What is a fireproof rating in general? And what is a fireproof rating when it comes down to safes?
A fireproof rating is a measure of how well a material, a structure or a product can withstand fire and high temperature levels.
There are different types of fire ratings, which are determined by what kind of products they are meant to describe. For example, a fire door will have its own fire-resistant rating classification, while clothes will have a completely different rating system.
Fireproof ratings for safes are significantly different from fireproof ratings for other products. A safe’s fireproof rating is based on how long the safe can withstand heat and flames without the contents inside being damaged. Meanwhile, a fire rating for a wall material is based on how long the material can withstand heat without catching fire.
As you can see fire-resistant ratings for safes are a specialized sub-category of more general fire ratings.
What a Fireproof Rating For Safes Is
A fireproof rating for safes measures a duration for which the safe can withstand heat and flames without the safe’s contents being damaged.
The fireproof rating is determined by testing the safe in a controlled environment. The process looks like this. The safe is exposed to high heat and fire for a specified period of time. If the safe is able to withstand these external elements for the specified period of time without having its inner chamber compromised or damaged, then the safe passes the test. And as a result, the safe model is awarded a specific fire rating.
Why Safe’s Fireproof Rating Is Crucial
The fire rating is the most important factor to consider when choosing a fireproof safe. It literally shows you how well the safe will protect your valuables in the event of a fire. By understanding the fire rating, you will know exactly what type of items (i.e., documents, cash, jewelry, hard drives etc.) you can store in that specific model, and for how log these items will be protected.
A better fireproof rating means that the safe will be able to withstand more heat, higher temperatures and more intense flames for a longer period of time. This increases you chances to save you valuables from a fire.
Types of Fireproof Ratings
There are two main types of fireproof ratings for safes that are recognized in US:
- UL Fireproof Ratings: One of the most prevalent fireproof rating standards in the United States. It is assigned by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). This standard is commonly expressed by a specific fire resistance class (Class 125, Class 150, Class 350) and a duration (30-minute, 1-hour, 2-hour, or more).
- ETL Fireproof Ratings: The ETL mark, granted by Intertek, is another notable fireproof rating standard. ETL rates safes with similar timeframes as UL and ensures consistent and reliable fire protection.
Here’s a table showing most common ratings in US:
Outside of the United States, various organizations offer their own fireproof ratings. To name a few: The Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). Each provides their own set of standards to assess the fire resistance of safes.
How Fireproof Ratings Are Determined
- Controlled Testing: Fireproof safes undergo rigorous testing in controlled fire and heat conditions that are designed to simulate real-world scenarios.
- Temperature and Timeframe: During these tests, safes are exposed to escalating temperatures as well as flames for a certain duration.
- A Passing Grade: The goal is to evaluate how effectively a safe will not allow significant heat transfer to its interior. Depending on the safe’s effectiveness to prevent heat transfer to its inner chamber, the fireproof rating is then assigned.
Choosing the Right Fireproof Rating
If you are wondering what fire rating is best for you, consider these two steps:
- First, think what items exactly you want to keep in your safe. Because certain types of items demand a certain fire rating. Documents, digital media, or jewelry each require a specific level of protection. Let’s say you want to use your safe for cash storage only. Then you will need a UL Class 350 fire-resistant safe.
- Second, try to determine the potential severity of the fire threat. Do you want to secure your belonging from an unlikely house fire accident, which can be quickly put down by a fire extinguisher? Or maybe you live in a wildfire prone area, with intense heat and massive fires? The later obviously poses more threat and will likely require involvement of firefighting squads. Thus, will also demand a higher fire rating from your safe.
Fireproof ratings are an important factor to consider when choosing a fire-resistant safe. Be sure to look for a model that has a rating given by one of the well-recognized testing organizations.