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Safe around 1900
Modern safe with electronic lock
Historic safe in the town hall of Köpenick
Furniture safe in a hotel room

A safe (from the Greek θήσαυρος thésauros , treasure chamber ') is used for the particularly secure storage of money , valuables or other objects, e.g. B. weapons or data carriers to protect them from theft and fire .


Chests as the forerunners of the safety cabinet already appeared in the Middle Ages . The first safes were around 200 years ago, although not comparable to today's models. Until around 1960, the companies developed the containers on their own responsibility. The development was largely driven by the largest manufacturers ( Pohlschröder & Bode-Panzer ). Thereafter, the professional association for safes and safe systems in the VDMA developed generally applicable standards for this profession. In the course of the harmonization of the European market in 1992 the European institute CEN introduced test and quality standards for secure storage units.


General Linguistically known besides the label Tresor also safe , safe , safe , safety cabinet and many more. A common naming in the vault industry starts with the lowest security:

  • Steel cabinet (official names old A and B; new classifications S1, S2)
  • Safe (official designations old C1 and C2; new classifications 0, 1, 2, 3)
  • Tank safe (official names old D1 (D10), D2 (D20), E10; new classifications 4,5,6)

The vault is an independent, specially secured room, e.g. B. in credit institutions. The following section deals with the cabinet as a container and not the vault.


Depending on the security level, the body and door are single-walled or multi-walled and up to 20 centimeters thick. The steel walls are filled with insulating materials, plastics, concrete or a combination, depending on the required protection. Substances and mechanisms are also used to hinder break-in tools or render them ineffective in order to significantly extend the time it takes to break in. Thus Karborundpartikel suitable to be blunt drill bits or blades rapidly in a concrete filling or hardened steel tubes with steel ball filling. Chemical additives with a flame-retardant function make the use of cutting torches difficult .

The door is carried and guided by special hinges and secured by a boltwork that closes into the body on several sides. One or more locks, such as double- bit key locks and combination locks (combination lock ), act mechanically or electronically as a blocking point in the boltwork ; see also lock (technology) . The furnishings vary from steel shelves to hanging files , drawers or closed inner compartments. Perpetrators keep trying to open a safe in different places; There are no typical weak points, because all walls and elements are executed equally within a security level. Products from German or European manufacture according to the corresponding standard are described; However, there are products worldwide that do not comply with local standards and are excluded from the insurance and liability conditions

Mechanics of a safe lock
Double-bit key

Since private buyers increasingly focus on low costs when purchasing a safe, there has been considerable price pressure on manufacturers over the past 30 years. For example, the costs for a B safe in the private sector (approx. 1500 mm × 700 mm × 500 mm) have fallen from approx. DM 4,500 in the mid-1980s to approx. € 2,000 today (2015 for VdS class 0). d. H. taking into account purchasing power, prices have fallen to around 1/3. This price drop is primarily not due to lower margins for manufacturers and retailers, but mainly due to cost-cutting measures in safe production. Lower use of materials (mass reduction in the material used), simplified manufacturing processes as part of a design-to-cost process (visible, among other things, from significantly larger gaps on the doors compared to earlier) and manufacturing in low-wage countries (often Poland or Asian countries). So-called hard-filled B-safes with a concrete filling of the cavity offered significantly more resistance to attempts to break open, but have fallen victim to cost pressure and are no longer manufactured today. In the low-price range, safes are still offered according to the withdrawn VDMA classification in class B. Such safes only consist of 3 mm thick sheet steel, a 30 mm wide (air) insulation layer (for furniture safes) and a second sheet metal wall of only 1.5 mm. The burglary resistance of these safes is minimal. In the low-price range, such safes can often be pried open in a few minutes with little noise using a crowbar in the door gap between the door and the body. Also misleading is the advertising statement by some retailers that such lockers could still be insured up to € 40,000 today. The old insurance classification only applied if the class B safe in the private sector had a dead weight of at least 200 kg (at least 300 kg were required commercially) - many of the safes still advertised today according to the old VDMA classification B are much lighter, so that some of them are no longer covered by insurance.

Standard, building regulation

The forerunners of the current European set of standards were building regulations such as RAL-RG 621-624, 626 and the standard sheet VDMA 24992. VDMA 24992 (from May 1995) was withdrawn by VDMA, but in the current Weapons Act (amendment from July 2009) as before relevance.

