The following is a guest-posting**:

UL, otherwise known as Underwriters’ Laboratories, is a not-for-profit independent testing organization. Its sole purpose is to test a variety of different applications for public safety. UL tests a wide array of systems, devices, materials and products. One of the specific systems tested by UL is the fire safe. If you are in the process of buying a fire resistant safe, it is important to reference the safe’s UL safety rating. This is the most trusted way to research the quality of construction for safes designed to be fire resistant. Understand the UL fire safe fire rating system, knowing what to look for and make a wise investment to protect your valuables and irreplaceable documents and photos.

The main purpose of investing in a fire safe to is protect your belongings in the event of a fire hazard. Underwriters’ Laboratories performs stringent testing on each and every fire safe on the market today. If a manufacturer wants the UL stamp of approval, their devices must meet or exceed a UL 72 rating. Each fire safe must undergo four different tests to monitor fire resistance. These tests include fire and impact, fire endurance, explosion hazard, and combined explosion and impact.

While some fire safes will pass one category, not each and every fire safe can pass all tests. It is important to find a fire safe that has passed all four tests to find the highest quality safety device. Safes can be categorized as either fire or burglary resistant. The safes with a fire and burglar resistant rating are the most effective, as they will protect the safe contents from heat and unauthorized access.

Another factor that is consider for UL fire safe testing is the types of documents or contents that can be stored in the safe. Primary records can include paper records, computer media, photos, jewelry, etc. Each material can withstand a different degree of tolerance, humidity, and duration of exposure to heat and harmful elements. Because UL understands some primary records can be destroyed at different temperatures, testing is conducted at three different temperatures and five different durations of time.

Once each of these tests is conducted, UL will note the maximum temperature that is allowed inside the device during the multitude of tests. The fire safe will fail the test for specific primary records based on the maximum temperature the records can withstand. The maximum temperature for tapes is 150 degrees, whereas the maximum temperature for paper is 350 degrees. This means that a fire safe can be safe for paper even if it fails the computer media rating.

In addition to noting the temperature, UL will also note how long the fire safe can withstand exposure to extreme heat and still maintain a safe internal temperature. Products can be rated as a 30 minute, 1 hour, 2 hour, 3 hour, or 4 hour rated product. Products with a higher rating can withstand extreme levels of heat for a longer period of time. The product is not actually tested for the period of time represented by the label. It is actually tested in a hot furnace.

If the product fails a test in the furnace at 2000 degrees, it will not pass the four hour rating. One-half hour rated products have passed furnace tests at 1550 degrees, however, they have failed testing at higher temperatures.

A product will be tested for endurance before moving on to the following tests. Once the product passes a fire endurance test, UL will heat the fire safe to a specific temperature for the fire and impact test. The safe will be hoisted and drop to measure its performance. If the safe is impact resistant, it will then be tested for explosion by heating the fire resistant safe to 2000 degrees to see if the safe explodes. If the fire safe passes each test, it is truly fire resistant.

When you are investing in a fire safety device, it is important to know the device will work. Review the UL ratings of prospective fire safes and purchase one that passes the test.

**Lately, lack of time has prevented me from updating the site as often as I’d like, so I hired a couple students to do some research and keep the site from going stale for the time being.