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Underwriters Laboratory Safe Testing

Underwriters Laboratory (U.L) is a product safety testing and certification organization that develops standards for many products, materials, components, assemblies, tools and equipment.  More than six billion U.L. labels are printed and placed on products each year. They also certify and test many types of safes to make sure they meet certain requirements for fire and theft. Underwriters Laboratory testing is the toughest in the industry, and only equipment that meets their requirements carries their label.

Many safe manufactures will have their safes tested at a private laboratory to save money; however, U.L. testing is the real standard of product performance. Any safe that has gone through the U.L. testing will have a label on the inside of the door, or on the top of the inside of the door, similar to this safe below which has both the fire and burglar test labels. Some safes may only have one or the other. Look for the label on the inside of any safe to find out if it is U.L. Listed or U.L. Classified.   You will notice that some labels say "Listed" and others say "Classified". You will never see a U.L. label that says "Approved" because that would imply a wide range of acceptance.

  • Listed - This means that U.L has tested samples of a complete and total product and LISTED the product because it passed their safety tests. This also means that the individual product was manufactured under the U.L. follow-up services program. This means that a manufacturer of a U.L certified product must demonstrate compliance with the appropriate safety requirements. A manufacturer must also demonstrate that it has a program in place to ensure that each copy of the product complies with the appropriate requirements. Underwriters Laboratory conducts periodic, unannounced follow-up inspections at the manufacturers™ locations to check ongoing compliance. If a product design is modified, a representative example may need to be retested before a U.L. label can be attached to the new product or its packaging.
  • Classified - This label indicates that samples of the product were evaluated for certain types of uses only. The U.L. label will have the hazards or conditions tested for listed on it.
Underwriters Laboratory Fire Testing Classifications: Underwriters Laboratories established five fire resistant classifications. These classifications are based on the type, length, and severity of the test given each classification. The classification ratings are:
  • 350-4 hour
  • 350-2 hour
  • 350-1 hour
  • Insulated record container 350-1 hour
  • Insulated record device 350-1 hour
3 Tests for Fire Protection Three basic tests are provided by the Underwriters’ Laboratories for the fire resistance:
  1. Fire Endurance Test
  2. Explosion Hazard Test
  3. Fire Impact Test
Equipment in classes A, B and C are subjected to all three tests. Equipment in classes D and E do not take the fire impact test. Underwriters Laboratory Burglary Testing Classifications:
  1. U.L. Residential Security Container rating (RSC)- This UL rating is based on testing conducted for a net working time of five minutes, on all sides, with a range of tools.
  2. TL-15 - 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. Construction Requirements:U.L. listed Group II, 1 or 1R combination lock.
    • 750 lbs. minimum or comes with instructions for anchoring in a larger safe, concrete blocks or on the premises where used
    • Body walls of material equivalent to at least 1" open hearth steel with a minimum tensile strength of 50,000 P.S.I. Walls fastened in a manner equivalent to continuous 1/4" penetration weld of open hearth steel with minimum tensile
    • Strength of 50,000 P.S.I.
    • One hole 1/4" or less, to accommodate electrical conductors arranged to have no direct view of the door or locking mechanism.
    • The label means that the safe successfully resisted entry (i.e. opening the door or making a 6" square opening entirely through the door or front face) 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 more than 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.
  3. TL-30 - Construction requirements are identical to the TL-15 above. Tests are essentially the same as the TL-15 tests except for the net working time. Testers are allowed 30 minutes and a few more tools (abrasive cutting wheels and power saws) to help them gain entrance. The label signifies the testers were unable to open the door or make a 6" square opening entirely through the door or front face within 30 minutes. 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.

