6 Tips for Choosing The Right Home Safe

by Kentin Waits on 13 September 2010 1 comment
Photo: adventtr

Home safes have increased in popularity since the recession began. As folks realize that some bankers should be wearing an orange jumpsuit instead of a pin-striped three-piece, having a little money on-hand and protecting valuables at home has begun to make a bit more sense.

In spite of a wide variety of models with varying features, choosing the right home safe can be a relatively easy process. Since you’re not only protecting cash, but essential documents and sentimental items, choose wisely and consider these six key points.

1. Understand the safe’s fire rating, which reflects the amount of time the safe can withstand direct flame without the contents combusting. This is usually measured in hours and I suggest a minimum of a one-hour fire rating.

2. Research the safe’s cash rating, which indicates how burglar-resistant the safe is. Typically, this rating is calculated by the strength of the safe’s door and walls, the complexity of the locking mechanism and the difficulty in removing the safe from its location. Generally, the higher the cash rating, the more secure the safe is. Remember, the fire rating and the cash rating are unrelated. A high cash rating does not imply good fire resistance (and vice-versa). Do the research on the model you’re considering.

3. Determine the volume of items that will go in the safe and leave a little spare room for future additions. This will give you an idea of how large a safe you need. Remember, smaller safes are easier to conceal and more versatile for other environments (RV’s, apartments, boats). A standard home safe is 8” high, 10” wide and 10” deep.

4. Decide if you want the safe to be portable or permanently installed (bolting to the floor or setting in a wall). Choose the model and size accordingly. If you choose a portable safe, can it be carried by each adult in the household in an emergency?

5. Opt for a combination lock rather than a keyed lock. Combinations are typically easy to remember or jot down in a secret or off-site location. Keys get lost over time or forgotten in a panic.

6. Consider your budget and purchase the highest-grade safe that can reasonably meet your needs. Most home safes retail for around $150 but can go as high as $800. I opted for a higher-grade safe and sacrificed a few cubic inches. Remember, safes are for the protection of cash, valuables, and essential documentation. Avoid the temptation to include too many sentimental items if space is at a premium.

In the end, a good safe that is secure and well-concealed is just one piece of a larger family security plan. Make sure adult members in your family know where the safe is located and that your family has a well-rehearsed emergency plan that focuses on personal safety first and foremost.

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Pay attention to whether the fire-rating is for paper or media. Magnetic media (who uses that anymore) as well as CDs/DVDs will become unusable at far lower temperatures than it takes to burn paper (451F).

Of course everyone already has off-site backups of this important digital information anyway, right?