The details are still important knowledge for locksmiths, safe workers, even the general consumer....
Choosing a safe is often difficult. I have been asked many times over the years to make a recommendation to customers wishing to purchase a safe.
Before making a recommendation, I feel it necessary to ask some specific questions to a customer to help in determining a suitable product to recommend.
Many people do not understand the ratings systems for safes, probably because there is no written industry standard.
In the early 1990's, I worked for one of Australia's oldest manufacturers of quality safes, Kelly Safe Co PTY LTD. (they closed down in 1995, I believe). Kelly safes were considered a staple of the Australian landscape for about 100 years previously. They manufactured impressive quality safes for many of Australia's institutions, banks, high-society clubs, hotels etc.
The increasing competition from foreign products combined with the significant increase in raw materials cost, saw Kelly become less competitive in later years.
I learned much from my short time with them about how to grade safes.
There are many classifications of safes that are determined by each individual country/locallity as suitable for local conditions. The leading tester in the world (most respected) is known as the Underwriters Laboratory.
The questions I like to ask my clients are:
1. What approximate cash value of personal documents, jewellery, bank notes etc are you looking to secure?
This determines what grade of safe would be suitable for the contents.
2. Approximately how big (dimensions) would the individual pieces of content be for storage?
This determines the necessary internal dimensions of the recommended safe.
3. Are you looking for Burglary Protection, Fire Protection or both?
4. Would you prefer a bolt down facility, free-standing, on castors, wall-mount, floor mount, vault etc?
5. How much are you looking to spend?
The most important question is question #1, because this separates the designations of safes from each other and directly guides a professional to make the most suitable recommendation.
In California, the CDOJ (California Department Of Justice) uses the following terms:
B-RATE SAFES (ALSO U.L. RSC, RESIDENTIAL SECURITY CONTAINERS):
B-Rate is a catchall rating for essentially any box with a lock on it. The safe industry had an unwritten standard of ¼ inch body, ½ inch door. As steel prices (and shipping costs) increased manufacturers tried many things to reduce their costs. No tests are given to provide this rating. When buying a B-rate safe, look at things such as lock work, hard plates, and relocks.
U.L. Residential Security Container rating (RSC) - This UL rating is based on testing conducted for a net working time of five minutes, on all sides, with a range of tools. See U.L. TL-15 and TL-30 descriptions below for "net working time" description.
This is a catchall rating for safes with at least a 1/4" steel body, 1/2 inch door PLUS additional 10 or 12 guage metal layers where composite fire resistant material is also deployed. No tests are given to provide this rating. Look at the lock work, relocks and other features when making your decision.
C-Rate SafesThis is defined as a ½ inch thick steel box with a 1-inch thick door and a lock. As before, NO tests are given to provide this rating. Look at the lock work, relocks and other features when making your decision.
The Underwriters Laboratory information: