Complete guide and resources to understanding the UL Rating System for Doors, Safes and Security Storage Equipment.
Labeling of Insulated Record Protection Equipment | Safes | File Cabinets
The rated labels of an insulated safe or fireproof file cabinet indicates the degree of protection the safe or file cabinet will provide its contents if exposed to a fire. The degree of protection will affect the selling price of the cabinet or safe.
The most widely accepted label is issued by Underwriters Laboratories. http://www.ul.com However, the labeling of insulated record protection equipment is totally voluntary; no laws state that a fire drawer, cabinet, or safe must bear a label.
Underwriters Laboratories was founded in 1894 and is chartered as a not-for-profit independent testing organization. Its sole purpose and function is to test for public safety. At UL, a whole array of products, systems, devices and materials are stringently examined and tested to insure they pose no risk to life or health, or are not susceptible to fire or other hazards. Crime prevention is also a major UL concern. And, of course, those products designed to protect are put to trial to make sure they DO protect.
The National Fire Protection Association has set the same time and temperature limitations as Underwriters Laboratories. This organization, founded in 1896, promotes the improvement of fire protection and prevention methods and devices. The Association obtains and circulates information on fire prevention and safety and also works to gain cooperation from its members, as well as the public, in establishing proper safeguards against loss of life and property to fire. Members of the Association include over one hundred and fifty national and regional societies and associations and over 32,000 individuals, corporations and organizations. The Association is an international, charitable, technical and educational institution.
If a manufacturer wants an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label on their insulated records protection equipment, the product must meet or exceed the UL 72 testing standards.
Products may undergo four different fire resistance tests: 1) fire endurance test, 2) fire and impact test, 3) explosion hazard test, 4) combined explosion and impact test. The product is then rated for each of the tests it has passed, e.g. impact rated.
Primary records consist of many types of documents - paper records, microfilm, computer media, etc. Each has a different degree of tolerance to temperature, humidity and length of time exposed to harmful elements. To allow for these differences, UL tests cover three different temperatures and five different time durations.
The temperature noted on the UL label is the maximum temperature allowed inside the fire protective product during the test. For example, if the temperature inside a safe or file exceeds 350°F, it will fail the UL test for paper rated products. For tapes, cartridges, microfiche, and microfilm, the limit is 150°F (with an 85% humidity restriction); for diskettes, the temperature cannot exceed 125°F (with an 80% humidity restriction).
The time noted on the UL label indicates how long the fire resistant product was tested to withstand exposure to extreme temperature and still maintain a safe temperature/humidity level inside. The time lengths are ½ hour, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, and 4 hours. Theses times do NOT represent the total time of the tests, for are they totally indicative of the amount of protection offered. One hour rated products offer more than "one hour's" worth of protection.
The time rating also designates how hot the furnace temperature will get during the testing process. The summary below shows the correlation:
One-Half Hour Rated Products - The furnace is heated up to 1550°F over a one-half hour time period. During this time, the interior of the product cannot exceed the classification temperature or humidity (if applicable) limits.
UL Test Descriptions
Fire Endurance Test: Contents, which may consist of paper, computer media, or both, are distributed loosely throughout the fire resistant product to be tested. For products testing to meet the Class 150 or 125 requirements, the product is first conditioned for at least twelve hours prior to the test. This conditioning insure that the temperature of the interior at the start of the test will be between 65° and 75° and the relative humidity will be below 65%. This is considered to be equivalent to the normal room conditions where the documents will be stored. Depending upon the classification time being tested, the furnace heat rises at a carefully monitored rate until the specified temperature is reached. Great care is taken to make sure the furnace heat is distributed evenly over the exposed surfaces of the products.
The following chart gives the temperature and time durations:
After the temperature and time is reached, for example on hour - 1700°F, the furnace is turned off. The test product must then cool in the unopened furnace until a significant decrease in the internal temperature is noted. This cooling process can take as long as 68 hours. During this cooling period, the tested product continues to absorb the heat in the furnace and the interior temperature of the product can continue to rise rapidly. It is during this critical point of the test that many manufacturers fail the test, particularly at the 125°F 80% humidity level. Only products whose internal temperature and humidity level remains below the test limits during the entire heating and cooling processes are awarded the label. It is important to note that products which are "tested to UL standards" have not necessarily met or exceeded those standards, and may have actually failed the test. Be careful interpreting sales jargon.
