Safe at home
May 9, 2011 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Looking for advice for a home safe (and places to sell that safe to me).

My household is trying to upgrade our home security profile. We are looking to store 1) some jewelery; 2) passports/SS cards/random other official documents; 3) small backup drives for our computers; 4) cash. All told, we're probably looking at somewhere north of $10,000 (plus the non-monetary value of the computer files and documents).

We'd like a fire/water/theft safe, and had been looking at this Sentry Safe. We liked this model because it is UL rated for 2 hours' fire protection and factory rated for 30-foot drops. We'd like to avoid electronic mechanisms. However, there are videos available online of similar safes being compromised with common household tools. Obviously, compromising the safe using these methods requires access; we'd do our best to conceal the safe, and we'd bolt it to the floor (sorry, landlord).

Is this an OK safe to get, all things considered? What should I be looking for in a safe? It seems all the results for "best safe" or "how to choose a safe" are for retailers or content farms, neither of which I trust. If you would recommend another safe, which one? We're looking for something around 1 cubic foot. I've seen this thread, but it doesn't get into the particulars of which safe to get (and I don't have room for a gun safe).

Yes, we know it would be wise and economical to get a safe deposit box. We'd like to keep some valuables at home, though.

Where should we get a safe? Online? Local shop? We're in Boston.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The advice I've heard about a gun safe is, that if the safe isn't built into/part of the structure, thieves will take it out of the house and open it later. So consider how you'd mount it (and where) in the house as part of your overall answer.
posted by k5.user at 10:38 AM on May 9, 2011

One thing I remember about safe shopping, there's fire-proof as in paper won't burn for x hours and there's fire-proof as in your CDs and hard drives will be OK for x hours, the later group sometimes being called media safe.

Also, if the safe can be removed by a group of criminals, the safe is just like a box to carry your expensive stuff out in.
posted by Brian Puccio at 11:01 AM on May 9, 2011

The sentry safe that you link to seems very small. Most small safes can be bolted down, where the bolting mechanism is inside the safe, which makes it hard to just take the safe. However, that does look like a small safe.

Gun safes are much larger. I have a gun safe, my brother has a gun safe, many of my friends have gun safes.

I have never heard of thieves taking a gun safe out of a house. That seems a little bit incredible. They are not on wheels and weigh a lot. When I moved mine into my house, it took a few hours, and I left it on the first floor, because getting it upstairs seemed daunting. A thief would need lots of time, a hand truck, and other equipment to remove a medium sized gun safe.

Virtually any lock-smith store can order a gun safe. And many of them will offer delivery service.

Also, I don't think the average criminal is going to get into a gun safe. My brother got mixed up at one point, lost and forgot the combo to his safe. It took us a while calling around to find a lock-smith who could get into it. It took a professional lock-smith, with the tools of his craft, almost an hour to get the thing open. Your average safe is simply not going to be cracked by your average thief. And, if you are being targetted by truly professional thieves, then you probably need more than just a safe.
posted by Flood at 11:12 AM on May 9, 2011

I looked at safes recently (yet another topic to raise my blood pressure because of the "facts" stated by companies) and while I can't contribute much to the theft discussion, I can add a few points about fire and safes.

In researching online and talking to two locksmith shops, there are no standard certifications for current electronic media (optical drives, hard drives, and flash drives). The UL-125 rating was tested with floppies and the like, there really hasn't been any testing of modern tape media, burned media, or modern hard drives.

In talking with engineer friends (who design equipment for extreme temperatures), they thought that a UL-125 safe along with not crap flash drives would have the best chance of surviving a fire. 177C (350F) is above 150C which is a pretty common extreme max temperature for electric components.
posted by fief at 11:32 AM on May 9, 2011

Not related to the purchase specifically, but some general advice is to locate the safe on the lowest floor of the home. In a fire they can fall through burnt out boards and break open on impact or damage contents. A safe can more easily sustain things falling on it than falling with its own weight. Another tip: A firefighter once told me that he has never taken anything outside of a freezer that was burned. While not particularly secure, putting some irreplaceable documents in the freezer compartment may be part of the overall solution. You'll still want a safe for the other things.
posted by dgran at 1:29 PM on May 9, 2011

Original poster, please memail me for advice.
posted by kovacs at 6:11 PM on May 9, 2011

Get the kind that can be bolted to the floor, and bolt it down.

If you get the kind with a number keypad, press all the keys from time to time. Maybe it's just TV dramatization, but supposedly under the right light a thief can tell what 4 keys make up your code because all the other buttons are clean.

Never ever open your front door to someone and go into the backyard to "look at the property line" or whatever. Elderly friend was tricked this way. His buddy (who had been hiding) went into the bedroom and took their safe. Friend's wife was bedridden. Thank goodness he didn't hurt her.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:10 PM on May 9, 2011

What are your security concerns? It is unlikely that the Phantom is going to come to your house to steal the Pink Panther. Any small safe that cannot be carried off (i.e. is bolted into place) is probably going to be more than a match for your average burglar. I can't say for fire resistance.

Knowing two people whose houses were burgled by someone who stole less that $500 worth of stuff and did more than $1000 damage doing it, you might get more bang for your security buck, by doing some minor things that will make your house look less appealing to criminal types. A friend of mine had one by a reformed burglar back in the late 80's or early 90's that was pretty interesting. Wish I could remember the title for you.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:19 PM on May 9, 2011

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