damage or forcible entry. Use the ratings from reliable rating organizations as a guide. Keep in mind that time ratings are for the extremes described in the test. For instance, a safe may be tested to resist temperatures of 1700 degrees for 1 hour, but the safe will provide protection beyond that time at lower temperatures. Make sure you select one that is large enough to hold all your documents and valuables.

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