Here are some of the ways they evaluate them: Fire resistance Fire is the No. The National Fire Protection Association says that during an average lifetime, there's a one in four chance of experiencing a household fire large enough to warrant calling the fire department.

1 concern of most buyers, according to Greg Bonsib, director of brand management at Sentry Safe, a major manufacturer in Rochester, N. UL and Intertek rate fire-resistant safes in terms of what type of material they'll protect and how long they'll protect it.

Other safes can be concealed in a wall or anchored in a concrete floor.

Water resistance Protection against water tends to be an added feature of home safes that are also fire- or theft-resistant.

"Fires tend to move through a home, so 20 minutes is about the average in a room or an area." Burglary protection Independent ratings for burglary resistance are less common for home safes than for ones made for commercial users, such as jewelry stores.

To determine their burglary-resistance ratings, UL testers go at safes with tools, torches, and even explosives, Drengenberg says.

But if you want to safeguard hard-to-replace items such as family photos, birth certificates, passports, and tax records while keeping them close at hand, a safe could be a relatively inexpensive solution.

A simple way to determine how large a safe you might need is to pile up everything you plan to put in it and measure.

For home safes, 30 minutes of protection is most common, although you can also find safes that offer one or more hours' worth, typically with higher price tags.

Generally speaking, 30 minutes should be sufficient, Bonsib says.

Where to put it The best place for your safe will depend on the design of your house, but there are some trade-offs worth considering.

The master bedroom tends to be the first stop for burglars, according to Mc Goey, so it might not be the ideal site for the safe.

"Once they get their arms full," he adds, "they're out of there." A 1.2 or 1.3 cubic-foot safe probably weighs about 100 pounds empty, making it a less attractive target than jewelry, cameras, small electronics, and other more portable items a burglar might spot.