A fire safe is a freestanding safe designed to protect the contents inside from fire for a specific amount of time based on its rating level. Purchasing a fire safe (also known as fireproof safe, composite safe, or fire liner safe) is an excellent idea and means you greatly increase the likelihood that your most cherished valuables will survive a fire, but unfortunately not all fire safes are created equal and there are a few things you’ll want to know before making a purchase and entrusting it with your most prized possessions.
1. Do you want burglary protection as well? Sadly 90% of all fire safes sold provide little to no burglary protection at all. In reality most provide only minimal fire protection also. A true UL rated composite fire safe is made with two thin skins of sheet metal that house a water retaining medium between them, typically this is a concrete and vermiculite mixture. As high heat hits the outside of the safe, the fire retardant medium expels the retained water as steam. This steam also saturates the safe’s contents, which is far from ideal – especially for important documents and photos. While this type of construction does function to protect against fires, it fails to provide any substantial burglary protection as the safe’s sheet metal retaining walls are purposefully thin to reduce heat buildup and the soft fire retardant medium provides no resistance to direct attacks by thieves.
2. Carefully consider construction method – Most fire safes are built using one of four construction methods: insulation/fireboard, reinforced fireboard, composite, and composite fire cladded. The composite fire cladding method is the only construction method that results in a safe that provides substantial protection from both fire and burglary attacks. The vast majority of fire safes are constructed using one of the low cost fireboard methods. While fireboard based safes do provide some fire protection, they are a substantially inferior fire safe that also offers little to no burglary protection. You will never find fireboard or insulating liners in a commercial or high fire rated safe, simply because they do not work for any substantial length of time.
3. Consider the weight increase – Assuming you do decide on a proper composite cladded fire safe, the weight of the safe can be substantial. If the safe is going to be placed above ground floor, the safe’s weight should be keep below 1000 lbs. Many floors will hold considerably more, but should be inspected by an installer prior to safe installation.
4. What is being stored in the fire safe? – A safe can do far more than simply protect your valuables. When properly configured, a safe provides a great opportunity to organize and optimize your life. To fully capitalize on what your new safe offers, it’s essential to think of the fire safe as a highly configurable personal organizer…that protects what’s in it. A high quality fire safe can be equipped with file drawers, jewelry drawers, necklace racks, watch winders, DVD drawers, gun racks, photo drawers, equipment drawers…and on and on. Rather than having your precious items spread throughout your home and loosing precious time tracking an item down whenever it goes missing, consolidate and organize using your fire safe. Take this opportunity to compile a list of the important items you commonly use and then consider how you want to organize these items in a way that works best for you. Now you can search out a quality safe that best accommodates your organizational plan.
5. Where will the safe be located? – All too often safes go unused when they are located too far away to be conveniently accessed. Many times a new safe buyer will over think the planned location for their safe, locating it in some cleverly concealed location or disguising the safe behind false doors or walls. While concealing your safe is fine, don’t do this at the cost of overall convenience or the safe will likely fall out of use over time. It’s far better to be storing your commonly used valuables in a not so hidden safe than to have these items left out for easy pilfering. Rather than outthinking the burglar along with yourself, rely on the safe to perform its job of protection and place it in a location it’s likely to get the most use. If your home is burglarized, a well built burglary safe will faithfully protect your contents.
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