A fireproof-rated safe is designed to protect business and personal possessions from extremely high temperatures. Experts rate fire safes according to temperature resistance and length of time they can withstand high temperatures.
What you plan on storing in your fireproof safe will help you narrow down your search for a safe because different elements burn at different temperatures. For instance, you’ll need a specific type of fireproof safe if you’re storing digital media (such as DVDs, CDs, paper, and magnetic media) in comparison to paper documents.
If you want to keep your personal belongings secure in the event of a fire, then it’s important to make sure you know what fireproof ratings and terms are most applicable to you as you shop for a safe. Here are some of the terms you should be familiar with when looking for a fireproof safe.
1. “UL” Fireproof Ratings
The UL rating for a fireproof safe is one of the best-known ratings in the home security world. In the United States, the Underwriters Laboratory specifies the level of protection a safe can offer when exposed to fire. The lab exposes a safe to various conditions that evenly heat all sides; and depending on how long the contents last without damage, it will be rated according to three standards:
- Class 125: Suitable for computer disks and digital media.
- Class 150: Suitable for magnetic tapes and photographic film
- Class 350: Suitable for paper products
2. UL Fire Endurance Ratings
The Underwriters Laboratory also measures how long a safe can structurally hold up in a fire.
For a fire endurance test, a safe is placed in a cold furnace so that every side heats equally. Then the heat in the furnace is gradually increased until the safe is damaged.
Some safes will include the length of time the container can withstand heat directly on the product, while others will use the following alphabetic rating:
- A: Can withstand up to 4 hours at 2000 degrees
- B: Can withstand up to 2 hours at 1850 degrees
- C: Can withstand up to 1 hour at 1700 degrees
- D: Can withstand 30 minutes at 1700 degrees.
3. Impact Rating
Fire safes aren’t exclusively tested for their ability to resist high temperatures. An “impact” test determines how well a fireproof safe can withstand a drop or fall if the floor were to collapse due to fire damage. Often the impact test is combined with an explosion test, which determines how much heat and pressure a safe can be exposed to before it is damaged.
An impact-rated safe will be able to handle falling from a significant height, just as an explosion test will ensure that heat-treated metal won’t explode with constant exposure to fire. A safe will have to pass both of these tests to obtain a UL 72 rating.
4. Pry Resistance
Many fireproof safes can also double as burglary-resistant safes. For a container to meet both requirements, it must be a high-security safe with barriers and extra-thick durable doors. The Underwriters Laboratory sometimes ranks each container for pry resistance according to its ability to hold up against an attack using common instruments like drills, hammers, and other tools for a certain period. As an example, if a safe is pry-resistant for up to 15 minutes, its rating will be TL-1, while a container that’s resistant for up to 30 minutes will be rated TL-30.
5. Auxiliary Spring-Loaded Relock Devices
High-quality fireproof safes will often come with systems designed to re-lock the container internally when the safe experiences an attack. For instance, if a burglar entered your home and attempted to smash through a lock rated Group 2 or higher, an auxiliary spring-loaded relock device will drive the spindle back into the safe, keeping the system locked and preventing the large bolts on the door from retracting.
6. Group II Combination Lock
A Group 2 or II combination lock refers to the most common method for securing a fireproof safe door. Combination locks are divided into two classifications: Group 1 and Group 2. The Group 1 locks offer a greater level of protection because they provide security through combinations of up to six numbers in comparison to the standard three numbers of a Group 2 lock.
7. Internal Anchor Bolt Hole
One of the most important things a homeowner can do when they purchase a safe is to bolt it to the floor or wall to prevent removal by a burglar. High-quality fireproof safes often come with pre-drilled holes in the back or base in addition to anchor bolts to simplify installation. Bolting your safe to a solid surface can help keep the container in one place and also make it tougher to be removed by a burglar.
Choosing the Right Fireproof Safe
In some cases, a manufacturer or brand might choose to add their label or grading to their equipment. However, it’s important to be aware that such a rating doesn’t necessarily mean that a safe is as secure as another container which bears the universal standard label of the Underwriters Laboratory. Talk to the professionals at Western Safe about which fireproof safe ratings are most applicable to you.