Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Are They Safe in a Fire?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Are They Safe in a Fire?

Article excerpt

Byline: CODY PEARCE

Having your house burn down is a disaster, and losing important documents complicates dealing with the aftermath. We tested a pair of popular portable fireproof safes to see if they live up to the claims on their packaging. Here is what we discovered.

DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME

If you really want to know if a fireproof safe works as advertised, you have to set it on fire. And if you want to set something on fire, you better know what you're doing. That's why we took our safes, loaded with faux documents, CDs, photo negatives and the like, to the Jacksonville Fire Training Academy.

Lt. Tracy Davis and Engineer Jason Carpenter burned both safes in the kitchen area of the academy's burn building. Each safe sat on top of a concrete block, which was placed on top of a burner in the kitchen. The block kept the safes from sitting directly on the burner and allowed for a better view of the safes as they burned.

The direct flame contact from the burners reached a temperature of 2,500 to 3,500 degrees. Each safe was tested for one minute at full temperature. Davis said the direct flame contact would approximate the most extreme conditions each safe would endure during a house fire. Both safes come with claims that they'll protect contents for 30 minutes in a 1,550-degree fire.

NO SAFE? NO PROBLEM

Don't have a safe? Don't panic. Lt. Tracy Davis of the Jacksonville Fire Training Academy said protecting valuable documents is largely a matter of temperature ratios, the difference in temperature between the fire and the object you're trying to protect. "The best place to put your personal belongings in case of a fire is in zipper-lock plastic bags inside your freezer," Davis said. "Because the temperature inside the freezer is so cold it, would take that much longer for it to burn."

WHAT TO PUT INSIDE YOUR SAFE

- Wills (in most instances, you will need the original for it to be legally binding).

- Trust documents.

- Personal and family records.

- Cherished photos and keepsakes.

- Business files.

- Collector items.

- Family heirlooms.

- Birth certificates.

- Deeds.

- Titles.

- Cash (checks and credit cards are typically ineffective during a major emergency). …

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