The fire rating of a safe is incredibly important when shopping for a safe.
While most people would probably say the best over all number to price is one hour. This is only a basic rule, and factors like distance to a fire station, or even the presence of sprinkler systems will determine what is a good fire rating for you.
Make sure that this really is best for you! So what should you think about when shopping around for safes with fire ratings?
1. Distance to fire station
So you can see a full time (non-volunteer) fire station from your front porch eh?
Well maybe buying a safe with a two and a half hour fire rating may not be fore you.
However you live outside of city limits, don’t have well marked roads, and live off the grid?
Alright so maybe you should take a look at a 2/hour + fire rating.
2. Volunteer or full time fire station
Many remote areas tend to have volunteer fire stations. While this is totally awesome, and I highly respect anyone that will volunteer for such a duty, it can cause some delay in response time.
Make sure to reach out to your local fire department and see what their response time is to you! Then maybe add a half hour to that.
3. What is in the safe?
Make sure to always account for what is physically going to be in your safe, or what you may put into it in the future.
The fire ratings on most safes are determined by the length of time it takes for a safe to get to an internal temperature of 350 degrees. Electronics, film, and will be destroyed much earlier than that. You might either want to look into a longer fire rated safe (this article is a great place to start), or better yet buy another fire rated safe/box that you can put in the bottom of the safe.
4. Sprinkler Systems
Yes, some people have these in their homes. If you have one, congrats, you may not need as much of a fire rating!
- Here’s why most fire safes are not waterproof
- Gun Safe vs Gun Room | Which one do you need?
- Top 6 Best Gun Safes without Drywall
Breaking down fire ratings
Now that you know what to keep in mind when you are trying to decide what fire rating is right for you, let’s quickly talk about how to read fire ratings, and if you should believe them.
We will be talking about what a fire rating that looks like this is: ** Degrees for ** Minutes
The minute portion of a fire rating is determined by the amount of time it takes for the interior of a safe to reach the maximum temperature of 350 degrees. This is the point at which paper starts to burn, which is a common item in many peoples gun safes today.
Keep in mind though, other items will start to get damaged at this point, so not all of your items will make it to the total timeframe advertised. Things like cameras, hard drives, and other tech equipment are among those things.
The second part of a fire rating comes down to the heat being used to test the safe. This is going to basically be the heat of the fire on the exterior of the safe.
Didn’t know that different fires burn at different heats? Well, turns out they do! That is why you will see tests running anywhere from 1200 degress, to 2800 degress.
How are safes tested?
Before we dig too far into if you should believe fire ratings, we first should talk about how tests happen. Unfortunately there really isn’t an industry standard that is required for these numbers to be displayed.
This means that manufacturers can rate it just based on the material included, and not actually test them. Or it can be tests that can take days, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to perform.
Let’s just say the higher end companies tend to do the latter, while the lower end companies tend to do the former.
So should you believe fire ratings?
As I have said many times on this site, you get what you pay for. If you are looking at low end safes on a budget, I would treat the fire rating as a nice-to-have, but not something I would count on.
So many things can go wrong in the quality control process on those lower end safes, because they can’t afford to go through them.
Meanwhile, I honestly would trust the fire rating of higher end companies like Fort Knox, Liberty Safes and more, as they genuinely do test their safes to make sure their ratings stand up to real world use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Something a lot of people think about when buying a fire rated safe, is that they may also want it to be waterproof. Unfortunately not many people know that gun safes are not actually waterproof by nature, and very few manufacturers make them water resistant. However a good manufacturer to take a look at is Stack-On.
There are plenty of gun safes on the market today that don’t have a fire rating. This includes brands like Pendleton Safes, SecureIt Safes and more.
What many people don’t know, is that the steel is not what fire rates a safe. Instead it is what is on the inside of the safe that makes it fire rated. This can range from a drywall type material, to cement, to even fire blanketing. Cement is going to be the best of the bunch, however it is incredibly heavy.
While most safes have a fire rating. They really aren’t necessary for every safe. Not everyone does need one! Make sure to think about that when shopping. There are quite a few manufacturers that don’t offer fire ratings that are still really high quality.
Another thought! USA made gun safes tend to be tested much more, and can in general be trusted more. You may also find videos about the safe you are considering being burned!
Want to find out more about what to look for when buying a gun safe? Checking out my buying guide is a great place to start.