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Safe Ratings and Terminology Ratings in simple Terms

Fire Safes

Safes that protect against fire are usually made of thin steel sheets (or sometimes plastic) molded together to form an inner and an outer shell. These units are filled with an insulating material that will keep the temperature inside the safe below a certain point for a fixed period of time. Fire safes prevalent in the market today are usually one or two-hour rated safes.

There are several testing agencies throughout the world that certify these types of safes. Tests vary somewhat from agency to agency but usually include a time temperature test, explosion test, and impact or drop test. Every fire safe should be clearly marked with the name of the testing agency and the tests that were passed.

Fire safes, because of their construction are best suited to store non-negotiable documents and just a few valuables. Cash and high value items belong in a safe better suited against a burglary attack.

Burglary Safes

Burglar safes are usually made of solid steel plate or a combination of solid steel and composite fill material such as concrete. These safes are divided into categories based on the level of protection delivered and the testing endured. Here we will discuss only four classes, B-Rate, C-Rate, U.L. TL-15 and U.L. TL-30

B-Rate Safes

This 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.

C-Rate Safes

This 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.


Safes given a U.L. TL-15 rating have all passed standardized tests defined in UL Standard 687 using the same tools and usually the same group of testing engineers. I have personally worked with the same 5 people for 15 years. The label requires that the safe be constructed of 1-inch solid steel or equivalent. The label means that the safe has been tested for a NET working time of 15 minutes using "…common hand tools, drills, punches hammers, and pressure applying devices." Net working time means simply "when the tool comes off the safe the clock stops". There are over fifty different types of attacks that can be used to gain entrance into the safe. Usually they will try only 2 or 3 based on what they know about the product, and they know a lot.


These tests are essentially the same as the TL-15 tests except for, you guessed it, the net working time. They get 30 minutes and a few more tools to help them gain entrance. Keep in mind these engineers have the manufacturing blue prints and can disassemble the safe being tested before the test begins to see how it works. They know their stuff.

Final Thoughts...

When you begin the search for a safe it is a good idea to speak to your insurance agent and see if a particular type of safe will reduce your insurance costs. Many times you can justify the additional expense of a higher security safe because of the premium reduction. Remember no safe is burglar proof, you are buying time. The longer it takes to break in the greater the chance to be caught, and thieves don’t like to get caught...


Burglary Ratings:

Fire Ratings:

UL Underwriters' Laboratories (UL) - UL is a non-profit, non-bias agency that tests and rates the safety and performance of consumer products. Safes that have earned specific UL ratings will carry a UL label which designates the product's security and fire-protection ratings.

Fire Ratings

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