5 Times You Might Need Fireproof File Cabinets

Neatly bundled files sit atop filing cabinets at a North Carolina VA center. A fireproof safe can protect important documents from damage resulting from fire, flood and building collapse.
Neatly bundled files sit atop filing cabinets at a North Carolina VA center. A fireproof safe can protect important documents from damage resulting from fire, flood and building collapse.

As an office manager, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by day-to-day troubleshooting and overlook long-term needs like keeping company files safe.

You’ve read about all the pros of protecting critical office documents in a fireproof file cabinet and just from watching the news you’re well aware of the risk of natural and manmade catastrophes and that they can strike anywhere and anytime. Why don’t you have any in your office?

For the variety of protection they offer, fireproof file cabinets should really be renamed disaster-proof file cabinets. Sure, their first job is to protect valuable documents, from paperwork to microfilm to digital fires, from being destroyed in a fire. But they can help ensure the safety of irreplaceable personal and business information in a variety of worst-case scenarios.

Here’s a roundup of events in which you wish you’d purchased a fireproof file cabinet for your office:

1. Fire: This is the obvious one; the first job of a fireproof file cabinet is to protect your documents from being destroyed for the time and temperatures indicated by its . Between 2009-2011, 86,500 nonresidential building fires were reported to U.S. fire departments each year and caused $2.6 billion in property losses each year, according to FEMA. Stores and offices accounted for 18 percent of these fires and the biggest causes for these fires was cooking (28 percent), electrical malfunction (14.2 percent) and heating (10.5 percent). While you might not think your business is at risk for fire damage, these numbers tell a different story, and the causes can come from everything from a Pop Tart burning in your breakroom to overloaded outlets.

2. Floods: Last year’s Superstorm Sandy, which caused an estimated $65 billion in damage in the U.S., shed light on the increasing risk of devastating floods to homes and businesses in coastal areas. In fact, a report released by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force advised communities start start preparing now to protect themselves from more storms like Sandy. At least 25 percent of businesses that close after a flood never re-open according to the National Flood Insurance Program. What does this have to do with fireproof cabinets? Well, in addition to protecting your documents from burning during the fires, most fireproof cabinets are also water resistant during a fire because of the positive pressure on the inside of the file and the expansion created by the heat that can keep water out, according to eBAy. In the absence of a fire, certain brands are more water resistant than others, and some even advertise being waterproof. Keep in mind that even if you don’t live near the beach, that doesn’t mean your business isn’t vulnerable to flooding or water damage;  from burst pipes to overflowing creeks to office sprinklers, there are plenty of opportunities for water to damage your office.

3. Earthquake: Thousands of earthquakes occur each year in the U.S., according to FEMA, and while most of them have no significant impact on businesses and communities, certain parts of the country have a history of large damaging quakes and are at risk of “the big one” at any time without warning. Earthquakes can cause buildings to collapse and induce fires and flooding, all of which poses a serious threat to your business operations. As previously mentioned, fireproof cabinets can protect documents from fire and mitigate water damage, but many models also have a UL impact rating, which means they’ve been tested to withstand a fall from multiple stories (an important quality when a building is at risk of collapsing).

4. Tornadoes: The May 2011 tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo. caused an estimated $2.9 billion in damage; a month earlier a tornado in Tuscaloosa, Ala. caused an estimated $2.45 billion in damage according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Each year there are about 1,000 tornadoes in the U.S. causing about $1.1 billion in damage, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. An EF-2 or EF-3 tornado with winds between 111-165 m.p.h. can destroy a building in just seconds — flying debris can rip holes in windows and exterior walls through which air rushes in, inflating it like a balloon. The internal pressure in combination with external winds can weaken walls and the roof, causing the building to collapse. As with earthquakes, a fireproof safe with a UL impact rating can be vital in safeguarding documents in the event a storm rips through your business.

5. Theft: Sure, theft isn’t a fire or natural disaster, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be worried about it when it comes to important documents, files and media. Corporate data theft is a growing problem worldwide. A 2012 survey by EnterpriseFeatures.com found that 32 percent of those surveyed admitted to stealing confidential corporate information on at least one occasion; 31 percent said they would retaliate to a dismissal by deliberately stealing and/or sharing corporate information. Limiting employees access to sensitive documents (think personnel files, customer information (that could contain names, addresses, social security numbers and other information that could be used for identity theft) and trade secrets) using a lockable fireproof filing cabinet can not only protect your documents, but also protect your business from the lawsuits that could result if personal information is shared.

Shop for your fireproof file cabinet at Arnolds Office Furniture.

Photo courtesy of MedillNSZ/Flickr