Fire Ratings & Certification for Fireproof Safes Explained

If you are looking for a fireproof safe because you want to protect your valuables from fire, you might have already noticed How Many different models there are. Quite frankly the sheer number of various specifications, fire ratings, certifications and other characteristics may be overwhelming.

You need to understand the Fire Ratings and Certifications given to fireproof safes. These are two most vital indicators you should consider when choosing the safe that will actually do its job by keeping your valuables protected from fire.

So how do you know which safe is truly fireproof and not just looking good? Can a certain model really withstand high temperatures and for how long? What is the main factor you need to pay attention to when comparing brands and models? The answer simple:

Fire rating and certification indicates the true level of fire protection that a safe can provide. It is also important that the certification must be done by a universally recognized organization. In this article we will go through all the points you need to understand about these ratings. We will explain:

  • What fire ratings and certifications are
  • Most common fire ratings and certifications
  • What the numbers in fire ratings mean (UL, ETL)
  • How fireproof safes are tested
  • Why fire ratings are so crucial when for choosing a fireproof safe

Feel free to save / bookmark this page in your browser, and come back if you ever need to refresh your knowledge, or simply check the meaning of a specific fire rating.

What Fire Ratings and Certifications Are

Fire ratings and certifications are labels that indicate the performance of a specific fireproof safe when it is exposed to high temperatures and various fire scenarios. They are usually issued by independent organizations that conduct thorough tests on safes. Basically, these tests are designed to determine the fire resistance of a safe.

In short: a fireproof rating is a measure of how well a material, a structure or a product can withstand fire and high temperature levels.

The tests are conducted in accordance to specific standards, which determined the eventual possible fire ratings awarded to a safe. There are many different standards, which depend on:

  • the organization that conducts fireproof testing
  • on the country or region where the safe will be sold
  • on the goal of the tests

For example, if the fireproof safe is designed to protect paper documents, a certain standard is used for the tests. But if the safe is designed to protect jewelry only, a completely different standard will be used for the tests.

This means that fire ratings and certifications can vary greatly. And that’s where it may get confusing. But don’t worry we have everything explained for you here.

Most Common and Widely Recognized Fire Ratings and Certifications

Now you know why there are so many fireproof ratings and certifications. How to determine which can be trusted?

Well, there are a couple internationally recognized organizations that actually do the fire testing and certification with accordance to a set of standards, and the results of these tests are globally recognized and respected.

These are three such widely recognized organizations:

  • UL (Underwriters Laboratories): A global organization with a long history, that conducts fire-resistant tests and certifies various products including fireproof safes.
  • ETL (Intertek Testing Services): A global organization that also does fireproofing tests and certifies safes based on the results. Just like UL, ETL also has several classifications for fireproof safes.
  • CEN (European Committee for Standardization). CEN is a non-profit organization that develops voluntary standards for a wide range of products and services in Europe.

Two more organizations worth mentioning are from Japan and South Korea. Even though their standards are not recognized globally, the nature and methodology of their testing procedures grants a considerable level of trust in the products that receive their certification and fire rating. These organizations are:

  • JMTCL (Japan Machinery Testing Co., Ltd.) The organization conducts test by the Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS). The JIS for safes is JIS S 6026.
  • KTL (Korea Testing Laboratory). An independent testing organization in South Korea.

Therefore, if you see that a safe has a fireproof rating given by one of these three globally recognized organizations UL, ETL, CEN you can trust the rating and consider that model as your potential choice.

How do fireproof ratings look like? Here’s example for all three organizations:

Ratings given by UL:  Class 350, Class 150, Class 125. Followed by protection duration (i.e., 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours)

Ratings given ETL: ETL Verified Fire Protection of Digital Media (for digital media), ETL Verified Fire Endurance (for paper), ETL Verified Water Resistance. Followed by protection duration (i.e., 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours)

Ratings given by CEN: EI 30/60, EI 60/90, EI 120/120

What Do the Numbers in Fire Ratings Mean (UL, ETL)

Now that you know what certifications and from which organizations you should look for, we will explain what these ratings and all the numbers actually mean. As each organization has its own standards, the certification will look different.

UL Fire Ratings Explained  

Starting with Underwriters Laboratories as one of the leaders in this industry. UL has several classifications for fireproof safes:

  • Class 350 is meant for safes that are capable to protect paper from fires.
  • Class 150 is meant for magnetic media
  • Class 125 is mean for flexible computer disks

Each class has different levels of duration. Like 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours or 4 hours.

