Locksmithing/Sentry Safe Gap

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Question
QUESTION: My Sentry Safe (MS0100) has a millimeter(s) sized gap between the door and the safe. I can fit a piece of paper through it when closed. Is this normal? If so, how can I be certain it will protect the contents in a fire? It seems very likely that fire and or extreme heat could enter through such a gap.

Thanks ahead of time.

ANSWER: James,

In general the only thing that Sentry safes do is to protect documents frokm heat.   Other than that they are simply cheaply made safes, many with plastic or pot metal parts.   The bad thing is that, that is exactly what most consumers want - cheap.

What is suppose to happen, in the event of a fire, is the insulation material, which is a wet pour type material, will expand causing the safe to "balloon" or swell, sealing this gap.

The moisture in the wet pour will basically turn to steam, rapidly expanding.   in the sealed walls of the unit, as it has no where to go, the body swells up.

Unfortunately due to the cheap construction several potential problems exist.   The first of wheich eventually happens to almost all Sentry safes.   They rust from the inside out.   This rust will also cause expansion of the walls, accomplishing the same balloon effect, jamming the door so that it won't open any longer.   When this happens simply throw the safe away and buy a new one.
The second potential problem would be having a blowout at a seam or seal, which allows the expanding steam an escape.   The safe does not balloon correctly and your documents are lost.
The third potential problem is that documents have a habit of absorbing moisture from the surrounding environment, producing mold or becoming ruined.

Hope this answers your question concerning the gap.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for you time and expertise. Your response is very helpful. I'm now considering getting an entirely different safe. If possible I'd like to avoid purchasing another cheap safe. I was wondering if you could suggest a safe (of approximately the same size) that is worth the money.

Answer
James,

I'm not sure what "worth the money" means.   I would assume it means that in the event of a burglary, even if the safe is destroyed, your stuff, is still inside.   Or in the event of a fire, even if the safe is destroyed, your stuff (documents) are unharmed.

The first thing that you need to determine is exactly WHAT type of protection that you are looking for.   Some safes offer BURGLARY only protection, some safes offer FIRE only protection, and some safes are composite, offering both burglary and fire protection.

Second thing would be the "LEVEL" of protection.   Fire safes are rated based on their ability to keep the interior temperature below 350 degrees F. for a given period of time.   These are rated in 30 minutes, 45 min., 60 minutes (1 hour), 90 min., 2 hours, and 4 hour.   Obviously the more time the interior is protected the better quality and the higer the price.
NOTE:  The minimum time considered by UL for fire resistance would be the 1 hour rating.   This is a MINIMUM rating for basic protection.
Burglary safes are rated in their ability to keep people out and are based on not only the thickness of steel (or equivilant material) and time.
B rating = LESS than 1" of steel in the door, and less than 1/2" of steel in the walls.
NOTE:   The B rating is a catch all rating with no real standard so a Sentry safe with thin sheet steel walls would be equivilant to a safe with 1/2" doors and 1/4" steel in the walls, though these safes are actually apples and oranges in construction.
C rating = a minimum of 1' of steel in the door, and minimum of 1/2" of steel in the walls.
TL-15 rating = a minimum of 1-1/2" of steel in the door, and a minimum of 1" of steel in the walls (or equivilant).   UL also has time limits at this level to open the safe or obtain a hole large enough to get your hand in.   NOTE:  15 minumtes of UL time is equivilant to around 2-3 hours of burglar time.
TL-30 and up ratings are appropriately higher.

There are also insurance recommendations for the $$$ value to be stored in the safe, for a burglary rating level.

So basically to start with, YOU need to determine WHAT you are going to be storing in side the safe.   You then need to determine WHAT level of fire resistance or burglary resistance that is necessary to protect your items.   You also need to determine HOW much storage space that you need - 1.5 cubic feet or 15 cubic feet.

So if you need a minimum of 2 hours of fire resistance and a TL-15 burglary rating, with 10 cubic feet of storage space - NOW you are ready to start shopping.   So as you can see, it isn't quite as simple as simply offering a similar size safe "which is worth the money"!

While there are a number of manufacturers of safes available, and prices vary widely depending on the exact ratings and sizes available, you have to have some place to start.   I would recommend that you download a copy of American Security Products (AMSEC) product catelog from:  http://www.amsecusa.com/Products/DownloadCatalog.aspx

Once you find a safe that meets YOUR needs or requirements, THEN you can start looking around for comparable products and or pricing.

As much as I would simply like to just throw out a model and price - you would simply be buying something that I think you might need, rather than a safe which you actually need.
Hope this helps.

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)

Expertise

Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 42 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball Safe from the early 1900's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate.

Experience

44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes".

Organizations
SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA)

Publications
The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes AllExperts.com

Education/Credentials
Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

Awards and Honors
2009 - 2015 - Listed in AllExperts Top 50 Experts. All Expert Categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

Past/Present Clients
US Secret Service, FBI, BATF, Local Law enforcment agencies, Diebold, Hamilton Pacific, Red Hawk Int., Chubb International, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Mechanics Bank, El Dorado Savings Bank, many Credit unions and smaller banks. McDonalds, Togos, BurgerKing, TacoBell, Carls Jr. FoodMaxx, SaveMart, Lucky's, Albertson's, Raley's, Safeway, NobHill, Bell Markets, PW Markets. Great America, Century Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, UA Cinemas, and many homeowners and small businesses. Provide warranty service for lock and safe manufactures. Service Area is Northern California (Fresno to Oregon and Western Nevada)

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