Burglary & Fire Safe Ratings: Buyer's Guide
Seeing these numbers and letters when you are looking for safes? Maybe you are seeing its burglary and fire ratings! These ratings are a bit complicated to understand if you are a beginner. But do not worry, we are here to help you out! It is very important to know what these ratings mean when you are looking for safes so you will not end up buying the wrong one. Here are the things you need to know!
Safe Classification & Testing
Safes are usually evaluated in two factors before it can be out in the market: burglary and fire.
The standard classification of a safe is its resistance to burglary attempts and its constructions as well as safe performance ratings from Underwriters Laboratory (U.L.).
Safe Construction Ratings
A safe construction rating is usually based on its strength and its building materials.
"B" Rate Safe
B rate is a rating given to almost any box with any kind of lock. But the unwritten description of this rating is that B rated safes are usually with at least 1/4" thick steel body, a 1/2" thick door, and any kind of locking mechanism. There is no test made to give this rating to safes.
"C" Rate Safe
C rated safes are defined as safes with 1/2" thick steel door, 1" thick, and a locking mechanism. Safes rated as C must also have a relocking device and a hard plate. Just like B rated safes, there is no test made to give C rating to safes.
"E" Rate Safe
An E rating is usually given by insurance companies but no independent testing company reviewed and rested E rated safes. It is normally the same in construction with U.L. TL-15 safes. Usually are composite or plate safes.
Safe Performance Ratings
B, C, and E ratings are all based on the strength and materials used to build them without any independent testing companies to review each safe. But for the safe performance ratings, an independent company named Underwriters Laboratory (U.L.) reviewed and tested each safe. This independent testing laboratory is responsible for giving product safety certification to various industries, not just for safes. To give an accurate rating, U.L. employs professional and specialized engineers to check the safe's design plans and blueprints with assembly information before the evaluation is made.
U.L. RSC (Residential Security Container)
U.L. RSC rated safes must withstand 5 minutes of severe drilling, prying, tampering, chiseling, and punching attacks and are tested using burglary tools not more than 18" in length, like chisels, hammers with less than 3 lbs head weight, pry bars, wrenches, and screwdrivers. Each product with the U.L. RSC rating should be properly and securely mounted.
TL means Tool Resistant. U.L. TL-15 rated safes have passed all of the standardized tests defined in the U.L. Standard 687. These safes should be constructed with at least 1" solid steel or equivalent with a minimum tensile strength of 50,000 PSI, 1 or 1R locking mechanism preferably combination lock, and can withstand 15 minutes NET working time (the clock stops when the tool comes off the safe) of severe drilling, prying, tampering, chiseling, and punching attacks using common hand tools, hammers, drills, punches, and pressure applying devices.
There are more than 50 types of burglary attacks used to access a safe but U.L.'s engineers usually only use 2 or 3 which is based on what they already know about the product.
U.L. TL-30's construction requirements are the same as TL-15. The tests made are also identical to TL-15 but with a longer NET working time of 30 minutes and additional tools like abrasive cutting wheels and power saws. Remember, engineers are given the blueprints beforehand and are allowed to disassemble the safe that they are testing.
With U.L. TL-30X6, the test is the same with TL-30 --- 30 minutes NET working time --- conducted on all six sides of the safe, the floor of the safe is included. TL-30X6 safes usually have 1, 1R combination lock, or Type 1 electronic locking mechanism, 750 lbs minimum or comes with anchoring instructions, and at least 1" solid steel or equivalent with a minimum tensile strength of 50,000 PSI.
TR means Torch Resistant, TL is for Tool Resistant, 30 for 30 minutes (the time the safe can withstand an attack), and X6 means All 6 Sides. U.L. TRTL-30X60 is just like U.L. TL-30X6 but is torch resistant on all 6 sides.
There are no 100% fireproof safes available in the market. It will all depend on the materials used for each safe and its construction. Also, it is hard to compare a fire situation from other fires. Remember, no two fires are the same.
3 Tests for Fire Protection
To know how U.L. comes up with their ratings, here are the 3 tests they conduct to give us the fire ratings for every safe and product. Class A, B, and C are subjected to all 3 tests, while Class D and E are only subjected to fire endurance and explosion hazard tests.
Fire Endurance Test
The fire endurance test conducted by U.L. measures the safes' ability to withstand fixed temperatures from U.L.'s standardized fire exposure conditions.
Before the fire endurance test, a safe is placed in a cold furnace. In the interior of the safe, heat measuring equipment is placed with papers scattered in contact with all the surfaces inside the safe. The safe's door is locked then the furnace is closed. Then, the fire will start.
Here is the time duration the safe is placed inside the furnace with the temperature based on the safe's classification.
|Time in the Furnace||Temperature|
|Class A||4 hours||2000°F|
|Class B||2 hours||1850°F|
|Class C||1 hour||1700°F|
|Class D||1 hour||1700°F|
|Class E||30 minutes||1550°F|
Explosion Hazard Test
The explosion hazard test identifies if the safe is designed to protect itself against sudden explosion due to intense heat exposure. When the safe's construction is faulty, the sudden increase in temperature will cause hydrogen-air to mix with the insulating materials resulting in the safe's walls rupture and explode.
This test will only have 2 results, pass or failed. Basically, the furnace is preheated to 2000°F then the safe is inserted and the furnace's door is closed for 30 minutes at 2000°F. Then, the safe is cooled and checked. If there is no rupture found, the safe passed and if not, it failed.
Fire Impact Test
The fire impact test is pretty rough. This test is conducted to measure the safe's resistance to impact in a fire or heated condition. It is designed to imitate the fall of the safe from 3 floors to the basement on a burning building. Then, the safe is left lying in the burning embers until it cooled down.
3 U.L. Fire Rating Classification
These 3 classifications will be based on what you want to protect and the maximum temperature a safe can handle.
U.L. Class 350
Class 350 safes can withstand up to 350°F and protect your paper products.
U.L. Class 150
Class 150 safes should be below 150°F and able to protect paper products, magnetic tapes, photographic films, and other non-paper records.
U.L. Class 125
Class 125 is designed to protect all of the above, as well as flexible computer disks and the interior of the safe, must stay below 150°F.
These fire ratings are approved for different time periods which can range from 30 minutes up to 4 hours. However, these additional time periods are not reflective of the time the safe was tested because the U.L. fire rating test usually lasts up to 100 hours and even more.