Call Us: 01 7076011

Safes, Fire Safes & Cabinets
  • About Us
  • Contact Us
  • Guide To European Certification
  • Insurance Rates (ISRG)
  • Help For Insurers
  • Advice Videos
  • Lock Videos
  • Testimonials
  • Blog

isrg logo vds certification logo essa certification logo a2p certification logo

Call Us: + 353 (01) 7076011

isrg logo vds certification logo essa certification logo a2p certification logo

Call Us: + 353 (01) 7076011

  • About Us
  • Contact Us
  • Guide To European Certification
  • Insurance Rates (ISRG)
  • Help For Insurers
  • Advice Videos
  • Lock Videos
  • Testimonials
  • Blog

Debunking The Myth Of Under-Floor Safe Security

There is a mistaken perception, encouraged by under-floor safe installers that under-floor safes, although disruptive and messy to install, offer a high degree of protection from burglary due to the fact they are surrounded in concrete and concealed.

Unaccredited claims from most under-floor safe manufacturers that their safes have an official cash rating or are grade I, II or III under European standards are common. In the real world only one underfloor safe, the German manufactured Format BT Series has accredited certification of burglary resistance under European standards. The results of burglaries clearly demonstrate, not only do professional burglars normally look for and locate an under-floor safe, but when they do so it is likely a welcome discovery as it is not a certified safe and is easily defeated with simple tools.

The economic reality of under-floor safes for the supplier

It should not come as a surprise that almost all under-floor safes currently on the market are very cheaply manufactured and have a low level of resistance to attack. The practical reason for this is the profit. The profit made from an underfloor safe has been primarily derived from the substantial amount of physical labour involved in fitting. Physical labour being an expensive component, if an under-floor safe was manufactured to the same quality as a certified safe, the overall cost of having an under-floor safe installed might make an anchored safe a more attractive option. The result of this economic reality is that most under-floor safe doors and bodies have an exceptionally low level of construction and attack resistance when compared to even the lowest grade of floor mounted certified safe, having been bought from low cost suppliers to maximise profit. 

Successful drilling attacks on under-floor safes

The usual selling point of an uncertified under-floor safe is the idea that it is buried in concrete. A fact that is almost entirely irrelevant as successful attacks on under-floor safes will usually involve an attack on the under-floor safe’s door, which, when compared to a certified safe that has been tested and certified for burglary resistance, is very easily defeated. This is something most burglars are well aware of. In addition, the low position of an under-floor safe door combined with the lack of anti-drill protection makes it far more easily drilled open when compared to a vertically positioned certified safe with multiple re-lockers and anti-drill plates that has been anchored to European standards. (50kN / 5.08 tons of anchoring force)

  • Below is a selection of better than average uncertified underfloor safes doors that have been drilled open. No attack was made on the concrete around the safe. An average of 4 holes was enough to open each one. 

Mechanical safe locks are open to manipulation

An underfloor safe will always be supplied with a mechanical safe lock due to the condensation and corrosion problems it will face as a result of temperature differentials that arise due to being placed below ground. Even with a mechanical lock it is advised that an underfloor safe lock needs regular maintenance, however, it should also be noted that mechanical lock types, both key and combination, have been shown to be very easily defeated with manipulation attacks. Most insurers and An Garda Síochána (Irish Police) advise against the use of mechanical locks on safes due to the ease of opening via non-invasive manipulation.

Not fire or water resistant

Underfloor safes are not fire resistant, in fact quite the opposite. A moderate to severe house fire will involve structural collapse, something that is considered in European fire testing for safes and cabinets. Where you have a metal unit under such a fire, burning materials will cover such a unit for a much longer duration than other parts of a home, think of an Tandoori oven and you get the idea. Once a fire has been extinguished one can also expect such a safe to be completely waterlogged as a result of firefighting. In the case of a above ground certified fire resistant safe, the fire expansion seals are designed to seal the safe door, not only keeping contents safe from fire but bone dry while such a fire is extinguished.

The alarm monitoring problem

Unfortunately, an under-floor safe can almost never successfully be fitted with electronics as the issue of condensation precludes the reliable function of electronic locks or monitoring. For the professional burglar this means the discovery of an under-floor safe is also an indication of a complete lack of electronic countermeasures such as seismic sensor or monitoring to contend with, while drilling an uncertified underfloor safe door open should be a fairly quick and easy process.

