The common perception is that gun safes are inherently fireproof. That this type of safes is like a jack of all trades and can protect from both theft and fire. However, is this really so?
The short answer is – No, not all gun safes are fireproof. And even those that claim to be, are not always really fireproof. Only a few manufacturers of guns safes can make their safes reliably fire-resistant.
The term “fireproof” tends to create a sense of absolute protection, but in reality, it’s more about fire resistance. Because given enough time and very high level of heat, everything will be damaged by fire. Fireproof gun safes are designed to withstand high temperatures to a certain extent only. It’s important to understand this nuance. And we will explain it in this article.
Factors Affecting Fire Resistance
Several factors impact the fire resistance of gun safes. And contrary to the popular belief, not all of them are dependent on the safe manufacturer. In fact, the most influential factors are often decided by chance. We are talking about the strength and the duration of a fire.
These 2 factors significantly contribute to the level of protection a safe can offer during a fire outbreak. Let’s break what can cause even the strongest safe fail against fire. And what can help it survive a house fire.
1. Duration and Temperature of the Fire
- Intensity: The intensity of the fire, measured by the temperature and the duration for which it burns, is a crucial factor.
- Impact: Higher temperatures and longer duration increase the likelihood of the safe’s internal temperature rising to a level that could damage its contents.
2. Placement of the Safe
- Location: Placement in less fire-prone areas or well-ventilated spaces may enhance a safe’s fire resistance.
- Proximity to Flammables: Keeping the safe away from flammable materials reduces the risk of exposure to high temperatures.
3. Fire Insulation:
- Materials: Common insulation materials include Drywall fire lining and K-wool Insulation in safes.
- Effectiveness: The quality and amount of insulation material significantly impact the safe’s ability to withstand high temperatures.
4. Material and Construction:
Various materials and construction designs contribute to enhancing a safe’s fire resistance.
Gun safe manufacturers employ various fireproofing construction techniques to augment the fire resistance of their products. The type and quality of materials used, along with the construction design, significantly influence a safe’s ability to protect its contents from fire damage.
Understanding Fire Ratings
The first thing you need to check when choosing a fireproof gun safe is its Fire rating. It is the most crucial determinant of a safe’s capability to withstand fire and protect its contents from heat. These ratings serve as a benchmark for the quality and reliability of a particular model in fire-prone situations.
Classes of Fire Ratings:
Fire ratings are categorized into different classes, mainly Class 125, Class 150, and Class 350, which shows the level of temperature a safe can endure while maintaining an internal temperature comfortable for the items stored inside. Here’s a breakdown of these classes:
- Class 125: Ideal for protecting delicate electronic media and digital assets.
- Class 150: Suitable for protecting magnetic tapes and photographic film.
- Class 350: Designed to protect paper documents.
The fire ratings are often accompanied by a duration, indicating the length of time the safe can endure the specified external temperature while keeping the internal temperature below the defined limit.
For example, if you see in the manual or the product description that the safe has 1 hour Class 350 fire rating it means, that when exposed to fire the temperature inside the safe’s will not rise above 350°F.
Reputable third-party organizations, like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), provide standardized fire ratings, ensuring the reliability of the fire resistance claims. If such an organization has tested the specific model, and it passes the test, the manufacturer than can proudly put UL Fire Rating in the description. And you will see something like 1 hour UL Class 350 Fire Rating.
However, it is actually not easy to find a gun safe then went through such independent tests. Most companies prefer to conduct testing inside their own facilities and factories. And then it becomes a matter of trust in a specific brand and how diligent they are.
Fire Testing Process:
The process of fire testing is meticulous and aimed at assessing how well a safe can protect its contents under extreme fire conditions.
- Preparation: The safe is prepared for testing by placing sensitive materials or instruments inside to monitor the internal temperature.
- Heating: The safe is subjected to extreme temperatures, often heating a safe to 1200-1800 degrees or more in a controlled furnace. The furnace temperature in fire tests mimics real fire conditions, evaluating the safe’s performance under such scenarios.
- Endurance and Impact: The safe’s endurance to maintain an internal temperature below the critical point for the specified duration is tested. In some tests, safes are also subjected to impact assessments post heating to evaluate their structural integrity.
- Cool Down: Post heating, the safe is allowed to cool down, and internal temperatures are monitored to ensure they remain below the critical point.
- Evaluation: The data collected during the test is evaluated to determine whether the safe meets the criteria for the desired fire rating.
What Gun Safes Are Fireproof?
Now that you know what affects the fire-resistant capabilities of any safe and what fire ratings mean, you might wonder – what gun safes can protect from fire on practice? When choosing such models, we recommend following these steps:
- Check the Fire rating: As mentioned above, the fire rating indicates how long the safe can withstand direct exposure to fire without the internal temperature exceeding a certain level. Choose a safe with a fire rating that is appropriate for your needs. If it is a UL approved rating, great! If not, read carefully what the manufacturer says about the testing process.
- Examine the Construction: Look for a safe that is constructed with a double-walled steel body and an insulating material in between the two walls. The insulating material will help to keep the internal temperature of the safe cool, even when the outside of the safe is exposed to high temperatures. Also pay attention to the wall thickness. The heavier and thicker the wall – the better they will protect from fire.
- Size and Weight can be a Factor: A heavier safe typically means more materials used to in its construction. And that typically leads to the higher durability and fire-resistance.
- Determine your Budget: Fireproof gun safes can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. And as much as we would like to say that the cheaper models are as good as expensive ones, it is not true. The sheer material requirement will raise the price.
- Choose the reliable Brand / Manufacturer.While there are plenty of companies making gun safes, not many actually deliver on the advertised fireproof capabilities of their products. We recommend selecting a trustworthy Brands that have been on the market for quite some time and have proven themselves. Check brands like Hollon, Liberty Safes for example.
Enhancing Fire Resistance
Even with a fire-rated safe, there are additional steps that you can take to further enhance fire protection. Here are some tips:
- Remove Fire Hazards: Ensure that no flammable chemicals or materials are stored near the safe.
- Safe Placement: Place your safe on a non-combustible surface or a soft rubber mat which could provide an additional layer of insulation.
- Safe Area: Position the safe in a location less prone to high temperatures during a fire, like away from kitchens or fireplaces.
- Maintain Safe Surroundings: Keep the area around the safe clear of combustible materials to prevent additional fire hazards.
The concept of fireproof in relation to gun safes is rather nuanced. Factors such as the duration and temperature of a fire, the safe’s placement, and its construction materials play significant roles in determining its fire resistance level. Because in the end nothing is 100% fireproof. And all we can do is to reduce the risks and select the safe that has been tested by reliable company.
Fire ratings do provide a standardized measure of a safe’s fire resistance capability. And when advertised by trustworthy company or Brand can be a great indicator of how long will a gun safe last inf a fire. These ratings, often verified by reputable third-party organizations, help in making an informed decision when purchasing a gun safe.
Furthermore, taking additional steps to enhance the fire resistance of your safe, like choosing an optimal location and keeping the surroundings clear of fire hazards, can provide an extra layer of protection.