1. Why do I need a safe?

Your safe is the last line of defense between your valuables and a thief. A safe buys you extra time, time to protect your valuables from a thief who has invaded your home or business. Thieves are in a hurry; they are in and out quickly, wanting to get the job done before they get caught. Most home burglaries last just 10 minutes or less.

It is a mistake to think your alarm or surveillance systems are all the protection you need. Experienced burglars are bold enough to do their job even with an alarm blaring. Unfortunately, it can take police a long time to respond. And neighbors are so used to hearing alarms they rarely stop to even consider if this may be a real emergency. Even if they do see what is happening, they are unlikely to put themselves at risk.

Today, it makes good sense to put your most valued items in a proper safe and leave your home or business with the confidence that these items are well protected.

2. How do I choose the right safe for my needs?

Increased peace of mind comes with the right safe. A false sense of security comes with the wrong safe. There are good reasons some safes cost $100 – $300 and other safes cost $600 – $1,000+. You will get the protection you pay for, and no more. We hope your safe is never put to the test. But if it is, the decision you are making now is very important.

Make a list of the items you want to place in the safe to help determine the size safe you’ll need and the content value. Some of the most common secured items are:

  • Cash
  • Precious Metals (gold & silver)
  • Collections (coin and stamp)
  • Firearms & ammunition
  • Jewelry
  • Photography equipment
  • Estate valuables, heirlooms
  • Documents (trusts, wills, tax docs)
3. How safe is a safe?

There are only two ways to KNOW the protection level of a safe.

  1. Work with a safe dealer you know to be knowledgeable, trustworthy and honorable (how long have they been in business under their current name).
  2. Safe has been tested and certified by a respected laboratory like UL or Intertek for fire or burglary resistance. Beware comparisons like, “It’s equivalent to … “, or “It’s just as good as …”.
4. How much protection will a safe provide me?

We use the following benchmarks from UL and Jewelers Insurance Underwriters as a guideline for customers considering safes with both burglar and fire resistance. Some of our coin dealer / collector customers have received $1 Million coverage as a result of having our TL30 MaxVault safe. A retail jeweler (the highest risk target) could get insurance coverage for $100,000 of inventory in a "C" rated safe; $250,000 in a TL15 rated safe; $350,000 in a TL30 rated safe, and $1 Million in a TRTL30x6 rated safe. A check cashing business can get insurance for $20,000 with a "B" rated safe with UL’s Residential Security Container (RSC) label.

If burglary is a concern the UL Residential Security Container (RSC) label is the minimum requirement for your home use. Safes earn this label if a UL professional safe cracker using a hammer and 18" screwdriver is unable to open the door of the safe in less than 5 minutes! It is logical to assume that a freestanding safe that does not have the RSC label could be opened in less than 5 minutes with a screwdriver and hammer. How safe is that?

If insurance is an issue, get your insurance company to tell you your required and recommended safe ratings before you start. This will save time and help determine costs.

Ask questions . . . don’t be confused by "safe" terminology . . . if the dealer can’t clearly explain why a particular safe is appropriate for your needs, don’t buy from that dealer . . . . If a dealer answers all your questions to your satisfaction, and you want to have after sale support when you need it, let the dealer make a fair profit on the sale so he can stay in business . . . win / win works every time!

5. Why should I buy from Maximum Security?

Maximum Security has been in business since 1982 and owned by Shep and Nancy Bryan since 1994. We value quality support and service and strive to provide that to every customer, and potential customer. An important part of this is consulting with you to be sure you make a fully informed selection. Because we buy in volume we can pass on low prices to you and have most safes in stock ready for pick up or delivery within about a week. We have own on expert delivery and install team who handle deliveries, installations and safe moves in our local areaand partners across the country who handle out of area jobs for us. With thousands of very satisfied customers, over 50% of our business is repeat or referral.

Please give us the opportunity to earn your business. At the very least you will make a better and more informed decision after spending some time with Maximum Security.

6. What are the different types of safes?

This table categorizes safes by physical description and means of access with advantages and disadvantages of each.

Floor safe

Pro: Ten to twenty years ago, the most popular type of safe for homes. Easy to conceal. Designed to be embedded in the floor. Offers good fire protection when in a concrete ground floor.
Con: Inconvenient to use; must get on hands and knees. Most models fill up with water quickly when the fire truck puts out your fire. Since the 1990s contractors in Southern California have been constructing homes with post tension cables in the slab foundations making them ineligible for in-floor safes. Call us to help you determine if your home has post tension cables.

