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Historical Records | Town Halls


Vaults Made Easy

Aside from being the custodian of your community’s vital records, there are many other duties you must perform to keep the town functioning. Small towns rarely have a surplus of personnel to take on new projects. Starting a new initiative to acquire a vault to protect your current vital records and historic archives can be a daunting task. You may be wondering: what kind of vault do I need to protect my most valuable information? What about future record media requirements? Who will design the vault? Who can install it? Who will coordinate with the general contractor and others involved in the project?

FIRELOCK® has been working with municipal and county governments of all sizes for over twenty years. Our experience with government acquisition processes can eliminate a lot of the potential pitfalls that add to the project’s time, expense, and aggravation.

We work with each individual client to design the vault configuration that fits best fits their needs. Because each vault is custom manufactured it is possible to design and build vaults the exact size the client requires, down to a fraction of an inch. If the vault needs to go in an existing room we can design the vault to fit the room’s exact dimensions to maximize the vault’s interior space. Or the vault can be designed to accommodate a specific shelving layout that is planned for the space. Either way, there is no additional cost for custom-sized vaults.

For every vault project, we create CAD drawings that show all dimensions of the vault, where it fits into the existing building structure, the door location, and all the components that go into the vault. After these plans are approved by the customer we provide copies for the architect, general contractor, and any other project participants who need a copy.

FIRELOCK® vaults are a highly-specialized product that must be constructed to exacting standards in order to certify the vault as achieving its fire protection rating. Where do you find qualified vault installers? You don’t have to. Every vault we sell is assembled by our installation crews, so you know when it is completed the vault is done right. Our installers will meet with any other tradesmen to discuss how their finish out work should be done to ensure they do not compromise the integrity of the vault.

One other benefit that FIRELOCK® brings to municipal projects is an understanding of the often lengthy acquisition process involved with any public works endeavor. We are accustomed to working with town clerks throughout the planning, budgeting, bidding and other processes necessary to make their secure record vaults a reality — no matter how long it takes. Because we know there is great satisfaction when the project is successfully completed and the custodians know they have done the right thing for their community.

Protecting History

Over the past twenty-five years, a wide variety of organizations and private collectors have entrusted their most valuable historic artifacts to FIRELOCK® vaults. The monetary value of many of these artifacts is in the millions, but their historic value is what makes them truly priceless.

Some incredible artifacts from American history are also safeguarded in FIRELOCK® vaults around the country, owned by both large organizations and private collectors. Of note are some of the personal documents of George Washington, along with the gavel he used when presiding over the Continental Congress. When not on loan to museums, several artifacts from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln are stored in a Class 125 vault. These artifacts include the chair from Ford’s Theater and the suit and hat Lincoln wore the night he was shot.

Another example of historical preservation is the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Museum in New Gloucester, Maine. FIRELOCK® vaults recently installed a vault to protect their 250-year-old collection of records and artifacts. This is another example of protecting irreplaceable items. Click here to read their testimonial.

The diversity of the historic documents and artifacts protected in FIRELOCK® vaults is truly amazing. One thing the owners/custodians of these items understand is the importance of preserving these objects for future generations. They also know that climate-controlled FIRELOCK® vaults can provide the most secure environment for these irreplaceable treasures.

Historical Maps and Documents

The historic preservation organizations within multiple Native American Indian tribes have entrusted their historic documents and artifacts to FIRELOCK® vaults to help preserve their heritage. Their collections range from treaty documents to antique textiles, weapons, and other historic objects. Most of these organizations have museums where they display various artifacts. When they are not on display to the public they can be safely stored in a secure vault environment. This is an excellent way to preserve the heritage of these unique cultures.

Among the more fragile historic items being protected in FIRELOCK® vaults are some original cartoon animation cells. This artwork owned by a major animated film company is highly valued by this organization, so they sought out the highest-rated protective vault system available. Of course, climate control is paramount for such a fragile medium, so they take advantage of the R-33 insulation rating and vapor barrier that keeps outside humidity from affecting the climate inside the vault. With this design, it is economical to maintain the temperature and humidity at the optimum 68 degrees F. and 30-40% humidity.

Most vaults will need some type of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system to control the temperature and humidity inside, but this can be a potential weak point in the vault where heat and smoke could enter. That is why FIRELOCK® vaults use insulated three-stage damper assemblies to bring ducted air into the vault chamber, or insulated coolant lines for split HVAC systems. At FIRELOCK®, we take the approach that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” when constructing a fireproof vault, which is reflected in the specialized components that are used to ensure the survival of vital records and historic artifacts, even if a worst-case-scenario event occurs.

For town and county governments in Massachusetts, it is possible to receive funding from the state to acquire a vault that meets the specified protection requirements. The minimum fire protection rating the vault needs to qualify for this financial assistance is Class 350-Six Hour/125-Two Hour. That means the interior temperature must remain below 350°F. for at least six hours (to protect paper documents) and below 125°F. for at least two hours (for digital media) even if the exterior temperature reaches 2,000°F. FIRELOCK® manufactures and installs vaults that are capable of meeting these strict performance requirements. As a result, dozens of government offices across Massachusetts protect their historic and mission-critical records with our vaults.

Data Tapes

The growth of the population of a community often results in the need for more space to store and protect the increasing volume of vital records. A modular vault constructed with a panel system can be expanded to grow with your record storage needs. This means you don’t have to acquire a vault large enough to accommodate your projected distant-future space requirements — just what you need for the near future. When the need arises, we supply the new panels and install them to enlarge the existing vault.

It’s not uncommon for a local government office to move to a new location when they get the funding to construct a new municipal or county building. When this happens, what becomes of the record storage area? Aside from the inability to protect fragile historic documents and heat-sensitive media, a poured-in-place concrete vault can’t move with you when the time comes to relocate. The ability to disassemble the vault at the old location and reassemble it at the new facility is another benefit of FIRELOCK®’s modular vault design.

Expansion & Relocation

Two issues that record custodians often face is keeping up with space requirements and relocating their offices. One of the advantages of the modular design of FIRELOCK® vaults is they can be expanded or relocated as needed.

Climate Control

One of the challenges facing town clerks and other record custodians is how to provide the optimum storage environment for historic documents, microfilm, magnetic media, and other climate-sensitive materials. Unlike concrete and masonry constructed vaults, which wick moisture into the chamber and increase the humidity inside, FIRELOCK® panels utilize dry ceramic fiber to achieve the required fire protection ratings. A beneficial by-product of this ceramic fiber insulation is the R-33 rating for the panels. With this energy-saving insulation rating and the integral vapor barrier built into each panel to keep out humidity, it is much more economical to climate control a FIRELOCK® vault than traditional vaults.

Leasing Options

Because these vaults are constructed with a modular panel system that can be expanded or moved to a new location, they are classified as fixtures rather than part of the building. This means they are eligible to be acquired through leasing arrangements. The typical lease is a five-year term with a $1.00 buyout at the end of the term. This way, the vault is installed right away but the cost of the vault can be spread out over five years.