Many people keep valuables at home that include, firearms, gold, silver, jewelry, cash, pictures and important papers. Having been in many burned homes, I have seen the results of fire damage to them and the resulting loss. The majority of people did not have their valuables stored correctly. First many people tend to store important items high, often on the top shelve of their closets. Remember heat rises, a better option is to store them on the closet floor. The chances of them surviving are greatly increased.
I have seen people who lacked the resources to purchase a good safe improvise various methods to protect valuables. Often people put items in old refrigerators thinking that the metal will offer some protection. It never worked very well and with all the plastic in the newer refrigerators it almost always fails to protect against heat or flame.
The best homemade boxes I saw were made from plywood and Sheetrock. There consisted of two layers of 1 inch ply with a layer of 5/8 sheet rock in the middle. Make it as low to the floor as possible, think like a coffin, not upright. You need good hinges and the door must overlap at the sides. These made a somewhat fire and burglar resistant safe.
The best choice for Fire and Burglar Resistant Safe is
Now the best possible solution is to spend some money on a good quality combination fire and burglar resistant safe. Modern safes, called “composite safes”, or (BF) burglar fire safes, have a combination of burglar and fire ratings. With these safes, you get fire and burglary protection. These cost a bit more, but depending on what you are storing, maybe worth the additional cost.
Fire Resistant Safes
They run from excellent to the ones I consider just a plain rip-off. The cheap ones that are sold in all the discount stores are just that cheap. Most of them are rated to keep the contents at below 350° F for 20 or 30 minutes. This is barely adequate to keep paper from igniting. It will not protect old tape recordings or 35mm slides, they need to stay below 150° F. Computer disks and DVDs are even more sensitive, they need to stay below 125° F and less than 85% humidity. There should be a plaque located on the safe that shows it’s rating.
I recommend that you purchase a minimum 1-hour fire rated safe. Why? Safes with less than a 1 hour fire rating often don’t survive a home or business fire. If you can’t afford a 1-hour fire rated fire safe, go for the longest fire protection that you can afford. You can always buy one of the small inexpensive ones and stick it inside of a larger safe to provide additional protection of electronic media.
Don’t rely on a fireproof safe to protect against a burglary.
Fire resistant safes can do a great job of protecting paper documents from heat and smoke damage. However, fire resistant safes are normally constructed of very thin (16-18 gauge) metal which makes them venerable to attack. The metal is primarily used to hold the fire retardant material and can be easily punctured, cut or sawed with simple hand tools. A burglar resistant safe is constructed of much heavier metals and is resistant to attack with tools.
Many of the gun safes currently on the market are primarily burglary resistant. But, be careful there are cheap ones on the market that provide neither good burglary nor fire resistance. A good quality Gun safe should use a minimum of 12-gauge steel in the body of the safe and preferably 10 to 7 gauge steel. The door should be made of at least ¼” of solid plate steel or composite equivalent. Better quality gun safes have ½” or thicker steel. Look for safes that have Underwriter Laboratory burglar ratings such as, RSC (Residential Security Container), B Rated, U.L. TL-15 (Tool Resistant) and U.L. TL-30.
A floor safe is not good fire protection.
Floor safes offer burglary protection and some degree of fire protection if installed in concrete. Floor safes are great for gold, silver, coins, jewelry and other valuables which will not be damaged by water. In a fire situation, they are often filled with water from the fire suppression.
Why should you not use a wall safe?
Wall safes look great in James Bond movies and on TV. They are always used to store large amounts of money in Hollywood movies. Wall safes small and are easy to conceal, but are lightly constructed and offer little protection to fire or burglary.
Whatever type of safe you choose, get the best you can afford and don’t forget to anchor it down well. Many good safes have been stolen intact and taken somewhere else to be opened at the burglar’s leisure. The best choice is one that is both a fire and burglar resistant safe.