Is your home safe going to let you down in the event of a fire? That depends on how much you understand about the basics of fire protection.
When a safe displays a sticker saying it is rated for “60-minute” or “90-minute” protection, it means it will prevent the inside temperature from rising above 350 degrees F. for the stated time period, even if the house around it is blazing away at temperatures as high as 1200 degrees F.
Why 350? Because testing by Underwriter’s Laboratory found that standard paper will start to become unreadable around 350 degrees, chars at 400 degrees, and will ignite at 451 degrees F. (remember reading the book “Fahrenheit 451”?). The 350-degree standard is used because many people use a safe to store a variety of valuables, but especially important paper items such as cash, stock certificates, wills, legal documents, contracts, etc.
What about things that would be ruined at temperatures below 350 degrees F., such as that stash of Swiss chocolate, your original 8-track tape of the Beach Boys, or grandma’s 80-year-old photograph collection?
For items sensitive to temperatures below 350 degrees F., the prudent safe owner will purchase a firebox or media cooler to put inside the home safe. These containers offer additional temperature protection for things like diskettes, CD/DVDs, backup hard drives, photographs, etc. There are several on the market that will do the job.
Be careful that you don’t fall for the trap your neighbor steps in with, “Hey, why buy a big Liberty safe when I can get all the fire proofing I need with a much smaller and cheaper fire box?”
The answer is simple: For every house fire, there are 5 burglaries. Thieves really appreciate home owners who put their valuables in fire boxes, even those that are bolted to something. Why waste valuable time beating, whacking, cutting, torching and prying at the mighty armor of a Liberty safe when you can pop a fire box off the floor with a crowbar and walk out with it in your arms?
When you shop for the right fire rating, always buy more fire protection than you think you need, especially if you live far from the fire department. Also, placing your safe on a cement floor or against cement walls improves the performance of your home safe in a fire.