Fire safes are designed to provide protection of the safe’s contents against damage caused by fire. Just as burglar safes are not “burglar-proof”, fire safes are not “fire-proof” – they only provide resistance to a certain type of fire for a certain period of time – hopefully long enough for the fire department to arrive and extinguish the blaze.
Fire ratings are evaluated by testing to see if safes withstand varying furnace heat for specific amounts of time. For example, the UL Class 350 1-hour fire rating means that the internal temperature of the safe will not exceed 350 degrees F for at least 1 hour when exposed to external temperatures over 1700°F. Because paper and money begins to char at approximately 387 degrees Fahrenheit, a fire safe should maintain a temperature at or under 350 degrees.
Additionally, safes will be heated and then dropped from heights reaching 30 feet to test against explosions.
The time rating also designates how hot the exterior temperature will get during the testing process. The product is placed in a furnace and the temperature rises over time. The correlation between time and maximum temperature are as follows:
1-Hour Rated Safes: 1700 degrees F
2-Hour Rated Safes: 1850 degrees F
Unless specifically stated otherwise by the manufacturer, Class 350, Class 150, and Class 125 safes are not rated to resist burglary. While a fire safe that is equipped with a high-security lock does provide some protection against an amateur thief, a professional burglar can open most fire safes in just a matter of minutes .
Reminders When Choosing a Safe
Safes should be specifically chosen based on the types of assets that they will protect and the types of threats that these assets face. A security risk assessment should be conducted to determine the type or types of safes that your facility will require.
1. Consult with your insurance company or regulatory agency to determine if they have minimum requirements for safes and to determine if discounts are available if certain types of safes are used.
2. Purchase your safe from a well-known and reputable supplier like Fradon Lock Company, not just someone you have found on the web that seems to offer the lowest price. Buying a safe from a reputable local dealer in your community has many advantages, not the least of which is the dealer’s ability to provide prompt on-site service in the event of a problem.