Make Fireproof Filing Cabinets Part of Your Disaster Recovery Plan

If you've bought filing cabinets before, you know there are many options to consider—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 a metal filing cabinet will protect files, which isn’t true. Paper begins to char at 400º Fahrenheit. Film, tape, and plastic cases containing digital media begin to melt at only 140º.

Effects of Fire on Businesses

It's estimated that only 30% of small businesses have a disaster recovery plan, which is frightening considering most businesses aren’t able to rebuild and recover after a disaster like a fire. If you can protect crucial papers and data and resume using them within 24 hours, your chances of making a recovery rise substantially.

Items to 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

  • Customer information

  • Sales, accounts receivable, and shipping records

  • Insurance policy information: Important for making claims

  • Human resources and payroll records

  • Vendor and employee contact information

  • Telecommunications and information technology service agreements

  • Operational manuals and books

  • Drawings, plans, and specifications

  • Video and audio records

  • Policies, procedures, and security information

What to Look for in Fireproof Filing Cabinets

You need a fireproof filing cabinet to protect paper files or computer media. These files are built to resist not only fires but also water from firefighting equipment and impact from building collapses.

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.

The first number on a rating is the interior temperature the cabinet will withstand in a sustained fire. 125º is the rating for backup tape media, DVDs, and floppy disks. 150º is for backup media and DVDs. 350º is the number used for paper files, and 375º 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 800º Fahrenheit for 20 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 longer.


Justifying the Cost of Fireproof Storage Products 

The cost of the file cabinets can be a deterrent for many businesses. Most run 2 to 3 times the cost of a conventional metal file cabinet. To put the cost into perspective, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much would it cost to replace the documents if they were lost in 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.



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