  4. TL-30 x 6 - The TL-30 (30-minute) test is conducted on all six (6) sides of the safe.

This video below shows how the Underwriters Laboratory engineers test a high security safe. The safe is a Meilink TL-30 High-Security Burglary safe. The U.L. engineers fail to make a square hole in the door within 30 minutes. This testing took place at a U.L.facility. Many people exclaim: "Only 30 minutes, that's not very long!" Remember, the U.L. safe crackers have ideal circumstances;

  • No fear of being caught
  • Blueprints of the boltwork and relockers inside the door of the safe
  • No burglar alarm siren going off at 105 decibels
  • All the tools they need to break into the safe within 30 minutes
  • Expert knowledge and years of experience breaking into safes.

If you purchase a TL-15, TL-30 rated burglar fire safe, you should have a burglar alarm installed and re-enforced deadbolts on all your exterior doors and possibly video surveillance.

  1. The best safecrackers in the business never steal a penny. They work for UL.
  2. UL has been testing and certifying safes for more than 85 years. The first safe tested for burglary resistance was in 1923 and the first bank vault in 1925.
  3. Chisels, wenches, screwdrivers, power saws, cutting torches, crowbars, abrasive cutting wheels, jackhammers, even specified amounts of nitroglycerin are just a few of the "tools" UL technicians use during a safe attack. The idea is to test safes to worst-case scenarios. They use tools that could be found at any construction site or hardware store. They also analyze blueprints as if the burglar might have blueprints of the design and attack its weakest points to evaluate the safe for certification.
  4. UL's safe attack tests are conducted by a two-person crew. The object is to create an opening large enough to withdraw "valuables" (anywhere from 2- to 6-square-inches on a safe and up to 96-square-inches on a vault), activate the locking mechanism so the door opens or to cut as many bolts from the door as necessary to pry it open before the time specified in the rating requirement expires.
  5. Safes are rated for their resistance to attack against specific tools for a set period of time. There are a dozen different ratings, everything from ATM machines, to gun safes to bank vaults. For example, a safe that bears a Class TRTL-15x6 rating, which might be found in a jewelry store, should resist a hand tool and torch attack for a minimum of 15 minutes. A TRTL-30x6-rated safe, which would protect important documents or store money, should withstand an attack for 30 minutes. The ultimate safe rating, a TXTL60 should withstand an hour's worth of attack that includes the use of 8 ounces of nitroglycerin.
  6. Because of the size and weight of certain safes and vault doors, it is not always practical to have the product shipped to UL's laboratory locations. UL's burglary protection staff has traveled to destinations such as Japan, France, Israel, England, Finland, Taiwan, and India.
  7. In addition to burglary protection ratings, UL also rates safes for their fire resistance protection. Class 350 safes protect paper documents, Class 150 safes protect magnetic tape and photographic film, while Class 125 safes protect floppy disks. In addition to the Class Rating, safes obtain an hourly rating for fire resistance anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours.
  8. Another cool test UL runs on safes is an impact test. This test simulates a safe falling through multiple stories of a building resulting from a fire that has weakened the structure. After the safe is heated to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit in a furnace, it's raised three stories and dropped onto a pile of bricks. In order to meet the requirement, the safe can't pop open. Temperatures inside can't rise to above 300 degrees Fahrenheit and sample papers left inside have to be readable.
  9. The specialized suits you sometimes find technicians wearing are not just for show. Their entire ensemble, including a protective coat, helmet, and gloves, protects the crew against the adverse effects of sparking. After all, safety can't be taken for granted, even within the walls of UL.
  10. Safes are just one of the 19,000 product categories that UL tests and certifies. While UL's burglary protection team cracks combinations, shatters glass and fires .44-caliber bullets at body armor, other UL engineers and technicians keep busy testing everything from TVs, coffee makers and holiday light strings to fire extinguishers, medical CAT scan equipment, and building materials.

U.L. listings are the industry standard for safes and vaults. Make sure your safe or vault will withstand a break-in and/or fire; look for the U.L. label on the inside of the safe. Safeandvaultstore.com is your source for U.L. listed Burglar and Fire safes.