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Fire & Data Safes

A safe is a secure, lockable box used to keep your valuables protected against security threats such as theft. However, if you are looking to protect your valuables not only from theft but also from fires, you will need a fire safe.

A fire safe is designed specifically to protect against smoke and heat damage caused by fire. While most regular safes offer a certain degree of protection against fire, it will vary depending on how the safe is constructed and the amount of heat and damage it can withstand.

If you are looking to secure important papers, documents, and media files containing sensitive information and back-ups, then fire and data safes are the answer to your security and safety needs.

Read on to find out what fire and data safes are, what they protect, the different types, and their average prices in the market at the moment:

WHAT ARE FIRE AND DATA SAFES?

Fire safes, also called fire cabinets, are designed to protect digital and magnetic media, paper, and other valuable items from smoke and heat damage caused by fire.

They can be used to store several items of value such as paper, media, jewellery, keys, and much more since they provide peace of mind in terms of the valuables being safe from burglary as well as fire.

The insides of fire and data safes are designed in a way to keep them below the temperature at which these items will combust. They are usually constructed with an insulated-walled body with a special fire-resistant composite that releases steam when heated.

Some of this steam is directed towards the interior of the safe, where it is used to not only regulate the temperature but also create a pressure seal against the fire’s heat.

The humidity levels and pressure are regulated via strategic placement of vents in various parts of the safe, such as on the back, top, underneath, and front of the door, enabling a certain level of steam to escape out of the safe.

Due to the safes’ insulated lining that makes the walls thicker, they may appear to be more spacious than they actually are.

The thickened walls of fire and data safes reduce the interior space, which is why it is extremely important to check the internal dimensions of the safe before purchasing one for your valuables.

We recommend always purchasing a fire and data safe that has additional storage than you require at the moment so that there is ample room for increased requirements in the future.

It must be noted that protection against critical levels of humidity (as explained above) is different from water resistance, which is another thing you need to consider when investing in a fire and data safe.

It refers to protecting the contents of a safe from water hazards from outside sources such as hoses, sprinklers, and flooding up to a depth of several metres.

It is achieved by fitting airtight, water-resistant seals to the safe doors, and any doors in the internal compartments, against water seepage and damage.

TYPES OF FIRE AND DATA SAFES

Fire safes are a great and obvious choice to protect your valuables from both theft and fire since they go through rigorous testing to withstand the extreme heat from a fire.

Therefore, if you have valuable documents and data that you need to keep away from the wrong hands and safe from damage, then a fire and data safe is the perfect choice for you.

There are two types of fire safes: fire safes for paper and fire safes for data.

Fire safes for paper

Fire safes for paper, as the name suggests, are suitable for safekeeping important papers and documents, such as birth certificates, passports, property papers, bank information, wills, contracts, and confidential business documents.

Paper is highly flammable and fire will ignite it and destroy it beyond recognition. The kind of documents listed above are highly valuable to the owners and may also be used by burglars for data theft, making it very important to secure them against both.

The critical maximum temperature for paper is 175˚C, above which it will burst into flames. Fire safes for paper are able to withstand said temperature and provide up to 120 minutes of protection against extreme heat and humidity.

Fire safes for data

Fire safes for data are best for storing media items and other forms of electronic data such as tapes, CDs, DVDs, hard drives, and USB sticks.

In modern times like these, where data and information have mostly been digitised, it is important to have a way to not only keep your data safe from burglars but also from the threat of fires.

Digital media, such as the ones listed above, require greater protection than paper since they can melt and get corrupted at a much lower temperature, around 120˚C for digital media and 52˚C for computer data.

In addition to the heat, media items must also be protected from the electromagnetic interference and humidity generated by fires since it has the ability to corrupt information that has been magnetically stored.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST FIRE AND DATA SAFE?

When choosing the best fire and data safe, some important factors to consider include:

  • The type of item that requires protection,
  • The internal dimensions of the safe,
  • Burglar protection,
  • Insurance cover,
  • Fire ratings,
  • Types of locks.

Fire safes come in two main types – fire safes for paper and fire data safes. Therefore, the main criterion when choosing the best one must be the particular type of item that requires protection.

It is also possible to store both paper and digital media in some fire safes that, although are principally designed to protect paper, have optional storage compartments that enable data media to be safely locked in them as well.

Another very important factor to consider is the internal size of the fire safe, especially when buying one for storing data.

As discussed earlier, the internal size of a fire safe is much smaller than what its external appearance might suggest at first, due to the amount of insulation material required to make it fire-resistant, which is why special care must be taken to ensure there is ample storage space to meet your requirements.

Also, since safes are made and used for two main purposes – protecting against theft and fire – you must make sure that in addition to being fire-resistant, the safe must also offer protection from burglaries and theft.

They must be sturdy and difficult to move to ensure they can’t be bypassed or relocated by thieves trying to break into them.

It is also recommended to check the level of insurance cover the safes provide, with respect to the valuables stored in them.

In addition to the insurance rating, the location of the safe will also play a big role in the level of insurance cover provided.

For instance, most fire safes are free-standing models since drilling holes in them for wall or floor mountings may compromise the level and integrity of fire resistance.

While this is not such a big problem for larger and heavier fire safes, it might pose somewhat of an issue for smaller units since it will make it easier for burglars to physically move them.

For this reason, if you choose a free-standing fire safe, put extra focus and consideration into the overall security of the premises in which the safe is housed.

