Question: I heard one of your callers say he had $80,000 in cash inside his home. You asked whether he had a fireproof safe. I’m a doctor. One of my patients lost her home in a fire while she and her husband were on vacation. Everything in their fireproof safe was destroyed — birth certificates, Social Security cards, etc. She said she didn’t know that her safe guaranteed fire protection for only two hours. That sounds scary. Have you heard of this?

Ric: Yes. All products have performance limitations. Like diving watches that have limits as to how deep you can go before they will take on water, so-called fireproof and burglar-proof safes have limits. Both promises refer to how long the safe will provide protection.

In the case of fire, it’s unusual for firefighters to be unable to extinguish a house fire within two hours. If you fear they won’t, get a safe that provides longer protection.

Also, experts say you should not open a safe for at least a week after a fire, so the box can cool down. If you open the door while the interior is still hot, letting oxygen inside can trigger a flash fire, instantly destroying the contents and possibly injuring you. Verify this with the manufacturer of your safe, and get other important tips from them too.

Burglars are unlikely to spend hours trying to open a safe; they know that the longer they remain in the house, the more likely they’ll be caught. (So make sure your safe is bolted to the floor, because thieves are known to simply take safes with them and open them later.

As a financial advisor, I always say that reading the prospectus is important. And so is reading the manual!