Why cloud storage is not always useful

Cloud storage is fine, but it can have its limitations. It’s a great place for storing information in vast quantities, but completely useless for the physical records that information has been taken from.

Certainly old information can be digitised and stored on the cloud, but what then happens to the original? This train of thought covers all manner of material that is just; well, too important to be destroyed, but not important enough to be kept immediately to hand.

National Archives at Kew

Consider all the documents stored in the National Archives at Kew:

• Firstly, there can be a great deal of it, as anyone who has visited the National Archives at Kew will testify

• Secondly, storing it in the wrong kind of conditions might cause it to deteriorate

• Thirdly, it might not be needed for months or even years. And who would think of destroying Lincoln’s copy of the Magna Carta or the Domesday Books in this picture by Andrew Barclay, just because a copy had been kept on the cloud?

Clearly, special storage has to be arranged, asking the important questions:-

• How do you select a suitable site?
• Who will look after the material?
• How will it be accessed from storage, or taken to it?
• What sort of conditions must it be kept under, and how will the process be managed?

Documents

The National Archives, as you’d expect, is the UK’s leading authority on record-keeping for England and Wales, and holds material stretching back through time for more than 1,000 years. It has produced an excellent guide advising organisations on what issues need to be addressed when developing an offsite store for documents and records.

The extensive document draws attention to a dozen areas it advises need attention, and works through the process with sound hints and tips about areas as diverse as location, transport arrangements, and what to do with particularly vulnerable items.

It offers suggested questions to ask, and explains why they need to be asked. And it also draws attention to other legislation which might have a bearing on storage plans for any public body – including the Public Records Act 1958, the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 1992/3240.

So, when it comes to taking on the very latest in storage systems, remember that there will always be room for ‘old school’ solutions to certain areas of storage problems, which is when ‘old school’ will never go out of style.

View our range of fireproof filing cabinets, fireproof safes and fireproof data safes which provide effective alternatives to cloud storage for your important records and documents.

The minimalist guide to safe chemical storage

Correct chemical storage is simple and straightforward, isn’t it? Some chemicals can safely share the same store; others can never do so – right? Wrong.

As with so many things in life, the answers about chemical storage aren’t completely black and white. Grey areas arise in the case of anything labelled ‘harmful’ or ‘irritant’. These two groups can share the same store only if special arrangements are made. Erring on the side of caution is probably best, so keeping them apart is probably the way forward.

But that begs the question: “Are you certain you know which chemicals can be stored with which?” For example, is it OK to store anything labelled ‘toxic’ and ‘explosive’ in the same store, or ‘toxic’ and ‘harmful’, or ‘explosive’ and ‘corrosive’? For the record, the answers are no, yes and no.
Chemical Storage Cabinets
To take away any uncertainty about how to store chemicals safely, we have an at-a-glance chemical compatibility storage chart you’ll find really useful. It’s an instant reference using traffic light colours to tell you at a glance which category of chemicals are suitable storage bedfellows, and which aren’t.

And in the going, we’d draw your attention to the text panel at the bottom of the chart. In summary, the message is this: If you store organic acids (like Acetic or Formic) with common mineral acids (Sulphuric and Nitric), you’re setting up the potential for fire and explosion, so don’t do it – but organic acids are generally safe to store with flammables or solvents…

Safe handling of compressed gas cylinders

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The cautionary tale of Little Red Riding Hood visiting her Granny, only to find that the old lady had been replaced by a wolf, is being re-enacted up and down the country every day – even when it’s not pantomime season.

But it’s not so easy to spot, because neither little girl nor wolf are involved. Instead, thousands of innocent workers are unwittingly cast in the role of Red Riding Hood, with the part of the wolf taken by cylinders full of industrial gases.

The story is one of familiarity breeding contempt; of why being too trusting can end in disaster; of not fully understanding what’s around you; and of failure to treat a ‘hidden hazard’ with all the respect it deserves.

Cylinders full of industrial gases, even the inert ones, hold tremendous power. If one were to fall over and have its valve knocked off, the rush of escaping gas would turn the cylinder into a torpedo capable of blasting through a concrete wall. If the gas were flammable, and were to catch fire, it would do so with explosive force, ripping through buildings 100 metres away or more, and massively increasing the fire load – the amount of combustible material in a given area.

