Two Small Words to Look for When Buying a Fire Safe
When shopping for a safe to protect your important documents and valuables from fire, it can sometimes be overwhelming when you look at all the various UL Fire ratings. But even if you do not understand all of the ratings and what the various numbers mean, you can still choose a basic fire safe to protect your belongings. There is just one little thing that you have to look for, and if you don't ,you may really regret it. But before I tell you what that is, lets take a look at when happens when you don't find these two small words on the label.
Since the economy started to go belly up, one industry that has not suffered are the safe manufacturers. As a matter of fact, some sales were up as much as 50% last October. So, to help the consumers, news people find this increase in sales newsworthy and like to help. One such helpful test was performed in Arizona.
They randomly purchased two small portable safes, both under $40.00. They then locked up the same items in each safe: a thumb drive, a CD and DVD, paper work and a little money. They said that on average, a home fire will burn for 10 minutes at 1500° F before fire fighters are able to respond and extinguish the flames. I am not sure where they got this information, but this is what they used for their test. Both safes were placed among pallets (to simulate a house) and set it on fire for 10 minutes (the hottest temperature reached was not noted). After 10 minutes, the fire was put out and the two safes and contents examined.
The first security chest that was examined was very hot, the lock was gone and it had holes where the lock had been. Everything inside was in ashes - totally destroyed!
The second fire safe was not as hot and was fully intact though the outside looked like concrete and broke off in chunks. The safe itself had sealed itself closed and had to be pried open by the fire fighters on the scene. Once opened, they discovered that the inside was not hot at all, and everything was intact - the items looked just like they did when they were placed inside the safe.
Now, I am not going to name brands, because as you will see, both safes were not equal. So what was the difference? The first was a security chest and the other was a fire safe. It is like comparing apples to lemons. If you are looking for a sweet fruit to eat and try first a lemon and then an apple, don't get mad that the lemon was sour. IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE! Likewise, a security chest is designed to keep items secure from theft, not fire. It did say on the label that it was made from "fire retardant material" to help slow down the effects of a fire, but it is not designed to be fire resistant. Often, what makes a safe more secure from theft (high steel content) makes it more vulnerable to heat. Whereas, a fire safe, is made from thinner steel with fireboard sandwiched between layers; protects from fire but easier to break into. If you want a safe that protects from both fire and theft, then it will cost you quite a bit more than $40.00. Both companies that were represented in this test manufacture both types of safes, but due to random sampling, one company came out on top and the other didn't look so good. But the two different types of safes selected could easily have been swapped.
So, if you are trying to protect your valuables from fire, what should the label say? Well, if you haven't guessed yet, it should say: Fire Safe!