When it comes to important documents, you’ll want to secure them against fire, theft and natural disasters. Just consider these stats: During an average lifetime, Americans have a one in four chance of experiencing a home fire large enough to involve the fire department, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Criminals commit about 1 million home burglaries a year, reports the FBI. The 2015 U.S. Natural Disaster Housing Risk Report by RealtyTrac found that 43 percent of U.S. homes/condos are in counties with a high or very high natural hazard risk.

The first step is to organize important documents. You’ll want to store documents that you or loved ones may need to easily access at home. These types of items include:

  • Copy of your will (keep the original at your lawyer’s office)
  • Advance directives
  • Emergency cash
  • Passports

Secure items that you don’t need to access often in a safe deposit box at a bank, advises the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). These types of items include:

  • Original birth certificates
  • Marriage license
  • Precious jewelry you rarely wear
  • Deeds and titles
  • Irreplaceable family photos

When looking something to secure your important documents and valuables at home, look for one that is fire resistant and theft resistant.

Fire Resistance

When choosing a fire-resistant container, look for one that has a UL Mark and includes “350” on the label, meaning it passes tests where the temperature within the safe does not exceed 350 degrees F inside (the protection point for paper) when exposed to fire for one hour. Anything tested to this level also passes tests for photographic film/magnetic tape and computer storage media.

Theft Resistance

In addition to protecting your documents from fire, you also might want to invest in a theft-resistant container. The first level of theft resistance is UL 1037, which residential security containers (RSC), often called gun safes, meet when they bear the UL Mark. These are meant to secure firearms from children/unauthorized users and protect valuables during a typical home burglary.

Some people choose to go with an even higher level of security by purchasing a burglary-resistant safe. These are the safes you see in gas stations and stores.

Determine Your Protection Level

The level of protection you need depends on many factors, so there’s no one answer that will fit everyone," says Lou Chavez, security and life safety principal engineer for UL Building & Life Safety Technologies.

Chavez says, “Security involves an ongoing risk assessment that can change based on who is in the house and what you’re trying to protect.”

The keys, he says, are knowing about your options so that you can make the right choices for your family – and then ensuring that important documents, at minimum, and other valuables are secure from the most likely risks.