And that’s why as reported in the Worksop Guardian a number of residents of the Lincolnshire village of Blyton had to leave their homes recently when fire broke out in a nearby workshop containing acetylene cylinders.

Such cylinders are like unexploded bombs, as one American resident found out when he left one in his truck overnight without closing its valve properly. Opening the door in the morning caused enough of a spark to ignite the gas and air mixture, blowing the roof off the truck and scarring his face. But, treated with the same respect Little Red Riding Hood showed for the wolf, they can be controlled and serve the purpose they’re intended for. Indeed, we’ve been using acetylene in industrial processes for about 150 years.

And that’s also why you have a duty in law to consider the safe storage of acetylene and other explosive gases as part of your fire risk assessment. That makes sure you comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the DSEAR Safety Regulations (Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002).

A guide to the safe handling of gas cylinders

1. Always turn off valves tight
2. Fit return arrestors to bagging (the pipes between tools and cylinders)
3. Store upright in proper racks
4. Chain them in place so they can’t fall or be knocked over
5. Transport them upright, and secured to the vehicle
6. Never transport them in a closed vehicle
7. Use dedicated cupboards (the ‘room next door’ is not really enough; remember what we said about the explosive force involved) Dedicated storage cabinets which are independently fire chamber tested to BS EN14470-1 to prove that, in a fire, the temperature inside the cabinet will stay below 50ºC for at least an hour and a half to allow sufficient time for safe evacuation and for the emergency services to attend.

The British Compressed Gases Association has some really useful guides and leaflets to download about the safe handling of gas cylinders.

Are you about to break the law on explosives storage?

When the calendar clicked over to October 1st, you could unwittingly have broken the law – and you could still be doing it.

That was the date on which new regulations came into force for storing explosives, replacing the Approved Code of Practice to the Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005.

The new legislation is The Explosives Regulations 2014, and incorporates a number of changes. These are:

• Merging registrations into the licensing system

CabinetAllowing local authorities to issue licences of up to five years, aligning them with equivalent HSE/police-issued licences

• Extending licensing to address storage of ammonium nitrate blasting intermediate (ANBI)

• Exceptions for keeping desensitised explosives without a licence have been updated

• Tables of separation distances have been restructured to better allow for sites with more than one store. The tables have also been revised to cover quantities of explosives greater than 2,000kg

• A revised list of explosives that can be acquired or acquired and kept without an explosives certificate from the police.

• The repeal of the Fireworks Act 1951, as its remaining provisions have been superseded by the Pyrotechnic (Safety) Regulations 2010

More detailed guidance is in the documents L150 and L151 available from the Health and safety Executive. The former looks at safety provisions, the latter at security. It has been possible to download copies, but the HSE advises that those copies may have been subject to change before the new rules came into effect, and suggest it would be best to check.

Those affected by the new regulations particularly include employers, private individuals and other people making explosives, storing larger quantities of them, or storing explosives that present higher hazards.

Don’t get your fingers burned: Use and store chemicals safely

The lunatic craze sweeping social media at the moment involves young people pouring flammable liquid onto themselves and setting it alight. I can’t believe I’ve just written that, but that seems to be what they’re getting a kick from. Not to mention second-degree burns and a stay in hospital.

What they’re doing in the name of ‘fun’ is based on the property of liquids to give off flammable vapour, which ignites when it comes into contact with a heat source. The misguided teenagers often use a cigarette lighter, but other sources of ignition will do just as well – and that means you could innocently suffer the same fate using some very familiar household chemicals in the wrong combination of circumstances.

Hazardous Substance Storage Cabinets

The lesson is that hazardous substance storage is an important consideration both in the home and at work. For example, air freshener sprayed in the presence of a naked flame such as a candle can cause the vapour to ignite. Standing beside a barbecue whilst wearing some kinds of spray-on sunscreen can ignite the vapour it gives off, burning the wearer.

