Fire Protection in Gun Safes for the Home
Fireboard, Steel Thickness, Door Seal and Fire Tests are Key Factors
© Laurie Lee Dovey
Mar 4, 2009
Gun safes are not created equal. Because there are no standards for testing or rating fire protection levels of home safes, buyers beware.
The National Fire Protection Association warns of the real potential for home fires and the costly price tag related to them:
- Every 83 seconds a residential fire occurs in the United States
- Over 380,000 residential fires occur annually
- Residential fires account for $4.4 billion in property loss each year
Quality gun safes provide fire protection for firearms and other valuables and peace of mind for gun owners. However, gun safes are not created equal. Consumers beware.
Gun Safe Fire Protection Ratings
When selecting a safe for the home, understand there are no fire test or rating standards. Safe manufacturers' fire test methods, standards and facilities used for testing vary. So, fire protection comparisons between safe models are difficult.
Consumers must do some homework and ask questions before buying to ensure the safe purchased provides the protection needed.
Furthermore, no gun safe on the market today is fireproof. All safe products are susceptible to heat and fire damage when exposed to high temperatures for extended periods of time. The protection afforded by a safe depends upon fire temperature and length of the fire.
Home Fire Intensity
The key to protecting valuables, including guns, paperwork, jewelry and heirlooms is to match the safe's ability to withstand fire to realistic home-fire scenarios.
"House fires get hot fast," reports James Skousen, a gun safe expert and director of marketing for Liberty Safe Company. "Temperatures can reach 1,200 F in 10 minutes or less; and the typical time for fire containment is estimated at 15 to 30 minutes."
Fire Protection Needed
A safe tested to the standards of a typical home fire as described by Skousen is needed for optimum protection. Unfortunately, some fire tests used for rating safes builds up the heat to peak temperatures over a significantly longer (than 10 minutes) time frame. This allows for longer fire protection time claims by the manufacturer but results in unrealistic expectations of actual fire resistance by consumers.
Paper chars at approximately 405 F and guns are damaged when temperatures exceed 500 F. A safe should provide enough fire resistance to keep the maximum internal temperature of the safe, from top to bottom, below 350 F when exposed to external temperatures of 1,200 F for 30 minutes.
Safe Characteristics that Provide Fire Protection
Before buying a safe for home fire protection, ask:
- How much fireboard is in the ceiling, walls, doorjambs and door of the safe? The more fireboard and depth of fireboard layers, the better the protection.
- How thick is the steel? The thicker the steel, the better protection.
- Does it have an effective heat seal around the door? Some seals degrade under high heat.
- When the safe was fire tested, at what time point did the external temperature reach 1200 F? The less time, the better the protection.
Get specific with the questions. Don't settle for general answers.
Armed with this data about a gun safe you can begin to compare gun safe brands and models and make an educated fire protection purchase.
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