VDMA standard (building regulation / manufacturing standard)

The standard sheet VDMA 24992 was a building regulation, not a safety standard, as is often wrongly stated. No resistance to break-in was defined. In the following stages, the insurance companies cover amounts from € 2,500 to several € 100,000. Not all safes are created equal. The layperson should not try to judge the protective value of a safe based on external characteristics. Only the badge in the cabinet documents the safety if it bears the VdS mark or the ECB · S certification mark or that of another approved European institute. This quality badge is only awarded after objective, reproducible tests on the cabinet.

According to the recommendations of the European Certification Body (ECB), containers of classes A and B should no longer be covered since 2004 and containers according to the old RAL standards only after consultation with the insurer. Class A and B cupboards do not have any of the aforementioned badges, only one from the respective manufacturer; there are also containers with forged labels on the market. Class A and B steel cabinets will continue to be advertised and sold, e.g. B. as a wall and furniture safe. These are only permitted as gun safes for people who have already acquired them before July 6, 2017.

design type class standard
Single-walled steel cabinet Class a according to VDMA 24992, May 1995
Multi-walled steel cabinet class B according to VDMA 24992, May 1995
Safe Security level C1 according to RAL-RG 626/2
Safe Security level C2 according to RAL-RG 626/2
Armored safe Security level D 10 according to RAL-RG 626/10
Armored safe Security level D 20 according to RAL-RG 621/20
Armored safe Security level E 10 according to RAL-RG 621/10

Since it has meanwhile been recognized that the requirements of Classes A and B (VDMA 24992 / May 95) no longer correspond to the state of the art, the VDMA standard sheet VDMA 24992 was withdrawn without replacement on December 31, 2003, and manufacturer monitoring ended.

European standard according to EN 1143-1 and EN 14450 (test standard / burglary protection)

Below are the levels, starting with the lowest S1 for cabinets.

design type Security class standard
Safety cabinet Security level S1 EN 14450
Safety cabinet Security level S2 EN 14450
Safe Grade 0 EN 1143-1
Safe Grade I. EN 1143-1
Safe Grade II EN 1143-1
Safe Grade III EN 1143-1
Safe Grade IV EN 1143-1
Safe Grade V EN 1143-1
Safe Grade VI EN 1143-1

Typical areas of application

Toy safe of the economic boom generation (1960s)

VdS class 0 and 1 safes only offer basic security against burglary and are only covered by insurance companies (if properly anchored) with € 40,000 or € 65,000 - which is often sufficient in the private sector. They typically cover the case that valuables, cash, etc. cannot be taken away by burglars in the event of a break-in. They also only offer protection against typical burglar tools that could be used for a limited time until the break-in is discovered. Often such safes are stolen by perpetrators due to their low weight (<150 kg) at the scene of the crime and then broken into quietly at a location that appears suitable. A very solid anchoring is therefore absolutely necessary (using heavy-duty dowels on the rear wall or in the floor). Screw connections to furniture using simple wood screws are by no means sufficient. Safe versions with a double-bit lock can often be opened by burglars at the crime scene, as the safe keys are often deposited by the apartment owners in places that burglars can easily find. The prices for high-quality safes with VdS ​​classifications 0 and 1 usually start at around € 1,000.

VdS class 2 and 3 safes offer stronger burglary protection and can therefore withstand burglary attempts for much longer, which is why they are rated much higher by insurance companies with sums of 100,000 to 200,000 €. From class 3, a break-in attempt with typical tools (from the do-it-yourself segment) is significantly more difficult.

VdS class 4, 5 and 6 safes belong to the premium range for safes in the private and business sector. They offer considerable resistance to mechanical and thermal attempts to break open, for example, due to stainless steels that are difficult to weld, sometimes special fillings that react exothermically on contact with the cutting torch (and thus seriously endanger the perpetrator, so that he has to break off the break-in attempt), and fillings that use mechanical breaking tools in the shortest possible time blunt, break off, or otherwise render unusable. Special additional armoring is used to prevent attempts to break open with diamond drill bits. Such safes are marked with the suffix KB or CD. The prices for such safes start from around € 4,000 to € 5,000. Solid floor anchors are also recommended for VdS class 4, 5 or 6 safes with an empty weight of over 1,000 kg in order to make it more difficult for perpetrators to attempt removal. There is also the possibility of detecting such attempts at manipulation at an early stage by means of demolition detectors and to alert security services or the police via a connected intrusion alarm system. This is particularly recommended for installation locations that are difficult to see and where noises over several hours would not be noticed by a sensitized neighborhood when attempting to break in.

