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How To Protect Important Documents from a Fire

Updated on August 18, 2011

Worrying Fire Statistics

One of the biggest fears of householders is what they would do if for some reason, there was a fire at their house. Not only would they lose their home but also there is a chance that they could lose everything that they own. With the recent events in London and other cities in Britain, for some people this has become a harsh reality.

The figures regarding house fires around the world are startling, and fire prevention agencies are constantly trying to get across the message to householders about what they can do to help prevent a house fire, but still looking at the numbers we need to take further action to bring these down.

Each year in the US, according to FEMA, 4000 people are killed and 25,000 are injured in fires. In addition to that, the cost of property loss from fires is estimated at $8.6bn.

In the UK the figures are similar (taking into account the population), with around 50,000 house fires occurring each year.

Installing a fire extinguisher or blanket can save your house and possibly lives.
Installing a fire extinguisher or blanket can save your house and possibly lives.

Fire Prevention and Warning

This article is not going to go in to the details of fire prevention as that is a whole subject in itself. Needless to say though that we should all have smoke detectors installed and should check that they are working on a regular basis.

It may also be useful to have a small fire extinguisher or fire blanket in the kitchen – these are not expensive items and can save the fire from spreading in certain situations.

For a good UK Fire Extinguisher, check this one out, for US see below.

What Are Your Most Prized Possessions?

So let’s think about what the most important things are that you would want to save in a fire. I did think about this recently when the London riots were taking place and came to a few conclusions, and these may or may not be the same for you:

  • Photos (digital and printed)
  • Documents
  • Computer data

So, taking each one in order, we need to think of ways to preserve these things if there was a fire.

Personal Photos:

For printed photos there are a few options: scan in all of the photos so that you are only left with having to preserve digital photos. This may not be feasible if you have a large quantity of photos to scan though, although you could take them to a photo shop for them to scan. So maybe the other option is to scan the most important ones and any that are left can be covered by the documents section below.

Important Documents:

The main thing, I thought to myself, was that everything would be covered by insurance. However, I did think that, although I know the broker through whom I took out my home insurance policy, it would probably make life easier for me if I actually had the policy details. Not only that, but what about all the other policies and accounts that I have – how would I possibly remember who they were all with and what they covered? Well I decided that the best option for these would be a fireproof box or safe. You don’t necessarily need a safe unless you have other things (perhaps sentimental jewellery) that you wanted to keep safe and secure, otherwise a fireproof document box or bag would be fine. There are plenty of options available in this regard, from fireproof bags that cost under $10 to large fireproof cabinets, so it does not cost much to protect these things.

For a great option for a UK fireproof document box, check this one out, US options are below.

Fireproof Document Containers

U.S. Patrol JB5076 Fire Resistant Document Bag
U.S. Patrol JB5076 Fire Resistant Document Bag

This is a really simple and cheap option for saving your most important documents if a fire were to occur. For less than $10 you can save your documents in a fireproof bag

SentrySafe 1170 1/2 Hour Fireproof Security File, .61 Cubic Feet, Dove Gray
SentrySafe 1170 1/2 Hour Fireproof Security File, .61 Cubic Feet, Dove Gray

This is a great option to keep all of your important documents safe in the event of a fire. With a 0.61 cubic feet capacity, you can also store CDs, DVDs and usb drives.

SentrySafe DS0200 Safe 1 Hour Fireproof Combination Safe, 0.8 Cubic Feet, Black
SentrySafe DS0200 Safe 1 Hour Fireproof Combination Safe, 0.8 Cubic Feet, Black

For added security this fireproof safe is classified for up to 1 hour fire protection and also can act as a safe on a day to day basis.


Digital Data

I have a lot of data on my computer which I back up on a regular basis, but, probably like most people, my backup drive is sat next to my computer and so would be useless if I had a fire. One new strand of modern technology could come in useful for this kind of problem, which is the cloud drive. A cloud drive is an online storage area for files where you can upload all of your files so that they are backed up and safe, separate from your computer or backup drive. There are a number of companies that offer cloud drive solutions including Amazon, who offer 5Gb for free as a basic package.

You could also back up your files onto DVD and keep them in a fireproof box (see above) but you would need to do this on a regular basis.


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    • lasker profile image

      lasker 6 years ago from Dhaka

      Good tips. But still I prefer to put things out from the reach of fire.

    • Azure11 profile image

      Marian L 6 years ago from UK

      Thanks cardisa and k9, the stats really shocked me when I looked into them, I couldn't believe how many there were so it is really worth being prepared for sure.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

      Super good tips! Amazing stats on household fires. I learned a great deal from your hub, thank you.


    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      Very good tips. The fire box is a good idea. We normally just use plastic wrapping for our document as we are more likely to have water damage here in Jamaica.

      Very useful hub.

    • Azure11 profile image

      Marian L 6 years ago from UK

      Thanks maralexa, yes sometimes the things we should do are obvious but we keep putting them off! Hopefully lime you say this will be a reminder to people that we never know what might happen in life!

    • Maralexa profile image

      Marilyn Alexander 6 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

      This is excellent information, Azure. Thanks. I too scan docs and photos and keep them on a thumb drive, but if that were destroyed I would be extremely sad. Although I already know the things you have talked about in this hub, I haven't taken the next step: to go out and get a fireproof box, etc.

      Thank you for the reminder! Your hub has been very valuable to me.

    • Azure11 profile image

      Marian L 6 years ago from UK

      You are so right Flora, you can't really replace the original photos or letters. There are many fireproof boxes that don't need a combination available so those could be useful or even the fireproof document wallets which are really cheap.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      photographs can't really be replaced if they are destroyed-you make new ones, but the originals will have the names of the people on the back and the date the photo was taken. Documents are important too like wills and insurance policies. Letters from dead relatives are also important to me. Right now I these things in a safe, but that isn't the best option for awill-no one knows the combination but me. I know the safe isn't the most fireproof option, but it is the best I have now.

    • Azure11 profile image

      Marian L 6 years ago from UK

      Thanks Simone, sounds like you have it all covered! I am going to order my fireproof box as I think that is the one thing I need to sort out.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Excellent tips. I've purchased a fire box and keep updated hard drives, plus important medical and personal records locked away. It's a good thing to do!