Wall Safe

Pro: Can place it in a convenient, easy to use location. Easy to hide. Great as a second safe, used for temporary and impulse security.
Con: not very secure safes (will keep cleaning person honest). Generally, very susceptible to fire damage.

Chests

Pro: Free standing safes, can be placed anywhere (easy to access, or hard to find). Come in all sizes, all protection categories. Can be bolted to floor. In recent years most homeowners buy this type safe bolted to the floor in an easily accessible closet.

Depositories

Pro: Can deposit valuables through hopper, drawer or slot without opening door. Position for convenient use and bolt to floor. Access control locks compliment business procedures.
Con: Generally, no fire protection.

Vaults

Pro: Large enough to have walk in access. Modular vaults can be constructed virtually anywhere for the highest security requirements.
Con: Generally, pretty expensive total cost.

7. Are there special issues to consider when thinking of a floor safe?
  • New home construction in Southern California frequently incorporates “post tension cable” concrete slabs. Determine whether your home has this type slab early in your planning. Your builder will advise against cutting into this type slab. If you are building your own new home have a hole for your in-the-floor safe designed into the plans – otherwise, forget the floor safe!
  • Floor safes are not as convenient to use as other safes for obvious reasons. We’ve had many customers come to purchase an easier-to-use safe because they have stopped using the in-floor safe. Frequently used jewelry will end up back in your sock drawer.
  • If you have a fire, most in-the-floor safes will fill up with water as the house is hosed down. You’ll want to keep water sensitive items in Tupperware or Ziplock baggies.
  • This an ideal type safe to keep cash, precious metals or other infrequently accessed items. More and more people are purchasing an in-floor safe in addition to a more convenient day to day safe. Safe deposit boxes in banks are falling out of favor for many who just aren’t trusting the system as much any longer and want more convenient access.
8. What do the safe labels and ratings mean?

For comprehensive information on burglary and fire ratings see our Burglar & Fire Rating Guide.
Why ratings and labels? The insurance industry established the system for rating safes. A consumer purchasing a rated safe is assured of a certain level of protection. Insurance companies establish coverage rates based on the level of protection afforded by a particular label. Insurance companies in the United States generally require an Underwriters Laboratory Burglar or Fire Label.
Safes are labeled or classified using two different methods: construction classification and performance classification. Construction classifications include B, C, E, ER, F and G ratings. Performance classifications include RSC, TL15, TL30, TL30x6, TRTL15x6, TRTL30x6 and TRTL60x6 UL labels.

Construction Ratings

B – Steel, doors less than 1 inch thick, walls less than 1/2 inch thick.

C – Steel, doors at least 1 inch thick, walls at least 1/2 inch thick.

E – Steel, doors at least 1 1/2 inches thick, walls at least 1inch thick

ER – Safe or chest labeled with: “UL Inspected Tool Resisting Safe TL 15 Burglary”

F – Safe or chest labeled with: “UL Inspected Tool Resisting Safe TL 30 Burglary”, “UL Inspected Torch Resisting Safe TR 30 Burglary” or “UL Inspected Explosive Resistant Safe with Relocking Device X 60 Burglary”

G – Safe or chest labeled with: “UL Inspected Torch and Explosive Resisting Safe TX 60 Burglary”, “UL Inspected Torch Resisting Safe TR 60 Burglary” or “UL Inspected Torch and Tool Resisting Safe TRTL 30 Burglary”

Performance Ratings – UL Burglary Classifications

R.S.C – Successfully resist entry for a net assault time of 5 minutes when attacked with common household hammer and screwdriver.

TL – 15 – Successfully resist entry for a net assault time of 15 minutes when attacked with common hand tools, picking tools, mechanical or portable electric tools, grinders, drills or pressure devices.

TL – 30 – Successfully resist entry for a net assault time of 30 minutes when attacked with common hand tools, picking tools, mechanical or portable electric tools, grinders, drills or pressure devices.

TRTL – 30 – Successfully resist entry for a net assault time of 30 minutes when attacked with common hand tools, picking tools, mechanical or portable electric tools, grinders, drills, pressure devices and oxy-fuel gas cutting or welding torches.

