Editor’s Note: This is the fifth installment in a series about home gun safes. The series will dive into detail about safe technology, mounting/hardening you safe, increased fire protection, specialty safes and higher-rated safes, and buying used safes. There is a lot of information to consider when buying a safe. Follow along with us as we take a deep dive into this subject.
- Part 1: Introduction to Gun Safes
- Part 2: Electronic/Biometric/Manual Locks
- Part 3: Anchoring Your Safe
- Part 4: Fireproofing Your Gun Safe
- Part 5: Understanding The Threats
- Part 6: Specialty Safes & Remodels
- Part 7: Quick-Access Safes
- Part 8: Buying & Selling Used Safes
- Part 9: Moisture, the Constant Battle
Let’s face it: Even when they’re in a safe, your valuables face plenty of threats. And you can’t always be there to defend against those threats. Many of us spend a considerable amount of time away from home, which is one of the reasons why we have gun safes in the first place. As I have said in my previous articles in this series, gun safes buy you time against threats such as unauthorized access, theft and fire; they do not prevent threats entirely.
This article in the series will consider how you can best monitor and manage the threats to your safes and the valuables inside, and it will be broken down into two basic themes: Keeping tabs on your gun safe when away from home, and what to do after your safe has been attacked.
If we’re going to keep tabs on something, we must first specify the information we need and how timely and reliable that information needs to be. For example, let’s say I get a report that tells me every time my safe’s door is opened. The catch is that I only get the report once a week. This would be a great record-keeping function, but would not provide me with much actionable information if someone were gaining unauthorized access to my safe. Another possibility would be an instantaneous alert sent to my phone every time my safe door was opened, but through a system that is unreliable and prone to false alarms. Such notifications would serve to desensitize me to the information. I need information that is actionable, and not just academic.
Information On Your Safe
With this in mind, let’s look at what actionable information we need. For starters, I would definitely like to know if the door to my safe was opened by someone other than myself. If my safe were moved or bumped, that would be valuable information as well. I also believe that information regarding environmental threats, such as temperature and humidity changes, would serve me well.
Now that we’ve identified the information that might be needed, we must figure out how to get it. If you’re like most Americans, you have a smart phone. Personally, I would love to receive these alerts via text or email, while also having a separate app I could access for checking in as desired.
How do we get all these things in one package? Well, there seem to be a few options.
- You can hire an alarm company to come out and install door sensors, motion detectors and environmental sensors on your safe. You obviously have the hardware cost, installation cost and monthly monitoring fees to consider.
- You have the very viable option of self-installing a homebrew security system, where you would buy a cloud-based box selected by the monitoring nodes of your choice, and then install them. You would have the upfront hardware cost along with any monthly monitoring services.
- Another alternative that I have grown particularly fond of is the SAFELERT from Liberty. This is a onetime $199 purchase that covers all the monitoring needs we just went over, but with the added benefit of being purpose-built to work in your gun safe. The configuration takes about 10 minutes, and I would allocate another 20 minutes for installation. Aside from replacing the batteries periodically, you’re done. Best of all, there are no monitoring fees—for life!
The SAFELERT has a completely customizable menu that allows you to select how, when, and what you’re notified of. For instance, I receive a weekly recap report via email, and I also receive text alerts when the safe door is opened or the safe is bumped. I’ve also downloaded app for my iPhone that allows me to check the status of the door, battery life, temperature, humidity and Internet connectivity. SAFELERT has another nice feature that allows me to determine who gets notified when any of these events trigger an alarm. This allows me to temporarily or indefinitely have my safe send alerts to a trusted friend in addition to myself, if I were going out of town for an extended period.
Even with all these bases covered, there are a few things that I worry about failing that could create a false sense of security. I generally have reliable Internet, but sometimes it cuts out, just like the power grid; I would certainly like to know if this happens while I’m away. The SAFELERT is also dependent upon batteries for its operation, and these will eventually fail; what if I forgot to change them out before a long vacation? To overcome these issues, SAFELERT will check every hour to make sure that the system has an Internet connection to your safe, and it will send an alert to your smart phone if the connection fails. The battery level can be checked any time via the app on your phone, and in my case I have the battery life included on my weekly recap report.
Also falling under the “Oh Yeah We Thought of Everything” category: they even include a magnetic external antenna with a cable that can be routed into your safe and connected to the device, to boost the Wi-Fi signal. I did not find this necessary in my case, but it was included with the SAFELERT and I felt it was worth mentioning.
If Your Safe Is Violated
Most of you reading this guide are obviously seeking to be proactive in preventing theft or damage to your valuables. Sometimes, no matter how well we plan, tragedy will find a way into our lives. When that happens, we must have a contingency plan to deal with the loss. As with prevention methods, information will be of the utmost importance when mitigating your loss.
- Inventory the contents of your safe with key information such as manufacturer, model, serial number and value.
- They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this will never ring more true than after being a victim of theft. Trust me on this: People may take the time to read the descriptions, but a picture is so much more effective when you’re trying to get the word out that someone has taken your favorite blaster.
- Know who to call to begin getting help. Obviously, emergency responders such as police and fire can offer you immediate help. However, your insurance company may be able to provide some financial relief as well, and your agent may or may not be the first point of contact. Finding this information out before you have a loss will certainly speed up the process and reduce your frustration.
- If you’ve had a fire and the fire department has responded, you will also have water damage. Knowing what your homeowner’s policy will provide in terms of immediate assistance in mitigating the damage is key. You don’t want to be googling all this stuff or digging around in old agreement files after the fact.
Once you’ve gathered all this information, where do you store it? I mean, your safe place has been violated! I suggest some type of online cloud storage that is accessible from any computer or phone with Internet access via a standard web browser. This should be easy and free, as there are plenty of free cloud storage options online. But, make sure it is secure. This solution also will also allow you to share your critical info with the necessary people if you are geographically inaccessible when the disaster hits.
When you have been ravaged by fire or theft, there are two things you really have to keep in mind: Some people want to help and others want to take.
Those that want to help may surprise you, and will be invaluable to your recovery. Don’t leave any stone unturned when looking for help. Several groups you belong to may provide some small secondary insurance you’re not aware of. Think NRA or your church, or any other groups you belong to. The manufacturer of the safe my offers repair or replacement as part of their warranty.
Be vigilant of the second loss; some thieves prey on folks after a loss has been replaced with insurance money. There are those that will plan a break-in based on when the first event took place. Don’t forget the looters that will show up after the fire has cooled down. So, bear in mind the threats and prepare accordingly!