Even the most sophisticated anti-theft features are ineffectual when used by a security safe with a weak foundation.
The first line of defense for any security safe's construction is it's door and walls. One substantially thick steel door and five thick steel walls are the only fundamental means of preventing a determined criminal from gaining entrance. Through clever and immoral marketing, safe builders have mastered the ability to bury this plain and simple truth in a barrage of technical terminology and captivating graphs.
Wall and Door thickness cuts to the core of a security safes construction and core ability to protect. This should always be your number one concern when deciding on any safe.
Below you'll find a summary of industry recognized safe steel thickness ratings and the level of real world protection you should expect from each.
False Security Safe Construction Ratings
No Recognized Rating - Nearly half of all top selling safe brands fall into this category. The only rating they bear, if any, is based on a system the manufacturer creates on their own that has no correlation to any industry recognized standard. This is an avoidance tactic used to mask safes that provide an unacceptable level of protection. Avoid these safes.
Theft Resistant - This rating simply acknowledges that the safe has a lock on it, no other protection level is guaranteed or implied. This type of safe construction provides roughly the same level of protection as a locked file cabinet, which can also carry this same rating.
RSC (Residential Security Container)(TL-5) Rating - This is a UL rated container that certifies the "safe" is capable of withstanding a beating by one man wielding a hammer and small crowbar for up to five minutes.
Another way of putting it...One man armed with only a hammer and crowbar can generally gain access to these security safes in just over five minutes. Safes bearing this safe construction rating make up the remaining half of top selling safe brands, with very few exceptions. Do not put anything of value in these safes.
"Safes" or containers of this type tend to list their steel thickness by gauge. Common gauges range from 10 to 20 (see the chart above to see how incredibly thin this really is).
Due to the high cost of steel, many of these same companies will combine the measurement of their steel plating thickness with the thickness of their drywall fireproofing panels, reporting one combined measurement in a manner that intentionally sways the uninformed buyer into assuming the quoted wall or door thickness is all solid steel or a similar protective material. This one underhanded trick has met with such resounding success it has been adopted in various forms by nearly every major safe builder. The easiest way to spot these counterfeit safes when uncertain about the reported steel plating thickness is to check the safes weight. A 60 inch tall false safes will weigh between 300 and 800 lbs with fire protection. True security safes of this size start at 600 lbs without fire protection and jump up into the 1500+ pound range with fire protection.
True Security Safe Construction Ratings
Class B Rating - Weighing in at 2 to 4 times the mass of an RSC safe, Class B security safes are a vast step up in protection.
A Class B security safe is equipped with a 1/2 inch solid steel door and 1/4 inch solid steel walls on all 5 sides. At it's core, this is a safe with a substantial foundation, one capable of easily resisting hours of brute force abuse by amateur criminals.
These safes will generally be capable of withstanding entry attempts by semi-skilled criminals for an hour or more depending largely on the types of tools used to attempt entry.
Security safes outfitted with additional burglary countermeasures will withstand even skilled attackers for sustained periods.
Class C Rating - Double the weight of a Class B with double the steel thickness all around. Class C security safes are yet another major upgrade in protection with a 1" steel door and a 1/2" steel body. Class C security safes provide roughly double the penetration protection and tend to have roughly the same amount of added burglary countermeasures as class B rated security safes.
Class E (TL-15) Rating - Now this is where things start to get interesting. The class E's start off with an impressive 1 1/2 inch solid steel door, a 1 inch body and a weight average that is 3 times the mass of a Class B.
With fire cladding, a mid sized Class E security safe weighs as much as a mid sized car... making these safes extremely difficult to haul out of homes on the sly. These safes can easily withstand any manner of attacks by amateur and semi-trained burglars for a far longer time than the criminal has time for.
But as impressively tough as a Class E is, their TL-15 rating means that an assisted seasoned safecracker with intimate knowledge of the inner working of the safe and safe specific tools can gain entrance to the safe in as little as 16 minutes, though usually much longer. If the contents of your safe are important enough to give you cause to believe this type of person may someday be attempting access to your safe with more than 15 minutes of time on their hands, you'll want to step up to even higher protection ratings.
Class F (TL-30) rating - These security safes have been tested to withstand attack for at least 30 minutes by a group of professional safecrackers armed with blueprints of the safe using the full gamut of tools and attack methods.
The steel on Class F security safes often incorporates additional layers of varying metal aimed at further slowing entry attempts.
In addition, Class F security safes commonly employ additional features to further slow down professional attackers. A whole array of measures and counter-measures come into play at this level of the safe vs. safecracker game and safe builder defense methods vary widely in their approach and design.
U.L.® Fire Rating Guide
The rated labeling of an insulated safe or file cabinet indicates the degree of protection the safe or file cabinet will provide its contents if exposed to a fire. The degree of protection will affect the selling price of the cabinet or safe.
The most widely accepted label is issued by Underwriters Laboratories. However, the labeling of insulated record protection equipment is totally voluntary; no laws state that a fire drawer, cabinet, or safe must bear a label.
The temperature noted on the UL label is the maximum temperature allowed inside the fire protective product during the test. For example, if the temperature inside a safe or file exceeds 350°F, it will fail the UL test for paper rated products. For tapes, cartridges, microfiche, and microfilm, the limit is 150°F (with an 85% humidity restriction); for diskettes, the temperature cannot exceed 125°F (with an 80% humidity restriction).
The time noted on the UL label indicates how long the fire resistant product was tested to withstand exposure to extreme temperature and still maintain a safe temperature/humidity level inside. The time lengths are ½ hour, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, and 4 hours. Theses times do NOT represent the total time of the tests, for are they totally indicative of the amount of protection offered. One hour rated products offer more than "one hour's" worth of protection.
One-Half Hour Rated Products - The furnace is heated up to 1550°F over a one-half hour time period. During this time, the interior of the product cannot exceed the classification temperature or humidity (if applicable) limits.
One-Hour Rated Products - 1700°F
Two-Hour Rated Products - 1850°F
Three-Hour Rated Products - 1920°F
Four-Hour Rated Products - 2000°F
Only products whose internal temperature and humidity level remains below the test limits during the entire heating and cooling processes are awarded the label. It is important to note that products which are "tested to UL standards" have not necessarily met or exceeded those standards, and may have actually failed the test. Be careful interpreting sales jargon.
One year after this initial test has been conducted; a sample product may be pulled out of production for retesting. The product must once again pass the original classification it was tested for to keep its UL label.
Fire and Impact Test: After a product has passed the Fire Endurance Test, another sample of the same product may be tested for fire and impact. The sample is prepared in the same manner as the Fire Endurance Test. Then it is heated to a specific time and temperature (see chart below). After the product has been exposed for the correct time period, it is immediately removed form the furnace and hoisted 30 feet off the ground. UL then drops the product within two minutes into a pile of broken brick on a concrete base. This is equivalent to a fall form a third story.
The Explosion Test: All UL classified insulated record protection equipment must pass the explosion test. For this test, the sample is prepared in the same manner as for the two previous tests. The test furnace is left empty and heated to 2000°F. The testers quickly open the door and insert the sample. For 30 minutes (20 minutes for units rated ½ hour), the furnace is kept at 2000°F. If no explosion takes place, the sample remains in the furnace until it cools sufficiently to handle.
*All information referenced from http://www.ul.com