A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.
Posted On by Ralph Goodman
The media makes a lot of claims about the different types of safes, but what is the truth? What is the truth about safes? Here is a list of 7 things you should know about safes. Tips and things to consider when you are buying and placing a safe. This information is just here for you to protect your property and give you some peace of mind. Some of it might seem to take away said peace of mind, but it is just as important to know you are secure, as it is to know you are at risk. Don’t rely on the illusion of security. Learn how criminals are going to approach your valuables, and you set yourself on the path to never being robbed. Remove the wool from your eyes and take off the rose-colored glasses, it is time to hear 7 things everyone should know about safes.
The saying in the security industry is that money buys you time. When you are paying for quality all you are really getting is a product that will give the thief more trouble. There is a reason that banks do not have their vaults in the middle of the sales floor. A safe is just simply not enough protection. Greater protection comes from discretion and multiple layers of precaution. There is no substance that cannot be broken or destroyed. Even diamonds (the hardest substance on Earth) can be cut, and the most secure locks can eventually be broken into. There is no simple solution for protecting your valuables, it is more a lifestyle process. It begins with investing in a high-quality safe and paying more. Then the focus is securing that investment so not only is it hard to find, but no one is looking for it.
We have all seen movies where the burglar will crack a safe by placing a doctor’s stethoscope to the door of the safe and work out the combination. That is not going to happen to you. Criminals are not focused on the art of lockpicking, they are concerned with simplicity and speed. The most common thing a thief will do is steal the safe. Once they have the safe they can open it at their leisure, and the job is done. So most people think the solution is to bolt the safe to the ground, and it will help. But if you bolt the safe to the floor then the thieves will pry the safe open. The prying process amounts to sticking a pry bar of some sort (commonly a crowbar) into the crack between the door of the safe and body. Once the bar is in place tension is increased until the assailants bend the metal of the door enough to gain access to your property. If your safe is very expensive, they might need to cut into the safe, which is done most commonly with an angle grinder. If you have bought a very expensive safe, the burglars might use torches. Use of a blow torch is the least common method of entry because it is almost never necessary. The best safes in the world, whether they are home safes or bank vaults can all be opened by one of these methods or a mixture of them.
Like almost every aspect of security, the amount you pay is going to relate to the protection you get. For most safes, the doors are stronger than the body, and on cheaper safes, the doors are as weak as the body. What you get with more expensive safes is thicker and stronger metal. In the very expensive models, there are materials in the metal that dull drills, blunt cutting tools, and disperse heat in defense of torch attacks. The safes you find in a hotel are on the opposite end of the spectrum. These cheap safes can be struck with a hand as the handle is turned and they will open. Every safe can be opened with enough time and the right tools, just as every lock can be picked. Even bank vaults can be defeated as we were shown just this year with the Hatton Garden heist. Again, cost is quality, and quality is time. Time is what thieves do not want to spend. Therefore, the best deterrent is having the safe that is the hardest to break into.
I know it is tempting to brag about your safe. Safes are cool, it means that you have something expensive that you want to protect (and there is something in the safe too). That is why you should not talk about your safe. Not a lot of people have safes, so if your home is ever robbed in an act of pure coincidence, there is no reason a person should be able to go straight to your safe. If your home is burgled and the only thing the thieves have touched is the safe, it means that you have broken the cardinal rule of security, or that you did not sufficiently hide the safe. It might also mean that you thought your hiding spot was so clever that you should tell the world. People want to hear about your safe and where you hid it and they may ask you, not because they are necessarily criminals (again safes are cool), but having that information out there will make you more vulnerable. You cannot control who your friends and family members will tell, who those people will in turn tell, and on and on. Break the cycle, and don’t talk about your safe.
For the same reason you should not be talking about your safe, you should also not be keeping your safe out in the open. Concealing the existence of a safe might even protect you if you slip up and mention you have a safe. If the safe is hidden well then knowing about it is only going to be a third of the battle. The other two-thirds will come in finding it and getting into it. A great way of making both of these things more difficult is to put the safe in a wall or in the floor. This will cover the weaker sides of the safe (everything but the door) and allow you to hide the safe with a false floor, wall, etc. A wall safe might even be superior to a floor safe because it is harder to remove.
The best safes are those that are made so you can’t even get to them. This is ideal for a safe that does not get frequent use. A safe behind a picture is hidden, but a safe that is inside a wall is invisible and inaccessible. Something that needs to be exhumed will never be stumbled upon by a common thief. This is a very old method that still has people finding money during home renovations, which is precisely how effective it can be. The people that hid their valuables cannot even remember where to look. This is truly the best way to hide a safe. Again, it is not practical for safes that you want to be able to access periodically because it should ideally be very time-consuming and require a fair amount of destruction. Hiding something that requires destruction of your own property will also be the last suspicion for a burglar.
I can’t tell you what my personal precautions are (see Don’t Talk About Your Safe above for more info), but this list should get your creative juices flowing. Your creativity is just going to add an extra layer of security. If you watch as many movies and TV shows as I do, you know the obvious ways that people can hide their safes: under loose floorboards, behind a picture, etc. Be better than that, because I know every time I see a framed piece of art or hear a squeaky floor I can’t help but wonder. You want your method to be what no one is expecting. When you are cleaning the house think about the places that you avoid. Why do you avoid them? If the reason that you are avoiding cleaning that area is because you think that no one will ever see it, see if that area can fit a safe. Do the unexpected and your standard criminal will never be able to find your safe, let alone break into it.
Protection is all about refinement. Learn from the mistakes of others and think differently than everyone else. Adapt and change to suit your needs while still considering the variables of the criminal element. The keys are discretion, creativity, knowledge, and investment. A balance of these things will leave you well protected. Invest more in a better safe and maybe you don’t have to be as creative, or vice versa. Be tremendously discreet and you might never have to think about how someone is going to get into a safe that only you know about. The best thing to do is find a happy medium between them all, and make sure that you are not neglecting your security. Don’t be happy with a facade of protection. Look at the facts for what they are, and make sure compromises do not compromise your security. Above all, be safe, and protect the things you care about.