Safes & Vaults
Busse’s Lock Service offers professional sales and service on a wide variety of safes and vaults. We can:
- Change combinations
- Replace locks
- Open safes and vaults that are locked due to breakdown or lost combination
- Repair safes
- Move and install safes
Busse’s Lock Service keeps a variety of popular safes for home and business applications in our showroom. Featured brands are:
SAFE SELECTION 101
There is more to selecting a safe than just the size. Also, there is no such thing as a fire-proof safe or a burglar-proof safe. The degree of fire and burglary protection varies widely from safe to safe. Safes are labeled with their level of protection against burglary and fire. If the safe isn't rated for the protection you need, then you are not protected! On the whole, you get what you pay for. A qualified locksmith can expertly match you with a safe that meets your needs.
Here’s what you need to know to be an informed consumer. Safes fall into three basic types: fire, burglary and composite (burglary + fire). Here are the basic facts about each:
Fire safes are designed to protect documents or collectibles in case of fire. A safe that is made for this purpose typically offers little or no protection from burglary.
Certainly, a locked box of any sort helps deter casual pilferage, but most fire safes are not designed to withstand physical attack. Often, the walls and door consist almost entirely of insulating material with no metal reinforcement; an ordinary battery-powered drill or even hand tools can break into the safe in seconds. Also, most fire safes are not designed to be anchored in place; some are even portable! Finally, because the insulation of a fire safe creates a humid environment inside the safe, a fire safe designed for documents is not recommended for storage of firearms. The insulation material used in a fire-lined gun safe is different, and is usually not adequate to protect papers.
Fire safes are rated according to the length of time the inside temperature remains below a specified temperature while the outside of the safe is kept at the test temperature. Some safes are independently rated by Underwriters Laboratories while others are rated by the safe manufacturer. Either rating is considered reliable, but in some cases your insurance company may require you to have a safe with a UL rating. A typical fire safe will be rated for 350 degrees/1 hour/1700 degrees. That means that the test safe was placed in a 1700 degree furnace; after one hour, the temperature inside remained below 350 degrees. The temperature at which paper chars is around 400 degrees. A typical house fire is less than 1700 degrees, and the conditions around the safe are not likely to be at peak temperature for a full hour. For larger commercial buildings, especially ones housing flammable materials, a higher rating may be appropriate. Some safes also have an impact rating, which assures that the integrity of the safe is maintained even if it falls in the event of structural collapse.
One last word on fire safes -- typical fire safes are designed to protect paper. Most plastics melt at much lower temperatures. Media safes are available that will protect computer discs and such, but they are so expensive and bulky that off-site or "cloud" storage of data is probably a more reasonable course of action.
Burglary safes are designed to withstand the physical attacks of a determined burglar. Most burglary safes are constructed of solid metal and offer absolutely no fire protection. Any burglary safe that is less than about 650 pounds is designed to anchor in place. Safes are rated for burglary protection in a couple different ways.
The most common rating system consists of a letter rating which refers to the manufacture of the safe in accordance with specific standards: door thickness, wall thickness and type of locking device.
A residential safe may carry an RSC (residential security container) rating. A very sturdy residential safe or light-duty commercial safe may carry a “B” rating. High-security commercial safes may carry “C” or other ratings.
Some safes are submitted to Underwriters Laboratories for an independent rating. This rating is based on penetration of a sample safe under controlled laboratory conditions. A TL-15 is a good quality commercial safe. TL-30 safes or vaults are common in places like jewelry stores and cash-handling facilities where more sophisticated attacks are a concern.
One last word on burglary safes. In some cases, your insurance coverage or other industry standards can affect what safe you need. If you are a homeowner and have “riders” on your insurance policy to cover valuables such as jewelry, purchasing a safe with a burglary rating may qualify you for a reduced insurance premium.
Composite safes combine both burglar-resistive features and fire ratings. Composite safes are the most popular choice for home security. These provide secure storage for jewelry and other valuables, plus fire protection for important documents. A typical composite safe for home use might offer an RSC (Residential Security Container) rating along with a 1-hour/350 degree fire rating. A serious commercial composite safe might sport a TL-15 burglary rating and a 1- or 2-hour fire rating. The "safes" you buy at big-box stores often have a 30-minute fire rating and offer no burglary protection at all. If you're shopping for a safe, look at the ratings. If the rating isn't there, the protection isn't there.
The drawback with composite safes is that the walls are quite thick, making the safe bulky on the outside relative to its capacity. Also, the cost is higher than a safe which provides only fire or burglary protection alone.
Other features and options
Safes traditionally come equipped with a mechanical dial lock. However, electronic locks are now widely used and have some real advantages, such as:
- Ease of use--no counting rotations or squinting to get it just right
- Ability to change the combination any time without a service call
- Custom features, such as dual custody (armored service + manager must be present to open) and timed control (safe opens only during certain hours, or only after a delay)
The options with electronic locks are nearly endless. The only drawbacks are additional initial cost and a slightly elevated failure rate compared to mechanical locks.
There are also key-operated safes -- often with dual key operation. One key is held by the armored service -- the one by the store manager. Both must be present to open the safe. Also, there are safes with a dial and a key (the key is used for quick repeated access during the day; the dial provides additional security at night). The options are endless, and a qualified locksmith or safe technician can expertly match you with a safe and lock that will address your specific security concerns.
Depository safes are common in retail stores and other businesses where cash control is important. Staff can deposit money into the safe without opening the safe or even knowing the combination. Depository safes are not fire-rated, since the container must be air-tight if temperature is to be controlled. Most depository safes are burglary rated against penetration of the door. However, the drop assembly does compromise the security of the contents to some degree. Therefore, depository safes are not ideal for overnight storage of large quantities of cash. There are also “vending” safes which dispense rolls of coins or small bills; these are commonly used in convenience stores.
Safes are available in one of three main configurations.
In-floor safes are designed to be installed into a concrete slab floor. In this case, only the door of the safe is burglary rated. The proper installation is an important part of the safe's security. Sometimes, the walls are even plastic. These safes are often a great value, and when properly installed they offer excellent burglary protection and even a good measure of fire protection. However, the installation is extra work and/or expense. If it is to be installed in an existing floor, the concrete has to be cut, the hole dug out, and then more concrete poured around the safe. Floor safes are not fire-rated, but offer fire protection simply by being underground and surrounded by concrete. However, they usually are not waterproof, so be sure store your items sealed plastic containers! Another drawback is that in-floor safes are generally not very convenient to use.
Wall-mounted safes are designed to recess into the wall. Often they bolt through the sides of the safe into the studs. Most wall-mount safes are really just lock-boxes that have no burglary or fire rating. Remember that a typical wall is only 4" deep! You can get a wall-mounted safe that is little bit bigger if you have extra room behind the wall. Weight is also a concern with a wall safe; fire and burglary models are available, but to our knowledge there are no wall-mounted composite safes. Often, wall-mount safes have recessed or miniature lock assemblies so that pictures or mirrors can easily conceal the safe.
Freestanding safes are designed to simply sit on the floor; this is the most common type of safe and provides the most versatility. Some freestanding safes are designed to be bolted to the floor to prevent theft. Any safe that provides burglary protection but weighs less than about 650 pounds should be anchored in place.