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What Should I Look For in a Fire Safe?

June 8, 2012

This question came up this week, and it’s a good one.  A bank safe deposit box is your absolute safest bet for document protection.  However, home safes protect important documents that you need around the house.

1.  What size safe do you need?  Pile up your documents and take measurements.  That will tell you the size of safe you need.

2.  What do you want to protect?  Safes are rated to keep the interior cooler when the exterior is exposed to house fire temperatures (1550° – 1850° F).  Papers should not be allowed to exceed 350° F inside the safe or they get damaged.  Tape recordings and film should not exceed 150° inside or they’ll begin to degrade.  DVD’s and computer disks require more protection and should not exceed 125°.  Evaluate your needs and purchase a safe with the appropriate temperature protection.

3.  How long will the safe withstand fire temperatures?  Most home safes are tested to 30 minutes.  If structure fire temperatures endure for longer than that, your valuables may suffer damage.  Industry representatives indicate that in a house fire, a room will burn for about 20 minutes.  So they recommend a 30-minute fire safe for most home uses. If we’re notified of the fire early on and can perform aggressive interior fire attack, a 30-minute rated fire safe should keep your items intact.  If no one reports the fire until the home is fully involved (and that happens) a 30-minute rated safe may not provide adequate protection for such documents.  You can purchase safes rated for longer times (up to two hours +) but they cost more.

4.  Is it water-proof?  Water is what we use to fight fires, and sometimes we have to use a lot.  When a house is severely fire damaged, there may be quite a bit of water accumulated, especially in the basement, where many homeowners install fire safes.  A water-proof fire safe ensures your documents survive water damage.

5.  How much security do you need?  If you’re looking for security in addition to fire protection, you should research the security features that will meet your needs.

A fire safe can help ensure important documents are still intact after a fire.  Hopefully the above guidance helps you in your search.



Consumer Reports.  (2011, January).  Choosing a home fire safe.  Retrieved June 8, 2012, from

Staples.  (2011).  Sentry safes.  Retrieved June 8, 2012, from

Steson, J.  (2012).  Buyers guide for choosing the best fireproof safe.  Ezine Articles.  Retrieved June 8, 2012, from


From → Preparedness

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