TXTL – 60 – Successfully resist entry for a net assault time of 60 minutes when attacked with common hand tools, picking tools, mechanical or portable electric tools, grinders, drills, pressure devices, explosives and oxy-fuel gas cutting or welding torches.

Performance Ratings – Fire Classifications

4 Hour, Class 350 – Maintain an interior temperature of less than 350 degrees F when exposed to fire (up to 2000 F) for 4 hours.

2 Hour, Class 350 – Maintain an interior temperature of less than 350 degrees F when exposed to fire (up to 1850 F) for 2 hours.

1 Hour, Class 350 – Maintain an interior temperature of less than 350 degrees F when exposed to fire (up to 1700 F) for 1 hours.

A complete Guide to Safe Labels can be obtained from Lockmasters, Inc. 606-885-6041

9. What is the difference between a burglary and a fire safe?

Generally, a fire safe offers minimal burglar resistance. This is because of the nature of the material used. Not all burglar safes are fire resistant. The most popular safes for home have both burglar and fire resistance. The best safes are rated by UL and / or Intertek-ETL as to their level of protection for burglary and fire. See the Safe Rating section above for details on ratings.

10. Should I consider fire protection and how does it work?

Once you’ve decided to buy a safe, it pays to get fire protection. Fire can be more devastating than theft leaving behind only blackened outlines of valuables. Buying a fire lined safe buys you time, especially as you wait for your local fire department to show up. Fire resistant does not mean fire proof, there is no such thing as a fire proof safe, but fire resistance can make the difference that counts!

There are different levels of fire ratings, ranging from the basic package of 1200 degrees for 20 minutes to of 1700 degrees for 2 hours. More expensive concrete fire safes can provide up to a 2-hour rating and weigh more than twice as much as the normal home/office safe.

The sensitivity of your items dictates the type of fire protection you should purchase. Most items and documents will be protected in a normal house fire (1200 degrees) when the safe is located on the main floor. Because heat rises, a higher fire rated safe is recommended for upstairs. Items such as computer discs and photographs are even more sensitive to heat than paper. These items should be kept within a specially designed media storage box that is in turn placed into a basic fire safe to increase the fire protection level.

Underwriter’s Laboratories and internationally recognized Intertek-ETL certify levels of fire protection. Fire certification by a reputable entity takes the guesswork out of non-verified claims made by manufacturers or salespeople. Independent certification is a good way to confirm accurate times and temperatures as published by the manufacturer.

11. How does UL test for fire resistance?


The following is an explanation of the Underwriter’s Laboratories’ fire resistant container testing procedures on the Class 350 degree F, one hour and Class 350 degree F two hour Fire Labels.

UL Label/Class 350 degree F-one hour and Class 350 degree F-two hour. The safe will maintain an interior temperature less than 350 degree F when exposed to fire for a period of one hour at 1700 degree F or for a period of two hours at 1850 degree F. Safe must successfully undergo all other requirements for the Fire Endurance Test, Explosion Hazard Test and the Fire/Impact Test as stated below.

Fire Endurance Test
After heat sensors and paper are placed inside the safe, the unit is locked and exposed to a uniformly distributed fire. The furnace is regulated to reach a maximum temperature of 1700 degree F for a period of one hour, or 1850 degree F for two hours, then allowed to cool without opening the furnace. The interior temperature is recorded throughout the test and during the cooling period until a definite drop is shown and must never exceed 350 degree F.
Once cooled, the unit is opened and examined for usability. The units locking mechanisms and parts fastenings are examined for security and the interior examined for visible evidence of undue heat transmission.

Explosion Hazard Test
The safe is locked and placed into a furnace preheated to 2000 degree F. This temperature is maintained for 30 minutes (2-hour test is 45 minutes) and if no explosion results, the unit is allowed to cool without opening the furnace doors. Once cooled, the unit is opened and examined for usability. The units locking mechanisms and parts fastenings are examined for security and the interior examined for visible evidence of undue heat transmission.

Fire Impact Test (Manufacturer’s Option)
After the explosion hazard test the safe is removed from the furnace and within two minutes is dropped 30′ onto a riprap of brick on a heavy concrete base. After impact the unit is examined for deformation, rupture of parts, damaged insulation and any other openings into the interior of the unit. Once cooled, the unit is inverted and reheated to 1550 degree F for a period of 30 min. (2 hour test: 45 min. at 1638 degree F).
Once cooled, the unit is opened and examined for usability. The units locking mechanisms and parts fastenings are examined for security and the interior examined for visible evidence of undue heat transmission.

