I suppose it’s only natural to think of a home safe as something that the super wealthy may need. It probably conjures up images of diamond necklaces and dogeared wads of cash being stuffed into large metal boxes with 6 inch thick doors and multiple locking mechanisms.
However, the fact is that all of us have items which, whilst not necessarily that valuable in the financial sense, are precious to us. We also have items which, whether we realize it or not, are very important and which should be kept safe and secure at all times.
For example, your household insurance policy. If you were unlucky enough to have a fire at home, that would most likely be one of the first things that you wanted to lay your hands on in the aftermath.
Other items might include family passports, life insurance documents, saved computer data, college diplomas and general business documents.
There are different designs available, but generally speaking, fireproof safes have a double walled construction. The walls are made of steel and the cavity between the two layers will be filled with a fire retardant material. Alum and gypsum are two commonly used materials.
The edges of the door are designed to provide an air tight seal in order to keep external fire or super heated air from entering into the safe and damaging the contents.
The fire retardant materials often give off vapor when heated, it’s part of the normal operation of the safe and helps to regulate the internal temperature. However, it does mean that the internal pressure will rise during a fire, so special pressure relief vents are normally incorporated.
One thing to note, as mentioned previously, the fire retardant materials used can produce vapor during a fire. It’s a good idea to keep your valuable papers, memory sticks etc. in a water resistant container when you store them. A zip-lock baggy will normally do the trick.
Obviously you will want to consider where you’re going to store it and how much space you have. There are different designs available. Some bolt to the floor, some can be mounted in walls, others can be as simple as file boxes which you can tuck away in a corner – or even a desk drawer for the smaller ones.
Space aside, the main consideration will be what you want to store in them. Most fireproof safes will have a time rating – say half an hour or an hour at a temperature of 1,550 Fahrenheit. However, the internal temperature will vary between different designs.
If you will be storing only paper documents, you need to go for a safe which keeps the internal temperature below 350 degrees Fahrenheit during a fire. However, if you want to store digital media as well, then the internal temperature needs to be limited to 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
One final consideration, you will want to ensure that your safe is also waterproof. Fires can often lead to burst mains pipes, and if the fire is severe enough to warrant a visit by firefighters, water deluge is also a possibility.
Here’s a short video which features a report – including a rather robust test – from NBC. It’s interesting to note that after the test was completed, some of the firefighters declared their intention to get a fireproof safe. That’s definitely a vote of confidence I think!