Misleading Safe Ratings & Performance Claims: A Guide to Reliable Safe Ratings

How safe is your safe?
Knowing your money, jewelry, important papers, firearms, prescription drugs, and other valuables are protected from theft and fire is the peace of mind we all crave. Safes, of course, were invented to do just that. Every year though, too many people put their faith in misleading or confusing claims about fire ratings and burglary ratings. And sometimes, owners find out the hard way that their sub-standard safe isn’t up to the task of defending their precious contents. And that’s why you should always look for the stick that contains a UL or ETL sticker, signifying your safe has been independently tested and VERIFIED to have passed those tests. Let’s take a look at some confusing and misleading claims in the market.

Isn’t my lockbox enough?

Really? Consider the lockbox – essentially, a box that locks. Lock boxes are not the same as “safes.” While lockboxes can be small enough for a set of keys, most are about the size of a cash register drawer, and rarely larger than a portable file. They are typically constructed of thin gauge metal, lightweight enough to be carried around, and come with various locking options — key, combination, or electronic. The boxes seem secure and are convenient as cashboxes for concert or theater events, swap meets, carnivals, garage sales, etc., or perhaps at home, for prescription medicines or important papers.

While lockboxes can even be installed permanently, they’re just not equipped, to fend off a serious break-in or to take the heat in case of a serious and prolonged fire. Thin metal, insubstantial hinge constructions, and simple locking mechanisms are no challenge for experienced criminals. While some lockboxes contain fire deterrents, without formal third-party testing there’s no way to gauge their effectiveness.

What makes a safe different (from a lock box)?

Safes, large or small, have several key distinctions that differentiate them from lockboxes. First, they are constructed of thicker gauges of steel and can offer advanced fire protections. Then, safe doors use sophisticated bolting systems and locking devices. They are highly customizable and come with options to suit any residential or commercial need. Quality safes are also certified by established independent testing organizations like United Laboratories (U.L.) and Intertek-ETL, meaning your valuables are far more likely to survive a crisis. You won’t get that with a lockbox.

Safes have been around for a LONG time

Using a safe to fend off the loss of valuables, isn’t a new idea. The ambition to create a secured enclosure dates back more than 3000 years. The first safe we know of was discovered in the tomb of the Pharaoh Ramesses II and was built in Egypt in the 13th century BCE. Made of wood, it used a locking system that resembles modern pin tumblers, replete with cleverly engineered movable pins that dropped into holes to secure the safe. Eleven centuries later, in the 2nd century BCE Greece, sealed money boxes were fashioned with slits on top to securely deposit coins that couldn’t be fished back out.

Some 1800 years on, Rome was brimming with jewelry, gems, coins, and other treasures that needed protection. Craftsmen who were already adept at crafting intricate keys, devised an ingenious locking system with fixed lugs, dramatically advancing security, and locking systems. Those clever Romans also deployed various sizes and shapes of notches, so each lock would require a unique key.

By the Renaissance, in the 16th century, keys and locking systems had been elevated into an art form, with an emphasis not only on security and mechanical ingenuity but artistry. From the Middle Ages until the 1700s, the technology to build heavy lockable wooden chests with iron bands and multiple bolts was continually refined. In the same era, combination locks were introduced in both the Middle East and Renaissance Europe.

Within two hundred years, safe alarm systems emerged with bells that rang when locked chests were opened. And, in the early 1800s, fire protection became the latest trend and safes resembling those we know today took off, particularly in the U.S. and Great Britain. Some successfully fended off burglars and fire damage. Some did not. Which is not all that different from where we are today. 

Making sure your valuables are protected

Fortunately, the safe industry has evolved uniform ratings and classifications that inform customers of what they can expect from a safe, and assist insurance companies to determine the insurability of its contents. The leading burglary rating and fire testing organization, U.L., was founded in 1894 as a not-for-profit independent testing entity. Another well-respected company, Intertek-ETL, performs independent testing for fire resistance.

Safes are categorized using two methods: Construction Ratings and Test Performance Ratings. Construction classifications relate to theft protection and are determined by an analysis of the safe’s material specifications. To receive a Test Performance rating, they must be built to a construction specification and tested for their ability to withstand intense break-in attempts or fire.

Be sure to check for authentic certifications in the marketing materials and on any safe you’re considering purchasing —especially if you plan to insure its contents. Safe manufacturing is an unregulated business and many manufacturers, especially in other countries, claim their safes are built to certification standards. Unless a trusted third-party substantiates the claim, however, it’s impossible to confirm.

Not every safe company submits their wares to be rated. U.L. and Intertek – ETL certifications can be expensive, often upward of $30K per model, depending on a safe’s function and design. Some manufacturers submit their safes for certification but can’t pass the rigorous testing process.