12. How do I protect my documents and electronic media?

There are special containers called fire resistant file cabinets that are ideal if you are concerned about securing documents only from fire. These UL rated containers can be built with a variety of locking devices to help deter theft. They come in vertical as well as lateral configurations.

Some can be equipped with either a safe inside one of the drawers, or a specially designed drawer resistant to humidity making it ideal for storage of electronic media.

13. How do I extend the life of my collectibles?

Another benefit of a safe is its ability to preserve and extend the life of collectibles that are sensitive to light and humidity. When the love of a hobby turns into a collector’s business with values reaching into the thousands of dollars, a safe can help protect the value and original look. Stamps, coins, cards, statues, art, photos and many other collectibles located inside the safe are protected from damaging ultraviolet light.

A controlled atmosphere to reduce humidity is also achieved when the safe is installed with an optional dehumidifier. Electric dehumidifier rods help reduce moisture inside the safe by raising the ambient temperature 2-3 degrees from the heat it generates. Installed through the back of the safe, the dehumidifier is warm to the touch and virtually eliminates any rust and mildew buildup on valuables. The standard 12-inch dehumidifier works for most 60″ tall safes, but longer dehumidifiers may be required in larger models to reduce condensation.

14. Can I keep my computer data in a standard fire safe?

NO! In a hot fire, a fire safe creates a humidity level high enough to destroy data on computer media. Computer media must be protected from both heat and humidity.

There are two ways to protect computer media. 1). Place an appropriate smaller container inside a larger fire resistant safe. 2). Purchase a media safe – essentially a safe within a safe. The outer safe protects from heat, the inner one protects from humidity.

15. Should I bolt down my safe?

The short answer is YES! Any time you can bolt down, do bolt down. Regardless of the weight of your safe, it is more secure if it is bolted down to something solid like a concrete foundation. This is particularly critical when the weight of your safe is below 450 lbs. There are however caveats to bolt down. For more information see our Bolt Down Guidelines pdf.

16. Can I change the combination for my safe?

Most safes with a traditional, dial combination lock come with a preset number combination from the factory. If you wish to change the combination we recommend you contact a local locksmith. Electronic locks (digital keypad) are user friendly and the combination is easy to change whenever you desire. Please follow manufacturer instructions carefully.

17. What happens if I lose or forget my combination?

While we don’t keep records of customer combinations, some manufacturers do. Some have a record of original combinations for mechanical locks and override codes for electronic locks. If you lose or forget your combination contact Maximum Security or the manufacture of the safe to see if it is possible retrieve the combination. To explore this you will need the serial number of the safe and proof that you are the legal owner of that safe. There is typically a reasonable charge for this service.

18. How often do I need to change the batteries on my electronic lock?

The answer to this question totally depends on how often you use your lock and how good the battery is. A fair estimate would be after a year of use. If your lock is not operating correctly, changing the batteries is always the first and best corrective measure.

19. What type of batteries should I use in my electronic lock?

High security electronic safe locks are very sensitive to battery power. Most often when we get calls from customers with lock problems the issue is low power or incorrect batteries. We highly recommend you use only 9-volt alkaline Energizer or Duracell batteries dated at least 4 years into the future. Purchase batteries from a retailer who goes through batteries rapidly to be sure they are good and fresh. Stores that don’t sell many batteries may have nearly expired product on their shelves.

20. How do I clean and service my safe?

The internal mechanism of a good quality safe door is permanently lubricated, thus it needs no maintenance. Occasionally, it may be necessary to lubricate the door bolts. To do so, extend the bolts completely with the door open. Wipe a small amount of oil on each bolt. We recommend cleaning your safe with a soft cloth and ammonia free window cleaner. Avoid using paper towels. If you are at all in doubt contact a certified local lock and safe technician to provide the service you need.

21. When should I use a dehumidifier with my safe?

We recommend the use of a dehumidifier for long-term storage in areas of high humidity and frequent temperature fluctuations. In any setting safe should not remain shut for extended periods of time. Open the door and let the air circulate periodically, at least once a month.

22. Where should I install a dehumidifier?

Dehumidifiers always work best placed as low in the safe as possible. Mounting position is not necessarily important, but it is vital to keep the door area clear of any obstruction. Installation along the back wall or underneath one of the small side shelves is the preferred method.