Many people think of security only in terms of the locks on their doors. Yet, if you have some valuables that you just cannot afford to lose, then it could mean adding a few more security layers to your already existing system. One of the most convenient ways that most businesses and homeowners use to protect their valuables is by investing in a safe. Safes can be used to store a wide range of valuables at home or in the office. These include crucial documents, cash, jewelry, firearms, stocks, bonds, etc.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a safe is basically any metal container having a lock, for the purpose of safeguarding valuables. Since safes have been here for at least a millennium, this explanation obviously falls short in terms of the sheer variety and range of these tools. Consequently, in this article, we will break down for you all the different types of safes out there.
Before that, however, let us take first take a quick look of where the concept of keeping safes came from in the first place, and do you even need one?
Keeping it safe – a short history on safes and safekeeping
When safes were first invented, over a thousand years ago, they were mostly designed as wooden caskets, two-three inches thick and surrounded by iron hoops. Later models were designed with a solid metal wall joined to a wooden inner. Nonetheless, even these were still not fireproof.
Completely fireproof safes came into existence only after the 19th century. They featured steel inner and outer walls, but with a space between them for fireproofing. To make them more effective, the space was filled with poor conducting materials such as alum, plaster of paris, clay, bricks or their combinations.
Note that during this time, most safes were designed to give protection more against fire than compared to burglary or theft. Most old buildings in cities such as Chicago and New York were constructed using wood, or at least framed by it, and the risks of a fire was always a huge threat. The engineers realized that separating the inner and outer walls using non-conductors was an effective way to keep the insides of a safe, well, safe.
Evolution from fire protection to theft and hi-tech threats
By the end of the 19th century, fireproof safes were common, however, the risk of theft was still as real as ever. Even fireproof safes caved in to some forms of breaking in such as drilling, or cutting and therefore, attention switched to making safes burglar-proof.
To this end, some tempered the material used to construct the safes using steel at various stages of the process, creating a material known as ‘soft steel.’
Soft steel was more resistant to drilling and other physical stresses compared to other materials such as sheets/bars of steel or even franklinite, the hardest naturally existing ore.
Eventually, technology caught up to the needs of locksmiths. The use of glass beads as well as other substances made it possible to prevent breaking into a safe. As such, these materials can avert the power of blowtorches, cold or hot drills, etc.
Additionally, just in case anyone manages to get inside, most safes are now designed to destroy the contents, making it a fruitless activity.
Why do you need a safe?
Safes can be handy for both businesses and homeowners. As you would imagine safes meant for business use differ from those designed for use at home.
Most homeowners who need safes usually have the option of keeping their valuables in a safety deposit box. However, many prefer to keep some valuables within reach yet safe.
This is more so for individuals who keep expensive jewelry, large amounts of money in cash or important documents that have to be presented on demand.
For such purposes, small safes, home safes or jewelry safes can be really convenient. These fit easily inside a closet whether in the office or at home. Good models come with multiple compartments for storing records, cash or other small valuables, the two compartments are normally separated such that if you break into the first, you still have to break into the second.
As we speak, we have all kinds of safes, infused with the highest forms of prevention to various threats, including safes designed to specifically store digital data. Let us take a look at some of these below.
Types of safes
Before you even think of getting a safe, you will have to consider your needs in order to know the right type to get out of the thousands that exist out there.
For instance, you will have to consider the size of the valuables you want to protect. The easiest way is to group all your valuables in one stack and measure them.
The other crucial factor is the kind of protection you need. Do you want to protect against fire, burglary, or both?
Furthermore, if your safe is say rated 350 degrees for fire safety, this can be safe for paper, but not for electrical components which have parts that can melt at much lower temperatures.
With many other things to consider, it is always prudent to consult with a professional locksmith before finalizing any purchases.
However, here is our breakdown of the different types of safe that are available for you:
Diversion safes are a type of home safes and represent the most basic type of safe. They are also known as a hidden safes.
They are customarily designed to look like regular household items such as a candle holder, a book or even a wall outlet plug.
They are convenient tools for storing valuables such as keys, jewelry, cash, etc. Some are designed for outdoor use, and usually feature designs that blend in with the surrounding, such as a rock, post-box, and the like.
These types of safes are popular due to their small sizes and inconspicuous nature.
As the name suggests, home safes are built with a homeowner in mind.
They can be freestanding, or mountable to the floor/wall.
They are generally small and may contain one or more compartments for keeping passports, jewelry, cash and other valuables from fires and/or thieves.
They normally come with an average fire rating and cash storage rating of up to $10,000 in cash.
Most range from $200 – $1,500.
Fire resistant safes are designed to protect valuables from extremely high temperatures. Ordinarily, they are rated depending on the amount of time they can withstand a fire burning at a specific temperature. They have to do this while keeping the contents of the safe below a certain temperature, normally 350 degrees.
Most of the safes in this category offer protection for half an hour to four hours.
If you are looking for the most fire-resistant safe, those designed to be installed in a concrete floor are the best.
