Most safes are constructed to protect their contents from fire damage. However, many safes will not protect all kinds of contents from fire. Safes are designed with linings that are specific to the safe’s contents. For this reason, it is important to take into consideration what will be stored in the safe you are purchasing. It is also important to note the wording of claims made by safe manufacturers. A safe that is labeled “tested to UL standards” has not necessarily passed those tests. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a not-for-profit independent testing organization whose sole purpose and function is to test for public safety. While there is no government set standard for fire or impact protection in safes, UL ratings are a widely used measure of how fire, impact, water, and burglar resistant a safe is. Not all safes are UL tested, and this does not mean that they are not built to the same standards as those that are UL tested. Rather, the manufacturers of these safes may use other standards or methods for testing their products. It is important to carefully examine the specifications given by the manufacturer of a safe to determine if it is the right safe for you. Begin searching for your perfect safe by choosing what specific hazard you wish to protect the contents of your safe from, or scroll down to learn about them all!
Protect the contents of your safe from FIRE:
Documents, Valuables, and Firearms: The average heat intensity of a house fire is 1200° F. At that temperature, nearly everything would be destroyed. Keeping paper and other valuables in a safe that will protect them from exposure to flames would not be effective. Paper begins to char at a temperature of just 450° F. For this reason, UL has chosen 350° as the maximum internal temperature the contents of a safe can reach to be classified as Fire Resistant. In their strict testing, safes are heated to a given temperature, usually above 1400° F, for up to four hours then cooled naturally. In order to be UL certified as fire resistant, the safe’s contents must at no time during the test be heated above 350° F. This ensures that important paper documents will not be destroyed by the intense heat of a fire.
Computer storage and media: In the 1960’s, UL began testing the fire resistance of computer media. It is always recommended that computer media, such as diskettes, be stored at a temperature around 70° F and humidity between 35% and 60%, however through UL testing it was discovered that computer media can withstand temperatures up to 125° F and humidity of 80% for short periods of time without losing the information they contain. For this reason, safes that are meant to protect computer media must go through tougher testing. Computer media safes are heated to temperatures above that of an average household fire for a given amount of time, either a half hour, one hour, two hours, or longer, depending on the desired rating. In order to be UL certified, the contents must be functional after the test has ended, and at no time during the test may the contents of the safe exceed 125° F or 80% humidity.
Protect the contents of your safe from IMPACT:
In the event of a fire, there is a good chance that debris may fall on your safe, or worse yet, a structural collapse could cause it to fall a significant distance. Impact resistant safes are UL certified to resist being damaged by falling debris or being dropped up to 30 feet, effectively protecting whatever you have stored inside.
Impact resistant safes generally go through the same testing as fire resistant safes, but are then put through an additional set of tests. To simulate a structural collapse that might occur during a fire, safes are dropped 30 feet onto broken concrete and other debris after being put through standard fire resistance tests. Then, to accurately simulate the events of a fire, the safe is turned over and reheated. Once the product has re-cooled, it is opened and dismantled. The UL testers examine the insulation material, the condition of the finish on the inside, the fastenings between parts, and the working condition of locking mechanisms. In order for a safe to qualify as impact resistant, the contents must be protected through all of these tests and still be in working condition. Impact resistant safes are available in a wide variety of sizes to meet all of your needs!
Protect your safe from EXPLODING:
In the event of a fire, a safe may be exposed to periods of very intense heat. If the safe is not built to withstand this it may explode, both damaging all of its contents and creating an additional threat by projecting shrapnel. In order to test for an explosion hazard, a furnace is heated to 2000° F. Once it has reached this heat, a safe is quickly inserted and left at this temperature for 30 minutes. If an explosion does not occur, then the safe is dismantled and all of its working parts, as well as the contents, are carefully examined for damage and functionality. These tests ensure both the safety of the contents of the safe in the event of an intense fire, and the safety of individuals who would be harmed by an explosion.
Protect the contents of your safe from WATER DAMAGE:
Just because a safe is fire proof does not necessarily mean that it is water resistant. When a fire occurs, often much of the damage that occurs is caused by sprinkler systems and other firefighting efforts. During a fire, many safes will create a positive internal pressure that keeps water away from your valuables and data inside. It is important to be sure that your safe has this feature so that water does not damage the contents of your safe in a fire. However, in the event of a flood or other water damage where there is no fire present, your belongings may not be entirely protected. Water damage can occur in any location, whether it is a flood, a ruptured water pipe, or another catastrophe. Be sure to choose a water proof safe that will protect your valuables in any situation!
Protect your safe from BURGLARY:
Thieves are not always strangers: In addition to protecting your valuables and important information from being destroyed in a fire, a safe also serves the purpose of keeping these items from being stolen. The threat of theft does not always come from individuals that do not have access to the safe. In many industries, such as food service and retail, various employees may have access to a safe, but for one reason or another leave the company. In this situation the safe should be equipped with a reprogrammable locking system to protect from future burglary, such as an electronic keypad or a fingerprint scanner.
Protection from Forced Entry: Your valuables also need to be protected from forced entry into a safe. There are various levels of burglary protection available, from standard to keep children away from dangerous firearms and chemicals, to practically impenetrable for safeguarding valuables against theft by professional criminals. A UL technician will attempt to enter a safe for a sustained period of time with a given amount of tools, and the Burglary Rating that the safe receives will correspond to both how long it takes the UL technician to enter it and the tools used.
- Burglary Classification TL-15: Safe offers protection against forced entry using common mechanical and electrical hand tools, such as chisels, hammers, and drills, for up to 15 minutes.
- Burglary Classification of TL-30: Safe offers protection against forced entry for 30 minutes using common mechanical and electrical hand tools, such as chisels, hammers, and drills
In addition to safes with UL’s Burglary Classification, there are also a variety of Residential Security Containers (RSC) on the market. To be classified as an RSC, it must have the ability to withstand at least 5 full minutes of rigorous prying, drilling, punching, chiseling, and tampering by UL technicians.
- RSC-B rating means that the safe has less than a ½" thick steel body construction and passes all RSC testing.
- RSC-C rating means that the safe has at least 1" thick steel body construction and passes all RSC testing.