I’ve been thinking about a simple prep that strikes me as essential: Fireproof safes or lockboxes to save documents, cash/jewelry and hard drives even when everything else is lost.
I also wonder how useful it would be to bolt such a safe to my car’s trunk and store my GHB/precious car supplies to avoid losing them to theft or fires. Cars being randomly burnt isn’t too uncommon an occurence in my country’s suburban areas…
Do you have any experience with fireproof safes, or even products you’d recommend ?
Gideon ParkerStaff - November 18, 2020
This is a great idea, I hope The Prepared can do a review of some fireproof safes in the future, because there are many out there that claim to be fireproof, but are not. I think this would involve testing and burning up some safes to really see which is the best though. Here is a video of some people trying some fireproof safes. If I had to buy a new one, I would definitely do some research and see if anyone has tested the model that you are planning on buying.
I have two small fireproof safes. A First Alert waterproof model, and a Sentry Safe. They are pretty similar, and are quite heavy. It almost feels like they are filled with concrete. I would think that these would have a much higher chance of resisting a fire vs the ones they test in the video above.
I do keep my documents in gallon ziplock baggies, and portable hard drives in sandwich baggies. I do this to protect them if we have a flood, but the downside I think is that if there was a fire, the plastic would just melt around everything and be a pain to remove.
My safes are not large enough to have a full sheet of paper in them, so I do have to fold everything in half.
My recommendation is to get your fireproof safe, but don’t make that the only copy of documents and hard drives/flash drives that you have. As you see in the video I listed above, the documents never look the same after they have been through a fire. So although it may protect them from being totally burned to ash, I recommend a nice high quality PDF scan that you can print off to be the most legible, but also be able to present the original.
I would love to hear which model you end up getting and how you came about that decision.
Ironclad Amoeba - November 19, 2020
My thought process started when I considered my lack of backup. I won’t lose anything too life impacting if my hard drive goes under, but it will lose the equivalent of several months of work on personal projects.
I first considered setting up a NAS (file server) for high capacity storage and automated backups, but then I asked myself what I would do in case of a home fire, which led me to look into fireproof safes.
Space and convenience is an issue, and theft is lower down my priority list. I just need something I can store in a cupboard and carry upstairs on my own. I would pick something sturdier to store my GHB in my car’s trunk, though I have no idea how I would go about bolting it in place.
Gideon ParkerStaff - November 19, 2020
I personally have three+ layers of digital backups, each with their pros and cons.
Level 1- This can be your NAS. This will make sure you have constant backups and access to all your files easily. This backup will be the most up-to-date, but will have the shortest lifespan (constantly running), and most prone to fire.
Level 2- Hard drive in fireproof safe at home. This can be backed up weekly or monthly, so not as up-to-date as the NAS, but pretty good, will have a longer lifespan because it is just sitting in cold storage and is only ran every week or month, and is protected a bit against fire.
Level 3- Encrypted Hard drive offsite at a family/friend’s house or safe deposit box. This one may only get updated every 6 months- a year, will have the longest lifespan because it only gets turned on every 6 months-year, and your house can burn down and there is no chance your backup at your family’s house would be damaged. And if your friend’s house burned up, you still have everything on your NAS and in your fireproof safe at home. Still, don’t pick your friend or family around the block from you, if a local disaster happened they probably will be affected too. Someone in another city or state would be best.
Possible Level 4- Cloud storage. This is the safest against fire (your files are stored on multiple servers around the world), will never die (constant server upgrades), but know that you are putting your files in a company’s hands and many employees/the company have access to those files, and if they ever deleted your account you lose everything. And you usually have to pay a monthly/yearly fee to keep it going.
My digital files are very important to me, that is why I have so much redundancy and backups. But I know that isn’t a priority to many. My family members have the only copy of their wedding photos on a dying laptop that they can barely boot up. I would die if that happened to me, but they are 100% good with it.
Ironclad Amoeba - November 19, 2020
Very good thinking. I am definitely going to set up a NAS at some point, but as a second layer, mostly because of expense. A decent 5TB SSD and a portable fireproof safe would fetch a much lower price than my standard for a NAS (RAID 5 with good SSDs).
I’m not sure I would use a level 3 comparable to yours. In the long run, I can see myself renting a complete server in a country with good data protection laws and setting up my own cloud (and VPN) that way however.
I am going a bit off-topic here, but I would highly enjoy reading digital prepping articles about personal data safety, good Internet habits, VPNs (including TOR and rented servers managed by the end user) and password managers, to cite a few.
iowa guy - November 19, 2020
Yes ! Please do a safe review. I know this thread is about smaller mobile options, but I wish you would include larger safes in a review. I’m interested in modular safes that could be constructed onsite, so it’s easier to conceal in a closet, etc, rather than having a large, hard to move safe in the open for all to see. . There a modular safe company in Iowa, but was hoping to know of other, hopefully U.S. made, options.
Dog lover - January 2, 2021
Even with a really good fireproof safe your point of not having the only copies in one place is wise. I have a large gun safe that has a fire rating. Probably a low one as it wasn’t too expensive. Inside that I have a sentry fire safe that has another likely low fire rating. Inside that I got some silicone fire proof bags that I keep my most important documents. Even with all these layers of protection I have pictures of everything that are backed up on the cloud.
Illini Warrior - November 18, 2020
don’t be hoping for tooooo much security from those lock boxes – only takes a few hammer blows to take the top off the hinges ….
make sure to lag them down – otherwise a crook will just take your safe full of useless paperwork hoping for a handgun or jewelry ….
Ironclad Amoeba - November 19, 2020
Resisting a fire is by far my main factor. When I move to a bigger place I might get a full sized safe that no individual person can carry, but for now I just want something I can carry without help, that’s small enough to fit in a cupboard or on a shelf.
I would look into something sturdier for my car, to prevent opportunistic theft of my get home bag. It probably wouldn’t resist a coordinated attempt, but at this point they could just bother to take my car someplace else. I’d bolt it down into the trunk somehow, to prevent theft and to avoid having a 40+kg piece of metal shifting around at the back of my car. Car fires can burn pretty hot though, I don’t know if any compact safe can meet my expectations.
más picante - November 20, 2020
There are two basic varieties of protection to consider.
1) A “fireproof” document box. These are typically inexpensive and relatively small, and thought most have some sort of locking mechanism, they’re designed for fire protection and not security. You can find out how to defeat the lock on Youtube.
2) A “safe”. These are designed for security first and foremost, though many or most of them have some degree of fire protection as well. They range from small and insecure boxes to bank vaults.
I wouldn’t keep anything important in a car. Not so much because your car is likely to catch fire, but because it’s far more likely to be broken into or stolen outright, and anyone that sees something like a safe is going to grab it if they can. When I was younger someone broke into my car in my own driveway, never left anything important in there again.
My advice: Get as big a safe as you can afford for your home, and bolt it down to the floor. If you have documents that you want to protect, either get a fire-lined safe or get a document box and put it inside the safe. Keep digital copies of those documents on a USB drive in your BOB or in the cloud (or both).
pnwsarahContributor - January 5, 2021
My partner bought the First Alert 2087F-BD waterproof and fire-resistant bolt-down combination safe for us some time in the last few years, after one of those catastrophic fires in California that reminded us that being deep in the suburbs didn’t mean we weren’t at risk of being driven from our home in the middle of the night by a wall of flames. This is the only prep we own for which he did exhaustive research and I did nothing, so I can’t tell you much about why we chose it, but he did conclude that this was the only fire-resistant safe worth spending money on. It’s 0.94 cubic feet, which is big enough that we each store a significant sheaf of our files in there plus a hard drive (there is a shelf for each of us). It set us back $123.00, and it is stupid heavy (like, need-a-dolly-to-move-it-safely heavy).
Now, whether or not our backup drives will survive an actual fire in this safe I can’t tell you— we pay for cloud backup (Carbonite) and that’s where my peace of mind comes from. The backup drives are just backup for the backup.
Our safe is way too big to put in a car and way too small for most of what you would probably want to protect with it— that fireproof-ness seems mainly to be accomplished by wall thickness, so you can have a pretty hulking safe (volumetrically as well as weight-wise) and get relatively little storage for your trouble. Personally, I wouldn’t want to drive around anything big enough to be useful for storage purposes and actually reasonably fire-resistant.
This is just one of the reasons my prepping life got easier when I stopped using my car regularly (because I moved and was able to commute via running and transit). I always did worry about losing my BOB (and, worse yet, important documents) when I kept it in the trunk.
NewPrepper - December 28, 2021
Finally got around to joining this forum, largely from this thread. You can probably guess from my screen name I don’t have tons of advice to offer on most topics, but having had to research these for work IT stuff, it’s important to note there’s more than one type of safe which could lead to serious loss.
See paper doesn’t catch fire from heat alone too easily, it takes mid 400 degrees. But the plastic in your hard drives, thumb drives, backup drives melts much lower, a bit over 200 degrees. Most fire proof safes you get affordably are designed to keep paper from igniting and water from firefighting to ruin it. The plastic thumb drive you put in there will likely turn too a puddle of plastic.
It’s been several years since I bought one, I can check a model is recommendations are needed, but you can start looking at digital media safes. Like most things on here, you get what you pay for.
Gideon ParkerStaff - December 28, 2021
Welcome to the forum! What you have offered here is very valuable information, so thanks for taking the time to share it.
I use my fire resistant safes mainly for hard drive protection, so good to know that they aren’t providing much protection and I may need to upgrade. Can you please share what you find out about digital media safes when you look into it more?
It’s important to have a copy of your data offsite as well to be safe from things like fire and theft.
NewPrepper - December 31, 2021
Appreciate it. Took the week off but when I’m back in the office I’ll check out the safe we bought and see if I can find some of the industry nomenclature you’ll want to look for when purchasing. It was an eye opener for me as well, had to protect a system of magnetic tapes for backup, this was 5 or 8 years ago when critical data was local, not cloud based and pushing everything to he cloud wasn’t really feasible yet. Agree now we have a cloud backup and a cloud based image of critical servers, but a lot of folks, myself included personally, still use physical media, so it’s worth being aware of (plus your papers etc will be in better shape after a fire).
pnwsarahContributor - December 28, 2021
Great info and something we have wondered about! Thank you!
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