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Massachusetts Performance Standards for Safes and Vaults

Class 125 Four-Hour Rated Vault Door

There is a critical difference between a fire barrier and an insulated structure. A frying pan on a gas burner does not allow the flame to penetrate the surface of the pan, yet the heat is conducted through the thin barrier very efficiently. The same principle applies to data-rated vault designs. That is why building a “vault” out of thin fire-stopping material with little insulating value has distinct limitations. That is not an experiment you want to conduct at your facility. And even if this buffer zone between the vault structure and the materials stored inside is maintained, the rate of temperature rise for these materials is beyond what is acceptable to achieve a data rating comparable to FIRELOCK® vaults.

FIRELOCK® Fireproof Vault Rooms and Chambers is proud to be the gold standard for protecting invaluable assets. FIRELOCK® is the named manufacturer and quality threshold for fireproof chambers, vaults, and room-sized safes in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Click here to download the Massachusetts Technical Bulletin 1 for Performance Standards of Safes and Vaults or view it below.

The bulletin provides that all vaults for the storage of public records shall provide the minimum level of protection specified thereunder. The Supervisor of Public Records does not specify any particular materials or technique for the construction of public records vaults. The Supervisor will approve vaults for the storage of public records upon receipt of the certification of licensed or registered fire protection and structural engineers that the proposed construction will have a fire resistance and structural integrity equivalent to or greater than that specified in the following performance criteria.

All vaults for the storage of public records shall provide the minimum level of protection specified hereunder. The Supervisor of Public Records does not specify any particular materials or technique for the construction of public records vaults. The Supervisor will approve vaults for the storage of public records upon receipt of the certification of licensed or registered fire protection and structural engineers that the proposed construction will have a fire resistance and structural integrity equivalent to or greater than that specified in the following performance criteria.

A vault size of 5,000 cubic feet or less is considered optimal. Where large volumes of records must be protected, it is permissible to construct a vault with a capacity of up to 25,000 cubic feet. It must be realized that, because of the volume of combustible materials stored within it, this larger structure is at greater risk of fire and should be equipped with a fire suppression system.

All vaults intended for the storage of paper records shall be so constructed that, when fitted with the 6-hour required hereunder shall, in the event of fire in the surrounding structure, maintain an internal temperature of 350 or below for a period of not less than 6 hours. These standards provide the maximum available level of fire protection for paper records, but cannot safeguard film or magnetic media against either heat or humidity. If magnetic media have not been copied and dispersed or otherwise duplicated for protection, vaults or portions thereof used for the storage of this media must be equipped with data safes or an inner core designed to minimize temperature rise and moisture intrusion. These safes and cores shall be so constructed or equipped that, in the event of fire in the surrounding structure, the internal temperature and relative humidity shall remain below 125 and 80%, respectively for a period of at least 2 hours. It is the responsibility of the records custodian to provide all media with the level of protection specified above and to provide the Supervisor with the engineerís certification to that effect.

Except in Type I or Type II-222 fire-resistive construction as defined by NFPA 220, Standard on Types of Building Construction, all vaults shall be ground-supported and structurally independent of surrounding structures. Supporting structures for vaults shall be sufficient to support the full weight of the vault structure and its contents. Since shrinkage or volume change, stresses may result in hairline cracking that will be detrimental to the vault structure, all concrete members should have a minimum reinforcing as specified in the ACI Code, and all masonry walls should have minimum reinforcing as specified in Paragraph 1113.5.3 of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Building Code.

All building members supporting the vault shall be noncombustible. All structure materials used in the construction of a vault shall have a fire-resistance rating of 6 hours. All interior fittings and finishes shall be noncombustible. If connected to the building in any manner, the connection shall be made so that in the event of the collapse of the building, the surrounding building members may move or fall without affecting the fire-resistive qualities of the vault. All beams or bearing members adjoining the vault shall be designed to release freely in case of failure. Vault construction shall not be used as a support or bearing for the structural members of the building. Walls shall have sufficient lateral strength to withstand the impact of collapsing building members, or toppling machinery or equipment. Construction of vaults below grade level should be avoided whenever possible because of the dangers posed by the “cooking” effect of fallen debris, flooding from natural causes or firefighting efforts, and the difficulties of maintaining proper environmental control. In non-fire resistive buildings, the vault roof shall be designed to accommodate a minimum live load of 350 pounds per square foot. In all cases, ample accommodation should be made for protection against impact loading by falling equipment or building members and against accumulations of burning debris.

Walls, roofs, and floors shall be effectively waterproofed. No combustible membrane or coating shall be used except on a roof exposed to the weather. Provisions shall be made to prevent the entry of water at door openings. Ample drainage shall be provided to prevent rain or fire-fighting water from accumulating on the roof.

Wall penetrations shall be allowed only for access, HVAC systems, sprinkler systems, electric lighting, and limited energy circuits. Wall openings shall be as small as possible and shall be sealed with approved or listed fire-rated materials and devices to prevent smoke, heat, flame or water penetration. Conduit, if used, shall be sealed inside and Roofs shall not be pierced for any purpose. Floors shall not be pierced, except that floors of vaults constructed on grade may be pierced to allow the passage of sprinkler piping or HVAC ducts.

All vault doors shall be Underwritersí Laboratories Class 350 rated 6 hours or equivalent. ORDINARY FIRE DOORS SUCH AS HOLLOW METAL, TINCLAD, SHEET METAL, OR METALCLAD TYPES; STEEL PLATE TPE AND FILE ROOM DOORS ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE AS VAULT DOORS. Vault doors shall be equipped with combination-type locks with an Underwritersí Laboratories approved relocking device designed to hold the door in case of mechanical, explosive or torch attack on the door. The lock mechanism shall be of the type enabling a person locked inside the vault to open the door easily from the inside. All day gates shall be similarly equipped. Vault doors shall be equipped with smoke or heat-actuated release mechanisms to close them in case of fire.

For paper and magnetic media, a stable environment with an average temperature of 70F or below and an average relative humidity of 30-50% shall be maintained. A temperature below 70F and a relative humidity of 40-45%, with fluctuations limited to no more than +2 F and +3% RH, is considered optimal. Storage facilities for first-generation silver halide microfilm shall maintain a constant temperature of below 70F and relative humidity of between 20 and 30%. If it is not possible to meet these optima, minimization of temperature and humidity fluctuations shall be the guiding concern. These parameters should be accomplished by controlling the external environment surrounding the storage space. Where this is not feasible, the storage space may be equipped with a heating/ventilation/air conditioning system. All equipment related to such a system shall be located outside the storage space.

Automatic fire detection systems shall be installed in accordance with NFPA 71, Signaling Systems for Central Station Service; NFPA 72, Protective Signaling Systems; and NFPA 72E, Automatic Fire Detectors. The systems shall be relied on only when there is an assurance that the alarms will bring prompt response at all times.

Vaults may be equipped with automatic sprinkler protection installed in accordance with NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. Class A fire extinguishers or standpipe systems with a small hose, suitable for use by the occupants of the building, shall be provided in a convenient location outside the vault door.

All wiring shall be in conformance with NFPA 70, National Electrical Code. Fixed lighting only shall be provided in the vault. Lighting shall be limited to explosion-proof or vapor-proof lamps and controlled only from a 2-pole switch located outside the vault.

All shelving shall be of noncombustible construction and as fully enclosed as possible. All shelving shall be a minimum of 3 inches above the floor of the vault. Electrically powered mobile shelving shall not be installed.
Records and containers shall be separated by at least 6 inches from any piping or conduits within the vault. Where sprinklers have been installed, a clearance of 18 inches shall be maintained below sprinkler heads.

Safes and insulated record containers to be used for the storage of paper records shall provide protection equivalent to that of Underwriters Laboratory Class 350, rated for 4 hours. Equipment for storage of magnetic and photographic media shall be Class 150 rated for 2 hours. Combinations of equipment or the use of inserts or liners to achieve equivalent levels of protection are permitted. Ratings by recognized testing laboratories other than Underwriters Laboratories shall be recognized.

Prior to storage of public records in a newly constructed or renovated vault, the contracting agency shall provide the Supervisor of Public Records with signed and sealed certifications from all relevant engineers that the foregoing standards have been met or exceeded. No vaults which are not so certified may be used for the storage of
public records.


Since 1982, FIRELOCK® has been the world’s leading manufacturer of media-rated modular vault chambers. Unlike poured-in-place concrete vaults, FIRELOCK® vaults are constructed from individual panels, filled with a heat-resistant ceramic material, and they are lightweight, movable, and expandable. When combined with current high-density storage systems, FIRELOCK® vaults offer extremely high space efficiency at a considerable cost advantage per cubic foot of storage. The value of assets stored in FIRELOCK® vaults today reaches hundreds of billions of dollars and ranges from priceless animation cells and World Wrestling Entertainment videos to pharmaceutical research records and U.S. Department of Education student loan information.

With a FIRELOCK® vault, you invest in the highest-performing vault on the market today to ensure the protection of your most vital records and irreplaceable items. You gain the ability to store microfilm, computer mediafile servers, and paper in one location, as well as the peace of mind that comes from knowing that all the environmental- and fire-protection elements are in place.

FIRELOCK® has been in business since 1982, and we have installed over 2000 vaults around the world. Because of this broad experience, we know how to build a vault that will provide you with maximum protection today and the flexibility to grow with you into the future.