Does Your Safe Have a Fire Seal?
The risks of fire to your gunsafe is real! In fact, it may be more of a danger to your guns than flood, earthquakes and theft. You must then check that your safe has a fire seal for added protection. Fire seals are either already built into the gun safe or can be added later.
In the United States, more than 380,000 residential fires happen every year. These fires result in $4.4 billion of property loss every year, too.
The bottom line: Getting a fire-resistant safe is a good idea. This true regardless of the items placed in it. You may have guns, jewelry and money in it, which need protection in case of fire.
But getting the right fire protection can be tricky. Manufacturers can make claims about the effectiveness of fire-cladding and fire-lining. Many of these claims can be exaggerated to sell the units, too.
Safe experts recommend looking at the fire ratings on safes. Their recommendation: Look for a safe with Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) rating of 350◦F for an hour or longer. Ask about the fire claddings, which should be present on all sides.
The fire cladding protection will add to the cost. But when its benefits are considered, the extra cost is worth it.
If you have seen the effect of massive fires on safes, you’d agree. Total burn-downs result in buildings being reduced to a pile of ashes. The safes can become totally or partially damaged depending on its fire protection.
In safes without fireproofing, everything in it will likely be lost. In safes without structural reinforcing in the sheet-rock insulation, the contents in the top half are lost. In safes with thick, reinforced fire lining, most of the contents are more likely to be intact.
Of course, when the door springs open for any reason, the contents will still be vulnerable to fire. This means that fireproofing isn’t all there is to fire protection. The safe itself must be strong enough to withstand the impact of fire-related falling debris.
You should also ask about the sheet-rock fire lining. While this isn’t the best solution, it may be better than nothing. This is because standard sheet-rock will crumble when heated.
Instead, look for sheet-rock with embedded fiberglass. The fibers will maintain the panel’s physical strength when it’s heated. This means better fire protection.
Since the top half in safes usually takes the worst of the fire, you must rethink the placement of contents. Your best bet is to store everything as low as possible in the safe. You may also prioritize which ones you can afford to lose in a fire and keep them near the top half.
If fires happen in your home, you shouldn’t lock yourself in an empty fireproof safe either. You’re likely to end up dead in it for obvious reasons.
Types of Fire Insulators
Sheet-rock, known as gypsum board, is the most common because of its affordable price. When it’s sandwiched between steel plates, it can be effective in a fire. As the safe heats up, the water molecules in it vaporizes to form steam.
The water-to-steam conversion absorbs energy, thus, lessening the effects of fire. The conversion also pressurizes the safe resulting in an effective seal against heat and flames.
But there are also issues with sheet-rock in a fire. When it releases moisture, it will likely disintegrate before migrating to the safe’s lower half. The top half then has hot spots.
Ceramic wool blankets are expensive but worth it. This is because ceramic wool has a significantly higher fire rating than sheet-rock.
Between the two types, ceramic wool is preferred. But you can still choose sheet-rock insulation if budget’s a top consideration.
Look at Your Preferred Support
You will likely be dazzled by the words used by commercial-grade fireproof safes. These words include ceramic fire layer, fire liner, and fireboards. Don’t be fooled by these terms and their promises!
In fact, these fire liners in high-end safes and commercial safes don’t work for any substantial length of time. You’re wasting your money, especially when a fire occurs.
You should also beware of the UL-listed fire liners in safes. This simply refers to the drywall’s UL rating instead of the safe being UL-rated. You must also be wary about the manufacturer’s claims about independent testing of the safe.
Instead, look for a true UL-rated fire proof safe. This has a two thin skins of sheet metal with a water-retaining material between them. The water-retaining material is usually a mixture of concrete and vermiculite.
The door jamb is also equipped with a heat seal. When heat from outside the safe hits it, the fire retardant converts retained water into steam. The steam expands inside and forces the heat out of the door, thus, the heat seal.
Plus, the steam saturates the items inside the seal. This raises their flash point to make them less susceptible to the flames.
A fire seal is a must in safes regardless of their size and style. The valuable items inside a safe can easily be burned down in a fire. The safe will then be nothing more than a cardboard box.
You will spend more money on fireproofing. But when the contents are valuable, if not irreplaceable, then spend it!
We cannot predict the future including residential fires. You’re well-advised to take all necessary precautions to protect your valuables from their damaging effects. You shouldn’t hesitate in investing in a fireproof safe.