Pretty much every prepper knows by now how important it is to have a stash of cash on hand in case of an emergency or a major disaster.
When power is knocked out and communications networks are down, you won’t be able to rely on electronic forms of payment, be they credit cards, debit cards or even drawing money from an ATM.
But, if you have cash you’ll still be able to get the supplies and favors you need. That is why we want to have cash on hand, at home, that we can reach for when the time comes.
However, the problem with cash is it is highly vulnerable to theft and also vulnerable to destruction. It is just cloth paper!
Accordingly, part of the puzzle is figuring out how to protect your cash from destruction, and one of the most common household emergencies is a house fire.
If you don’t want to watch your emergency piggy bank go up in smoke alongside the rest of your possessions, you better know how to protect your cash from fire. This article will tell you how.
Fire is a Bigger Risk to Your Cash Money than Theft
Most folks who are keeping any serious quantity of cash on hand naturally worry about theft. This is smart, of course, but for our purposes, it’s likely putting the wagon ahead of the horse.
Unless you live in an area that is a hive of crime, or you take no effort whatsoever to hide or secure your money, your stash of cash is actually significantly more valuable to destruction by fire than it is being stolen.
Consider this, a residential house fire happens nearly every minute in America, and many of those result in a total loss of a structure and all of its contents.
If you have your cash under the mattress, hidden in the shoe box, or squirrel away in some other out-of-the-way place, it is as good as gone.
Unprotected Cash will be Easily Incinerated
When you consider it, paper money is surprisingly durable. It has to put up with a lot being passed around the way it is, living folded up inside wallets and envelopes, getting wet, sweaty, and going through all sorts of other abuse without fading too much or breaking down.
But that being said, it is highly vulnerable to heat, as most cloth is. Even the lower end of the temperatures that objects and materials will experience in a house fire is more than enough to crisp dollar bills into nothing, and they can easily be incinerated if exposed to high temperatures to say nothing of open, raging flames.
Accordingly, if you want to even try to save cash and recover it after a house fire, you’ll need to invest in some type of solution that can protect it from such intense heat.
Location Counts for a Lot
One more thing to consider when protecting cash from fire. The location that you have at stored in might count for a lot, depending upon the course the fire takes.
The difference in the temperature at the hottest part of a house fire versus the coolest part can be many hundreds of degrees, and combined with the right storage solution might make all the difference in whether or not your cash survives.
Although a thorough examination of that particular topic is beyond the confines of this article, it is something you should look into.
Based on the design of your home and the areas where fires are most likely to start, you should locate your cash stash in a place where it is unlikely to experience the highest possible temperatures.
9 Ways to Protect Your Cash from Fire
1. Fire Safe
Probably the most obvious solution for many people is just going to be purchasing a fire safe, also known as a fire-resistant container.
Coming in many shapes and sizes, with tremendous variation and their overall performance and capability, these all work off of the same principle.
Generally, anything that goes inside the safe will be protected by a combination of heat-resistant materials and expanding foam that will prevent the intrusion of superheated air.
Though the interior of such safes will steadily heat up, and may indeed become quite hot, it generally earns you a little bit of time before destruction begins in earnest.
Depending upon your requirements, you might be able to get a larger, full-size safe that can hold guns and other valuables while maintaining a substantial fire-resistant quality.
On the other hand, if you just want to protect a quantity of stacked bills, jewelry, and other relatively delicate valuables, a strong box-sized unit could be just the ticket.
As always, asset security is a different game than asset protection concerning fire hazards. You’ll still want to protect such a container from theft, naturally.
2. Fire Bag
For people on a budget, those who were utilizing a hiding place, or for those who just don’t need a high level of protection a fire bag might work well.
A soft and flexible option that functions using the same principles as a fire safe above, a fire bag looks very much like a banker’s pouch or large envelope.
Relying upon a thermally resistant seal and flame-proof materials and linings, these bags can protect stacks of bills from scorching and direct exposure to flames, for a time.
However, compared to all but the very cheapest fire safes, fire bags cannot resist as high a temperature and cannot protect the contents for as long.
3. Keep it in a Go Bag
An often overlooked strategy, keeping your stash of cash and other lightweight, highly portable valuables inside a go bag that is placed conveniently for a quick extraction from a burning home might be the very best way to protect it from going up in smoke.
This assumes, of course, that you are home when the fire occurs and that you can reach the bag in a timely and safe fashion to grab it.
Now, before I get dragged down in the comments it is worth pointing out that you should never, ever endanger yourself or anyone else in an effort to save valuables from a burning home.
That’s the official line from countless fire departments and fire safety organizations, and I’m sticking to it.
However, a small, lightweight and easily carried bag is quick enough to grab so long as you have time to spare.
Particularly if you don’t have to travel through the house to check on children or other occupants it is an easy thing to drill grabbing such a bag in an emergency before making your escape.
Consider that having a ready stash of cash on hand and the immediate aftermath of such a terrible emergency will be quite a comfort. Consider including a change of clothes and other important documents in this fire bailout bag.
4. Store it in a Chest Freezer
One unconventional method that might work well for stashing your cash is a chest freezer that is located away from the kitchen.
Kitchens tend to be the number one spot when it comes to accidental house fires, so your cash should never be stored there or nearby.
When you stop to think about it, a large freezer makes a lot of sense: there are generally sturdy containers, heavily insulated, and will certainly be coated with a layer of frost and ice on the inside.
This can help serve to protect the cash within, and even if it is caught in a raging fire will melt and at least provide something of a buffer against high temperatures until it flashes off.
