So you’ve decided to join the Collective of Safe Keepers. There isn’t like a membership card or meetings or anything, but it’s an exclusive and valuable conglomerate. Your first mission: acquire a safe.It sounds deceptively easy, certainly. Anyone can go out and buy a safe – you could even order online without leaving your house. But you, as a member of this secret group, know there’s a lot more to home security than meets the eye. You know there are safety ratings to consider, warranties, different locks, and myriad things beyond just price and whether it can be hidden behind a painting.

There’s still time to turn back, if you’re not up for the task.

Should you choose to accept however, read on for your mission briefing.


While instinct might say you’re getting a safe to protect your valuables from burglars, fire is the greater threat. We’ve discussed before that the odds of a break in are, realistically, quite low. However, about 1 in 5 people will experience a housefire bad enough that the fire department has to be called. If that happens, you’ll be lucky to have time to grab your kids or pets, and you definitely won’t have the time to open up a safe and collect your important documents. That’s why it is vital to have a safe with a solid fire resistance rating.

Book pages burnedI say “fire resistant” because there’s really no such thing as “fireproof” – even water boils. So fire ratings on safes more measure how long a safe will last under extreme temperatures. As you remember from English class, paper burns at 451 Fahrenheit, so you need to keep your documents from reaching those temperatures.

To find the fire rating on a safe, you want to look for a UL certification. This is a rating provided by Underwriters Laboratory to show that they’ve thoroughly tested the safe and its materials (often by literally setting it on fire or taking a blowtorch to it). Usually, the time ranges between a half hour and two hours. Fires move pretty quickly between rooms when they run out of things to burn; typically about a half hour. So the safest bet is to choose one that averages one hour at 1700 Fahrenheit.

If you can’t shell out the big bucks for a proper safe, a small firechest is usually enough for any birth certificates, passports, and estate documents, and those tend to run under $50. Just be very sure that you’ve both researched the UL fire rating and keep it in an especially secure place (like the bottom of your bathroom laundry basket).


Wall safesWATER

This goes right along with the fire protection – while most safes aren’t specifically designed to be waterproof, it’s a feature you’ll want to invest in. After all, how much would it suck if your stuff survived the fire only to be ruined when doused with a firehose?

That said, you definitely want to spend the extra money on a fire seal for the door. This is a buffer material that expands to block smoke from getting into the safe, but will also seal out water.

If you live in a flood zone or your safe will be in the basement (which I recommend), then you’ll want to get a safe that’s ETL certified against water. These safes are usually tested by being completely submerged to check for any gaps that water might sneak through. Additionally, there are some safes that are designed to float, which is nice for flood areas, but not important if you’re gonna bolt the safe down anyway.


I know this is the part you’re waiting for: thwarting safecrackers.

safe crackThe key here is that anyone who breaks into your house also wants to get out of your house as quickly as possible. These folks are gonna grab whatever is laying out and leave. So just having a safe is a good way to protect your stuff – theoretically, it doesn’t even have to be locked as long as it looks too big to carry. If you want to be hardcore, most safes are designed to be bolted down.

Actually, the main reason that you don’t want a wall mounted safe (behind a painting or not) is that walls are much easier to break than safes, so if someone wants to cut the safe out of the wall, they’ll leave with it and figure out the lock when they get home. As for floor safes, those are great against burglars because it’s super difficult to pull a safe out of concrete. The trouble is that, in the event of a fire, the door is still exposed and under-protected. So really, you’re better off getting a regular free-standing safe with good fire protection and just bolting it to the floor.

As for specific anti-theft features, you’re looking for solid steel and pry-resistance. UL testers will try power tools, blowtorches, and explosives, if that’s something you’re concerned about. You’ll also want to make sure the door hinges are hidden inside the safe so they’ll be tamper-proof; a lock isn’t much good if you can open the door from the other side.

When it comes to the locks, you can get key locks, dual locks (which is a key lock in addition to a dial or keypad), electric locks, etc. There are pros and cons for all of them, and we can go into detail on that a different day. Mostly, it’s a matter of taste.


The best place to keep your safe is probably the basement. It’s a good spot to bolt down, it’s less likely to spend a lot of time on fire, and thieves don’t want to risk getting trapped underground if you get home before they leave. The trouble you’ll face is from water, so be extra cautious if you’re in a flood zone.

Things like hard drives and other data devices are especially weak against high temperatures. There are media safes that are specifically designed to keep cool on the inside, if you have a lot of these things to store. However, if it’s just a small external drive or you don’t have the money for it, you can get a small fire chest to keep in your actual safe, or get a safe with compartments.

Some companies, like SentrySafe, have product guaranties, so they’ll replace your safe in the event of a fire. In some cases, you can also get an insurance deal where they’ll reimburse you if the safe doesn’t hold up and your things are damaged. Shelling out the extra money on safes like these is worth it, since it’ll be a one-time lifetime purchase.


Combination safeThis concludes your briefing – best of luck on your mission. Get in touch if you need additional assistance, and backup will be at your door.


OnTheGo has the answers for all of your security needs. Day or night, we’re a phone call away: (773) 283-7994