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Independent Fire Resistance Tests

Many fireproof safes on the market are tested to independent fire resistance standards. These standards are decided on at a national or international level and help ensure that all safes provide the protection claimed.

There are a wide variety of fire resistance standards, some more stringent than others. Some tests last for as little as 30 minutes, while some can go on for up to 4 hours. Most tests have three levels of severity, one for paper, one for data media such as CDs, DVDs and hard drives, and one for very fragile data media such as diskettes and magnetic tape.

Fire tests are conducted by placing the safe or cabinet in a furnace and monitoring its internal temperatures. Some of the more common fire tests include:

EN 15659 – This European standard is also known as LFS for Light Fire Storage. Safes with this rating will provide either 30 minutes or 1 hour of protection for paper. For instance, an LFS 30 P safe will provide 30 minutes of protection for paper.

EN 1047-1 – This is another European standard, and has separate levels for Paper, Data and Diskettes. Safes are rated to provide either 60 or 120 minutes of protection. Safes for Paper (P) will not allow their internal temperature to go higher than 170° C in the time given. Data (D) rated safes will not allow their internal temperature to go above 70° C and will keep their internal humidity level below 85%. Diskette (DIS) rated safes will not allow their internal temperature to go above 50° C and will keep humidity below 85%.

The EN 1047-1 test also involves a fire shock and impact test, during which the safe is rapidly heated then dropped from a height of 9 metres to simulate a floor or building collapse. This is a common occurrence during a serious fire. The safe is returned to the furnace after being dropped, and fails the test if its internal temperatures climb above the levels previously mentioned at any time.

A safe rated EN 1047-1 S 120 P provides 120 minutes protection for paper. An S 60 D rating indicates 1 hour (60 minutes) of protection for data media. A safe or cabinet rated EN 1047-1 S 120 DIS will provide 2 hours of protection for diskettes.

The EN 1047-1 test is also used to test data inserts which are designed to protect digital media. These inserts must be placed inside a safe or cabinet with an EN 1047-1 Paper rating. Data inserts are given ratings like this: EN 1047-1 DI 60 P/DIS. This indicates 60 minutes of protection for Diskette media.

NT FIRE 017 – This is a very well regarded test which originated in Scandinavia. Like EN 1047-1, there are ratings for PaperData and Diskettes. The maximum internal temperatures permitted for each rating are roughly the same as for the EN 1047-1 test. However, the NT FIRE 017 test does not account for humidity. Safes tested to NT FIRE 017 are generally rated for 60, 90 or 120 minutes.

UL 72 – A test standard devised by the renowned Underwriters Laboratory of America. Again, there are three levels. The test for Paper is called the Class 350, the test for Data is known as Class 150, and the test for Diskettes and similar media is Class 125. The class indicates the maximum internal temperature permitted in Fahrenheit; 350°F is 177°C, 150°F is 66°C and 125°F is 52°C. For the Class 150 and Class 125, the internal humidity must not go higher than 85% and 80% respectively.

The UL 72 can also include a drop test where the safe is heated, dropped from a height of 9 metres and then returned to the furnace. Safes that successfully pass this drop test are usually referred to as “impact rated”.

An explosion test can also be conducted where the safe is subjected to rapid heating at very high temperatures. Only a well built safe will pass this test without bursting apart.

Other less common fire tests include the Korean KSG 4500 test, the DIN 4102 (generally considered obsolete) and the BS 476.

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