Misleading statements some safe manufacturers make

The most common phrasing manufacturers use to try and obscure their safe’s rating (or lack of), is “built to UL standards” or “factory fire rated.” While it is common practice, and usually acceptable to build a safe to testing specifications without ever testing the safe, the consumer should be aware of the difference. A factory fire rating, if you ever see this listed next to the safe, can mean a couple different things. Either the safe was built to perform for a set amount of time, in accordance to the specifications set forth by UL or ETL or the manufacturer tested the safe’s performance in their own factory. Testing one’s own safe in an uncontrolled environment isn’t the same as asking an independent agency to test in a controlled lab environment. To be effective, a fire or burglary test must be controlled, and applied in the same manner, to every safe, every time. Some manufacturers go out of their way to create their own rating system and assign arbitrary security and fire “levels” to their safes, commiserate with their price. The higher the price, the higher the level of protection. If you see this tactic used, you should ask the safe dealer what the verifiable lab rating equivalent is of the manufacturer’s proprietary safe level rating.

Safes are only as good as the job they do to protect your valuables. Cutting corners can lead to calamitous outcomes. Do your homework, ask questions. Safes are for worst-case scenarios, so make sure the one you’re considering for home or business can really withstand break-in attempts and fire. And whether the safe you’ve set your eyes on is “built to standards” or actually, independently verified for fire or burglary protection, its a good idea to ask about the safe’s warranty and what specifically it covers, in what situations, and for what duration of time.

Unlock the secret to simplified change ordering and reconciliation – here’s how

As a result of the pandemic businesses were forced to adapt to new challenges. During this process improvement period, light was shone on existing areas of improvement.

Retail businesses spend an undue amount of labor time on cash handling tasks. One task in particular, is managing change or change orders. This can be taxing, and often fraught with errors, causing multiple parties having to get involved to resolve.

While order placing has evolved over recent years, discrepancies and reconciliations have not been widely addressed. Most banks have an online form or other user-friendly method to capture requests. But, for regular retail operators this adds complexity as it requires a corporate or administrative user with authorized credentials to access the portal to submit the request. Most importantly, this method does not account for the timing of the request submission and actual fulfillment of it, potentially causing a reconciliation nightmare. Often times, retailers bank with different institutions, causing change order placement to become a repetitive task across banks.

ChangeExchange® from America Security is the only smart safe solution providing single-point change ordering. 

CashWizard™ from American Security is the only smart safe solution provider offering patented single-point change ordering – no matter where you bank, or how many banks you bank with.  Configuring the ChangeExchange® feature is easy to do so that all your change ordering takes place in one place.  

By entering their unique user PIN at the safe, employees can request the desired change amount, identifying the denominations breakdown; this can be set to be delivered at their next scheduled armored car pick-up or later, if preferred. Change orders can only be placed when paid for in full. Because CashWizard counts and keeps track of money deposited, employees can choose to make a deposit to pay for the change order or simply apply existing funds in the safe, you are always in balance.

What if I bank with multiple partners?  

Because the bank relationships can be configured in the CashWizard secure cloud portal, change requests placed at the safe are verified and transmitted to the corresponding bank for fulfilment and delivery via armored courier.

With ChangeExchange seamlessly order, track and auto reconcile change orders so you’re always in balance.  

For a product demonstration of CashWizard™ with ChangeExchange® call (800) 421-6142 or fill out a product interest request 

‘Snake Burglar’ doesn’t even attempt to break into American Security safe

On January 25 a thief, known as the ‘Snake Burglar,’ was caught on security surveillance slithering his way around a Riverside, CA business. But the burglar completely passes up an American Security BWB2020FL depository safe that can be seen in plain view. The thief appears to have raided and ransacked the contents of the filing cabinet and desk on either side of the safe, and unfortunately, did manage to get away with $50,000 worth of unsecured property.

So why didn’t the thief bother with the depository safe?

85% of break-ins are committed by amateurs. And burglars rather remove a safe from the location than try and open it on the premises. Thieves with advanced practice in cracking safes, and who are familiar with most major safe companies, will avoid messing with safes that they know are verified high security and impervious to attack.

Last month American Security published an article about upping your home and business protection with a high security safe amidst a rise in smash and grab robberies sweeping major metropolitan cities in Southern California and other parts of the US. Over the last two years, the US has witnessed a series of spikes in crime which in turn have driven up demand for increased security measures that include dogs, surveillance systems, guns and, of course, safes.

A high security safe keeps valuables like jewelry, cash, and sensitive documents from ending up in the wrong hands. High security safes come in a variety of sizes and security ratings and can also have added protection features like drywall or concrete filler offering protection against fire as well. The AmVault TL-15 and -30 series from American Security are perfect for home or business and feature both burglary and fire protection.

If you run a business that accepts cash you may have need of either a smart safe or traditional depository safe. A traditional depository safe – like the one passed up by the ‘Snake Burglar’ – is usually wide enough to accommodate cash register trays, may feature coin racks, and should be constructed in a manner that makes penetration near impossible with reinforced hinges, door jams, locking mechanisms and steel plating.

A smart safe, like American Security’s CashWizard™️ save your retail business time and money by simplifying and automating most cash management practices while providing total visibility to your treasury department via secured cloud reporting.

Whatever you’re securing, American Security has a safe to fit your needs.

Visit the KTLA News 5 website for more on the ‘Snake Burglar’ story.