How to Protect Important Documents

Paper documents can be extremely important and hard to replace, yet by their nature they are also some of the most delicate items in your home. Mortgage deeds and land deeds contain crucial data on your rights and responsibilities as a homeowner or landowner. Wills and other financial documents can sometimes be as valuable as cash; proper records are necessary for accurate tax assessments.

Fire or flood can destroy vital documents in seconds, while theft can put vital papers into the hands of criminals. A safe is a good way to ensure that your paper documents are secure — however, it’s important to choose a safe that can protect your documents effectively.

Fireproof Document Chest

If you only have a small number of documents to store and your budget is limited, you could opt for a fireproof document chest. At its simplest, a fireproof document chest is simply a flat lockable box in which you can store papers. They are relatively inexpensive compared to options such as steel fire safes; however, a fireproof document chest may not provide the degree of security that you need.

Because they are usually smaller than a safe and their locks are often less sophisticated, fireproof document chests are an easier target for the casual thief. Typically, they are fire tested for 30 or 60 minutes and protect not only paper documents, but in many cases digital media too. In addition some models made by Sentry Safe offer water and flood protection as well

Fireproof Safes

A better option than a fire box or chest may be a fireproof safe. Fireproof document safes are designed both to prevent theft and preserve your documents from fire and extremes of temperature. Documents don’t need to combust to be irreversibly damaged; at a high enough temperature, paper can discolour or even disintegrate completely.

Fireproof safes are tested up to 1000 centigrade and are certified to specific grades: the higher the grade, the longer the safe can withstand a continuous temperature of 1000 degrees without becoming destructively hot inside. It should be noted that a fireproof safe isn’t necessarily proof against other threats to your documents, such as water damage. One way to reduce the risk of water damage is to seal valuable documents in plastic. A more secure alternative is to invest in a fire/waterproof safe.

Waterproof Safes

As well as fire, you need to consider the effect of water on your documents. Water damage can turn your vital documents into worthless rubbish; even if they survive the initial effects, mould and decomposition can swiftly set in, rendering them unreadable unless expensive specialised drying techniques are used. Floods are an obvious cause of water damage, as is moisture in the atmosphere of the building where the documents are stored.

Much water damage occurs as a result of fires; the water used to fight the fire can quickly flood safes and strongboxes, ruining documents. This is especially true of floor safes – while a safe embedded in a concrete floor can often withstand great heat, water can quickly pool inside, flooding the entire compartment and saturating the contents. A safe that is resistant to both fire and water can therefore be a great investment.

Photo Credit: qwrrty