Burglary & Fire Rating Guide
WHY ARE SECURITY RATINGS CLASSIFICATIONS IMPORTANT?
Webster’s dictionary defines safe as, “a container for keeping articles (as valuables) safe”. Even a fishing tackle box meets this definition, so we need to refine the term a bit. Without a better understanding of what you are entrusting your valuables to you risk investing in a false sense of security. That’s where classifications, ratings and labels come in.
The rating or classification of a safe indicates the degree of protection that safe will provide its contents in the case of fire or attempted burglary. Higher levels of protection involve higher costs to the manufacturer and higher value to the consumer. As a result the degree of protection will affect the selling price of the safe.
Safes are labeled or classified using two different methods: construction and performance. Construction classification relates to burglar protection and is determined by the specifications of the safe. Performance ratings are determined by tests designed to replicate safes in fire and burglary situations.
Many safe manufacturers have their products performance tested. Safes can be tested for resistance to burglary and/or fire by the manufacturer or by an independent testing agency. The best known independent burglary and fire testing agency is United Laboratories (UL). Intertek-ETL and Mercury are two other highly reputable companies that perform independent testing for fire resistance. Independent testing is expensive for the manufacturer but provides the consumer an extra level of confidence.
BURGLAR RATINGS CLASSIFICATIONS
Industry standards for burglar resistance are indicated by construction and performance ratings. Construction ratings were established many years ago by the insurance industry and performance ratings have been developed by UL.
As mentioned above, construction ratings indicate the specifications of the safe. The construction ratings are listed below along with the associated specifications in increasing degrees of burglar resistance.
UL TEST DESCRIPTIONS
Fire Endurance Test: Contents are distributed throughout the fire resistant product to be tested. UL uses heat sensors to monitor the internal temperature during testing. These are placed at the bottom, top and on all four side walls of the product being tested. Moisture sensors are used to measure humidity, with one placed 18 inches from the top and one 18 inches from the bottom, both midway between side walls.
For products testing to meet the Class 150 or 125 requirements, the product is first conditioned for at least twelve hours prior to the test. This conditioning ensures that the starting temperature of the interior will be between 65 degrees F and 75 degrees F and the relative humidity will be below 65%. This is considered to be equivalent to normal room conditions.
Depending upon the classification being tested, the furnace heat rises at a carefully monitored rate until the specified temperature is reached. Great care is taken to make sure the furnace heat is distributed evenly over the exposed surfaces of the products.
After the temperature and time is reached, for example one hour – 1700 degrees F, the furnace is turned off. The test product is then allowed to cool in the unopened furnace until a significant decrease in the internal temperature is noted. This cooling process can take as long as 68 hours. During this cooling period, the tested product continues to absorb the heat in the furnace and the interior temperature of the product can continue to rise rapidly. It is during this critical point of the test that many products fail the test, particularly at the 125 degrees F 80% humidity level. Only products whose internal temperature and humidity level remains below the test limits during the entire heating and cooling processes are awarded the label.
Finally, the product is opened and examined to determine whether the contents are still in usable condition. The interior walls and components are checked for any evidence of heat or humidity damage.
One year after this initial test has been conducted a sample product may be pulled out of production for retesting. The product must once again pass the original classification it was tested for to keep its UL label.
Fire and Impact Test
After a product has passed the Fire Endurance Test, another sample of the same product may be tested for fire and impact. The sample is prepared in the same manner as the Fire Endurance Test. Then it is heated to a specific time and temperature (see chart below). After the product has been exposed for the correct time period, it is immediately removed from the furnace and raised 30 feet off the ground. UL then drops the product within two minutes into a pile of broken brick on a concrete base. This is equivalent to a fall form a third story.
After the impact, the unit is carefully examined for any signs of deformation, rupture of insulation or parts, or openings into the interior of the product. Because products do not always land right-side-up in real life situations, the product is turned upside down after cooling. The product is then reheated to check exposure to heat.
Once the product has re-cooled, it is opened and dismantled. The testers examine the usability of contents, condition of the interior finish, security of locks, part fastenings and any signs of undue transmission of heat or moisture. One year later, UL may repeat this test on an identical product pulled from the production line.
The Explosion Test
All UL classified insulated record protection (this includes any safe that carries a UL fire resistance label) equipment must pass the explosion test. For this test, the sample is prepared in the same manner as for the two previous tests. The test furnace is left empty and heated to 2000 degrees F. The testers quickly open the door and insert the sample. For 30 minutes (20 minutes for units rated 1/2 hour), the furnace is kept at 2000 degrees F. If no explosion takes place, the sample remains in the furnace until it cools sufficiently to handle.
The sample is then forced to open and examined for heat or moisture damage. The interior finish, insulation, security or interior equipment, locks and fastening between parts, all undergo detailed inspection.
At the option of the manufacturer, the Impact and Explosion tests can be combined. The sample is inserted in the furnace to test for explosion, and then dropped 30 feet. The sample is then reheated and cooled again, and finally, examined carefully.
The UL Fire Label will look something like the following.
Record Protection Equipment
Classified By Underwriters Laboratories, Inc
As To Fire Resistance
With Class to be 350 degrees, 150 degrees, 125 degrees and Hr to be 1/2, 1, 2, 3, or 4
MERCURY FIRE TESTING
Mercury was chosen by American Security Products perform fire testing on AMSEC gun safes.
Mercury’s fire ratings are as follows: