Understanding Fire Ratings
The first number, i.e., 350 or 125, represents the maximum internal temperature of the safe. Paper burns at 350 degrees, so the maximum temperature inside of a record safe is 350 degrees. Media is damaged at 125 degrees, so the maximum temperature inside of a media safe is 125 degrees.
The second number is the most misunderstood. It is not "how long your safe will survive in a fire." The second number, i.e. between 1 and 3, represents how long the safe was TESTED. A 350 2-hour safe and a 125 2-hour safe were TESTED for 2 hours. The test on these safes is 2 to 3 times hotter than an average fire.
"A fire lasts longer than one hour," everyone says, and they are usually right about that. The average fire burns at 800 degrees, burns everything up around the safe in 20 minutes, and then moves on. These safes are tested at a constant 1700-2000 degrees, which is dramatically worse than an average fire, and for much longer than 29 minutes.
Is 2-Hour twice as good as 1-Hour No, it is not. No 1-hour rated safe that we carry has EVER failed to protect its contents in a fire. So why does 2-hour even exist? It started as a marketing ploy, and now you will find more 2-hour safes than 1-hour because of the misunderstanding. However, there are certain times a 2-hour safe will help. Multiple story buildings when the fire can heat the safe many times, chemical plants or other hot-burning locations, and if you just want to feel better about your security.
What do I need for my house?
Almost any home will be fine with a 1-hour rated safe. Exceptions to this include mansions with multiple stories, in which case a 2-hour will suffice. We always recommend the highest quality safe you can afford, so start with Phoenix brand if you can!
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All information current as of Wednesday, June 19, 2013