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Safes and Vaults

Safes and vaults are generally categorised as burglary resistant, fire resistant (documents) and media (data) safes. Some hybrids provide a level of delay from fire and theft however it is important to understand the differences between each type of safe and vault.

The Australian Government’s Physical Security Management Guidelines provide an elaboration on each type as summarised below:

  • Burglary resistant safes are primarily designed to protect valuables from physical attack. They are generally of solid construction, with thick walls designed to resist various physical attack methods.  The materials used to manufacture them are usually good conductors of heat, so they generally offer minimal fire resistance.
  • Fire resistant safes are designed to protect paper documents (excluding photographs) from fire. They are usually constructed with thin metal walls sandwiched around a soft filling which offers insulation from heat, and emit moisture into the safe at high temperature, thus increasing the combustion temperature of paper (to about 170°C).
  • Media safes (or data safes) are designed to protect photographs, hard drives, optical media and other media types from fire. They are generally an extension of a fire safe, in that they offer the same amount of fire resistance with extra conditions.  The maximum internal temperature that can be reached is much lower (around 50°C) and the humidity must remain low.  This is because moisture and heat corrupt or destroy data carriers.

It is important to determine the appropriateness or otherwise of any safe or vault installed.  Poor decisions in this regard can be a disaster.

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