Finally, the product is opened and examined to determine whether the contents are still in usable condition. The interior walls and components are checked for any evidence of heat or humidity damage.
One year after this initial test has been conducted; a sample product may be pulled out of production for retesting. The product must once again pass the original classification it was tested for to keep its UL label.
Fire and Impact Test: After a product has passed the Fire Endurance Test, another sample of the same product may be tested for fire and impact. The sample is prepared in the same manner as the Fire Endurance Test. Then it is heated to a specific time and temperature (see chart below). After the product has been exposed for the correct time period, it is immediately removed form the furnace and hoisted 30 feet off the ground. UL then drops the product within two minutes into a pile of broken brick on a concrete base. This is equivalent to a fall form a third story.
After the impact, the unit is carefully examined for any signs of rupture of insulation or parts, or openings into the interior of the product. Because products do not always land right-side-up in real life situations, the product is turned upside down after cooling. The product is then reheated to check exposure to heat, based on the following classification chart:
Once the product has re-cooled, it is opened and dismantled. The testers examine the insulation material, the condition of the finish on the inside, the fastenings between parts, the security of interior equipment, locks, and the usability of the contents. Evidence of heat and moisture are also checked. One year later, UL may repeat this test on an identical product pulled from the production line.
The Explosion Test: All UL classified insulated record protection equipment must pass the explosion test. For this test, the sample is prepared in the same manner as for the two previous tests. The test furnace is left empty and heated to 2000°F. The testers quickly open the door and insert the sample. For 30 minutes (20 minutes for units rated ½ hour), the furnace is kept at 2000°F. If no explosion takes place, the sample remains in the furnace until it cools sufficiently to handle.
The sample is then forced to open and examined for heat or moisture damage. The interior finish, insulation, security or interior equipment, locks and fastening between parts, all undergo detailed inspection.
At the option of the manufacturer, the Impact and Explosion tests can be combined. The sample is inserted in the furnace to test for explosion, and then dropped 30 feet. The sample is then reheated and cooled again, and finally, examined carefully.
Possible Classification Labels: In summary, the labels below list the different classifications available, noting the different tests, temperatures, and time limits.
Class or classes to be 350°, 150°, 125° Hr to be ½, 1, 2, 3, or 4
Please remember, all four label styles require that the product has also passed the explosion test.
The three different temperature limits, 125°, 150° and 350° are the result of testing and research with the manufacturers of different media forms. Paper burns at 420°F, so UL advised a temperature limit of 350°F to allow a generous margin of safety. The temperature within the sample being tested must never at any time, exceed 350°F, even during the cool down period in order to pass the test.
Underwriters Laboratories first tested computer media units in the late 1960's. In those first few years, computer media units were tested at the 150°F; 85% humidity level. That is, UL tests determined whether the insulated products could maintain an interior temperature of 150°F and humidity below 85% even when exposed to intense heat. Testing showed that temperature and humidity levels above these limits could irreparably damage computer media. Once diskettes became available, testing showed that temperatures above 125°F and humidity levels greater than 80% could endanger the diskettes, and a new classification was set. Whenever a new media is developed, UL meets with the manufacturer to determine if a new testing procedure is needed.
To monitor the temperature of the media unit during testing, UL uses thermocouples, which are devices to measure temperature. These are placed at the bottom of the unit, at the top of the unit, and on all four side walls. The unit is then tested in the manners mentioned on the previous pages, with the time and temperatures set to meet the classification requirements, and interior temperature/humidity limits. To measure humidity, electronic sensing devices are employed. One is place 18 inches from the top and one is placed 18 inches from the bottom, located midway between all side walls.
Note on Computer Media:
Some articles have stated that computer media should be stored at a temperature of 70°F and a humidity level between 35% and 60%. These are the requirements for long term or normal day-in day-out storage. The UL requirements are designed to protect tapes and diskettes form intense heat and humidity for a critical period of time in the event of a fire. UL does not recommend that you store your diskettes and tapes at a 125°F, 80% humidity level on a regular basis.
CSTB in France
In the impact test the product is heated for one and a half hours. The product is then removed from the furnace and dropped 15 feet. UL drops products 30 feet. The product is hosed down, and opened. CSTB does not reheat the product to make sure it can still withstand the heat requirements. Reheating is standard UL practice. CTSB does not conduct explosion tests.
