Is there Really such a thing as a Fireproof Safe?
You may be somewhat shocked to learn that there are actually no industry standards for testing and rating a fireproof safe. In fact, there may not even really be such a thing as a fully fireproof safe. Eventually, a hot enough fire, for a long enough period of time wins every time. Certainly, some safes are able to resist fire more than others, but each manufacturer has different processes and standards. This means that we, the trusting, though sometimes under informed, consumer, must use our own diligence and efforts to make sure what we are buying is actually going to give us the level of protection for our valuables that we desire. Or, that we are at least aware of the actual level of protection we're getting. Just because a safe is heavy, looks good, and has a big fancy graphic printed on it doesn't mean that it will hold up under high temperatures for very long.
Consider these statistics from the National Fire Protection Association:
- In the United States there is a residential fire nearly every minute or two.
- Every year there are over 379,000 house fires.
- There is over $4 billion dollars in property loss every year as a result of those house fires.
So, I wondered what it is about fire and safes that don't mix. Simply put, it's heat and time. Fire is very hot, and obviously, the longer that heat is applied to something the more likely it is to weaken that thing's physical properties. For example, every kid knows you can pass your finger across a candle without getting burned, as long as it is quick. Nobody in their right mind lets their finger linger over the flame for very long though.
Since a house fire can reach degrees in excess of 1,100 degrees fahrenheit in only a matter of minutes, safes, and the things inside them are at increasing risk the longer they are exposed to that heat. A fireproof safe that can keep the temperature inside the safe down as low as possible for as long as possible is going to be your best bet at offering the best level of protection. What you should be looking for is a safe that will protect for as long as possible under normal fire conditions. And while what you think of as a fireproof safe, may actually be just fire-resistant, if it protects for long enough then your purchase is justified.
When you are looking to buy a fireproof safe, just go into the purchase knowing that you will get the best safe if you buy one with nice thick steel, as much fire board throughout as possible, a heat seal around the door that holds up at as high a temperature as possible, and was adequately fire tested. Find out how long each safe resists external temperatures, and how long the internal temperature stays low enough to protect your valuables for at least a half hour, usually below 350°F when subjected to temps over 1,100°F. Don't be afraid to ask the salesman detailed questions about each aspect. Don't let them blow you off with quick and easy answers that don't really address your concerns. If you make sure you know what you are buying you will get as close as possible to a fireproof safe as you can.