Halfway between a ring and a thump, there’s something entirely satisfying about the sound of a safe door closing solidly. It sounds secure. It makes you feel protected too, but is that a mere illusion? I have been beefing up my home security lately, and I wanted to know what some of my options are for protecting our vital papers. Of course, not letting them get into a bad situation is always the best answer, but crossing my fingers just isn’t my style. It made me wonder if I need to upgrade to a fireproof safe.
What are the benefits of a fireproof safe? In addition to peace of mind and the incredibly obvious ability to secure documents, there are some additional benefits. First, your insurance premium goes down. Second, you can save money in the long run by not needing to rent a safe deposit box or other secure storage for your valuables. Third and finally, limited access means increased security.
Lower Insurance Rates
If you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for your homeowners’ insurance, there are a handful of things you can do that give you double benefits. They give you a direct benefit with added security, but they also save you money with your insurance company. A safer home is less likely to have problems insurance has to pay for. It’s a win-win, which doesn’t happen often in the insurance world.
- Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors- You might think every home has these, or perhaps you don’t see the need. Regardless, your insurance adjuster is going to look for them. Carbon Monoxide detectors are most important if you have a fuel-burning source in your home, like a fireplace, or gas stove. However, even an attached garage can pose a threat to air quality and health. Smoke detectors need no explanation, they detect smoke and fire.
- Fire Extinguishers and Sprinkler Systems- The ability to detect a fire are great. Also getting to safety or getting the fire put out is just as vital. A sprinkler system can put out a fire, but having manual extinguishers on hand is vital as well. Most homes need 1-3 fire extinguishers, depending on size. One in the kitchen, on each floor, and near the exits to the home is a good start.
- Deadbolts and Home Security Sytems- Anything that deters burglars is beneficial. Security systems are typically installed by professionals, but you can DIY your deadbolts. Use extra long screws for any door locks or handles to help secure them deeper into the wood of the door and frame surfaces.
- Storm Shutters and Roof Reinforcements- Weather proofing will go a long way toward keeping you safe. Protect your loved ones and your property from storms. Reinforcing the roof is a huge job for one person. Alternately, storm shutters are something you can tackle on your own. The style of your home and the level of risk should help you determine what kind of storm shutters are best.
- Generators and Updated Plumbing or Electrical Systems- Keeping things like your circuit breakers and toilet pipes updated can save you a lot of money. Insurance agents hate paying out for these things. You might not even get compensation for a problem if they decide you didn’t do your part. Moreover, a generator is good for more than a blackout. Not only will you always have power, but you get the added bonus with lower insurance rates.
- A Safe, Preferably One That is Fire and Waterproof- Some insurance companies will give you a discount for storing things in a safe deposit box, but they aren’t ideal. It’s hard to get to things and you have to go during regular banking hours. Fortunately, you can get the same deal if you install a safe. A fire and waterproof safe is something your insurance company will be especially happy to see in your home. Owning one reduces the risk that you’ll suffer losses of your most valuable property. In addition, knowing your documents are safe means that in the event of a disaster, neither you nor the insurance company has to wait to process paperwork because you won’t have to replace identification and copies of your policies.
Fireproof Safe Ratings
Safes have various ratings and features to consider. The type of lock is an example. You can get a keyed lock, though it’s rare. More likely your safe will come with either a combination lock or a keypad. Safes have time-based ratings as well. Many come with 30 minutes, 1, 2 or 3-hour ratings. This indicates how long the safe should stay at the promised internal temperature.
Underwriters Laboratories has been independently testing products for about a century. If your safe is UL rated it means this company did the testing. They will heat the safe and even drop it from various heights to make sure it doesn’t open or break. A UL1 rating means your safe can stand 1700 degrees for an hour and maintain the promised internal temperature.
A TL rating is found on combination (aka dial) safes. These safes resist cutting, mechanical tools, hand tools and attempts to pick them. Some TL rated safes will also resist torches. The ratings will determine how resilient the safe is.
Safes rated B or C have thinner walls and doors. They all have locks, but these safes aren’t likely to stand up to much abuse.
What are Fireproof Safes Made From
Fireproof safes are manufactured to withstand temperatures as hot as 1400-1700 degrees. This is more than hot enough to melt softer metals like tin and aluminum. A typical home fire burns for about 20 minutes and never reaches over 700 degrees. However, lots of things can affect fires. Where the safe is located and what is around it can easily change the duration and intensity of the burn.
