Do Fireproof Safes Work?

Test Shows Most Expensive Safe Was Least Effective

No one ever thinks it's going to a fire will occur in their home but if it does happen are the important documents and the things you cherish the most going to be protected? 7NEWS wanted to see if those fireproof lock boxes and safes really do the job.

Diane Beil lost just about everything else when a fire destroyed her home in Parker last summer.

"If I had my computer files backed up and in a fireproof safe or stored off-site that probably would have helped us get going a lot quicker than it did," said Beil.

Would a fireproof safe really have helped?

7NEWS asked firefighters in Parker to put three inexpensive safes to the test. One safe costs about $20. Another costs about $40 and another about $100.

Inside each safe 7NEWS placed paper, newspaper clippings, CDs, DVDs, cash, photos and a disposable camera loaded with pictures. Claims for all three safes say they will protect sensitive paper documents.

The firefighters built a scorcher of a fire.

"Most room and content fires are about 1,500 to 1,800 degrees," said Lt. Jeff Flanagan with the Parker Fire Department.

And it seemed too hot for the safes, too. First, the cases started melting. The combination lock on the most expensive safe was quickly melted away.

The manufacturers of the two smaller safes guarantee that papers and documents will be safe inside for 30 minutes at 1,550 degrees. The larger and more expensive safe claims protection for up to two hours.

After 30 minutes, firefighters put the flames out and we surveyed the damage.

The Brinks safe that cost just over $16 looked bad but the plastic inner lining was sealed shut. When firefighters pried it open, there was no damage to the contents. It even survived the water.

It took a knife to open the $40 Sentry Security Chest. But inside, everything was in tact.

And the $100 Sentry fire safe had the most extensive damage, outside and in. The picture didn't fare well and it had a little bit of moisture in it.

"The less expensive ones held up just as well as the more expensive one, if not better," said Flanagan.

Beil said in the end she is just grateful that her family was not hurt in the fire. But it is nice to know there are fairly inexpensive ways to keep your important papers in something that will survive a fire.

Safes We Tested

  • Brinks chest model 5001 ($16)
  • Sentry fireproof chest model H2100 ($40)
  • Sentry MS0100 ($100) *The safes are available at most local retailers including Wal-Mart and Home Depot
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