Many homeowners are including plans for a home safe, for an added sense of security, fire protection for important papers and valuables and convenience.  Whether it’s a simple gray lockbox or a device that secures items by deception, a home safe can be a good investment.

How to select a safe
How big? Take stock of your valuables and important papers. If you keep some in a bank safe deposit box, the size of that rented safe may be a good gauge. Will you store jewelry, watches, guns or other valuables inside? If so, you may want to consider a safe with shelving to accommodate the different boxes these pieces are stored in. If your collection is watches, you may want to consider an automatic watch winder to keep all your watches running for quick changes. Gun safes — for either rifles or handguns— will require a different configuration than a jewelry safe. Important papers can also take up considerable space. You’ll want to sort through these papers to eliminate any duplicates, or papers for sold property or paid off mortgages.

What’s the rating? The safe industry has ratings it uses, B, C, or E depending on how thick its walls and doors are and more resistant to tampering and forcible entry. Strings of letters also can appear in ratings, and as the price increase, so do the numbers of letters in the rating. Fortunately for novices, Underwriters Laboratories has developed a rating system for safes, based on their own verification procedures. The test for burglary ratings includes resistance with different means, such as pry bars, manual and power tools, blowtorches and nitroglycerin. The UL rating also includes the time needed to actually open a safe, say an hour-long assault with all the tools possible. UL also includes a burn time rating, another important measure. Three temperature ratings provide different protection in a fire: 350 (degrees) for safes that will get no hotter than that for paper documents. A degree rating of 150 will protect film and magnetic tape and a rating of 125 will protect computer media, drives and discs. The time element of the rating indicates how long the inside of the safe can maintain that temperature in a fire.

Custom design. Most safe companies offer a selection of larger custom designed safes, with select colors, and sizes, handles and locking mechanisms. Biometric locking devices can scan eyes or fingerprints. Some safes come with a GPS tracking system, should thieves decide to transport the safe to another location for opening.

Another option is the diversion safe (left), which fools the would-be thief into missing the hiding place. Safes fashioned to resemble iceberg lettuce, a can of shaving cream or soda are available for tucking away in any room of the house. Other disguises can be surge protectors or clocks. However, the same tools for searching the Internet are available to would-be thieves so they are not entirely fool proof. Most places that seem out of the way, like shoeboxes, coat pockets, freezer trays are the first places that burglars look.

For more information about specific safe options, two manufacturers offer numerous options for the homeowner. Liberty Safe has some interesting videos featuring the many ways burglars can be thwarted by their security features. Sentry Safe has a “Find Your Safe” tool  that walks through the elements of selecting a safe.