While safes can be made of materials like steel, fireproof safes usually are not. Perlite and vermiculite are the materials of choice for keeping your important materials cool. These substances don’t conduct heat well, so they stay cool inside even when the exterior is in a blaze. Schwab Corporation safes also use a patented material called insulite.
Storing Things in a Fireproof Safe
Deciding what to store inside and how to store it is a much-debated subject. A typical safe that can maintain an internal temperature of 350 degrees will work for papers. You can certainly store more durable items like jewelry inside to prevent theft. Unfortunately, these temperatures won’t keep your media safe.
In order to keep things like thumb drives, CDs and DVDs safe from a fire you need a cooler environment. Anything delicate enough that it needs to be stored at ‘room temperature,’ is probably not going to be the same after a fire. Without sufficient protection, your vital data backups could be gone forever. You can get a safe capable of keeping an internal temperature of 125 degrees. At 150, this digital media may be lost.
Other Items to Store in Your Safe
- Bank Information
- Keys to a Safe Deposit Box
- Stock Certificates
- Vital Records, like birth certificates and passports
- Estate Planning Documents & Wills
- Insurance Policies
- Cash and Jewelry
How to Choose the Right Fireproof Safe
Before you can get that nice rate drop on your insurance you need to do some research. Your papers won’t be safe if they don’t all fit inside the safe you choose. Deciding whether to buy the safe that does it all or focus on just the threat of fire is important. Think about where you’ll put the safe, what it should do and who will be able to get inside.
First, you’ll need to know how much space you need to store your valuables. I suggest getting several moving boxes and placing everything inside them as you work your way down to the smallest. Once you know how small a box things fit in, calculating how much space is inside is easy enough. Multiply the length, depth, and width together to get the cubic size. This will tell you how much space you need inside your safe.
Next, decide whether you need a burglar-proof safe. If you’re more concerned about fire, you can opt for a dedicated fireproof safe. It won’t do as well against thieves, but it will keep your property out of the heat. Many fireproof safes are also waterproof. One such safe you might consider is the highly rated First Alert 2087F Waterproof and Fire-Resistant Bolt-Down Combination Safe. It can withstand temperatures up to 1700°F. I recommend you Click Here to find out more on this fantastic safe.
Lastly, consider the location. Where you put the safe can affect what features you need. Safes inside bedrooms, especially the master suite, are most likely to be found by burglars. Alternately, basements typically have less to burn in a fire, but they may be at risk for flood damage. Make sure you consider everything when choosing the right safe for your needs.
When it comes to essentials, everyone has different needs. If you plan to have your important papers and property survive a fire then you need a fireproof safe. It’s likely that many of us will face a serious threat of fire in our lifetimes. If you live someplace hot and dry like California you almost certainly will. A good fireproof safe may save you a lot of trouble. It could even save your life if the documents and other items inside it can help you out of a bind. In the instance you might have to pick up and run, there is a highly rated portable safe that can protect the valuables that you need to take with you if the situation warrants it. The SentrySafe 1200 Fireproof Box with Key Lock. To find more information about this portable safe, Click Here.
Will plastic melt in a fireproof safe? Most Fireproof safes are rated to stay 350 degrees or less for up to an hour. This means paper won’t burn. Sadly, plastics can have a melting point as low as 310, so don’t count on them staying solid. In short, yes, they may melt in your safe. This is not the place for your priceless beanie babies with their little plastic eyeballs.
Are bank safe deposit boxes fireproof? No. They are neither fireproof nor waterproof in most cases. Banks assure you that people will not get into your safe deposit boxes. Elements are a different issue. In fact, your safety deposit box is not even insured. This is due in part to the fact that the bank doesn’t necessarily know what’s inside it. You have to inventory and insure these items yourself.
Are fireproof lockboxes really fireproof? Yes, fireproof boxes and bags have to conform to rigorous safety and testing standards. Lockboxes aren’t as durable as safes, so you won’t get an insurance discount. Fortunately, they will keep things safer than if you didn’t protect them. You may want to consider this as a stepping stone to better security or a second line of defense inside a fireproof safe.