If you've bought filing cabinets before, you know you have a lot to think about. Things like whether a lateral or vertical file will work best in your office space, and how many files and other items you have to store.
But what about keeping business-crucial documents and digital storage safe in the event of a fire? A surprising number of people think that files will be protected in a metal file cabinet, which isn’t true. Paper begins to char at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Film, tape, and the plastic cases containing digital media begin to melt at 140 degrees.
Effects of fire on businesses
It's estimated that only thirty percent of small businesses have a disaster recovery plan, which is frightening, considering that most businesses aren’t able to rebuild and recover after a disaster like fire. If you can protect crucial papers and data and begin using them within 24 hours, your chances of making a recovery rise substantially.
What should you protect?
Because of new technology, it’s becoming easier to house data off-site and keep it up-to-date. However, if any of your information is still kept in paper files or on removable digital media, keeping that information safe will help you get back on your feet quickly:
Financial, tax, and inventory records, certificates and licenses — necessary for continued business operations
Customer information — to avoid operating from memory alone
Sales, accounts receivable, and shipping records
Insurance policy information — important for making claims
Vendor and employee contact information
Human resources and payroll records — to continue compensating employees
Telecommunications and information technology service agreements, and operational manuals and books
Drawings, plans, and specifications
Video and audio records
Policies, procedures, and security information
What to look for in fire-proof file cabinets
In order to protect paper files or computer media, you need a fire-proof file cabinet. These files are built to resist not only fires, but also water from fire-fighting equipment and impact from building collapses.
The first number on a rating is the interior temperature that the cabinet will heat to in a sustained fire. 125 is the rating for back-up tape media, DVDs, and floppy disks. 150 is for back-up media and DVDs. 350 is the number used for paper files, and 375 is an older standard for paper files.
The time rating, half an hour, one hour, etc., is how long the interior will stay below the rated internal temperature in a fire. Historical evidence shows that the average fire burns at around 800 degrees Fahrenheit for twenty minutes, so if your file cabinet is UL rated for an hour, your documents and data will be safe. If you are in a remote location that's harder for firefighters to reach, you might want to consider a file cabinet rated for a longer period of time.
It’s important to look for a file cabinet that has not only been tested, but is listed by Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL). Just because a manufacturer submitted their product to UL for testing does not ensure safety. The term “listed” means that the product was tested and passed.
But fire-proof storage products cost so much!
The cost of the file cabinets can be a deterrent for many businesses. Most run two to three times the cost of a conventional metal file cabinet. In order to put the cost into perspective, ask yourself these questions:
How much would it cost to replace the documents if they were lost to a fire?
How would losing those documents affect the viability of the business? How much is my business worth?
The research, development and physical materials that go into creating fireproof storage products are expensive, but the results are positive for businesses that meet with such an unfortunate event. Need help finding filing that works? Call our furniture experts at (800) 558-1010 or peruse our full selection of filing cabinets here.