Drapery Flame Retardant Defined NFPA 701 vs. NFPA 255
Flame retardant fabrics for use in draperies are to tested to the standards of NFPA 701, California Title 19, City of New York tests, or City of Boston IX-1. These four standards and test procedures are somewhat similar in that all involve a vertical flame test of swatches of fabrics. The various tests, however, do have subtle differences, so always check with your local authorities. These tests are designed to rate “temporary, decorative fabrics and films” that are not structurally parts of buildings. These tests measure resistance to ignition from a relatively small flame source (such as a match or Bunsen Burner). There is no federally approved standard from the United States, but the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) standards are the most widely accepted by life safety officials in most states. Fire marshals, building inspectors, general contractors, and architects will frequently ask for a class rating of the fabric (wanting a class A, sometimes accepting class B). This rating, designed for building materials, is obtained using the horizontal, Steiner tunnel test and measures the surface burning characteristics of structural materials (that is, the amount of smoke, gasses, and heat generated) when burned over a long period of time by a large flame (blast furnace). The uniform Building Code (UBC) specifies this test as procedure, also known as UBC 8-1 or ASTM E-84 or NFPA 255 or UL 723 or Laboratories (UL) test 723. The Laboratories (UL) test 723 was developed by the UL and then adopted and refined by both NFPA (Code 255) and the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM E84). All these organizations have revised individual standards and now use the same procedures and standard. The UBC code, in Article 4, Section 405.3.6 states that draperies and other decorative fabrics and films must be governed not by the UBC code but, rather, by the Uniformed Fire Code (UFC) Article 9, Section 902.4.6. This section of the UFC states that draperies must meet the requirements of NFPA 701, or any overriding local statue (such as California, NYC, Boston). In addition to the above, NFPA Life Safety Code 101, Chapter 8, Section 1.2.3 states that vertical burn tests are intended to assess the possible burning rate of fabric and films that are used as decorative materials in buildings and rooms of public assembly.
The Field Burn Test SUMMARY OF THE COMMON FIELD TEST METHOD FOR ASSESSING THE FLAME RETARDANCY OF TEXTILES & PLASTIC FILMS AS USED IN TEMPORARY, DECORATIVE DRAPERIES
The following field test method is based on methods specified by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), the State of California Fire Marshal, and the City of New York Fire Department, among many others. For further information, please contact your local fire authorities or purchase the text of codes from www.NFPA.org. Except in New York City, this field test method should be used only when laboratory test results are unavailable. In New York City, the field test is the only acceptable test. This field test will give only guidance in the determination of whether a material has some resistance to burning, whether based on treatment or not. Some companies have indicated that the field test may be unreliable when testing synthetic materials, as these materials tend to melt and curl during ignition, thereby presenting misleading results, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. This field test is intended only for testing decorative or otherwise temporary fabrics and films for interior use, or for tenting or temporary coverings in an outdoor setting. The field test is not useful for testing or evaluating materials that will be permanently attached to building walls. ● Cut two representative samples of your fabric or film, each approximately 1” wide by 5” long. ● One cut sample’s long side should be oriented with the vertical (height) of your fabric. The other sample should be oriented with the horizontal (width) of your fabric. In other words, the second piece is cut at a 90 degree angle to the first. ● Find a safe place for testing--the space and floor must be clear of burnable materials, particularly draperies, fabrics, paper, wood, and sawdust. Also try to use a space free of drafts. ● Have a fire extinguisher close at hand, a source of water (sink), or a bucket of water. ● Suspend each sample vertically, the short edge at the bottom. Metal tongs or pliers work well to keep fingers out of the test.