For example, a fireproof safe rating UL Class 350 1-hour means that the paper inside such safe will not heat up above 350°F (177°C) for at least 1 hour in a fire.

A fireproof safe rating UL Class 150 1-hour means that a hard drive inside such a safe will not get damaged for at least 1 hours, as the safe will keep the inside temperature under the 150°F (65°C) for this duration.

125 in UL Class 125 fire rating stands for 125°F (52°C).

Here’s a detailed table that shows all the UL ratings, the standard used, the conditions tested and the protection provided to various types of valuables:

UL Fire ratings & Certifications for fireproof safes

If you want to know more, check out this UL dedicated article on where we have UL (Underwriters Laboratories) Fireproof Ratings Explained

ETL Fire Ratings Explained  

ETL has several classifications for fireproof safes as well:

  • ETL Verified Fire Endurance (for paper)
  • ETL Verified Fire Protection of Digital Media (for digital media)
  • ETL Verified Water Resistance (for water exposure)

And each classification has different levels of duration. Like 30 minutes, 1 hour, or 2 hours.

For example, an ETL Verified Fire Protection of Digital Media 1-hour fireproof safe means that the safe can keep digital media below 350°F (177°C) for at least one hour in a fire.

Here is a detailed table that shows all the ETL ratings, the standard used, the conditions tested and the protection provided to various types of valuables:

ETL Fire ratings & Certifications for fireproof safes

CEN Fire Ratings Explained  

CEN often provides EI rating for fireproof and waterproof safes. They are tested by the EN 14450:2016 standard. Such EI rating is a combination of two ratings: the fire rating and the water resistance rating.

The fire rating is represented by the letter “E”, and the water resistance rating is represented by the letter “I”.  The number following each letter shows the number of minutes the safe can withstand fire and water immersion.

For example, a safe with a rating of EI 60/90 can withstand a fire for 60 minutes and immersion in water for 90 minutes.

Here is a detailed table that shows all the ETL ratings, the standard used, the conditions tested and the protection provided to various types of valuables:

CEN Fire ratings & Certifications for fireproof safes

How Fireproof Safes Are Tested

Fire ratings and certifications are tested by exposing the safes to fire and high temperatures. On practice the safes are placed in specially designed furnaces. These furnaces simulate a wide range of real-life fire conditions.

Sometimes these conditions even exceed the real-life situations. But it’s only a prove how vigorous the tests are. And that they are designed to account for all possible extremes.

Depending the standard used for a specific test, the furnaces can reach temperatures of up 2000°F (1093°C) and higher. Which is plenty enough when compared to typical heat levels in most of fire houses.

During the tests the safes have different types of items placed inside. These items emulate possible valuables people tend to keep in safes. Like paper documents or cash, digital media, jewelry etc. While the safes are being exposed to the fire and heat special sensors measure the temperature of these items during the test.

The safes are tested in the furnace for a specific duration. It can be 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2-hour, 3 hour or more.  For the duration of the entire test the temperature inside the safes is carefully monitored to ensure that it does not exceed the maximum allowed limit. The limit is determined by the type of items that are placed inside and that are meant to stay undamaged in the safe.

After the test is complete the items from the safe are then inspected to make sure they remain intact and no damage from heat has been received. The safe can only pass the test and receive the corresponding fire rating and certification if the items inside remained undamaged and the temperature inside did not exceed the predetermined limit.

Why Fire Ratings Are So Crucial When Choosing a Fireproof Safe

When choosing a fireproof safe it is extremely important consider fire ratings and certifications. They provide an objective and reliable description of the safe’s capability to protect valuables from fire.

This is also an objective way to compare safes made by different manufacturers.

No matter the brand you can easily determine which safe can protect your specific type of valuables from fire. Understanding the true level of fire-resistant properties allows you to make the right decision about what exactly can be stored in a safe (paper documents, digital media, or jewelry)

Fire ratings and certifications given by no-name organizations should also be a reason for a pause. Not seeing a rating by reputable organizations like UL or ETL can help you avoid buying a low-quality safe that may not offer the fire protection that it claims.


Fire ratings and certifications should be the Top factor when choosing a fireproof safe. Look for safes that were tested by well-known organizations and choose the one that provides the adequate level of protection to match your needs.

We hope this article has helped you understand what fire ratings and certifications for fireproof safes are, how they are determined. Who assigned the trustworthy ratings and according to what standards.

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