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A Guide to Fireproof Safes 

A fire at your home or office is anyone’s worst nightmare. Most thieves won’t take those items most dear to you—sentimental things— the way a fire can. That’s why investing in a fireproof safe is a smart choice. But not all fire safes are created equal. Let’s look at what makes a fire safe truly worth your time and your valuables.

UL Ratings and Fire Safes

Fire safes come with a UL rating. That rating tells you just how fire “safe” your fire safe truly is. Within each rating there’s also a sub-rating for time. Typically these sub-ratings are listed as 1 hour, 2 hour, or 3 hour. Here are the UL ratings for fire safes, and an explanation of each.

350, 1 hour – A fire safe with a 350, 1-hour rating will maintain an interior temperature of less than 350 degrees F for at least an hour, if the outside temperature exceeds 1700 degrees F. (These temperatures are important, as paper burns at 450 degrees F, and most structure fires exceed 1700 degrees F .) That’s enough to keep your paper records and other valuables like cash and bonds safe, provided you live near enough the fire department that they can knock any blaze out within an hour’s time.

350, 2 hour – A fire safe that carries a 350, 2-hour rating will maintain the same internal temperature as a 1 hour 350 rated fire safe, but it will do so for at least 2 hours. These fire safes may be a better item for those in rural areas, where the fire crews may need a better cushion of time to reach and work the fire than those in more urban areas.

125, 1 hour – Fire safes rated at 125, 1 hour will not exceed an internal temperature of 125 degrees F in external temperatures of 1700 degrees or more. 125 degrees is the temperature at which digital media—computer records, photos on SD cards, CDs, diskettes, etc.—is damaged. For a business, a 125, 1-hour safe may be a better purchase than a 350, 2-hour safe, especially if they store data backups or CDs/DVDs of any kind. Also, 125, 1-hour fire safes control humidity, not allowing it to rise above 80%. Since humidity can also damage digital data, 125 fire safes do double duty, keeping your items safe against both wet and heat.

125, 2 hour – Like their 350 counterparts, the 2-hour 125 rated fire safes are guaranteed to keep your valuables safe in temperatures over 1700 degrees for at least 2 hours. And like their other 125 rated fire safes, they also protect against moisture and humidity, not allowing either heat or dampness to ruin your vital digital data or other items.

125, 3 hour – The fire safe to end all fire safes, the 350 rated, 3-hour fire safe not only keeps an internal temperature safe for digital data and maintains that internal temperature for 3 hours, but does so at higher external temperatures. Fire safes with a 350, 3-hour rating can withstand external temperatures up to 1925 degrees. They provide the ultimate in fire safe protection.

Fire Safes and Magnetic Protection

Most fire safes offer some sort of protection against magnetic interference, a must-have for protecting digital data. There are special safes made just for the purpose of securing against magnetic distortion; however, few fire safes are made for this purpose. If you need a fire safe and a magnetic field protection safe, look for a magnetic protection safe with a UL rating for fire safety.

Fire Safe Impact UL Ratings

In order for a fire safe to have an Impact UL rating, it has to withstand being heated to 1550 degrees F, then dropped 3 stories, then reheated to 1550 degrees again, and not reach an internal temperature above 350 degrees. Fire safes are made with these impact ratings because fire often weakens floors and other supports within the burning building. This causes the safe to fall, and impact-rated safes must prove that they can take a 3 story dive and survive with their valuables intact. Note that most impact-rated safes are not rated for data protection but can and will keep your paper items secure from both fire and a fall.

Which Fire Safe Is Right For You?

In order to determine which fire safe is the best for your home or office, ask yourself the following questions:

– What will I be keeping in my fire safe—paper and other valuables, or data and other digital items, or a combination of both?

– How long does it take my local fire department to respond to a fire at my location? Do you need one hour, two hours, or more of protection?

– Where will my safe be located? Do you need an Impact rated safe, just in case?

Once you know the answers to those questions, you can better make your decision as to which kind of fire safe is adequate for your needs. Everyone, even those more concerned with great-grandma’s recipe books and grandpa’s fishing photos than with high-tech data storage and yesterday’s security tapes, should consider a fire safe for the home and office. Your valuables are much too important to leave to chance, should that worst nightmare ever come to life.

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