What’s happening in all of these cases is that the vapour is being exposed to a heat source hotter than its flashpoint – the temperature at which its vapour will ignite. There doesn’t have to be a naked flame involved; a hot surface like a heating element, machinery and superheated air are all enough.

A liquid’s flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which it will give off enough vapour to burn at the surface of the liquid. With petrol, that can be under 5ºC. (Hard and fast rules don’t apply; the purity of the liquid in question can change the temperature). Flashpoints for different fuels vary widely, which is why our safe storage advice pages offer a table of temperatures. Remember, the higher the flashpoint temperature for any material, the less hazardous it is.

What’s to stop thieves stealing your safe?

It might seem an odd question to ask, but could a determined thief steal your safe? If it’s not bolted down, then the answer is an undoubted ‘yes’, because small safes are relatively easy to carry, and once the thief has made good his escape, then he can work at breaking into the safe at his leisure. Underfloor safeAnd even if he’s not able to open it, you’ve still been deprived of its contents, which must have been valuable to warrant storing them in a safe. You might also find that allowing a thief to steal your safe makes your home contents insurance policy invalid. So what’s the answer? It’s really simple. Don’t put the safe in full view, and bolt it down securely. For a further level of security choosing a wall safe or, completely invisibly, underfloor safes might be a good alternative. Floor and wall-mounting models clearly require specialist installation, since they are designed for fitting within reinforced concrete. However, they do have security cash ratings of up to £100,000.

Here’s a quick guide to securing a safe

• choose an out-of-the-way location
• make sure there are neither pipes nor electrical wiring where the screws or bolts need to go
• select robust and sturdy fittings
• before you drill anything, make sure the safe is level. If it’s not, there could be a danger of fingers being trapped as the door closes on its own
• if you’re in any doubt, get someone in to do the job professionally.

Preventing thefts through secure storage

Thanks to the time and effort expended by a large number of public spirited residents we have a very active Neighbourhood Watch scheme operating in my area. Trouble is that it appears to do little to deter both the opportunistic and more organised thieves who of late have become more brazen often operating in broad daylight under the noses of residents. With no town gas supply, not surprisingly the most frequent thefts involve stealing home heating oil, but recently there has been a notable rise in thefts of grass mowers and power tools from outbuildings. The thieves probably calculate a ready market exists for their ill-gotten gains as spring approaches.
Insurance will ease the pain but standard policy excesses and loss of no claims bonuses can still leave you hundreds of pounds out of pocket. So what can you do?


Obviously don’t leave out buildings and sheds unlocked or leave windows open. The objective is to put as many security barriers in place as possible to foil the sneak thief and deter the more determined and better equipped criminal. Fit quality locks or padlocks and if possible steel lock covers to prevent access with bolt cutters. You can also buy anti-jemmy door hinges for a few pounds. If you have very expensive equipment like generators and ride on mowers consider extending your home security alarm. These days modern technology means this can be done wirelessly.
If despite your best efforts thieves do gain entry all is not lost (literally). My own mower is chained to the wall using two 15mm eyebolts. As for power tools and other expensive equipment the answer is to lock these away in a secure steel cabinet or tool vault. Depending on the size the Probe Industrial cabinet range provides security for lower value items. For added security you can utilise the heavy duty Oxbox or Tuffbank van boxes made from heavy gauge steel plate that have bolt down features and anti-jemmy lids.
Spending a couple of hundred pounds to safeguard against theft is worthwhile when balanced against the cost and hassle of replacement. The police also advise that thieves will return time and again to properties they consider easy prey so now is the time to be proactive so you don’t become a victim.

Safe Insurance Explained

When buying safes you cannot base your choice on looks or price alone, at least not if you want your insurance company to cover you for losses due to theft, fire or flood damage to the safe and or its contents.

The manufacturers of quality cash safes will give Insurance or Cash Rating for each safe expressed in terms of the amount of cash an insurance underwriter considers you can safely store in the safe. The general rule is that the higher the cash rating the more secure the safe is from burglars and safecrackers. The Cash rating also usually defines the Valuables rating of the safe i.e. the equivalent value of non-cash valuables such as jewellery the safe can hold. This is almost universally agreed by insurers as 10 times the cash rating.

