A fireproof safe is one that is designed to keep the internal temperature of the safe below a certain temperature when the safe is exposed to fire conditions. Typically, a fireproof safe will have one or more layers of fire resistant material and one or more layers of insulating material. The insulating material is designed to expand when heated, sealing the safe from the harmful effects of water used to put out a fire.
A fireproof safe will typically carry one or the other of two ratings. These ratings, specified in hours, give the amount of time that the safe can be exposed to fire conditions before the temperature inside the safe rises above a certain temperature. This temperature is typically 350 degrees F for documents, jewellery, and guns, and 125 degrees F for electronic and computer media such as floppy disks, backup tapes, CDs and DVDs. So, for example, a 1 hour 350 degree rating would mean that the safe could be exposed to a 1700 degree F fire for 1 hour, without the temperature inside the safe rising above 350 degrees F. For a media safe, the maximum temperature would be 125 degrees F. In addition, a media safe will carry a rating for the maximum amount of humidity inside the safe during the test, usually 80% humidity.
Second to the fire rating of the fireproof safe, you will need to decide the amount of security you wish the safe to provide. If you are very concerned about security as well as fire protection, then you need to make sure the safe has a burglary rating as well. This rating basically tells how long it would take a knowledgeable person to “break into” the safe with locksmith tools at their disposal. If large amounts of cash or valuables are to be left overnight in the safe then you would want this rating to be as high as possible.
If you need to store and protect electronic computer media, then you need a media-rated fireproof safe. As mentioned earlier, a media safe carries a lower rating (125 degrees F) for maximum internal temperature than a document safe (350 degrees F). A media safe also carries a rating for maximum humidity (80% humidity), and offers protection from dust, electromagnetic fields, and electrostatic discharge.
If you need to protect guns with a fireproof safe, then you will need a special gun safe that can accommodate the special size requirements posed by rifles and shotguns. If the safe is a to be used to store electronic media, then you will need to choose the interior design of the safe (drawers and/or shelves) to accommodate the type and overall amount of media to be stored. For example, you can choose interior drawers each designed to store a certain number of floppy disks, DAT tapes or CDs/DVDs.
Another consideration when choosing a fireproof safe is the type of locking mechanism employed. You can choose a traditional keylock or mechanical combination lock. Or you might prefer the added convenience of an electronic keypad locking mechanism. Or the ultimate in security and convenience offered by a biometric safe – one which has a fingerprint scanner as the locking mechanism – simply walk up to the safe and press your finger on the scanner for about a second, and the safe opens.