How safe is your Safe?

BY ED GORGULHO, Safe and Vault Technician, Access Security Product LTD.

One of the most important parts of any jewellery store business is the store’s safe, and somehow this is usually one of the most overlooked and neglected pieces of equipment. A jewellery store safe is normally one of high quality compared to—or exceeding—most bank safes. These safes are designed to make it incredibly difficult and time consuming to gain access to its contents, unless one has the lock combination or key. So, it stands to reason that when there is a lockout it normally means that you will be without access to your merchandise for several hours, days, or in some extreme cases weeks!


The safest way to ensure trouble-free service from your safe would be to have it regularly maintained and serviced on an annual basis—but so few stores choose this seemingly simple option. From my experience, I normally get called after many untrained people have already tried to resolve the issue. The problem that I see time and time again is that staff and management tend to let a problem with a safe drag on until the safe no longer opens at all (Murphy’s Law predicts this will happen over the Christmas shopping period).

A typical story is as follows: I receive a frantic call from either the corporate loss prevention manager or store owner stating that they have a safe that won’t open. This means that they are unable to access their inventory, and need the safe opened as soon as possible. A safe technician is then dispatched immediately and is usually confronted with a high-quality safe that is firmly locked up and won’t open with correct combination or key. During discussions with store staff, it is a common story to hear that the safe has been getting increasingly more difficult to open over the past month or so. There is a universal truth that applies to every safe: a safe related issue will not heal itself. This is normally a very good indication that the safe is about to malfunction, and it is at that point that it would be the most ideal time to call in a safe technician to check the safe.


Another common problem is not knowing who to call when a problem occurs. Most stores or corporate offices will most likely call in the local locksmith. Locksmiths normally specialize in common lock hardware but only dabble in safe work. Safe work is a very small part of what they do which unfortunately means that they don’t always have the specialized tools and experience to do the job. People are often surprised to find out that there are companies that specialize in just safe and vault work. Every jewellery business should have the phone number of their safe and vault technician on hand. Many times this is as easy as placing a safe and vault service company sticker on the front of the safe with the service company’s phone number clearly displayed. You would be amazed at how often a safe-related problem can be resolved just by calling it in and discussing the issue with a safe technician. Make it a point to find a reputable safe servicing company and call them requesting a service sticker be mailed to each store. These are then to be adhered to each safe as a reference the next time an issue arises.

Not every interaction with a safe technician needs to be conducted under emergency conditions. General servicing plays a big part of any technician’s day-to-day life. Your store may decide it needs to have a new combination set to the safe after a staff member leaves the company. Maybe it’s time to upgrade an old and worn lock to a new one, or maybe even upgrade to an electronic safe lock.

Electronic safe locks could merit another article all on its own, with so many exciting features such as locks that allow multiple users, dual custody entry, time delay, time lock, fingerprint readers, alarm connectivity—the list goes on. Any good safe servicing company will be able to advise you on the options available.


The worst thing that no one wants to deal with is the dreaded burglary attempt. Now, no safe will keep a burglar out indefinitely. However, if it is used in conjunction with a good alarm that is monitored, it will buy you enough time to exhaust a burglar’s efforts at breaking into your safe. Normally during a jewellery store burglary attempt, having a decent safe and monitored alarm means that a burglar must rely on quick “smash and grab” tactics. Safes are designed to be very effective at preventing these types of burglary attempts. They will keep your contents secure but unfortunately when you try to open the safe the next day after an attempted burglary, you are met with a dial that has been smashed to pieces or a non-existent turn handle that “used” to be there. Again, this is where having access to a safe and vault technician pays off.  Being a safe and vault technician that only specializes in safes and vaults, I use my knowledge of the wide variety of safes that exist combined with my experience when arriving on-site to a burglary attempt to determine the most thorough but least invasive way of opening and repairing the damaged safe. I utilize an extensive database that includes almost every safe and vault that you can think of as a research and preparation tool for jobs. Opening a burglarized safe is a complex and time-consuming job but it can be done efficiently if the technician knows exactly what he or she is up against.

With the appropriate safe and vault technician contact information, and attention to properly maintaining your safe, there is no reason any jewelry business should ever be locked out of their safe. Whether for maintenance or in an emergency, my hope is that this brief article provides you with the knowledge and information to contact a specialized safe and vault technician to get the job done.