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Fireproof Safes & Cabinets Buying Guide


Fireproof safes and cabinets are constructed out of a variety of non-flammable material designed and certified to withstand the highest temperatures of most residential or office fires. The word "fireproof" is used over "fire resistant" because these products are stringently tested and independently certified to protect their contents.


Vermiculite and perlite are two of the most frequently used ingredients in fireproof materials such as doors, cabinets, and safes. Both materials are lightweight, inorganic, inert, and fire-resistant. The two materials are often mixed together to form fireproof insulation materials that can be used in a variety of ways. Fireproof insulation products that are described as oven-baked, oven-dried, or wet take advantage of free-floating moisture in the materials that provides much of its fire resistance.


UL Fire and Impact Ratings

It is imperative to seek products that are tested by Underwriters' Laboratory (UL) or other nationally known independent testing companies. Be wary of a product that makes a statement such as "built to UL specification." If the item is UL classified, it will be directly stated.

Overview of all UL ratings

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is an independent company that tests hundreds of thousands of manufactured products to ensure they perform to a certain quality and feature standards. To make sure the manufacturer adheres to the standards, UL will perform unannounced inspections at the manufacturing locations, usually conducted several times per year.

A product with an Underwriters Laboratories mark is said to be "UL Listed." Installing a safe or file without a UL mark could be considered gross negligence in some circles, and may violate insurance requirements or government regulations (i.e. HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley).

UL Fire Ratings

With fireproof safes and file cabinets, a UL listing specifies the standard of protection the fireproof container provides its contents when exposed to fire. The file cabinet or safe is subject to various test conditions that will ultimately expose all six sides to fire. This is accomplished by placing the file cabinet or safe in a furnace that heats all exposed surfaces to the temperature conditions specified in the test standard.


Insulite Protected UL Class 350 1-Four Fireproof File Cabinet


1-Hour Rated Fireproof File Cabinet

As you can see, the temperature commercial fires burn at reaches approximately 800 degrees within 20 minutes, while some fireproof safes or file cabinets can withstand up to an hour at a temperature of 1700 degrees. The duration and the maximum temperature of a fire in a building compartment depends on several factors including the amount and configuration of available combustibles, ventilation conditions, properties of the compartment enclosure, weather conditions, etc. In common circumstances, the maximum temperature of a fully developed building fire will rarely exceed 1800°F. The average gas temperature in a fully developed fire is not likely to reach 1500°F. Temperatures of fires that have not developed to post-flashover stage will not exceed 1000°F.  What this means is, in a typical house or office fire your fireproof cabinet or safe may protect your contents far longer than it's hour rating since the certification test is done in extreme conditions. 

Underwriters Laboratories uses three different listings to evaluate records protection equipment:

1.)  Class 350-rated files and safes protect paper products
2.)  Class 150-rated files and media safes protect magnetic tapes and photographic film
3.)  Class 125-rated files and data safes protect all media plus flexible computer disks


UL Class 350 1-hour (Applies to Safes & Cabinets)
The UL Class 350 1-hour fire rating means that when exposed to external temperatures of over 1700°, the internal temperature of the safe will not exceed 350° for at least one hour - a product with this class of listing is designed to protect paper records.

UL Class 350 2-hour (Applies to Safes & Cabinets)

The UL Class 350 2-hour fire rating means that when exposed to external temperatures of over 1700°, the internal temperature of the safe will not exceed 350° for at least 2 hours – also designed to protect paper records, but at a higher level of protection than the class one hour product.

UL Class 125 1-hour (Applies to Data & Media Safes)

The UL Class 125 1-hour fire rating means that when exposed to external temperatures of over 1700°, the internal temperature of the safe will not exceed 125° for at least one hour – 125° is the temperature at which digital media is ruined, so product with this class of listing is designed to protect records stored digitally such as backup tapes, data cartridges, CD's, diskettes, and microfiche. Additionally, the UL Class 125 rating also does not allow humidity levels above 80%. (humidity levels greater than 80% can damage digital media) and provides protection against weak magnetic fields.

UL Class 125 2-hour (Applies to Data & Media Safes)

The UL Class 125 2-hour fire rating means that when exposed to external temperatures of over 1700°, the internal temperature of the safe will not exceed 125° for at least two hours – 125° is the temperature at which digital media is ruined, so product with this class of listing is designed to protect records stored digitally such as backup tapes, data cartridges, CD's, diskettes, and microfiche.

UL Class 125 3-hour (Applies to Data & Media Safes)

The UL Class 125 3-hour fire rating means that when exposed to external temperatures up to 1925°, the internal temperature of the safe will not exceed 125° for at least three hours – this class product is the ultimate in vital records protection designed to protect records stored digitally such as backup tapes, data cartridges, CD's, diskettes, and microfiche.

UL Impact Rated (Applies to Safes, Cabinets, Data & Media Safes)

Fire very commonly results in building or structural collapse – a impact rated file or safe must be able to withstand a fall from multiple stories. For a UL listed safe to be labeled “Impact Rated” it is heated to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit in a furnace, raised three stories and dropped onto a pile of bricks and then returned to the furnace and reheated. In order to meet the listing requirement, temperatures inside can't have risen above 350 degrees Fahrenheit and sample papers left inside must be readable.

Omega Point Laboratories, Inc. (OPL)

Omega Point refers to a for-profit company that provides testing and certification services, including fire ratings for fireproof safe manufacturers. The Omega Point ratings are designed to test products to a lesser performance standard than UL ratings, and the products that carry an Omega Point Laboratories listing tend to be developed for the home user, rather than an office or industrial environment.


 

Fireproof Safes FAQ

 

What fireproof safe should I buy?
The fireproof safe that you will need is dependent on what it will be used for and where it will be used. Along with the amount of storage space required, a safe will also need to be rated for its eventual contents. UL125 is the recommended rating for any computer media, photographs, jewelry, film, or any other sensitive items, while UL350 is required for proper protection of paper documents.

What do the fireproof rating UL125 and UL350 actually mean?

UL125 and UL350 refer to the temperature the interior of the product will be allowed to reach in the event of a fire. Paper products burn when they reach over 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so they need a safe that has a UL rating of UL350 or lower. Computer media is typically destroyed in temperatures over 125 degrees Fahrenheit so they need a UL rated product of UL125 for adequate protection.

Many fireproof safes also seemed to be rated for water resistance. Why is this?

Typically, where there is fire there is also water. Fire hoses can release up to 250 gallons of water per minute while overhead sprinklers distribute about 30 gallons per minute. Water is often the cause for document loss and, in the event that your home or business is involved in a fire, the items in your safe will need just as much protection from the fire surrounding them as they will from the water trying to put the fire out.  Please be advised that water resistance is different from submersion. 

Are fireproof safes also impact tested?

Usually yet but not all fireproof safes are impact tested for this. Impact testing is done by heating the safe to about 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit and then dropping it from 30 feet onto broken brick and concrete. Impact testing is meant to simulate the conditions of a floor collapsing in a structural fire.

Can I store computer media in a fireproof file cabinet?

No, Computer media especially film requires a higher level of protection than even a fireproof file has. Computer media needs to be protected from temperatures above 125 degrees and humidity must be kept below 80%. This requires a data safe or media vault.


DigitalBuyer carries a full selection of FireKing fireproof file cabinets and fireproof safes. Competitive pricing, free standard shipping, and full warranties. Contact our Sales team to request a quote or browse our selection.