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How to Choose the Best Disaster-Proof Safe for Your Cash, Documents, and Valuables

You never know when disaster could strike, so having a plan in place to protect your valuables is important. Globally, wildfires and extreme weather events such as storms and floods have dramatically increased over the past 50 years, according to data by the World Meteorological Organization, with $3.64 trillion in economic losses. Just last year in the U.S., structure fires caused $12.9 billion in direct property damage, per the National Fire Protection Association.

What’s the best way to protect your vital documents (and cash) in case of a disaster? Keep copies in a fireproof safe; after all, you will likely need these documents to help you in the aftermath of said disaster. For example, you’ll need copies of your financial documents to contact your insurance providers and get help from government disaster relief programs.

Luckily, there are tons of options out there when it comes to finding a safe—it’s about finding the one that fits your budget, needs, and, of course, one that has all the proper security features. Read on to find out which documents you should protect and how, along with some top-rated recommendations for fireproof safes.

Keep copies of financial, medical, and personal identification records in a fireproof safe
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommends storing paper copies of your important documents and cash in a fireproof, waterproof safe. Important financial documents include lease or mortgage papers, bank records, insurance policies, tax statements, vehicle information, or student loan information. Don’t forget to have copies of your estate planning papers, such as wills, trusts, living will, and power of attorney documents.

FEMA recommends also having digital copies of all important documents in a password-protected flash drive or hard drive that can then be stored in your fire-proof and waterproof safe. You can keep emergency cash in there as well. Regardless of extreme weather and natural disasters, it’s good practice to keep copies of your vital records in a safe, so the information is accessible to you when you need it.

Look for safes that have fire ratings
When you’re shopping around for safes, make sure you find one that has been given a fire rating. Most of the time, you will see that a fireproof safe has been UL (Underwriter Laboratories) rated or classified. This tells how how much heat a safe can take, and for how long. For example, the description will say that a safe has been UL rated to withstand one hour of 1700-degree temperatures. This rating is important because it lets you know that the safe is actually fireproof.

SentrySafe SFW123DSB
The SentrySafe SFW123DSB fireproof safe is the full package, and comes highly rated on Amazon—the safe has over 2,200 5-star reviews. One reviewer wrote, “My family just survived the campfire in Paradise California and this safe survived! All my documents were intact and even cash inside totally fine.” The fireproof safe is UL certified to withstand one hour of heat at 1700°F, and is ETL-certified to be waterproof for 24 hours in water up to eight inches deep. The safe includes four locking bolts and a combination lock and key for added security.

Honeywell 2111
Another option is the Honeywell 2111 safe, which is currently on sale. Though the safe is smaller, it offers just as much protection as the bigger Sentry safe, and can endure up to one hour of heat at 1700°F. While it’s not waterproof, the door and cabinet are water-resistant. This Honeywell safe was rated the best fireproof safe of 2021 by the LA Times’ product review platform, Bestcovery.




While the price for both safes might be a bit of an investment, both Sentry and Honeywell will replace your safe for free (lifetime guarantee) if it gets damaged by water or fire. Of course, there are other options for safes at lower price points, but they don’t offer the same protections—so you’re safer sticking to the ones that are slightly higher priced but more secure and durable. After all, having your vital documents and valuables protected when something unpredictable happens is priceless.

Hiranmayi Srinivasan, Real Simple