A bank vault is a secure space where money, valuables, records, and documents are stored. It is intended to protect their contents from theft, unauthorized use, fire, natural disasters, and other threats, much like a safe. Unlike safes, vaults are an integral part of the building within which they are built, using armored walls and a tightly fashioned door closed with a complex lock.
Historically, strongrooms were built in the basement of a bank where the ceilings were vaulted, hence the name. Modern bank vaults typically contain many safe deposit boxes, as well as places for teller cash drawers, and other valuable assets of the bank or its customers. They are also common in other buildings where valuables are kept such as post offices, grand hotels, rare book libraries and certain government ministries.
Vault technology developed in a type of arms race with bank robbers. As burglars came up with new ways to break into vaults, vault makers found new ways to foil them. Modern vaults may be armed with a wide array of alarms and anti-theft devices. Some 19th and early 20th century vaults were built so well that today they are difficult to destroy. These older vaults were typically made with steel-reinforced concrete. The walls were usually at least 1 ft (0.3 m) thick, and the door itself was typically 3.5 ft (1.1 m) thick. Total weight ran into the hundreds of tons (see the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland). Today vaults are made with thinner, lighter materials that, while still secure, are easier to dismantle than their earlier counterparts.