As soon as I moved into my first apartment, I realized that I would need to get a document safe to protect my important records, financial information, passport, and hard drives (which contain all of my personal photos).
As it happens, there are a lot of choices out there when it comes to home security safes, so it took some time for me to sift through choices and reviews before finding something suitable. If you are also in the market for a document fire box, allow me to save you some time and trouble by sharing my retail research!
The Major Brands
When it comes to document fire boxes and home security safes, SentrySafe is one of the most bestselling brands. According to the consumer reviews I read, firefighters have agreed that it's a trustworthy brand (I'm guessing they've seen them in action) and the reviews are consistently favorable.
Another brand that shows up frequently is FirstAlert. FirstAlert has a slightly squarer look and narrower product range, but still gets fairly high reviews.
Neiko also offers some document safes on Amazon, however they are not typically fireproof or waterproof. On the other hand, their anti-theft features are better reviewed, so if security is your primary concern, Neiko is a good brand to consider.
Top Factors to Consider
As you review the various document fire box options, there are some major criteria to consider that will make your choice much easier:
- Price: The general range is between $20 and $200
- Size: The general capacity range is between 0.1 and 1.5 cubic feet
- Intended contents: Do you plan to store documents or other items (e.g. hard rives, expensive cameras, jewelry)
- Lock mechanism: The major choices are keys, keypads, and combinations
- Orientation: Front loading vs. top loading
- Portability: Some are easier to move than others (e.g. some have handles for easy toting)
- Fire vs. burglary protection: Some boxes emphasize one strength over another
Document Fire Safe Options with Keys
One of the top selling boxes is the SentrySafe 1170, a black hunk of _ that could serve as a hanging file folder box or a storage container for odder-shaped objects that might fit within the 0.61 cubic foot interior. The 1170 offers 30 minutes of fire protection. The reviews of this safe are very favorable; people like tat it is top loading - they find it very convenient. There is a general consensus that this is not the best safe to fight burglary.
Another very popular option is the SentrySafe H2300, which is smaller in capacity, but also toploading and opened with a key. The reviews are also favorable, and have pretty much the same things to say about this SentrySafe firebox as they do about the 1170.
If you want to store items that are a bit bulkier than just files and paper, the 1.25 cubic foot SentrySafe H3300 is the way to go. Don't go with this option, however, if you're looking for portability- it is HEAVY!
If, however, you want something small, light, and portable, go with the SentrySafe 1100. It is very inexpensive, but still offers the same level of fire protection as the other boxes.
Document Fire Box Options with Keypads
One of the biggest issues I have with document fireboxes that have keys is that, in the event of a flood or huge fire, the keys might be lost or melted, and then one would have to pry the darned things open with a crowbar. I am much more in favor of stuff that does not require my ability to squirrel away keys.
One of the most popular keypad document fire boxes is NOT a SentrySafe, but rather a Neiko. The Neiko Fit Anywhre Digital Electronic Safe. It is much better on the anti-theft spectrum and also has a nice anchoring design that allows you to tastefully anchor it to walls or the floor - so them thievers can't take no safe away! The only complaints in reviews that really came up about this safe was that it is a bit on the small side and that it makes a loud beeping noise when you unlock it (which makes it less useful as a gun safe).
The SentrySafe X055 is another popular choice; it has a convenient override key in case you forget your code, 2 live-locking bolts so it is more secure than the SentrySafe options discussed above, however it does not advertise itself as being fire safe, so if you want to protect your documents from fire hazards, you will need to keep things inside the box within a fire resistant bag.
My personal favorite of the keypad lock boxes is the First Alert 2096DF Waterproof Fire Safe. It is the most expensive of all the boxes I've researched, but it really has it all (theft-proof, fireproof, waterproof, and VERY spacious with a 2.14 cubic foot capacity), and is very well-reviewed.
Document Fire Box Options with Combination Locks
Also available are some fireproof safes that can be opened with combination locks.
The SentrySafe DS3410 is one of the more high-end options when it comes to in-home fire safes. Though it is nearly 300% more expensive than the other safes out there, it has some truly wonderful features - an adjustable shelf to keep things organized, sleeves for documents, little places to hang important keys, and plenty of space. Even though this safe is on the more expensive end, it also is pretty marked down on Amazon.com.
While most of the other SentrySafe fire boxes get some comments on their not being all that great in the anti-theft department, the DS3410 has four live-locking bolts. It also has a $15,000 Fire Protection Guarantee, which is somewhat encouraging. The major downside discussed with regard to this home security safe include its weight (one person noted that two people were needed to carry it up to a second floor) though the benefit in this heft is that it makes it harder to take away.
The FirstAlert 2087F Waterproof Fire Safe is a slightly smaller and less expensive combination lock fire, theft, and waterproof safe. There was one rather negative review of this safe, however. One buyer found that the safe was of low quality - plastic and "anything but safe" and another reviewer found it difficult to open and had to order a replacement.
So, what did I end up buying?
After having looked over my research notes, you probably have a better idea of the type and brand of safe that is best for you.
But maybe you're also a bit more like me, and you're thinking "Hey. Just tell me which one is best."
While I'm not saying it is the best of the safes I researched, I ended up purchasing the SentrySafe H2300. Why? I realized that, in the end, if someone wants to steal my lock box, they're going to steal my lock box. And they'll break through it. If it's a better anti-theft document firebox it'll just take them a bit longer. What matters most is whether the thing can contain my important documents and hard drives and withstand water and fire. The SentrySafe H3300 has me covered on those ends.
All of these document fireboxes are good - they just meet different needs. I hope you find one that suits your fancy!
Janet Vale from San Diego, California on August 23, 2013:
I think that these safes are so nice. i need to get one.
markmazoo on June 13, 2013:
Sorry , but you confused me. Which SentrySafe did you get: the H2300 or the H3300?
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on March 14, 2012:
Amy, perhaps you might consider applying your own designs! That way you could have exactly what you want on your security safe while also choosing all the best features.
amy on March 09, 2012:
where can i find lockboxes with designs on them? i want to get one for my car and i cant find any with designs everything ive seen is plain
hanwillingham on May 23, 2011:
Wow, great stuff, I wanted to buy one of that.
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 28, 2011:
Thanks speedbird, and you make a really good point, Jillian! I had not realized that a lot of policies did not cover losses of jewelry and collectibles like that... perhaps I'll have to get two of these! Hahaa.
speedbird from Nairobi, Kenya on February 28, 2011:
Thanks for sharing this informative article on document firebox and home security safes.
Donna Lichtenfels from California, USA on February 28, 2011:
Great and informative article! Even more important than theft, can be fire. Most homeowners' policies do not cover for losses of jewelry, collectibles such as sports cards, etc unless you add an expensive rider. People who do not keep their jewelry in a safe-deposit box but at home, need to forego the jewelry box and consider a fireproof safe, especially for that special ring or necklace handed down from grandma or that vintage Mickey Mantle card.