However, since not all floor safes are water-tight, we recommend always storing you valuables in sealed plastic containers or double zip lock bags.
As implied by the name, jewelry safes are safes built to keep jewelry and other miscellaneous valuables away from the hands of burglars.
It used to be used only by jewelers, but affluent citizens the world over now turn to these tools to protect their often priceless jewels, gems and other valuables.
Typically, jewelry safes are designed with antique or other beautiful designs and are expensive. The interiors of these safes often spot fine woods and luxurious fabrics for aesthetics. Also, to keep the delicate contents of the safe from theft, fires or wear/rust.
Nonetheless, these safes are more than what meets the eye since their body is normally made from heavy duty steel. They exist in numerous drawer and compartment configurations, not to mention a wide price range.
Burglar-resistant safes are designed to avert attempts of theft and are less concerned about extreme temperatures. Nevertheless, since no safe is burglar proof, they are usually rated according to their resistance against a specific number and types of tools e.g. drills, blowtorches, etc. Or depending on the amount of time it would take a burglar to break in. Some can withstand for 15 minutes while others can go up to an hour.
Locksmiths use further deterrent tactics to discourage burglars from attempting the theft in the first place.
For example, most have an alarm system that notifies securities within the time it would take the thief to break in.
Some safes are designed to protect against very specific elements, such as radiation or even cold.
For instance, a fireproof safe does not necessarily guarantee that your valuables are safe from other elements such as dust and water.
These types of safes are usually built to be airtight, even when immersed under water for long periods of time. Other safes even have a small cold storage room for storing biological/chemical samples.
Some safes are designed such that instead of opening the main compartment each time, they have a smarter way of accessing the content on demand.
For example, some have an automatic cash dispensing machine that works as an ATM as well as slots for storing important documents on demand.
Hi-tech smart safes are incorporated with further technological features such as voice recognition and biometric scanning for even better security.
Wall safes are a common type that you have probably seen in a few of your favorite shows and films. They are normally used to hide jewelry, cash, documents and other valuables. They are normally built into a concrete or brick wall, making it easy to conceal them using a painting, a clock or even a TV.
The concealment part plays a huge role in keeping these safes secure, however, they are still a daunting task to install.
This is because you will definitely need professionals to cut the wall for you.
Not to mention that the wall has to be thick enough for the safe to be inaccessible from behind.
You can choose to install your safe using different thicknesses, and the hinges are always concealed to prevent break in.
Any individual or family that owns a firearm has the responsibility of stowing it away safely, somewhere out of the reach of children, friends, pets, or prying neighbors.
They offer a great solution for this need since they are specifically designed to hold various sizes of guns.
Gun safes range as widely in design and size as the number of guns out there.
As such, you can find small gun safes perfect for just one hand-gun that can be placed under the bed/drawer, or a huge stand-up safe that can be bolted to the floor for holding all the rifles and larger firearms.
While you can space any gun in a safe that fits, it is important to invest in a safe designed for your specific gun.
This will ensure that your gun stays in great shape, since it will have all the features necessary to protect it from the elements, theft, fire or abuse.
Some gun safes come in beautiful designs for aesthetic purposes, and some have standard fire and burglar proof features.
There are other types of safes meticulously tailored for your needs, so be sure to check to find something that suits you best.
For instance, there are even small dorm room safes that you can use to keep your valuables secure while living in a hostel or while traveling. The possibilities of safe design are pretty much endless.
Types of Locks
Safes are usually protected by a wide array of locking devices. Among these, the most common include:
- Key locks – these types of safes are opened using a key and are most suitable for the traditional person who has a hard time remembering combinations!
- Dial combination locks – these types of safes require the user to input a sequence of numbers to unlock them. Conventional dial combinations usually need long combinations, but their electronic counterparts solves this problem. These are best fitted for those who are prone to losing/misplacing their keys.
- Electronic locks – like a dial combination lock, this type does not need a key, instead, the user types in a sequence of a preset password using a digital keypad or by swiping a digital card. They are convenient because they are easy to use compared to manual dials and can be used by multiple people who know the password. In case the access is compromised, you can always change the security codes.
- Biometric locks – these are a type of electronic locks that does not rely on keys, codes, or numbers, but are designed to recognize your fingerprint or iris for authentication. They store a sample of all the authorized people and when presented with a finger-print or iris, they match it with the record and open the safe only if it matches with one of the stored records. This removes the risk of a key or password falling into the wrong hands.
Many residents living in city apartments and townhouses do not have a lot of room to spare. If you are one of them, there are many small safes that you can get.
Most are mountable either to the floor or on the wall, and this should maximize on all the space you have with enough concealment to deter discovery.
Even business owners that keep cash and other valuables in the office have a need for safes.
Depository boxes are one of the best ways of storing receipts from danger without having to run up and down the bank.
These normally contain a slot for slipping in deposits, and a safe storage box that is safe from fire, burglars and any other destructive elements.
Whatever your needs are, you should definitely consider what is valuable to you and what type of protection you need against this, because once it’s gone, there is often no way to get it back!