There are two main reasons why most people choose to shop for a safe for their valuables. One is to protect them from theft, and the other is to protect them from fire. Considering that there are over 350,000 fires every single year with property damage collectively exceeding $6 billion, purchasing a fireproof safe is a sensible thing to do. With a fireproof safe, you can ensure that your beloved possessions, key documents, and even your electronic data are safe until help arrives. Not all fireproof safes are equal however, so it is smart to do some research before you shop.
In fact, we have done some of the legwork for you, compiling a comparison table of the best fireproof safes on the market today.
|Mesa Safe MBF1512C|
|First Alert 2087F|
How do you choose the right fireproof safe? Start out by asking the right questions to evaluate your needs, and then choose a safe with the features which best fit those needs.
Before Shopping for a Fireproof Safe, Ask Yourself:
1. What types of valuables will you be storing in your safe?
This is something you need to consider when you are looking into fireproof ratings for safes. Some safes only include ratings for paper documents, but others include ratings for digital media. If you are going to be storing memory cards, DVDs, USB drives, smartphones and so on in your safe, you need to buy one which can protect data.
2. What dimensions and internal organization features do you need?
It is always important to think about size when you are shopping for a fireproof safe. Consider where in your home you will place the safe as well as the contents you need to store. Pick a safe which will fit those contents as well as the space you have selected. Some safes include shelves and drawers for internal organization as well. In some cases, those shelves may even be removable so you can configure the space as needed.
Considerations for Buying the Right Fireproof Safe
Your main reason for buying a fireproof safe may be to keep your valuables from burning, but it is important to remember that a safe is still a safe, and it fulfills other important purposes as well, like keeping burglars away from your possessions.
To that end, you should look for the same security features you would on any safe, including large bolts, a pry-resistant hinge bar, sturdy bolts for anchoring, and so forth. A safe which has been UL tested and rated to withstand tampering and tool attacks is best.
The best fireproof safes are made out of heavy-duty steel. This too is a security feature, since sturdy materials help keep burglars out. They also provide protection against impacts. That is relevant to the matter of house fires, because in a blaze, it is possible for walls, supports and floors to collapse. If the safe is located on an upper floor, it could fall quite a distance. Even if it is located on the ground floor, it is still in danger, since something could fall on top of it. If the safe is made out of strong materials, it will survive intact.
A High-Quality Lock
You will find fireproof safes for sale with digital keypad locks, mechanical combination locks, biometric scanning systems, and other types of locking mechanisms. Each has its advantages and its drawbacks. Decide for yourself what type of lock will be most suitable for your needs.
When you are shopping for a fireproof safe, the fireproof rating itself is one of the most important considerations. It is also one of the more complicated ones. Fireproof ratings are provided by Underwriters Laboratories (“UL”). You should actually think of them more as “fire resistance” ratings since nothing can be fully fireproofed indefinitely.
Here are some examples of UL fireproof ratings:
- UL 125
- UL 150
- UL 350
The number you see is a temperature. So you can read them as “UL 125 degrees Fahrenheit,” “UL 150 degrees Fahrenheit,” and so on.
This lower the number, the higher the fireproofing rating. The number does not refer to the temperature of the blaze surrounding the safe; it refers to the temperature inside the safe.
You will see each of these ratings listed with a timeframe. So for instance:
- UL 350 1-hour
- UL 350 2-hour
The timeframe refers to how long the safe can maintain the listed internal temperature.
So in the first case, “UL 350 1 hour,” the safe can maintain an internal temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit for a period up to 1 hour. After that, the temperature will rise.
The three ratings I shared previously are important, because they protect different materials:
- UL 125: Protects papers, photographic film, magnetic tapes, and computer disks.
- UL 150: Protects papers, photographic film and magnetic tapes.
- UL 350: Protects only papers.
So a UL 350 safe would not be suitable for storing data, but a UL 125 safe would be. You can even find UL 72 safes, which are even better.
Ideally, you should buy a safe which is “UL listed” as opposed to simply “UL tested.” “Tested” is a vague word. It does not tell you whether a safe actually passed.
Finally, what do you need to know about timeframes? Data on the average fire indicates that it burns at a temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit. It is put out within 20 minutes.
Underwriter’s Laboratories runs its tests at temperatures of 1850 degrees Fahrenheit. So you are all set on that count.
As to the timing, 1 hour should be more than sufficient for most people. If your fire burns that long, it has gone on for three times as long as the average fire. If you are in an especially remote area or you have a very large home, you might consider going with a longer timeframe.
Water Resistance Ratings
Finally, let’s talk about water resistance. It is easy to overlook the importance of waterproofing when you are worried about fire, but water damage can be just as big a threat to your valuables as flame. Indeed, a fire in one room could lead to a pipe springing in another.
Look for the ETL verified waterproof guarantee while you are shopping for your safe. In order to earn this guarantee, a safe must survive an hour of complete submersion with no more than 8 drops of water penetrating within.
If you see a safe for sale which is promoted as water-resistant rather than “waterproof,” that means something else. During testing, the safe was not submerged completely, but it did provide effective protection to its contents in 6 inches of standing water. Moreover, it was able to withstand being blasted with water spray for 15 minutes without damage. This is also a solid rating, but it is not as impressive as the waterproof guarantee.
Most commercial and residential safes are on the smaller side, measuring less than 1 cubic foot. If you are in search of a safe which provides you with a bit more space, consider the 1.23 cubic foot SentrySafe SFW123CU. Measuring 17.8 in. H x 16.3 in. W x 19.3 in. D on the outside with interior dimensions of 13.8 in. H x 12.6 in. W x 11.9 in. D, it should give you all the room you need.
- This is a roomy safe you can configure to your needs. A shelf comes with the SFW123CU which you can place according to your needs to partition off the space inside.
- A sturdy design keeps your valuables safe. Construction features include robust steel, four live locking bolts, and a hinge bar which resists prying.
- The safe is water-resistant. The SFW123CU is ETL-verified as water-resistant. That means that it will keep your valuables dry in up to 8 inches of water over a time period extending as long as 24 hours.
- The SFW123CU is UL-classified for fire protection. Your valuables should be safe from fire damage for up to one hour in temperatures ranging as high as 1700 degrees Fahrenheit. Furthermore, if your safe is subjected to a fire, SentrySafe will provide you with a brand new one afterwards through the company’s After Fire Replacement Guarantee program.
- The lock can be quite fussy. You may need to try multiple times to get it to open.