EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUYING A SAFE
What is it you want to secure and what are you protecting against? Do you wish to protect -
cash and valuables against theft
cash, valuables and important paper documents against theft and loss by fire
protect cash and staff against theft and armed robbery
PROTECTING CASH & VALUABLES
Safes are manufactured in a wide range of sizes and also in several distinct grades or qualities. The strength or quality of protection offered by a safe is not determined by its size. Compact safes may offer the very highest level of security. Conversely, some very big safes may only provide a fairly basic level of protection.
The grade or strength of safe is determined by the value of the contents to be secured. This is the maximum value that is to be left in the safe overnight at any time during the year. The higher the value, the stronger the safe must be. As the contents are frequently insured, your broker or insurance underwriter will almost certainly specify a safe of a particular type or grade in order to grant cover.
To assist in determining what grade of safe is required, models are often classified according to their recommended maximum overnight cash holding. For example, one safe may be suitable for a cash holding of £2,000 whilst another will be designed to secure up to £4,000.
Higher grade safes are frequently tested and certified in accordance with a common European norm for testing and rating safes (EN1143-1). These ‘Eurograde’ safes carry a label on the back of the door clearly stating their security rating and the testing house that conducted the testing. In the UK, suggested maximum overnight cash limits according to grade are as follows:
Grade 0 = up to £6,000
Grade I = up to £10,000
Grade II = up to £17,500
Grade III = up to £35,000
Grade IV = up to £60,000
Grade V = up to £100,000
Grade VI = £150,000 and upwards
Rigorous pan European standards were introduced to provide consumers with a clear guide to quality. Sadly there are manufacturers and distributors who make deliberately ambiguous or downright fraudulent claims. Beware literature claiming “..made to comply with EN-1143-1..” The safe has not been tested, therefore it cannot meet the requirements of EN 1143-1. Similarly, “ approved security according to EN1143-1” does not necessarily mean that it has been tested. If a safe has been tested and certified the literature will say so quite clearly.
Although insurers mostly adhere to these suggested ratings, they may increase or reduce them according to a number of variables. If the safe is located within an area covered by a proprietary alarm system and the general level of peripheral security is of a good standard, they may extend the cover. If the policyholder has a previous loss history, is in a high crime area or engaged in a business where forcing tools are available nearby, the limit could be reduced.
Valuables v Cash
Cash is infinitely more attractive to thieves. Stolen goods must be disposed of, frequently at a fraction of their normal value. Therefore, when considering the security of valuables rather than cash, particularly in a domestic situation, it is customary for the underwriter to multiply the safe’s recommended cash holding by a certain factor. This can be as high as 10 times the normal cash limit. Consequently, a safe certified Grade I and recommended for a cash limit of £10,000 cash may often be insured for up to £100,000 in jewellery or valuables.
What Type of Lock?
In its basic form, a safe is secured by a single keylock with two keys. No matter how high the security of your safe, it is only as good as your key custodianship. It is worth mentioning, that many insurers will deny a claim if the safe has been opened without any sign of force, indicating that entry has been gained due to negligence. Keys should always be removed from the premises when they are unattended. Additional key should never be cut unless absolutely essential – each additional key degrades the security of the safe.
Combination Locks avoid the use of keys that can be lost, copied or stolen. Provided that the custodian does not write the code in the back of a diary or on a Post-it note stuck to the desk, or use an obvious code like a birthday or telephone number, combination locks provide a very high standard of security. Don’t be deterred by images of criminals using stethoscopes to manipulate combination locks. Whilst not impossible, it requires the highest level of skill and practice and seldom if ever occurs in a criminal attack.
To maintain security, avoid excessive wear and avoid a potential lock-out, codes should be changed at least once a year and every time the custodian changes for holidays or staff movements.
Electronic Digital Locks
Unlike the very simple electronic digital locks fitted to ‘safes’ on sale in DIY warehouses and hardware stores, the digital locks fitted to recognised security safes offer the very highest standard of security and reliability. The degree of sophistication available with many of these locking systems has transcended simple security and has made them into advanced management tools. They can have multiple operator codes, time delay systems, integral time locks, random number lock-out and duress alarm features. They may even be monitored remotely via a modem link.
PROTECTING CASH/VALUABLES AND PAPER DOCUMENTS
Enquirers may also wish to secure important documents in the safe including insurance policies, share certificates, passports, birth and death certificates. In order to accommodate this need, many safes also have a basic level of fire protection. If the safe has been furnace tested and certified in accordance with a particular standard, this will also be shown on a label on the back of the door.
PROTECTING CASH AND STAFF AGAINST ARMED ROBBERY
Without doubt, the most effective method of deterring armed robbery is the use of safes fitted with time locks or time delay systems. If the safe is time locked it can only be opened by anyone except at recognised low risk periods. Eye-catching signs warn that cash is protected by a time lock and staff cannot override it.
The vast majority of armed robberies are over in under 1 minute. Raiders rely on the fear caused by the sudden threat to freeze their victims into inaction. However, they know that this state is temporary and the longer they remain on the premises, the greater the risk that their victims will recover composure and take action. Time delay systems force the raider to wait whilst a predetermined delay counts down – usually about 5 minutes. Invariably this is unacceptable and the raid is aborted. Once again, prominently displayed warning signs act as a strong deterrent and are proven to reduce the likelihood of an armed robbery by as much as 80%.
Should a safe be concealed or left on full view so that any attempt to open is would be observed? Views vary, and the answer depends on circumstances. A safe left in full view with a permanent light burning above it in a high street location with regular passers-by would be a good idea. In a domestic situation, it would be unacceptable to have a safe on view, so concealment is the norm.
Installations on upper floors via stairs are inevitably going to take longer, require more crew members and be more expensive. Safe installers are not able to advise on the load bearing properties of any floor. It is the purchaser’s responsibility to ensure that the floor is sound and able to take the weight of the safe.
DELIVERY & INSTALLATION
As a general rule, any safe weighing less than 1,000 kg should be bolted to the floor to prevent removal. Insurers may reject claims for losses if it the safe is not base fixed in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Obviously, the most secure fixing is into a solid floor, however this is not always possible and safes may be fixed to wooden joists where necessary.
Due to Health & Safety requirements, safes are moved and installed by specialist contractors with operatives trained in moving heavy weights, with the right equipment and with full insurance cover. It is important to ensure that safes are always delivered by crews qualified to do so.
HOW MUCH DO SAFES COST?
This is determined by the type of safe, its cash rating, size, and interior fittings and locking. Domestic safes can cost as little as £200.00 + VAT but to this must be added the cost of delivery, installation and bolting down (if applicable).
CAN WE MAKE SAVING BUYING A USED SAFE?
At lower levels there is not much of a saving to be made but considerable savings can be made on reconditioned higher grade safes. However, it is important that they are refurbished in accordance with BS7582:2005 Code of practice for reconditioning of used safe.