The high-quality, certified safes of class C2F, D1 (or successor class D10) and D2 (or successor class D20), built in the 1980s and 1990s, still offer good protection against attempted break-ins. Very massive construction, high material usage and very thick hard cast iron plates still offer high-quality protection against break-ins. Safe weights from around 500 kg (C2F safes) and more than 1,000 kg (D safes) also make it more difficult to attempt removal by breaking in. Wall thicknesses of more than 65 mm make attempts to break open with cut-off grinders considerably more difficult (the cutting depth is less than the wall of the safe)

Security against breaking

Optically undamaged safe in the rubble of a blown bank

In principle, any safe can be opened by unauthorized persons if the safe is manipulated or broken into using suitable attack methods and sufficient time available. Appropriate construction work can, however, increase the effort required to break open the safe to such an extent that the perpetrator's technical means and skills are insufficient, the break-in time is insufficient or that intervention by security forces must be expected during the break-in attempt. In addition, the construction methods of the safes in the premium sector may require destructive break-in procedures, which also affect the contents of the safe so much that it becomes worthless for the perpetrators.

Corresponding resistance units RU (= Resistance Unit) are assigned to certified safes of classes 0 to 6, which have been proven by breaking attempts in certified laboratories. Two values ​​are given, separated by /. The lower value of the resistance unit refers to the so-called partial breakthrough (hand size), through which access to part of the contents of the safe is possible. The larger value relates to full access, with which the entire contents of the vault can be accessed. The resistance units are determined taking into account a variety of possible breaking tools and methods. Details are not published in order to give potential perpetrators no clue as to the time with which breaking tools it is possible to break into the safe.

In the case of safes that do not at least meet the requirements of today's class 0, it must be assumed that they can be broken into or manipulated within a few minutes. The break-in resistance of the higher-quality safe classes means in practice that the times required for break-in attempts can range from several hours to days.

Before the introduction of today's certification criteria, a basically similar evaluation process based on resistance units WE was carried out for safe classes C1, C2 (F), D1 (or D10) and D2 (or D20). However, the values ​​of WE and RU determined in this way differ.

For the technically outdated safes of the simple classes A and B according to VDMA, there were only building regulations on how such a safe was to be designed. Evidence of security against breaking through tests was not carried out.

In addition to unauthorized attempts to break into the safe, there may also be cases in which a safe can no longer be opened in the usual way and therefore has to be opened in some other way, for example because the key has been lost or because the combination of numbers (e.g. after death) is no longer known . Qualified specialist companies that only act if the client has the appropriate authorization or (in the case of newer models) also the manufacturer can open the lock in such cases without damage so that the safe can then be used again.

European standard EN 1047-1, VDMA standard 24991, RAL-RG 626/7 (fire protection)

The fire test is carried out independently of the burglary protection test; this is also documented by a separate sticker. Only the badge (certificate) from an approved institute affixed to the inside of the door can prove to the user the required level of security. Under no circumstances should the user simply trust the statements or copies provided by a seller. The test is carried out using the standard temperature-time curve (ETK) with a maximum at 1080 ° C for 60 (S 60) or 120 (S 120) minutes; Including the heating and cooling phase, the stay in the furnace lasts several hours. The test includes a drop test of the hot safe from a height of 9.15 m into a gravel bed. The fire test is interrupted for this and continued after the drop test.

design type Security class fitness
Data cabinet Grade S 60 Dis for data carriers, negatives, ...
Data cabinet Quality class S 120 Dis for data carriers, negatives, ...
Document cabinet Grade S 60 P for paper
Document cabinet Grade S 120 P for paper

Safe locks

The basic equipment of safes in the private or business sector is usually carried out using double- bit locks . Mechanical or electronic combination locks are usually available for an additional charge. The advantage of double-bit locks is the reduced number of people who have access to the safe. Disadvantages are the optically clear assignment to an existing safe and, with higher VdS classes, the required large key lengths B. make it significantly more difficult on a keychain. In addition, there is a risk that burglars will intensively search the apartment, house or business premises in search of the safe key in a safe with a double-bit lock. Safe keys should therefore never be kept in desk drawers, bedside tables, under mattresses or other places that burglars can easily find. If a key has got into unauthorized hands, the lock must be changed so that it can no longer be used for opening; The same applies if a used safe has been purchased and it cannot be ensured that no further keys are in circulation or at least the new location was not known to the unauthorized key holder. Such a lock conversion is often complex and can only be carried out by a specialist company or the manufacturer.