A safe certified to EN14450 is suitable for low risk applications up to a maximum of £4000 in cash and £40,000 in valuables and are a popular choice for home security. The European standard EN1143-1 covers everything above this security level and safes to this standard are often termed Euro or Eurograde cash safes. The “Grade” is expressed as a number from Grade 0 to Grade13 in ascending order of greater security. A grade 13 safe is effectively equivalent to a bank vault with a cash rating of £3.5 million.

Assigning cash ratings is usually based upon testing to the European Attack Test Standards and drop tests that are now widely recognised by the insurance industry and provide independent third party confirmation of the security level and durability of a safe. You do sometimes see equivalent American test standards quoted usually prefixed by UL and independent laboratory certifications such as NT or NordTest more often for fire and water resistance.

Certification to international standards is the starting point for choosing the right safe for your circumstances but be aware that different insurers may apply different risk assessment criteria due to other factors such as the location of the property and the presence of other security measures. It is always best to check with your insurer that your cover is adequate particularly if you are storing lots of cash or valuables.

Water resistant storage a bigger priority

At long last Summer has arrived, at least for a day or two. River levels are falling and the farmers may at last be able to get onto their fields to harvest crops. It’s easy to forget that many businesses are still cleaning up from the devastating floods that hit many towns and villages earlier this month.

Although insurance will cover the cost of reinstatement, for the majority this will do little to help the business return to normal trading or replace business critical documents and customer records lost in the deluge. It is also an ever present worry that once at risk further flood events are likely to reoccur in the future.

Businesses in risk areas should consider additional measures to protect their operations so that normal service can be resumed as soon as possible. Fortunately there are a range of waterproof safety storage options to protect documents, cash and valuables from as little as £50 or so. All have the considerable added benefit of providing fire protection.

A Sentry or Phoenix portable waterproof document box and cash box come in a range of sizes ideal for the small business providing both water damage protection and security against unauthorised access. If you have larger quantities of paper based records and files that would be difficult to remove from the premises in a flood alert a waterproof filing cabinet such as the Sentry vertical file cabinet or the innovative Phoenix World Class lateral drawer model, is an effective safeguard against both flood and fire.

Businesses holding significant cash or water sensitive valuables such as electronic devices and digital media on the premises should consider a waterproof safe with bolt down facility. Advances in design and technology means they are now an affordable option for even the smallest business. The Burton Aquasec will withstand total submersion in water, is certified for 60minutes fire protection and at less than £250 is surprisingly cost effective.

If the climatologists are to be believed extreme and freakish weather is likely to become the norm in the years ahead so business attitudes to risk and preventive actions must adapt to safeguard business viability.

Key boxes ensure secure access to your home.

I was driving into the village where I live on yet another miserable rainy summer’s day when I passed a schoolboy walking the mile and a half road from the last bus stop into the village. Ordinarily I would not stop unless I was very well acquainted with the individual as sad to say these days such acts of altruism can and often are misinterpreted.

However as I looked back in the mirror I could see the lad was battling the elements so I pulled up and reversed back to offer a lift. It turned out his family had arrived in the village only recently and as he could not remember the house name he gave directions that led me to it. There were no cars on the drive or any signs of activity so I asked if his parents were around. They were both at work but he said he had a key. He thanked me for the lift and headed off but having had kids of my own I held back from driving off whilst I saw him safely inside.

Key Cabinet

The heavens chose that moment to unleash a torrential downpour while the poor lad was searching first his pockets then his schoolbag looking frantically for his key. Nothing I could do but watch and wonder what I would do next if he has lost the key. After what seemed an age he triumphantly held the key aloft and waved by which time he and the contents of his bag were clearly soaked.

For working parents it must be a logistical nightmare to arrange daytime care and supervision of the children and so called latchkey kids are all too common. To provide security and eliminate the risk of children or even parents losing the house key the security industry has developed some excellent weather proof home key boxes that you can mount outside the door to ensure a key is always to hand. They have combination or digital locks to control access and are also useful if you need to admit carers or workmen whilst you are away from home.