|Frequently Asked Questions
How do I tell what type of safe I need?
Safes are made in a variety of different strengths or grades. The grade of safe you need is determined by the value of the contents to be secured. The higher the value, the stronger the safe needs to be. However, stronger does not necessarily mean bigger. If you are going to insure the contents, your insurers are likely to specify the grade of safe they would like you to install. In this case it is essential to receive confirmation from your insurers before any safe is installed.
What are Euro-rated safes?
These are safes that have been tested in accordance with the common European standard EN1143-1 for testing and rating safes. These safes will have been tested by an approved testing house and graded from 0 to VI according to the level of security provided. A label on the back of the door will confirm that the safe has been tested in accordance with EN1142-1 and list the grade achieved.
Do Euro rated safes have pre-set insurance limits according to the grade?
No. There are suggested maximum overnight cash limits shown below, but insurers are not obliged to adhere to them. Some insurers will give more, some less, according to a number of variables. You should always seek confirmation of indemnity from your insurer before buying a safe.
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 +
Are jewellery limits the same as cash limits?
No. As a general rule of thumb, the cash limit can be multiplied by approximately 5 times for a commercial jewellery risk and up to 10 times for a domestic risk. Other factors may be taken into consideration so it is essential that confirmation of indemnity is obtained from your insurer.
Can I assume that all Euro rated safes are the same, wherever they come from?
That was the intention of EN1143-1 but in practice the quality of Euro rated safes can vary widely as the requirements of EN1143-1 seem to be interpreted less rigorously in some countries than others. Consequently these safes are of poorer construction; usually much cheaper and considerably lighter. Where there is an unexplained discrepancy in weight or price, British insurers may be reluctant to accept them for the full indemnity and caution should be exercised before ordering them.
What’s to stop someone wheeling the safe away?
All modern safes weighing less than 1000 kg are prepared for bolting down to a concrete or wooden floor. If an insurance underwriter is involved, it will be a condition of cover that the safe is fixed in place in accordance with the manufacturer’s specification.
Is there an alternative to a floor standing safe?
There are also walls safes and underfloor safes. Wall safes are always given minimum cover by British insurers as the safe can only be as secure as the wall into which it is fitted. However underfloor safes are available in a wide range of grades and strengths, some with round doors, some with square. Underfloor safes are good value but consideration must be given to the expense and disruption of the installation. The main advantages of underfloor safes are (a) they are concealed and (b) they take up no room once installed.
Are cash safes fire proof?
Not necessarily, however there is a tendency amongst the principal manufacturers to submit their cash safes for fire testing. The testing house and the degree of fire resistance will be mentioned in their literature. If a degree of fire resistance is featured, it will only be for paper documents. You cannot protect computer media in a cash safe. Higher levels of fire protection for paper records and computer media are provided by specialised document safes or data safes.
What about reconditioned safes – will my insurer accept them?
Many used safes are perfectly adequate and acceptable to insurance underwriters. Great care should be taken to ensure that the safe is fully reconditioned in accordance with British Standard Code of Practice for Reconditioning of Used Safes BS7582: 1992. This ensures that the locks have been changed, the boltwork serviced and accurate details of the used safe have been provided. You should always seek confirmation of acceptability from your insurer before installing any reconditioned safe. It is worth remembering that if the manufacturer is no longer in existence, service and spares could be a problem.
Where should I keep the safe keys?
All safe keys should always be removed from the premises when they are unattended. They should never be left in a desk, locked in another safe (unless it is of a higher grade) or placed in a key cabinet. The majority of successful robberies from safes are where the keys have been left on the premises, or have been stolen or copied.
Is a combination lock more secure?
Not in physical terms. However, a key can always be lost, copied or stolen. Whenever a key goes missing, the lock differs must be changed and new keys issued before the safe can be used. Combination codes are set by the user and can be changed as often as necessary. The choice of code should not use obvious codes such as telephone numbers and birthdays. Codes should be committed to memory and never be written down.
Are electronic locks reliable and easier to use?
Modern electronic digital locks have evolved over the past 10 years and locks made by principal manufacturers (Sargent & Greenleaf, LaGard, Mas Hamilton and Kaba) are now extremely reliable*. They are not only very quick and easy to use, they offer a wide range of optional functions including multiple user codes, time delay, time locking, audit trail and remote access.
* The same cannot always be said for locks of unknown manufacture frequently fitted to cheap safes from the Far East
How often should I change the code to my combination?
The code should be altered every time the custodian changes. In order to prevent wear leading to lock failure, combination codes should be changed at least every 6 months.
I have a safe with a badge that says “fire and burglar proof”, why won’t my insurers accept it?
Many older safes have badges that make this claim but they are often as much as 100 years old. They were not designed to resist the modern safe breaker and their fire resistant insulation was crude and will have degraded over the years. These safes seldom provide anything other than a very basic level of security and have no provision for bolting down. They have provided many years of service but it is now time they were retired.
Why can’t I install the safe myself?
Very light quality wall safes and underfloor safes can sometimes be installed by the end user. However, for heavier quality safes it is essential that the safe is installed by specialist contractors to ensure that they comply with insurer’s requirements.
I would like the safe installed upstairs. Is that a problem?
Due to Health & Safety requirements, Upper floor installations invariably cost more. In order to estimate the cost of installation on an upper floor, details of the stairs or lift must be provided. Where there is a question with regard to the strength or suitability of the stairs or lift, a survey may be required.
Do safes need servicing?
A conventional safe by a leading manufacturer could last 50 years without any servicing. However, if the safe is attacked or the locks develop a fault, it is important that the supplier is able to provide full nationwide support. With major brands there should be no problem in obtaining spares but this may not be the case with some Eastern European or Far Eastern products
Why do safe engineers cost more than locksmiths?
Firstly, there are plenty of qualified locksmiths but fewer experienced safe engineers. Secondly, safe engineers need to equip themselves with highly specialised and very expensive tools. Faulty or damaged safes must be opened in such a way that they can be restored to their original condition, requiring considerable knowledge and skill. This must be paid for.
I want to secure computer data rather than cash or valuables. What sort of safe do I need?
Computer data is highly sensitive to both heat and humidity. Whilst media may appear undamaged following a fire, the chances are that the data would be corrupted. Computer media can only be protected in a specialised data safe, sealed to resist humidity and able to provide a much higher level of heat resistance. As with cash safes, data safes are submitted to testing by authorised testing houses and a plate on the rear of the door will confirm who tested it, to what level and the standard achieved. The most recognised standards are the American Underwriters Laboratories, the Swedish NT Fire 017 or the German VDMA. The protection offered will vary from 60 minutes to 120 minutes. Once again, your insurers may wish to specify a particular level of protection.
I have a well known make of fire safe for my paper records. Can I use this to protect computer data?
No. Paper is only affected at around 212˚ F but digital or magnetic media will be damaged at much lower temperatures. Also, the insulation material used in most document safes generates moisture when subjected to heat. This will not damage paper but would be fatal to computer data. You can only preserve computer data in a specially designed computer data safe.