What Makes TL Rated Safes So Secure?

Blueprints for TL 306X Safe

Weak Points Eliminated

The team operating the break-in tests are not just strong men. These are experienced engineers. The safe cracking team receives the safe’s blueprints in advance to find weak points, and will even disassemble the safe in advance of the attack to understand any potential flaws.

Minimum 1-Inch Steel

The biggest challenge as a safe buyer is to understand the true steel content within a prospective safe. Safe manufacturers understand that a thick safe is more appealing and may add filler. With a TL safe, UL independently verifies the high steel content.

Amsec Amvault TL-30 safe

Purely Active Attack Time

The number rating next to the safe (e.g, 15, 30) refers only to the net working time. This means only the time the tool is in contact with the safe. over 50 different attacks can be used, with tools ranging from drills, punchers, hammers, and other pressure devices.

TL Safe Buying Guide

In a world of conflicting information, TL rated safes certified by Underwriter’s Laboratory’s Standard 678 are one product you can count on for security.

With many safes manufactured overseas with various mysterious composite materials, a TL certified safe is verified to be composed of a high concentration of steel and – most importantly – withstand high levels of attack.  This level of safe security is often the only option for those looking secure high value goods, from $100,000 to over $1,000,000. Not only does a TL rated safe provide the ultimate peace of mind, but it is the only option to satisfying insurance requirements for high level products, such as jewelry.

At Fortified Estate, we’ve scoured the world’s manufactures for safes that meet this demanding criteria.

What do TL-15 or TL-30 Ratings Certify?

A TL-15 or TL-30 safe primarily refers to the time which the safe can withstand sophisticated criminal attack. The TL-15 rating means it is tested to withstand at least 15 minutes intense attack, and the TL-30 refers to at least 30 minutes of attack. A detailed inspection of the testing requirements reveal how impressive these safes much be. While a safe may be rated for 15 minutes of attack, this actually translates to a longer attack were it to be done by an actual burglar. This is because test time is only being counted when a tool attacking a safe, commonly referred to as “when the tool comes off the safe the clock stops”. The time spent thinking, switching tools, or any other work disruption is not counted.

Another term is a TR rating safe. TR stands for “torch” rating, and TL stands for “tool” rating. Some safes combine both testing and are considered TR/TL rated.

What Burglary Tests Are Performed?

Even more impressive is the particular knowledge of the experts testing the safe. Their expertise is similar to that of what you would see in a Hollywood movie. The team of engineers testing the safe don’t just show up to attack that day’s safe. Instead, they earlier receive a complete set of blueprints and manufacturing details about the safe in question. They have the opportunity to deeply study these manufacturing and engineering documents. They know in advance to seek out any potential weak points, and plan their attack accordingly. The safe must be able to withstand these sophisticated attacks.

Some The TL-30X6 rating is even more prestigious. The above complex tests are instead done separately on all six sides of the safe. That means that an equivalent of three hours is spent attacking the safe by a team of experts.

Various tools are used in the attempt to defeat the safe. In lower ratings, axes, chisels, pry bars and other items may be used. In more advanced ratings items like high powered carbide drills or even coring drills are used.

Alarmed TL Safes

All of these safes can achieve an additional level of security – and match more restrictive insurance requirements – by being integrated with an alarm system, to alert authorities when tampering is occurring. For example insurance provides (e.g. Jewelers Mutual) will insure a standard TL-30 safe for up to $195,000 of value. But if it also has an integrated alarm built into it then it can be insured up to $375,000 of value.

For a homeowner, a built in alarm system on their safe means avoids the possibility of the criminal having nearly unlimited time to break into their safe. Instead the safe need just withstand attack by a criminal for as long as it takes police to respond to the scene. A professional should install the integrated alarm system into the safe to ensure it is functioning properly.

TL/TR Steel Requirements

In addition to the burglary testing, these certified safes must also be composed of robust amounts of steel, starting at at 1″ thickness in the steel door. A minimum tensile strength of 50,000 PSI is required. In the current state of the safe market – particularly since many safes are sold just by internet pictures –  many safes are impressive looking yet oddly inexpensive. Safe experts understand the ruse here, but unfortunately a large percentage of safe buyers do not. These thick-looking safes are not what they seem. Their thickness comes from a a composite of materials – anything from cement to wood – and only a small amount of actual steel, despite their robust appearance. Forbes points out that many safes can be broken in to by a 3-year old, even.

Further, the bolts make look large, but upon inspection of internal components clearly are just facades for narrow locking pins that can be easily pried. At TL safe does not rely on these optics. It’s rating is connected to its pure steel content, any filler material is inconsequential. A quick look at the weight difference between these exaggerated safes and a true TL 30 safe will quickly impress upon you the materials inside!

Bigger is not always better. Stronger always is!

Underwriter Laboratory Fire Ratings

A high end safe should also include a fire rating. Your safe’s fire rating will typically be in the range of 30-90 minutes and at a specific temperature. Any safe can only withstand so much heat, so plans should be in place for quick extraction of the safe during a fire situation. Ratings are determined based on how long the safe can maintain an internal temperature below 350 degrees. This temperature is selected because papers exposed to 425 degrees can spontaneously combust. Class 350 1-hour and 2-hour fire ratings are most common. The exterior of the safe is subject to temperatures of 1,550 degrees.

Installing a TL Rated Safe

No matter how sophisticated and strong a steel safe is, if it can be carried out of a house its security is next to meaningless. Insurance requires TL safes to be at least 750lbs. If not, they must be bolted securely to a concrete flooring. In either case, we recommend installing your TL safe in a discreet and solid space of home or business to ensure this risk is marginal. While this is easier in the basement, we’ve even had clients while building a home include a cement pedestal that protruded up to their first floor bedroom, provide an unmovable anchor for their TL 30 safe. You’ll likely need professional assistance to anchor it down properly. Preferably, one should locate their safe in an a less visible part of the home so as to avoid the focus of criminal attention.

Of course the flip side of the coin of these impressive safes having such thick steel is that they are very heavy! This makes shipping and installation of the safe quite cumbersome. A proper team is needed to move the safe into location and likely will require specialized tools.

Find the Right TL Safe Today

Our safe experts for commercial and residential security applications will guide you to the right solution across a number of safe manufacturers.