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Fire Safes – Choosing a Fireproof Safe for your Important Papers

Updated on February 13, 2011

Fire Safe - Protecting Your Financial Documents and Media

Are you considering purchasing a Fire Proof Safe to protect your important papers and documents? Perhaps you have little faith in the banking system and want to safeguard some cash with a fire safe; just in case. A fire safe is your best choice for any paper documents you would be devastated to lose.

For our purposes we will deal only with fire and data safes used in a residential environment – your home. Larger safes for businesses are available, but at a higher cost and probably not what most people are looking to purchase for home use. Once you are aware of the options you can and should contact a fire safe supplier who can answer any additional questions you may have about specific fire proof safe options.

How is a Fire Safe Different from a Normal Safe?

Quite simply normal safes offer no real protection against fire. Seems logical right? Of course it is… but how many people think their homes will catch on fire and all their important papers – deeds, titles, insurance documents, cash, diplomas, etc. – will be destroyed. It’s not a pleasant thought so most of us never address it. With a fire safe you get a product that is specifically designed, built, and rated to withstand a specific temperature for a specific length of time. If your home catches on fire it won’t burn forever and there are places in your home that will generate less heat than others. So choose not only a quality safe, but the best location to put your safe.

Paper documents begin to incur damage at temperatures above 177 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Heat can kill you and your documents without being exposed directly to flames. In a typical house fire the floor may be 90 degrees while the air only 5 feet above can be 600 degrees Fahrenheit. So a fire proof safe in the floor might survive intact where one placed in a wall would sustain more damage.

Remember that important media like DVD’s, Computer Disks, CD’s can be damaged beyond repair at temperatures as low as 52 degrees (125 degrees Fahrenheit). Have you ever experienced ruined cassette tapes or CD’s from leaving them exposed on the dashboard of your automobile on a hot summer day? Same principals… media files need more protection.

And with all this talk of fireproofing your documents for safety don’t overlook the potential devastation of moisture! A Fire safe not only needs to protect your documents from heat, it must protect them from excessive moisture. Humidity will quickly destroy documents and media as easily as fire!

Fire Proof Safe Ratings.

  • Fire safes are rated with respect to how long they can sustain a given temperature while protecting contents. Typically ratings are based on the safe being able to protect at a certain temperature per hour. This rating is based on the 350 degree/177 degree level at which paper documents are damaged.
  • Industry ratings are for half hour, one hour, one and half hours, two hours, and three hours at an external temperature of 1000 degrees Celsius. (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit).

Expert Fire Safe Advice

At a minimum, a fire rated safe should carry no less than the Underwriters' Laboratories Class 350 one hour fire resistance label. This is a hard rating for a low quality safe to get. For starters the the safe is heated for one full hour to reach an exterior temperature of 1700° this is because paper will begin to char around 400° or so, the unit MUST maintain an interior temperature of LESS THAN 350°.

After the one or two hour test, the unit is subjected to a cool-down period - a key part of the overall test that non UL listed products may not include. In this part of the test, the unit is left in an oven with the heat turned off and allowed to cool. Because of the intense heat of the one or two hour test, the interior temperature continues to climb, not exceeding 350 ° (in some cases for up to an hour), before cooling begins and the test is over.

The next part of the UL test comes in the form of a mandatory explosion hazard test. In this procedure, the unit is inserted into a preheated 2000 degree oven. If the safe is not constructed properly, the rapid heating of the insulation would likely cause an explosion. All UL fire rated safes must pass this intensive test.

Standards and Rating Agencies for Fire Proof Safes

All fire / data safes will be highlighted as being rated by one or more of the following parties:

  • UL – Underwriters’ Laboratories.
  • SP – Swedish Government.
  • KS – Korean Standard.
  • JIS – Japanese Industrial Standard.

Choosing a Fire Proof Safe to protect your important documents is a wise investment. There are many manufactures of Fire Safes to select from including FireKing, Schwab Corporation, Sentry Safe, Honeywell, etc.

Fire Proof Safes - The Smart Choice

Protecting your personal financial records and computer media files with a fire proof safe is a smart investment.
Protecting your personal financial records and computer media files with a fire proof safe is a smart investment.


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