If you own firearms, you need a gun safe. Ordinary safes will not provide much protection from fire. However, you can safeguard your valuables with a fireproof gun safe. But there are other considerations you may not be aware of.
Actually the fireproof gun safes are fire resistant for a given time, depending on their rating. These fireproof lockers are rated by the amount of time they could survive being on fire and having extreme heat applied to their bodies while not exceeding a specific internal temperature.
The cost of a fireproof safe can be invaluable when it comes to safeguarding not only guns, particularly those that are kept loaded when put away, thus they serve as fire hazards in and of themselves, but also personal valuables that just cannot or are difficult to replace. Some safes of this type aren’t only fireproof, but also waterproof as well, as more often than not where there is fire there may well be water to put out the fires, meaning you may need to be taking this into consideration when installing your safe.
The National Fire Protection Association(NFPA) figures show that in America, there are an average of 358,000 fires in the home causing over $6.9 billion in damage. So, it is a wise decision to buy a fireproof gun safe if your budget allows, as they perform the dual purpose of preventing unwanted access and providing protection from extreme fire. These safes are meant to withstand the high temperatures that are associated with a fire. Placing guns in safes helps in giving required protection from unauthorized access, be it children or thieves.
Fires in the home generally range in temps from 800 – 1200F and typically last 30-45 minutes. However they can vary depending on the source of the fuel for the fire. For example, a rampaging firestorm would get much hotter – upto 2100F –but it may also pass more quickly.
Fireproof Gun Safes are designed to provide protection against high temperatures. These kinds of safes are commonly manufactured in either the following two ways:
- Either with incombustible materials and contain insulation of sheet rock or fibreboard ¼ to 5/8 thick – the more layers the greater the fire resistance, ceramic wool.
- A composite insulating material between two layers of steel that keeps the heat from the safe.
UL Fire Ratings for Gun Safes
Before you can learn what UL ratings are, you need to first discover what UL refers to. UL or Underwriters Laboratories is a nonprofit organization that tests a menagerie of manufactured consumer products, including safes. According to UL ratings, a standard fireproof safe should be able to survive less than 350 °F or 177 °C in over 30 minutes. Aside from traditional metal fireproof safes, UL also covers testing for media safes developed to protect photographic film and magnetic tapes (Class 150) and data safes that defend the safety of flexible computer disks (Class 125).
Underwriters Laboratories are the most widely used measure of how fire, impact, water, and burglar resistant a safe is. As you shop for one of these gun safes, pay special attention to the UL ratings that should be displayed on the box. The rated labeling of an insulated safe indicates the degree of protection the safe will provide its contents if exposed to a fire. You should also make sure the safe has been tested by Underwriter Laboratories and has earned a certification. The UL rating is based on the duration of time in which the fireproof safe withstands continuous high temperatures.
Gun safes fall under the Class-350-rated files and safes. Here are two typical grades for gun safes of the fireproofed variety. There’s the UL Class 350 one-hour, which involves safes and cabinets that can last at least an hour when facing external temperatures of over 1,700 °F or 927 °C without its internal temperature exceeding 350 °F or 177 °C (which is important when you’re protecting volatile products like guns or even chemicals like nitroglycerin). There’s also the UL Class 350 two-hour that can last for over 2 hours when faced with the same external temperatures while maintaining the standard internal temperature limit.
There are many varieties of fireproof gun safes that can provide safety for more than two hours against fire. The top-rated safes can provide safety at a temperature of more than 2000°F for more than two hours. The testing of gun safes is carried out by monitoring the internal temperature of the safe when it is placed into a furnace and typically raised to 1200F in less than 10 mins and then maintained at 1200F – if it goes above 350F the test is over. Some manufacturers will have their safes independently assessed and rated by specialized companies such as Underwriters Laboratories, which would be preferable to “factory certified” as some manufacturers state, where they could be going from the fire rating of the fibreboard or sheetrock. It has been known for manufacturers to keep their temperature sensors covered low in the safe or ramp up the temperature of the furnace slowly to 1200F to get their required 60 min rating etc.
How Construction Impacts Fireproof Rating
A lot of gun safes can double as lockers for ammo boxes, jewelry, paper documents, and anything metallic or otherwise that’s valuable. As explained above, sensitive media for magnetic and flexible computer disks require a separate class from gun safes.
Structural integrity and roominess from the inside is only part of the fireproof safe’s requirements. The thickness of and the metal used on your fire-rated, impact-rated cabinets and safes will determine whether it’s capable of withstanding structural collapse from above, like say being able to survive a fall from multiple stories since a fire could compromise the building your safe is in, thus it could fall and crash many stories below or be crushed by tons of debris depending on where your safe is placed within your home or apartment building.
Locking Mechanism Recommended
The top locking mechanisms for fireproof safes include any UL-approved lock. The reason for this is obvious, a lock that’s somehow weaker than the safe could result in it popping open at the exact wrong time and exposing its contents to the open flame even though the safe’s interior and exterior remain resistant to high temperatures. A Group 2 lock that’s UL Listed or anything better than that should be picked. The most dependable lock manufacturers around are Kaba Mas, Sargent & Greenleaf, and LaGard from Dormakaba.
The above mentioned companies have provided consumers with decades of trouble-free operation, so if you wish to find the best locks possible for your safe, then they’re the fireproofed, UL-listed locks you should be patronizing. Some safe makers may use their own locks without being UL certified, but it’s not a deal-breaker if the safe itself has passed UL fire tests. A UL-approved safe with a UL-listed lock is the most preferable in terms of safety.
So to Summarise
When looking to purchase a fireproof gun safe, be sure to check its fireproof rating is adequate for the intended use, such as storage of documents, computer media, guns and ammunition, etc.
- A gun safe with a UL fire rating of 30 min at 1200F would mean the inside of the gun safe would remain less than 350F for 30mins in a fire at a temperature of 1200F.
- A gun safe with a UL fire rating of 60 min 1650F would mean that the contents would stay under 350F for 60 minutes in a fire at a temperature of 1650F and so on.
Be aware of the siting of the gun safe: will it be exposed to water when the fire is attended? Finally, the construction: if there were to be a severe fire with a building collapse, would your safe withstand falling debris like roof trusses?