The well-known corrosion problem

Adding to the lack of security inherent in most under-floor safes is the temperature differential between the inside and the outside of an under-floor safe body, due to the fact an underfloor safe is beneath a floor. This temperature differential is a well-known problem in the safe industry and will cause condensation on the safe door, the door being the highest point of the safe. Over time this will cause rust and it is the reason an under-floor safe will almost always come with either a mechanical key lock or a mechanical combination lock.

Only a qualified builder should install an under-floor safe

The under-floor safe installation business has always been an extremely attractive opportunity for criminals and fraudsters. Even today there are well known suppliers of under-floor safes advertising in the media, on the internet or at exhibitions, who have associated with criminals or served time in jail. Even if this were not the case, we would always recommend that when buying an under-floor safe or any other type of safe, you do a quick check into the background, credentials, and experience of who you may be buying from or divulging information to. When it comes to having an under-floor safe installed, letting anyone other than a qualified builder interfere with the floors of a home or business is definitely not an idea that should be entertained. The consequences of letting an unqualified person break into a floor and breach the damp-proof course (DPC) of a building can have long term consequences for rising damp and even slow flooding depending on location. This is quite apart from the fact that elements like concrete mix, correct concrete re-enforcement and avoiding buried obstacles such as water pipes or buried electricity cables are best handled by a qualified professional

The final analysis

Qualified builders in general will do an excellent job of fitting an under-floor safe, but it is far more common that lower paid and less skilled installers who will disregard concrete mix, reinforcement and resealing damp courses end up being involved in this kind of work. There have been occasions when water pipes have been broken, electrical cables interfered with during installations, as well as issues with rising damp and slow flooding accumulating well after an under-floor safe installation due to incompetent fitting.

 


 For advice call: +353 1 7076011


Alan Redd Certified Safes Ireland NSAI

Certified Safes Ireland™ director Alan Donohoe Redd is a member of the European CEN263 Working Group responsible for writing European Standards for safes, strongrooms (vaults), secure cabinets and physical data protection for the European Union. A registered NATO supplier and a longstanding member of the European Security Systems Association, Alan has a vast range of experience spanning almost 40 years and encompassing installation of safes, strongrooms, physical data protection, CCTV, alarms, access control, secure storage control systems and Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) specification, design, and installation.

Alan is an expert on standards and fraud issues related to secure storage in Europe and the UK, has had articles related to these subjects published by The Law Society Gazette and Irish Broker Magazine, has forced retractions of multiple false claims related to secure storage offerings to the public, including some published by the Irish Times, and has been pivotal in having misleading standards and practises recognised and withdrawn in Ireland, the UK and at a European level.

Alan's expertise has been relied on by:

N.A.T.O. Europe, The U.S. Air Force (Europe), PayPal (Worldwide), Grant Thornton, The Department Of Communications (NCSC Cyber Security) (Ireland), The Revenue Commissioners, Electricity Supply Board (Cyber Security) (Ireland), The Danish Defence Forces (Afghanistan), The Insurance Institute of Ireland, The Royal College Of Surgeons, BFC Bank, Interxion Data Centres, The Private Security Authority, Isle of Man Gold Bullion, Brown Thomas, Bvlgari, Boodles, Druids Glen, The Shelbourne Hotel, and many others ....

Alan's seminars on safes, strongrooms and HNW secure storage have been part of Continuing Professional Development for underwriters and insurers having been awarded CPD points by the Insurance Institute of Ireland and the Chartered Insurance Institute (UK).

Insurance Institute of Ireland Insurance Institute of London nato cage code

 

Due Diligence Notes

 Most locksmiths know very little about safes

Contrary to what many people may believe the profession of "Locksmith" has long been recognised as one almost completely separate from the supply and installation of safes and strongrooms in the E.U. With most insurers and An Garda Síochána (Irish Police) advising against the use of mechanical locks on safes due to the ease of opening via non-invasive manipulation, the last connection between these two professions is quickly disappearing. There are exceptions to every rule, and a locksmith may have the necessary knowledge to correctly specify, survey for, and anchor a certified safe, however, most locksmiths have very little knowledge in relation to European standards for safes and The Private Security Authority (PSA) does not require any qualifications to issue a locksmith license.

Pitfalls & scams in the safe supply industry

Ireland and the UK are notorious black spots for fraud and misrepresentation in the safe supply sector. Well-known safe suppliers being penalised for tax evasion and having served time in jail are just some indications of a wide range of malpractice and illegal activity throughout the safe supply industry. We strongly encourage due diligence before engaging a safe supplier or having someone survey your home or business, irrespective of who recommends them.