NT FIRE 017 is a conformity assessment of Nordtest. Originally founded in 1973 under the Nordic Council of Ministers the emphasis of Nordtest is to develop, promote Nordic test methods and pre-normative activity. NT FIRE 017 is NOT a European Standard.
Not being a European standard, NT FIRE 017 is not a legal proof of standard for litigation purposes in the European Union, but there are several other important differences in testing and application of the NT FIRE 017 mark that set it apart from European standards that consumers should also be aware of.
The first important difference between cabinets and safes marked NT Fire 017 and those certified under European standards is NT Fire 017 may be applied to units of identical construction to a tested unit, provided that the external volume of the untested units are not less than half of, and not more than twice the volume of the tested unit. In other words, in a series of five sizes only one unit may have been tested, something impossible under the European testing regime. This is why, unlike NT fire 017, a series of five sizes of safes or cabinets certified to European standards will usually have differing fire certification times, as might be expected, due to differing sizes and volumes.
There are also substantial differences between European standards and NT Fire 017 in the way temperature inside a tested unit is measured which to the casual observer may appear to produce a more favourable result for NT Fire 017. Everybody knows that if you heat a rectangular object that the internal corners of that object are likely going to heat more rapidly, and this is exactly where thermocouples are placed in European fire testing, however, in NT Fire testing thermocouples are placed in the centre of safe panels, an area that will likely heat last.
Particularly important to the preservation of digital data under European standards, there are strict parameters on permitted humidity levels inside a data safe or cabinet being tested, with relative humidity inside a tested safe or cabinet being measured both during testing and during a cooling phase after testing. NT Fire 017 doesn’t measure humidity at all during testing.
As NT Fire 017 has no defined method of marking tested units it leaves a manufacturer or supplier free to mark products in a variety of "creative" manners. In the case of the mark above, a facsimile of a plate appearing on a safe from a UK supplier, NT FIRE 017 appears on a stamped metal plate that is strikingly similar to an accredited European certification plate for a safe, with the word "safe" in block capitals in the left hand corner. A consumer might be forgiven for thinking that the plate below is both certifying that the product is a burglary resistant safe and is fire resistant, particularly as under the word "safe" the words "type tested and certified according to NT 017" appear with any mention of the word "fire".