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Choosing a Safe - Advice-05

Types of Safes

Choosing the wrong type of Safe could prove a very costly mistake, however choosing the right model for your needs should be easy as long as you understand the function and design features of the different types available.





Safes offer a convenient and cost efective means of protecting the items stored inside. Stand alone units come in many different sizes and design but all basically fall into one of three main categories:

  1. Burglary Safes
  2. Fire Safes
  3. Data Safes

For higher levels of protection a purpose built Vault or Strongroom (including demountable Strongrooms) may be required. 

Various international test standards exist against which manufacturers have their `Safe` products tested & rated.

A good Safe will therefore carry a Fire Protection rating, Data Protection rating or Security rating (normally expressed as an overnight cash storage value) dependent on the type of safe it is.

Burglary Safes

A Burglary Safe, sometimes called a Cash Safe, is designed primarily to protect the contents against theft and will generally offer little or no protection against the damage of contents by fire or other risk.

Fire Safes 

A Fire Safe is basically designed to protect contents (primarily papers) against fire damage and typically will offer only a minimal level of security (cash rating).

Fire safes are tested and rated in respect of their performance against a specified set of criteria to be met in the event of a fire.






Test criteria will include the length of time (normally specified as minutes - 30, 60, 90 or 120), in a fire of a specified temperature, that the safe can maintain an internal temperature of below 200 degrees C (the point at which documents will be destroyed).

Test standards commonly used by firesafe manufacturers include; VDMA, UL, Japanese Fire Test, Swedish Fire Test, and others.

Each of these test standards may differ in terms of the temperature of the fire in which the safe is tested, whether a drop test (i.e. a simulation of the safe falling through a building - as in a floor collapse), is included, the duration of the test and various additional factors.

A safe achieving a particular standard will be rated accordingly. E.g. a safe rated as VDMA/120 would indicate that the model has been tested to and met the VDMA 120 minute test.

Note - Some low cost fire safes currently on the market are in fact manufactured from foil wrapped fibre board coated in plastic which may offer some protection against a minor fire but only very limited security as they can be broken into easily with a screwdriver or chisel.

WARNING   -   A "Fire Safe" is not suitable for use as a Data Safe.

Data Safes 

A Data Safe is similar to a fire safe but to be effective, must in the event of a fire, maintain a much lower internal temperature than a fire safe (below 52 degrees C - the point at which data media is destroyed). And datasafes must also protect against other hazards such as high humidity, electro magnetic contamination and others. 

Test ratings are applied in a similar way to those for firesafes (see above) however for a data safe, much more demanding test criteria are applied.

Strongrooms and Vaults

For the highest level of protection a purpose built Vault or Strongroom (including demountable Strongrooms) may be required.








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