Fire resistant safes
vary widely in terms of their size and weight, level of fire resistance, intended mounting location, and degree to which they will resist a burglary attempt. Fire resistant safes may be secured by several types of locking mechanisms, both mechanical and electronic.
Depending on the particular model, a fire resistant safe may provide 30 minutes of fire protection (minimal), 60 minutes of fire protection (average), or up 120 minutes of fire protection (good). In testing, safes with the 60 minute and 120 minute time specifications are exposed to heat in a furnace at high temperatures designed to replicate or exceed the conditions in a typical house fire. To pass a test like this, after being heated in a furnace, the safe must have an interior temperature of less than 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The idea is that, since paper begins to char at approximately 405 degree Fahrenheit, a safe that meets or exceeds this type of testing will protect your documents inside the safe in the event they are exposed to a fire in the real world.
It is important to note that certain valuables, such as photographic negatives, analog film, and legacy computer backup media, such as floppy disks and magnetic tape, are particularly sensitive to the ravages of heat and will begin to degrade at temperatures significantly less than 350 degrees Fahrenheit - the litmus test for a fire resistant safe designed to protect documents. To protect these types of valuables, you should store them in a media safe
also known as a data safe
. This is a special type of fire resistant safe designed to maintain an interior temperature of less than 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, the manufacturing cost per cubic foot of storage space inside a media safe (Class 150) is much higher than that of a document safe (Class 350). For this reason, the price of media safes is generally much higher than that of equal-sized fire resistant safes designed to protect documents.
Many fire resistant safes are designed to be anchored to a fixed object to prevent them from being removed during a burglary attempt. Safes that are fire resistant for 60 minutes or 120 minutes with an anchoring feature can only be anchored through the base of the safe, mostly commonly through a recessed anchor hole located at the center of the base of the safe. These safes should never be anchored through their back wall. Doing so, would compromise or eliminate the fire resistant design of the safe.
Fire resistant safes are available in varying levels of burglary resistance:
- Basic Security. Fire resistant safes that provide only a basic level of burglary resistance are typically lightweight safes constructed of minimal amounts of steel. These types of safes are relatively inexpensive and may be useful for protecting valuables from fire and keeping valuables away from cleaning personnel, household guests, roommates, etc. However, these safes are not very burglary resistant and may not provide an adequate level of burglary resistance in the event of a break-in.
- Class B. Class B fire resistant safes are stronger than fire resistant safes that provide only Basic Security. These safes have doors that are constructed of a minimum of 1/2" steel. The body of these safes is constructed of a minimum of 1/4" steel. These safes almost always come with a 1/2" recessed anchor hole located at the center of the base of the safe for anchoring the safe to a floor. Safes of this type also often have additional security features built into the safe that lower-rated safes do not, such as relocking devices, drill-resistant hard plates, larger and more locking bolts, and higher quality bolt work. Class B fire resistant safes also have more secure and reliable locking mechanisms, such commercial grade dial combination locks and keypads. While costing more, safes of this type offer a higher degree of security, together with fire protection, and are available with more longer-lasting and reliable locking mechanisms.
- Class C. Class C fire resistant safes are similar to Class B fire resistant safes, except that they are constructed of even thicker steel. Class C safes have doors that are constructed of a minimum of 1" of steel. The body of these safes is constructed of a minimum of 1/2" steel.
- TL-15/TL-30+. Rarely used in residential applications, tool-rated fire resistant safes, such as TL-15 and TL-30 rated composite safes, are designed to resist fire damage and sophisticated burglary attempts for short periods of time.