This year, you would be hard-pressed to find an area in Western Canada that has not been impacted by nearby wildfires and evacuation orders.

Leading up to wildfire season, we receive many inquiries from clients about safeguarding their belongings in a shipping container in case a fire pops up and an evacuation is imminent. Clients wanting to add shipping container storage to their wildfire emergency preparedness plan often ask about how shipping containers hold up in the face of fire, whether they should store it on-site or off-site, whether the contents inside their shipping container are likely to be affected by smoke damage, and more.

Here are some answers to the most common questions we are asked about shipping containers and fire safety:

Can Shipping Containers Withstand Nearby Fires?

The galvanized steel of a shipping container makes it extremely weatherproof and fire-resistant, and able to withstand many harsh weather conditions. Often, new fires are started by airborne sparks and cinders falling on a surface, however, containers are impervious to spark and cinders that fall from a nearby fire.  This is an area where shipping containers truly shine in fire mitigation.

However, if a large fire is burning close to a container, the heat transfer can pass through the steel walls of the container quickly, and a fire can start inside the container just from the heat, putting contents inside the container at risk. The potential for heat transfer is why it is so important not to store certain items inside a shipping container (don’t worry, we cover this in another question below!). We suggest placing the container in an open area away from other combustible items, decreasing the risk of heat transfer and damage to your belongings.

Are The Contents In My Shipping Container At Risk Of Smoke Damage?

Smoke damage is a cruel enemy in the world of fires. Restoration companies frequently depend on durable, movable structures like shipping containers in their disaster relief efforts, as they provide temporary shelter and storage in the event that a home or building is damaged and deemed unfit for content storage. Using a shipping container ensures that contents are safe from further damage and not in the way of any restoration work being conducted.

Provided that you place your shipping container storage in an open area and as far away as possible from potential heat sources and combustibles, the contents inside the container are more likely to remain untouched by the smoke damage incurred from a wildfire.

Are All Shipping Containers Ventilated?

The majority of ISO shipping containers do have vents fitted in the long sides of the units, at the top of the container wall, to allow for ventilation to reduce the risk of condensation build-up. All of our storage containers are inspected before they leave our yard to ensure they are weatherproof and do not leak. They also have ventilation with a minimum of two vents in each container.

You will find that new (“one-trip”) shipping containers are far less susceptible to condensation than a used (“multi-trip”) shipping container. In order to significantly reduce or eliminate the risk of condensation, it is helpful to have additional ventilation installed along the top frame on opposite sides of the unit to allow for cross-ventilation.

What Things Should Not Be Stored In A Shipping Container?

You should not pack any hazardous, illegal, explosive or flammable materials in a shipping container. For example, propane tanks should not be stored, and any gasoline or oil should be drained from any equipment prior to storage. We also caution you against storing delicate items or antique paintings, which need to be stored in a very carefully controlled environment.

Other items that should not be stored in a shipping container include, but are not limited to:

  • Old paint
  • Paint thinner
  • Chemical fertilizers or pesticides
  • Cleaning solvents
  • Alcohol
  • Fireworks
  • Weaponry and ammunition
  • Radioactive materials
  • Perishable items

Can I Insure The Contents I Store In A Shipping Container?

Yes! You can insure the contents of a shipping container that is being used for storage. Rest assured, our containers come already equipped with a high security lock box, and padlocks are also available for purchase. Typically, it’s much easier to add the contents of your shipping container to an existing policy than to have a separate insurance policy just for the shipping container itself. Please consult the advice of your home insurance provider for more information on contents protection insurance.

When used correctly, shipping containers are extremely useful structures for storage, and can be a life-saver for emergency preparedness planning and disaster relief efforts. If the recent wildfires have you thinking about a back-up plan and safe-keeping for your belongings, give us a call or drop by one of our storage yards and talk to us about putting your mind at ease with mobile storage!