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Choosing a Fire Document Safe

Vital and irreplaceable company paperwork (for example tax records, customer information, deeds and registration certificates) are crucial to the survival of businesses, and need protection not just from theft, but also from fire.

  • Thirty percent of all businesses that have a major fire go out of business within a year.
  • Seventy percent fail within five years1.

These frightening statistics clearly indicate a pressing need for companies to do more to protect their sensitive data than simply to invest in insurance, which is often not sufficient protection. It's not simply possessions that you need to protect, but also sensitive information that could otherwise end up in the wrong hands.

What is a fire document safe or cupboard?

A fire-proof safe for paper or fire document cabinet (for large volume storage) is designed to retain an internal temperature of less than 177°C in order to avoid damage to documents, paperwork or cash. At temperatures greater than this paper will combust and be destroyed. Fire safes range in terms of the time they will maintain this low temperature and protect your documents. The fire resistance is usually given in minutes, and typically the range is 30, 60, 90, 120 and 180 minutes. Product categories to protect paper from fire include:

How is the fire resistance of fire document safes measured?

There are three types of rigorous tests performed on fire-proof document safes to measure their fire resistance.

The Fire Endurance Test involves exposing the safes to furnace temperatures during a one hour test period of 925°C, a two hour test period of 1010°C and a three hour test period of 1105°C, to ensure their temperature stays beneath 177°C. The safes are locked and placed in a furnace, while thermocouples fixed to the internal surfaces of the safe record any rise in temperature. Once cooled, the safe is examined for usability.

The Explosion Hazard Test simulates the safe being suddenly exposed to superheated temperatures that could cause an explosion. The safe is locked and placed into a furnace preheated to 1095°C. This temperature is maintained for the test period and if no explosion results, the unit is allowed to cool.

The Fire Drop Test measures the strength of the safe and its ability to withstand the effect of falling through a burning and collapsing building. The safe is locked and placed into a furnace preheated to 925°C. This temperature is maintained for 30 minutes before the safe is hoisted to a height of 10 metres and dropped on to a bed of rubble. The safe is then placed back in the furnace upside down for a further 30 minutes.

How to choose a fire document safe

To choose a fire document safe or fire document cupboard, you need to know:

  1. How large the safe needs to be in order to meet your needs.
  2. How much fire protection is affordable within your budget.
  3. Whether you need a safe with a "cash rating".

Many fire safes cannot be fixed or bolted down and so do not have "cash ratings." Those that do have cash ratings offer the same protection from theft as high-security safes. A cash rating gives you a good indication of how secure the safe in question is, although this rating applies only if you have installed it correctly and according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

A cash rating of £1,000 means that you can store up to £1,000 or up to £10,000 worth of valuables. This means that your insurance company should insure £1,000 in cash overnight. You always multiply the cash rating by 10 when you are storing jewellery or other non-cash items. A cash rating of £5,000 would therefore allow you to store up to £5,000 in cash or £50,000 in valuables. It is important to check with your insurance company if you have a specific high-value item that you wish to store, as they may require you're safe to have a higher cash rating than the actual cost of the item.

If you require safe storage for computer media as well as documents, you need to purchase a fire data safe, rather than a fire document safe. For information on how to choose a fire data safe, please see our fire data safe range.

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