Mechanical combination locks are usually offered as 3 or 4 disc locks. With 3-disk locks (e.g. La Gard 3330), three 2-digit numbers must be used as a code by correctly setting the setting disk to open the safe. For 4-disc locks (e.g. La Gard 1947), four 2-digit pairs of numbers must be used. The advantage of the combination lock is the independence from a mechanical key, the disadvantage is the possibility of the code being passed on to unauthorized persons and the need to set the numbers of the opening code exactly to the corresponding markings. High-quality, certified combination locks cannot, as shown in some films, be opened without authorization by simply listening to lock noises.

Electronic combination locks are increasingly used because the opening process by typing in an opening code is perceived as more pleasant. Your advantage is the independence from mechanical keys and the possibility of assigning different opening codes to different people. In connection with readout programs (available for certain locks), personal locking protocols can be evaluated. Power is usually supplied by batteries with the option of an external power supply in the event of exhausted batteries. The programmed opening code is retained even if the built-in battery fails or is exhausted. Disadvantages can be the greater sensitivity of the components to humidity (to be taken into account when installing safes in basements) and possibly visible traces on the keyboard after a long period of use, which could provide information about the composition of the opening code. The durability and functionality of electronic number combination locks also depend on the aging of the components and any redundancy of function-critical components. In contrast to mechanical combination locks, defects are not indicated by sluggishness or the like; this leads to abrupt failure if the locking electronics and components are damaged.

A special form is the electronic combination lock with mechanical emergency locking option by means of a key for a double-bit lock, which offers an emergency opening option in the event of failure of the locking electronics .

As with the safe designs, there are different quality levels for the safe locks, expressed e.g. B. through an independent VdS certification of the castle. In the area of ​​low-priced safes, it must be assumed that no high-quality safe locks have been installed and that there is no adequate protection against manipulation.

Mounting forms

  • As furniture safe Small safes are referred to which are provided in a piece of furniture and screwed to the underlying masonry. The weak point here is the pull-out strength of the dowels. Furniture safes offer basic protection, but are usually not recognized by insurance companies, or only for small amounts insured.
  • Free-standing device for free installation with a dead weight of approx. 25 to 3500 kg. The containers weighing less than 1000 kg should also be anchored according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Recessed wall model, or wall safe for short , must be professionally walled in according to the manufacturer's recommendations. These models only cover the lower level of burglary protection, usually up to class 1.

Electronic fuses

Tear-off indicator
Seismic detector

Safes can also be electronically secured against manipulation. For example, there are tear-off alarms for safes where a conductor loop breaks off on one of the anchoring bolts under load. Similarly, seismic detectors used. These detect typical burglary vibrations, caused by levering, hitting or cutting, in terms of sound frequency , frequency and intensity. Fans and corresponding exhaust air options can be used to prevent the introduction of ignitable gas for detonation. As a rule, all electronic sensors have sabotage loops that report when the sensor itself is manipulated.

Another option is to make the content unusable if tampering is detected. For example, color cartridges are used against attempts to blow up ATM safes, which color the banknotes and thus render them worthless for the burglar.

Forms of use

Depending on the task, there are special cabinets with modified equipment, locks or other technology, e.g. B .:

In addition to the safe and safe, the qualified strongroom for burglary protection and the data room for fire protection are also known. Qualified doors in accordance with the above standards for securing rooms in private or commercial areas are also offered.

Pop culture reception

In the Danish crime comedy series Olsenbande , the reference to safes from the (fictional) company "Franz Jäger, Berlin" appears again and again as a running gag , which Egon Olsen only cracks with the help of a stethoscope and a sure instinct.

The company TRESOR-WOLF registered the trademark "Franz Jäger, Berlin" in 2003.


Web links

Commons : Vaults  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Tresor  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Exclusive, modern and classically elegant: our special safe. TRESOR-WOLF, accessed on January 20, 2019 (TRESOR WOLF has secured the trademark rights to "Franz Jäger, Berlin").