You’d think it would be a no-brainer. Buy a big, heavy metal box with a sophisticated lock, insert valuables, and rest easy knowing your jewelry, cash, and important documents are secure, right? Not so fast. It’s just a little more complicated than that. For example, you might think that home safes are a replacement for bank safety-deposit boxes. Unfortunately, that is not true. While many items can be kept either place, some items are better stored in a home safe, while others are better kept in the bank.
Here are the most important things you need to know about home safes – what to expect from them, and what not to expect from them. This is by no means an exhaustive list – there is much more to know about home safes – but it is a good place to start.
Original copies of wills and trusts are examples of items to keep in a home safe instead of a bank vault. Storing these documents in a bank vault can cause legal problems when you die. When the bank is notified of your death, they may be required to seal your vault. At that point, it may be impossible for the executor of your estate to access the documents until the court appoints its own executor. So, keep wills and trusts in a home safe, and make sure your executor can access them.
Examples of other items that should be stored in a home safe include documents you may want to get to when the bank is closed. Passports, social security cards, and medical powers of attorney are good examples.
Experts say that cash, valuable jewelry, or anything a thief will want should not be put in a home safe. They are just not great protection against burglars. Even a heavy safe bolted to the ground cannot guarantee that a determined burglar will not use simple tools to break into it or carry it away. He may even find those tools in your own garage or shed. And, the larger and heavier the safe, the more likely a thief is to believe that there is a big payday waiting inside. In addition, anything that is irreplaceable should not be stored in a home safe.
Don’t assume your safe will withstand a house fire, or the water that will be used to put it out. There are different ratings for how long a safe will preserve its contents during a fire, and you should know these ratings before buying a safe. For example, a safe with an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) fire-rating of 350-1 hour will maintain temperatures inside the safe below 350°F for about one hour in a 1,700°F fire. A safe with a UL fire-rating of 350-2 hour will keep inside temperatures below 350°F for about two hours in an 1,850°F fire. These ratings will work for paper contents. If you are store digital media inside the safe, you’ll need one that will keep inside temperatures below 125°F. As you can see, the fire rating is important, and should be determined by the types of items you will store in the safe.
Some safes are better at fending off physical attempts to break into them than others. There is a rating system for this, as well, though it is more common on commercial safes than home safes. For example, a safe with a TL-15 rating can sustain at least 15 minutes of continuous assault with common house tools. A TL-30 rating would resist an assault for at least 30 minutes, and so on. For added security, bolt your home safe to the floor so that burglars cannot easily remove it from your home. Remember, though, even a safe bolted to the floor can be removed.
If you lose the key to your home safe, forget the combination, or the lock fails, call a safe locksmith in your area. These professionals are specially-trained to deal with these situations, and may be able to get into your safe without damaging it, or its contents.