However, you don’t want to just toss cash into your freezer loose. That can lead to water damage.
Instead, you are well advised to wrap stacks of cash in cellophane tightly and then place them inside a thick, heavy-duty freezer bag with a plastic closure. This will help protect it from the worst of condensation and frost.
Also, you might consider hiding it inside an old box from a TV dinner or otherwise hide it so that people who open the freezer or decide to casually investigate it won’t see your cash lying there.
5. Stash it in the Fridge
Another interesting location that might make you scratch your head. I just got done telling you to avoid keeping your cash stored in or near your kitchen, and in the very next section, and recommending the appliance that is the functional nerve center of a kitchen.
Hear me out. There are many anecdotal reports of refrigerators, somewhat mysteriously, surviving house fires more or less intact, even when the house fire begins in the kitchen.
This is not due to any special durability of the refrigerator itself, but rather due to a quirky effect of the refrigerator being exposed to high temps.
It seems that the rubberized or plastic seals on refrigerator doors will rapidly melt when exposed to high temperatures, typically sealing the internal compartment closed.
If your cash is inside, and preferably in a bottom drawer, temperatures inside the fridge might not reach a level that could cause spontaneous combustion or scorching.
this is something you’ll need to investigate closely on your own before deciding if it is right for you, but if you need a backup location or just don’t have the money or resources to institute a more certain method, you could probably do a lot worse.
6. Keep it Bagged in a Toilet Tank
This is a time-tested method for protecting money and other valuables from fire.
If you place your money inside a heavy-duty, reliable plastic bag that is totally waterproof, and then immerse it inside your toilet tank you can provide a valuable buffer of water that will likely keep it safe in the event of a fire.
Now, there are some obvious drawbacks to this method, namely that any failure of your container is probably going to ruin your cash, to say nothing of interference with the tanks operating components.
You’ll need to figure out a way to keep your bundle of cash away from moving parts and openings.
However, aside from this the combination of immersion in water and an utterly flame-proof ceramic construction can provide good protection for next to no money.
7. Bury It
Although it is one of the most labor-intensive methods available to you, burying your cash is a reliable way to protect it from fire.
When cash is buried deeply, the worst temperatures from roaring flames above will it rise into the air away from it.
Yes, the ground might get quite hot, but the sheer density and mass of soil will act as a highly effective heatsink.
Especially when used in conjunction with other durable containers or, even better, a fire-resistant container detailed above, you’ll be able to depend on your cash coming through a blaze intact.
For many, then, it is the emplacement of the cash in the first place that might be the problem.
You should only bury your cash in an area where you are certain it will not be discovered and that you have control over it to ensure that it is not accidentally covered up or rendered inaccessible.
The other major shortcoming you’ll have to deal with is just how hard burying is on the thing that is being buried.
Cash will rapidly degrade if you bury it as is, and thin plastic bags and other wrappings just aren’t going to do the job of protecting it for long.
Your best bet is going to be a multi-pronged approach, consisting of a hard outer container like a PVC tube with the bundle of cash wrapped securely in waterproof plastic within.
You want to strive for burying your cash at least a foot underground, and deeper is better within reason. Cash, even in a container, that is too close to the surface that is directly exposed to flames might still get way too hot.
8. Leave it in the Bank
Not the answer that most people want to hear, but it is a viable answer for protecting your cash from destruction by fire.
If you have your money in your bank account it might not be physically accessible, but is also safe from destruction by fire.
Ostensibly, even if your bank building was burned down or obliterated by some other disaster, your money will be safe and sound as soon as I get their computers set back up and reconnected to the servers.
I am as wary of turning a physical asset into a digital one as anybody, but it is the way of the world in our times, and honestly most events are not so calamitous that they will completely collapse the banking system.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t have a nest egg at home, but if you’re going to hedge your bets against all possible bad outcomes you need to be prepared for something that could cause the total loss of your physically accumulated cash as well.
9. Convert it to Gold or Silver
Another option for keeping your cash viable or at least reasonably accessible after a house fire is to convert it to gold or silver.
Gold and silver coins, or bars, may well melt in the event of a house fire, but guess what? Even after changing shape in this way they still have their value according to their weight.
Heat intense enough to truly destroy gold or silver will never be encountered in a common house fire, so you don’t need to worry about that.
While it might be a pain in the butt to find it and recover it, it can be done, and dependably it will be there.
Having a quantity of gold or silver on hand for just such a contingency is a good idea. You might consider converting half of your stash to precious metals and leaving the rest as paper money.
A Note About Fire-Proof Safes and Containers
Before you run out and make a purchase on and off the shelf fireproof container or bag, make sure you check out the exact specifications and what kind of temperatures it is rated for, along with how long it is rated for those temperatures.
Better, higher-end containers and bags will withstand far higher temperatures than common, cheap options.
As detailed above, depending on where you have your stash located and what kind of temps it is exposed to your cash could spontaneously combust or be damaged to the point of uselessness even inside such a container.
Some containers might only protect your cash from an average fire for a short period of time, whereas the best models can possibly protect it from a genuine inferno for an hour or more.
Think of your container as an insurance policy. If you want to protect a larger and more valuable stash of cash, you should invest in a larger and more capable fireproof container to help ensure that nothing happens to it.
Don’t Let Your Cash Go Up in Smoke
Losing your stash of cash to a house fire will only make a terrible situation even worse. This is especially true if you are dealing with a legitimate long-term survival scenario after the fact.
But by properly locating your cash and placing it inside an appropriate fire-resistant container you can greatly increase the chances that your money will make it through fire.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.