This is a continued discussion on Safes. When it comes to safes, it is important to remember that what you are actually buying is “time”. Time against fire. Time against theft.
Safes provide time against a fire. Normally you can find time in intervals such as 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, and 2 hour fireproof safes. Before you decide what might be best for your circumstances its important to remember what the fire dept tells us about thier response time to a fire. They say that from the time a fire sparks to life (lets say some squirel chewed through a wire in the attic) to when someone notices the fire then calls the fire department. The fire department responds by getting on thier gear and driving to the scene of the fire in a typical city. They arrive and unload the hose. Hook it up to a fire hydrant and start spraying water on the house…from spark to spraying the response time is 30 minutes on average. Wow!!! That tells me that anything that is fireproof 30 minutes or less is pretty useless and has a very good chance of burning up everything inside my safe. Safes that are 15 min, 30 min, and possibly even in the 45 min fireproof safe range are really not worth my money. Because I want a little more time between causes and effects. I am only going to be looking at the one hour and two hour fireproof safes.
But lets say that I live in California and I want to protect against one of those devasting wild fires they experience. No fire truck is going to show up for one of those fires and I will most likely loose my entire house and all the possessions. The Califonia fire departments have found that only the 2 hour fireproof safes are of any lasting ability with the chance of surviving one of those fires. Or perhaps I live in a rural area that is serviced by a volunteer fire department. That takes even longer and most volunteer fire department responses will not save the home. But is intended to keep the fire from spreading beyond the current structure that is burning. Again, you will need a minimum of 1 hour and want to think about a two hour. One last item to think about is where the safe will be placed. Most people put them in thier closet. (I’m guilty of this too) Clothes are made of cotton, silk, wool, nylon, and polyester…which is petroleum based. All those materials act as kindling or in the case of petrol based fabics burn at a much faster and higher tempature. So the fire department tells us that a fire burns around 1000 degrees. But that closet will burn closer to double that tempature. Which leads me to how safes are tested. Normally therer are 1250 degree tests and 1750 degree tests. Both those temps are outside test tempatures. The internal tempature of the safes is designed to stay at 350 degrees. Above 350 degrees paper starts to char on the edges and even catch fire. Which brings to media safes or data safes.
Safes that are designed to keep computer disks safe are called media safes or data safes. These have a much thicker insulation on them and often don’t have much room inside them to store stuff. But they keep the little “ones and zeros” that make up our software a little cooler. The internal tempature is designed to stay at 125 degrees. Which is much cooler than that of other types of safes. Data safes are also more expensive. Which leads most people (I’m guilty here too) of using a normal two hour safe and hoping with a prayer that it is okay during a fire. But some will purchase a 1 hour fireproof gun safe and purchase one of those small fire boxes that you can get from Sentry or Honeywell for around $50 to store thier data in and then store the fire box inside the gun safe. This does have a “cooler effect” on the data. I personally think this is a great idea but it not a tested theory.