What is fireproofing? Fireproofing can be defined as rendering something resistant to fire. There is no doubt that fire can destroy essential documents within seconds. Fireproof document safes will keep important documents safe in case of fire or theft. What is the benefit of fireproofing documents? You will have easy access to original copies of crucial documents such as passports and insurance immediately.
Being able to access personal documents is a crucial step more so when disaster strike. How can you keep your documents safe? Over the years, there have emerged numerous ways of fireproofing documents. Storing documents online, using a fire-resistant file holder and renting a safe deposit box can give you peace of mind when disaster strike. You can agree with me that indeed no one would want to dwell on natural disasters such as a fire. Most of these disasters can destroy your home completely. If you want to have a peace of mind, then it would be advisable to plan for the worst.
Storing your documents in a secure location is one way you can use to prepare for such emergencies. You will avoid additional stress when you store the most relevant documents in a safe and accessible place. Which are the most important documents you would want to secure? This is the right time to think about the documents that you want to protect if you had to evacuate your home. Once you have compiled the most important documents, it’s time to store them in safe locations.
When disaster strikes, you suddenly have to face the dilemma of filing police reports, applying for aid, submitting your insurance claims and ensuring the continuity of your business. This is nearly impossible if you lose your crucial documentation in a fire incident, which is why it is essential for you to find out the different ways of fireproofing documents.
While you could simply opt to store vital documents in a bank or rent a secure deposit box at a different location from your home or business as part of your disaster preparedness efforts, you could also secure them yourself in the following ways. #5 is a creative method that could come as a surprise to you!
5 Ways to Fireproof Your Documents
#1 Fireproof Bags for Your Most Vital Personal Documents
If you need to store money, identification documents and small valuables, you can use envelope-style fireproof bags. Because of their size, you cannot use them to store papers unless you fold them. In this case, you should opt for a folder-style bag to hold your paperwork. Depending on the size of your bag, a folder design can hold 100 to 500 sheets of paper, with some even capable of fitting oversize documents.
A fireproof document bag is made of special materials that ensure superior resistance to heat, with some able to withstand temperatures up to 2500 F. Most bags consist of several layers of synthetic, fire retardants materials such as aluminum foil lining and silicone-coated fiberglass. These materials insulate the bag’s interior from the heat of the fire, maintaining contents at a much lower temperature.
What’s more, you can protect much more than documents – depending on the size of your bag, you could be able to protect jewelry, batteries and even small electronic devices as well.
#2 A Fireproof Safe as an Alternative to Your Safety Deposit Box
Rather than pay to keep your documents and other valuables in a safety deposit box at your local bank, you could purchase a fireproof safe for your home or office.
The key benefit of a fireproof safe is that you have immediate access to the original copies of essential documents such as passports and insurance papers and do not have to rely on your bank’s opening times. Additionally, your valuables stored in a bank safety deposit box may not always be covered by FDIC insurance, but renters’ or homeowner’s insurance often covers items that you store in your safe.
The documents and items you want to protect will determine the type and level of fireproofing offered by the safe that you choose. Generally, you should keep in mind that:
- Paper, documents, certificates, and passports need a safe that can withstand temperatures of 350 F and above;
- Digital media – DVDs, USB drives, memory sticks and CDs should be stored in a safe that can withstand temperatures above 238 F.
- Tapes, internal hard drives, and computer backup data are most vulnerable. They require a fire-resistant safe rated at 150 F or more.
Although a fireproof safe secures documents and valuables that would be difficult to replace but which you need easy access to, you are often better off storing items you do not need to constantly access at a bank.
#3 Apply Commercial Flame Retardant Concentrate to Cardboard Boxes and Document Crates
A relatively new way to fireproof documents is through the use of commercial flame retardants. A flame retardant is a chemical that slows down or prevents fire from progressing through materials treated with it.
Untreated cardboard boxes and paper are highly flammable but can be made significantly less so by treating them with retardant substances. The commercial retardant substances applied to cardboard boxes or the paper contained in them have the following features:
- Water-based, so are easily soluble for use;
- Colorless, odorless, inert and with a neutral pH;
- Safe for use on most types of paper or paperboard material;
- Contain active ingredients that melt when exposed to the flame to form a protective layer of char on the surface of the paper.
To test the commercial fire retardant, apply it to a small piece of paper similar to the documents you would like to treat, allow it to dry, then try to ignite it. If the product functions as intended, the paper should blacken but not burn.
#4 Make Fireproof Paper for Your Documents
Okay, in this case, it could be more accurate to call it “flame resistant” rather than “fireproof paper” – the paper will blacken, but will not catch fire on its own.
To create this type of paper, soak your documents in saturated borax (sodium tetraborate decahydrate) and water solution then let it dry. Potassium aluminum sulfate hydrate (Alum) is another chemical that is commonly used to fireproof documents but is not as easy to find as Borax, which is available at many grocery stores.
Using a spray bottle, paintbrush, or other suitable implements, make sure you cover the entire surface of the paper with the Borax solution. Alternatively, you could place your document in a tray and completely submerge it in a similar manner to developing photographs. After the chemical dries, your paper should be highly resistant to fire.
#5 Make Homemade Wax Coating for Fire Retardant Paper
A surprising but highly effective way to fireproof documents is by coating them with wax. Since it is a material that only melts, but requires quite high temperatures to burn. This is best for documents that you have already printed since it is difficult to write on pre-waxed paper. The procedure is as follows:
- Remove the candlewick. If you use candles instead of simple wax, you should remove the wicks. Using a knife or hammer, open the candle and then pull out the wick. To make your work easier, you may split your candle into several small pieces. Breaking it up in this way will make it easier and faster for you to melt the wax as required in the following steps.
- Grind the wax. Next, place the wax into a plastic bag and seal it. Tap the bag gently with a hammer to crush the wax into small pieces. You should use a tight-fitting bag to ensure that the pieces are not scattered across the room as you crush them.
- Use parchment paper to melt the wax. Cover your ironing board with a soft cloth or towel. Next, sprinkle the pieces of crushed wax on a half sheet of the parchment paper. Take the parchment paper, fold it in half, and place it on the cloth or towel. Use a warm iron to melt the wax. There should be enough wax to cover one entire side of a sheet of paper or document of your choice.
- Apply the wax to the document. Place your sheet of plain paper or document on the wax and fold the piece of parchment paper over it. Iron it for a few seconds. The heat will ensure that the wax sticks to the surface of the paper, providing a fire-resistant coating. You may add more wax if needed.
- Place the sheet between paper towels as it cools. After processing one side of the sheet of paper using the procedure above, you may put it between two paper towels to let it dry while staying free of debris.
- Process the other side of the document. Wax both sides of your document to ensure maximum fire resistance.
Fire damage to documents is highly disruptive to your life and business. Do not be caught out! The tips above will ensure that you have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your treasured documents have the best chance possible of surviving when disaster strikes.
Do you know of any other cool ways of fireproofing documents? Let us know in the comments and share this article if you liked it. We look forward to hearing from you!