B.T.U. in Germany ( V.D.M.A. )
J.I.S. in Japan
Products are tested against explosion by heating the product in the furnace to 1700°F. It takes approximately ten minutes for the furnace to reach this temperature. In UL tests, the furnace is already at 2000°F before the unit is placed inside. J.I.S. then heats the product for twenty minutes, as opposed to thirty minutes in UL testing. After testing, the product is hosed down.
Combination-locked safe designed to offer a limited degree of protection against attack by common mechanical and electrical hand tools and any combination of these means.
Successfully resisted entry for a net working time of 15 minutes when attacked with common hand tools, picking tools, mechanical or portable electric tools, grinding points, carbide drills and pressure applying devices or mechanisms.
Signifies a combination-locked safe designed to offer a moderate degree of protection against attack by common mechanical and electrical hand tools and any combination of these means.
Successfully resisted entry for a net working time of 30 minutes when attacked with common hand tools, picking tools, mechanical or portable electric tools, grinding points, carbide drills and pressure applying devices or mechanisms, abrasive cutting wheels and power saws.
Standard for Tests for Fire Endurance of Vault and File Room Doors
Recommendations for record protection equipment and techniques, including the use and installation of vault or file room door assemblies, are contained in the Standard for Protection of Records, NFPA 232.
The terms "vault doors" and "file room doors" refer to assemblies consisting of doors, single or in pairs, the frame into which doors are hung, and the necessary hardware. These assemblies are intended to provide fire resistance and protection to contents from heat for periods designated by the classifications to an extent described in these requirements.
Vault doors are recommended for use on enclosures of limited volume [not exceeding 5000 cubic feet (142 m3)], constructed so that no point on the interior surface will reach a temperature exceeding 350°F (177°C) when separate vault members or the vault as a whole are exposed to a fire regulated according to the standard time-temperature curve. See Figure .
File room doors are recommended for enclosures of large volume [not exceeding 50,000 cubic feet (1420 m3)] for the storage of records which are not of sufficient importance to economically justify the provision of vaults. It is anticipated that combustibles will not be stored nearer than 3 feet (0.91 m) from the unexposed face of the door nor 6 inches (152 mm) to the side from the door joints.
It is intended that classification shall register performance during the period of exposure and shall not be construed as having determined suitability for use after fire exposure.A product that contains features, characteristics, components, materials, or systems new or different from those covered by the requirements in this standard, and that involves a risk of fire, electric shock, or injury to persons shall be evaluated using appropriate additional component and end-product requirements to maintain the the level of safety as originally anticipated by the intent of this standard. A product whose features, characteristics, components, materials, or systems conflict with specific requirements or provisions of this standard does not comply with this standard. Revision of requirements shall be proposed and adopted in conformance with the methods employed for development, revision, and implementation of this standard.
STANDARD FOR SAFETY FOR RELOCKING DEVICES FOR SAFES AND VAULTS
These requirements cover relocking devices for the following:
a) Light vault doors,
b) Heavy vault doors, and
c) Safes or chests.
Relocking devices are intended to relock the bolt mechanism or door of a vault, safe, or chest in th e event that the combination lock is subjected to attack.
A product that contains features, characteristics, components, materials, or systems new or different from those in use when the Standard was developed, and that involves a risk of fire, electric shock, or injury to persons, shall be evaluated using the appropriate additional component and end-product requirements as determined necessary to mai ntain the level of safety for the user of the product as originally anticipated by the intent of this Standard.
These requirements are intended to test the ability of combination locks to resist unauthorized opening of the combination locks by sense of sight, touch, or hearing. Combination locks covered by these requirements may or may not have integral protection against entry by force.
A product that contains features, characteristics, components, materials, or systems new or different from those covered by the requirements in this Standard, and that involves a risk of fire, electric shock, or injury to persons shall be evaluated using the appropriate additional component and end-product requirements to determine that the level of safety as originally anticipated by the intent of this Standard is maintained. A product whose features, characteristics, components, materials, or systems conflict with specific requirements or provisions of this Standard shall not be judged to comply with this Standard. Where appropriate, revision of requirements shall be proposed and adopted in conformance with the methods employed for development, revision, and implementation of this Standard.