Are Safes Burglary-Proof? Fireproof? Waterproof? EMP-Proof?

Are Safes Burglary-Proof?

There is no such thing as a burglary-proof safe. With enough time, tools, and determination, a highly skilled burglar can get into just about any safe. However, safes can be hardened and fortified to give your items the best chance of staying secure. A good safe can make it impossible for a basic burglar to get in, and very difficult for even the most skilled professional safecrackers to get into your safe.

  • Burglary Resistant Locks: Security starts with a good safe lock. While some safe locks are very low security, maybe opening with just a key, others offer advanced high security graded locks. UL gives locks ratings based on their scientific torture tests against picking, prying, drilling, and other methods of skilled entry. There are biometric, electronic, and mechanical locks that have earned the top safe lock security ratings.
  • Relocking Devices: Higher end safes feature relockers, which are spring-loaded mechanisms that activate when triggered if the safe is tampered with. Only extremely skilled safe crackers can bypass relocking devices.
  • Resisting Physical Attacks: The best way to fortify a safe is with hardened solid steel. The thicker and stronger the steel, the more formidable the safe is against torch attacks, sledgehammer attacks, dropping, and prying. More steel makes the safe heavy, making it harder for a burglar to move it off-site.
  • Ratings for Burglary Safes: Look for UL Burglary Ratings when shopping for a safe. The most secure safes include TL-15, TL-30, or TL30x6, these are typically chosen for collections over $200,000. These indicate the safe’s resistance to very skilled burglary attacks for specific time periods. Insurance companies may require a specific safe rating for scheduled items such as jewelry, gold, or very valuable items. If you have scheduled items, it is a good idea to speak with your insurer prior to purchasing a home safe. As a rough estimate, here are what insurance companies have recommended generally in the past. Please know that most safes sold in big box stores have no burglary rating, leaving your items at risk.
    • UL B-Rated Safe for collections up to $10,000
    • UL RSC Rating for collections up to $20,000
    • UL B/C Rate for collections up to $30,000
    • UL C-Rate for collections up to $50,000
    • UL TL-15 for collections up to $200,000
    • UL TL-30 for collections up to $375,000
    • UL TL-30X6 for collections up to $500,000
    • UL TRTL-30X6 for collections over $1,000,000

Are Safes Fireproof?

The short answer is no. There is no such thing as an entirely fireproof safe, but that doesn’t stop companies from falsely marketing fireproof safes. However, safes can be fire-resistant and will do a great job at protecting photographs, paper, and important items. Most safes sold in big box stores have no fire rating at all, leaving your items at risk. If a safe you are looking at says “Fireproof”, you can be sure that is false advertising.

Let’s break it down:

  • Fire-Resistant Safes:
    • These safes are designed to withstand exposure to fire for a specified duration. They use special materials and insulation to protect their contents. We carry safes that can withstand intense flames for up to 2.5 hours. This means the temperature inside the safe will stay below 451°F, even when the box is engulfed in 1200°F flames for 2.5 hours. 451°F is an important tipping point as this is the temperature at which paper begins to burn.
    • Look for safes with UL (Underwriters Laboratories) fire ratings or ETL (Intertek) fire certifications. These indicate that the safe has undergone rigorous testing and meets specific fire protection standards. These safes are torture tested in advanced laboratories and are insurance-approved.
    • The rating typically includes a time (e.g., 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours) and a temperature (e.g., 1200°F, 1550°F, 1700°F). For example, a “UL 1-Hour 1700°F” safe can prevent paper from burning inside, withstanding one hour of exposure to an intense 1700°F fire.

Are Safes Waterproof?

Again, the answer is no. Safes are not inherently waterproof, although some may include modest water resistant features, it forces safe manufacturers to cut corners on other aspects of fire and burglary resistance. The important heat-expanding seals and steel construction, and other design features which are used in fire protection for safes prevent safes from being truly waterproof. In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, we opened hundreds of safes which were marketed as waterproof. Many of our clients were disappointed to learn the waterproof safe they had purchased from a big box store did nothing to protect their valuables from water. Not one safe we opened that was exposed to floodwaters kept the water out. In every safe we opened that was flooded, water damaged items were found inside.

  • Water-Resistant Safes:
    • These safes may provide a modest degree of protection against water damage. They may be equipped with gaskets or seals to prevent water from seeping in during floods or other emergencies, but will lack the seals that protect from fires.
    • However, they are not fully waterproof. Submersion in water, especially saltwater, will compromise their integrity.
    • To protect items (such as photographs or documents) from water, we recommend storing them on the highest shelf in your safe in a waterproof plastic bag or dry document bag, a good ZipLock bag can even do the trick!

Are Safes EMP Proof?

The answer is no. Safes are not designed to be EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) proof:

  • EMP-Resistant Safes:
    • EMPs are intense bursts of electromagnetic energy that can disrupt electronic devices and systems.
    • While some safes may offer limited protection against minor electromagnetic interference, they are not specifically EMP-proof and will not protect electronics inside the safe.
    • For critical applications, consider specialized EMP-resistant containers or Faraday cages that could fit inside your safe.
  • EMP-Proof Locks:
    • All mechanical combination safe locks are EMP proof as they do not contain any computerized or battery-operated features.
    • If you prefer an electronic combination lock, we do have a nice variety of EMP-resistant safe locks. Locks on old safes can often be upgraded with a new lock. We carry the SecuRam Electronic Lock, the S&G Low Profile Lock, or the D-Drive Electronic Lock which are all tested for EMP resistance.


When evaluating safes, focus on their fire resistanceburglary resistance, and other security features. Be wary of exaggerated claims—safes cannot defy the laws of physics. Choose wisely based on your specific needs, and remember that no safe is truly fireproof, waterproof, or EMP proof, they only can offer a line of resistance.