Safe Openings: How To Really Help

How To Help, Not Hinder, the Safe Technician

Space . . . the Last Frontier
If I could open your safe without doing anything more than the improbable things a television or movie safecracker does, I would. I usually can't though.

That means I have to get in front of the safe and do some work. And I usually need some room, not just for my physical presence, but probably for whatever tools I bring along.

Not surprising, is it? So why is the safe buried in in the garage or blockaded under a stairwell, or obscured from access in any of the hundreds of ways I've seen when I get there to work? I'm the safe opener, not the furniture mover. And why do owners act startled when I tell them I need room?

As long as they're easily movable. finding a few things in the way on a job isn't that much of a bother. But having to do a ten, twenty, or thirty minute-plus makeover in your garage or basement (or waiting while you do it) just ain't kosher, folks. In fact, it qualifies for a surcharge.

The more room you give the safe tech to work, the more efficiently the work progresses.

Questions, Chit-Chat, and Comedy Improv
It's not unusual to have some questions for the safecracker as to what the job will entail and what participation is needed on your part. The best time to ask is before he or she begins the work. If you keep interrupting throughout the job as questions occur to you, you're disrupting the technician's concentration.

The same goes for any chatter not related to the work at hand, not to mention the dynamite and torching jokes. Unless you're convinced your joke is truly new to the world, and falling-down hilarious to boot, chances are good your safe tech has already heard whatever you can come up with. Otherwise, save it.

Ongoing Access
When I'm opening a safe the ideal job is one that I know enough about to make one trip into the building with all the gear I need, and leave when I'm finished supplying the desired result.

Unfortunately, such jobs are a minority. That means that once, twice, or more during a given job I need to go outside for more tools, breaks, or to feed parking meters.

That fact isn't bad in itself. What makes it bad is that more often than not, the going out is complicated by the getting back in. The door or a series of doors lock behind me as I work my way from the inner sanctum where the safe is to the outside. I don't usually have a key or an access code supplied by my customer.

This in turn means that unless I'm escorted by someone who can breeze me straight through all the locked doors and secured enclosures, getting back in front of the safe I'm working on can be a series of time-eating hurdles. People have other things to do besides await my return. They get distracted answering phones, going to breaks or lunches, talking with other people, or going off to a different part of the building for any of a million possible reasons.

In such circumstances, several back-and-forth trips from the safe to outside can add a half hour or more of waiting to job time. Guess what? When I anticipate continual delays of this sort, I add money to the job price, often the form of stipulations regarding add-on rates for waiting times. So do others like me who have firsthand experience with this type of aggravation and time wastage. I try to be judicious about it, but at some locations the people in charge seem to be floating in space when it comes to being aware of this. Surcharges to the tune of $2.50 per minute have a way of geting their attention, though.

I know there are rules, concerns, and even regulations regarding access to people's homes and to secured areas in businesses and elsewhere. You can't have your safe sitting where anyone can walk in from the street unchallenged. But the only thing I have to sell is my time and expertise, and there's only so much time in a work day.

I'm not really as cranky as some of these comments might make me seem. However, I do have limits and boundaries. If you do whatever it takes to ensure smooth in, out, and back-in access, you'll usually never hear about this sort of thing from the likes of me.

Working In The Street
That's what it feels like sometimes in places where space is limited.

Whenever possible, treat the area around the safe as a "No Fly Zone" for the duration of the job.

I know you have a business to run, I know the whole can't stop turning until I'm done, but whatever you can do to limit the foot traffic in the area where I'm working for the (relatively) short time it takes to get the job done is always greatly appreciated.

Often the tools I lay out are expensive and easily damaged. I need to be able to give full attention to the work in front of me rather than who's about to lumber up behind me and step on a $1,000.00 plus piece of optical gear, then make amends with a heartfelt "oh, I'm soo sorry!"

Of Special Note:
Too many people, it seems, can't be still for long. Often when I sit to try and figure out a safe combination, I put on a headset to pick up sounds with a senstive microphone I attach to a safe.

Sometimes in a business or sensitive-contents situation a person will be detailed to be present for the entire time I'm near the safe. Other times, such as in homes, the safe owner is sufficiently interested or concerned enough to bring a chair in and be present.

That's a welcome thing for me -- witnesses and escorts protect me from liability more than they annoy or make nervous.

That is, it's a welcome thing as long as they don't decide that their time with me is also a wonderful time to start rearranging that pile of loose lumber in the garage, or to sit down with a phone and chat loudly with everyone in their phone memory, or to turn the TV or stereo up loud enough for the people across the street to catch every note.

So please: BE QUIET -- no migrating herds of wildebesst through the work area while the work goes on. Try reading a book or listening to music (over a headset!) . . . okay?


Get a stethoscope, even if you don't need it, as people will go dead-silent and try not to even breathe when they see it pulled out :D And yes, sadly it might reinforce the movie-conceptions about safecracking but that's an acceptable loss.

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