Some prominent test standards for safes to look for include EN 14450-S1 and S2 and EN 1143-1. These are European standards that determine the safe’s resistance to burglary attacks, with the:

  • S1 security standard providing a cash cover of £2,000 or valuable cover for £20,000, and
  • S2 security standard providing a cash cover of £4,000 or valuable cover for £40,000.

The EN 1143-1 is the next level of insurance grading ranging from 0 to 5, with the:

  • 0-grade providing a cash cover of £6,000 or valuable cover for £60,000, and
  • 5-grade providing a cash cover of £100,000 or valuable cover for £1,000,000.

Other issues to consider include the duration for which the safe can provide resistance against fire, also called a fire rating, which ranges from 30 minutes to 240 minutes with the safe exposed to extreme temperatures.

Three individual tests determine the fire rating of a safe. They include:

  • The explosion hazard test – simulates the safe being subjected to extremely high temperatures, testing whether it will break in case of an explosion.
  • The fire endurance test – exposes the safe to high temperatures over a period of time, by placing it in a furnace, to assess how long it can withstand the heat and humidity.
  • The fire drop test – replicates the effect of the safe being dropped from a burning building to see if it can withstand the heat and the fall.

The safes are given fire ratings based on the results of these tests and are referred to by insurance companies to determine the degree of coverage for the items inside them. The higher the rating, the higher the insurance cover, meaning your items are considered to be safer and more secure in a fire safe with a high fire rating.

TYPES OF LOCKS FOR FIRE AND DATA SAFES

Fire and data safes are available in a range of locking mechanisms from simple keylocks to more advanced electronic locks. Let’s look at them in detail:

Keylocks

Keylocks for fire and data safes usually come with two keys that are either dimple cut or double-butted for higher security.

They work similarly to how traditional keys work and limit access to individuals in possession of the keys.

There are, however, certain limitations and drawbacks when it comes to keylocks since they can easily be lost, stolen, or copied, putting the integrity of the entire safe at risk.

In a worst-case scenario, if the key(s) is compromised, the entire lock of the safe may have to either be replaced or rekeyed.

Combination locks

Combination locks provide an additional level of security to fire safes since they use a key plus a combination lock to access the contents of the safe.

This enables dual custody of the safe, with one person holding the physical key and the other knowing the combination.

The combination lock can either be a fixed wheel dial set to a specific combination or one with a changeable combination.

Electronic locks

Electronic locks are modern and more advanced locks with a higher level of security than traditional mechanical locks.

They usually require you to enter a code or password to gain access to the safe’s contents. You can easily change the code as often as you like, with some systems allowing you to set unique codes for multiple users as well. The risks here are, of course, forgetting the codes or sharing them with unauthorised individuals.

It is also possible with digital locks to keep track of who accessed the safe, and when. In such systems, individual key codes are issued to individual users to incorporate an audit trail.

Biometric locks

For the ultimate level of protection, you need to get a safe with a biometric lock that allows only an authorised person to gain access.

Instead of relying on keys, codes, or combinations, these safes can be programmed to open with the touch of your fingerprint.

Similar to biometric locks on smartphones these days, these systems allow you to save the fingerprint information of an authorised user and get the safe to unlock only by the right person.

This takes away all the fear of compromised keys, combinations, and codes, and provides a high level of protection with the chances of unauthorised persons gaining access almost non-existent.

PRICES OF FIRE AND DATA SAFES

With so many options and different features out there, you can find fire and data safes at a variety of price points.

For an average-sized fire and data safe with a high-quality key lock and 60-minute fire protection for paper as well as digital media, you can expect to pay as minimum as £172 + VAT.

On the other hand, you will also find advanced fire and data safes with secure electronic locks, a platinum rating, and 120-minute fire protection for paper and digital media for more than £7500 + VAT.

FIRE AND DATA SAFES INSTALLATION AND MAINTENANCE

For fire and data safes to be effective security measures, you need to make sure that they are installed correctly and appropriately fixed in place. You must, however, be extra cautious so that the fixing method doesn’t affect the fire rating of the safe.

For instance, drilling holes and securing bolts can adversely affect the safe’s fire protection properties, therefore, it is essential that you have your fire and data safes professionally installed.

It is also extremely important to regularly maintain and service your fire and data safes to ensure they continue to protect your valuables from theft and fire without fail.

CONTACT CALDER SECURITY

We are members of the Master Locksmith Association (MLA) and are familiar with a wide range of safes, cash boxes, and strong boxes. Our SSAIB contractors can help you assess your security needs and recommend a suitable safe perfect for your requirements.

We offer professional safe installation services to not only prevent theft and fire damage but also ensure that the safe is secured in place properly, cannot be removed, and is not in danger of falling or damaging anything.

We also offer safe opening services since misplacing the keys, forgetting the code, or failure of the safe itself can all lead to the contents of the safe being inaccessible.

By design, of course, safes are very difficult to access in these circumstances and you need a professional safe engineer to do it for you. Our Calder specialists can open most safes and can restore them to full working order afterwards.

When you need to relocate or remove your safe entirely, you can count on us to carry out the job with ease. In addition to that, our repair and maintenance services ensure that your fire and data safes are always in optimal health providing you with the best security.

Contact us here or call us on 0800 612 9799 to talk to our security professionals right away for the best fire and data safes for your property!

Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash