Fire & data safe info

Fire and data protection safes/cabinets

Fire Resistant Safes

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Fire resistant safes are tested by how long they can keep their contents in good condition in the event of a fire. Higher quality fire safes and cabinets, are heated for periods of 60 to 240 minutes and then are dropped from a height of around 9mts and then cooled by water hose. This is to simulate a severe fire and the subsequent collapse of the building and rapid cooling when the fire brigade arrives to extinguish the fire. The contents are then checked for their condition and the safe is rated for what is considered to be the maximum time that the contents will remain in good condition. Many manufacturers now offer safes which are burglar resistant but also offer a small degree of fire protection and these may be suitable for home use, but businesses should be aware that important documents and computer media should be stored in the correct safe.

More than 110,000 building fires breakout in the UK each year. The loss of mortgage deeds, share certificates and other paper or computer media information are other items, which could be kept out of harms way in a safe. Statistics show that up to one third of businesses, which lose their stored information, go into bankruptcy within 2 years of the loss.

For the technically minded, the Time/temperature curve is 345 log to base 10 (8t + 1) +20 which basically means if the safe is put in a furnace, switched on and left for 60 mins, the max temperature reached in the furnace will be 840’c, in 120 mins it would reach 1000’c and in 240 mins – 1100’c
Some other facts are:
Paper damaged at 150 degrees c
Computer media damaged at 55 degrees c

In the 1800's Milner prodcued a range of safes which when heated, created a steam inside the safe which would help to keep any papers inside slightly damp. Because the temperature in which paper begins to chare is 212f Milners called the range Milners 212, Thief and Fire Resisting Safes. Although good in their day, any fire resistance offered by these safes over 100 years on would be virtually nil.

There are a few ways in which fire safes are manufactured to protect stored items from heat and fire.

Most fire resisting safes create moisture when heated in order to help stop the paper from reaching combustion point. Even the older safes such as the Milners ranges from the 1900's offered this type of protection. However, this very method of protection can weaken the safe over time by rusting the safe away from the inside. If the papers you are trying to protect are important to you, then make sure that the safe you have is up to job.

Another difference between the fire safes and cash protection safes is the thickness of the metal body covering the safe. Large thick plates of steel may offer protection from fire for a short while, but prolonged heat from a fire will soon be transfered through the metal to the inside of the safe. Also, a thick metal body will stay hot long after the fire has stopped - try switching off an electric iron and seeing if it is still hot a few minutes later! As a consequence, fire protection safes are made with very thin metal bodies in order to allow as little tranference of heat from the outside to the inside. Cash protection safe bodies are filled with concrete, steel mesh etc - fire safes are filled wth a material which will hold in the moisture we mentioned earlier - a bit like plaster - but is very very soft. This makes a fire safe of little or no use as protection against burglary and the cash protection safe little use against a prolonged fire.

As mentioned elsewhere in these pages, paper is damaged at 150 degrees c whereas computer media is damaged at 55 degrees c. It will be obvious then that a different type of safe will be needed for protection of these 2 types of media.

As mentioned elsewhere in these pages, paper is damaged at 150 degrees c whereas computer media is damaged at 55 degrees c. It will be obvious then that a different type of safe will be needed for protection of these 2 types of media.

Modern data safes usually have an additional cabinet fitted inside with an airtight door to keep out the moisture. This obviously helps do the job but it also reduces the size available inside for storage. Most data cabinet manufacturers will be able to offer information regarding how many discs, tapes, cd's etc cas be stored in these 'data boxes'. Some manufacturers supply combi safes which are paper protection safes with a small data box inside allowing room for paper files etc but also allowing you to store a small amount of electronic data media.