It's important to have at least a basic understanding of fire codes and flame retardant fabric if you are exhibiting or otherwise using drape fabric at a public venue or space. A Fire Marshal and/or any other respective authority reserves the right to require flame retardant drape be used at any particular event, whether it's a theater, restaurant, house of worship, convention center, or any other area in which the potential of a fire poses a risk to the general public.
And so, we encourage you to read the information provided below.
IMPORTANT: Requesting a Flame Retardant CertificateAt the time of placing your drape order with us, please request a Flame Retardant Certificate for your records if you will need it at any point in the future. If our effort to remain as eco-friendly and paperless as possible, we do not automatically include one with each order. However, we will certainly include a certificate for if you specifically request one at the time of your order.
Due to availability, and because we obtain various fabrics from multiple sources, we cannot guarantee a Flame Retardant Certificate at a future date.
To ensure that you receive the correct certificate for the appropriate batch of fabric that your drape was produced from, we need to send it with your order when it ships.
An Overview of Fire Codes, Regulations, and RequirementsUnfortunately, there are no "official", or even uniform, regulations across the United States regarding the use of flame retardant drapes in public areas. There are, however, nationally recognized standards for flame retardancy in relation to drapery. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 701 is one such standard, and is the most widely used standard in the United States.
The NFPA 701 outlines the laboratory testing required and subsequent conditions and results in which drapery is deemed to be adequately flame retardant. For testing fabrics outside of a laboratory, the NFPA 705 standard details the conditions for fabrics undergoing a field flame test and is another popular standard in America.
The NFPA 701 and NFPA 705 are nationally recognized standards, but are not laws. Flame retardant standards and law enforcement is conducted at state and local levels, not federally. Most state and local governments do not have specific regulations, and instead rely on drapery passing the NFPA 701.
However, there are some states -- and even certain, specific cities within a state -- that do have their own regulations and requirements. Examples can be found in California (as a state) and New York City (as a city within a state). California has its own specific regulations for flame retardant drapes, while New York City also has its own set of requirements, different from California's, and even different than the regulations set forth in the rest of New York state.
It's important to check with state and local authorities regarding their requirements, as it may not be the same everywhere.
Besides state and local requirements, the actual location that you are using the drape may also have its own regulations. Once you've checked with state and local authorities, you will want to check if the venue(s) has any other requirements. Unfortunately, it's far too complicated for a supplier to guarantee that their drape will pass every single flame retardant regulation and requirement at every state, local, and individual venue location. Usually the supplier and/or manufacturer will simply guarantee that the drape will pass the NFPA 701, as that is the most widely used standard. That said, you will want to check with the appropriate city and state authorities (whether that is the Fire Marshal or otherwise) and ask if there needs to be any other certification other than meeting the NFPA 701 standard. Then check with the venue and ask the same questions. Make sure that you keep those answers in mind when you are purchasing your drape or other fabric product.
Important Information Regarding Fabrics and Flame Treatments
Now that you know a little bit about flame retardant standards, it's critical to understand the basic terms that are used to describe our drape and fabrics and how it relates to the flame retardant nature of the fabric.
Non-Flame Retardant (NFR or Non-FR)
Fabric that is denoted as non-FR does not have any flame retardant treatment applied during any step of the production and manufacture of the fabric. These should never be used if any of your events require flame resistant fabric, or if having flame retardant fabric is your personal preference.
Flame Retardant (FR)
Fabric that is woven in a manner that does not initially pass fire codes, but is then topically treated with chemical(s) that make the finished product flame retardant. These flame retardant chemicals are not permanent, and laundering will affect the subsequent flame resistant nature of the fabric. Please refer to the product for information on the durability of the FR treatment on such materials. Though our company does not retreat fabric, some commercial dry cleaners have flame retardant capabilities, or there are many labs that are able to retreat fabrics.
Durably Flame Retardant (DFR)
Unlike FR fabrics in which chemical(s) are topically applied, Durably Flame Retardant fabric uses non-water soluble chemical compounds that bind into the fibers, resulting in a flame retardant that typically withstands up to 25 washes (when laundered properly).
Inherently Flame Retardant (IFR)
The fiber or filament threads are woven in such a manner that the finished fabric meets specific fire codes without any other application or process needed. IFR fabrics are assumed to continue to meet these fire codes for the duration of its useful life when laundered according to guidelines, even after repeated laundering.
It's important to note that a variety of factors can affect the flame resistant nature of fabrics, including the way that they are used, how they are laundered, the addition of any other components to the fabric, and/or environmental conditions such as direct light, debris (dust, dirt, etc.), oils, humidity, and other external factors. Because we have no control over such factors once our fabrics leave our warehouse, nor knowledge of how the fabrics are cared for and laundered by the customer, it is the sole responsibility of the purchaser to ensure that the fabric passes any required State, Local, and/or Federal fire codes. We recommend annual testing of the fabric using the NFPA 705 (1997 or later) Field Test Method for Textiles.
Any of our drape fabrics that are denoted as FR, DFR, or IFR will have certification that it passes the NFPA 701 standard.
Ensuring a Smooth Event with Flame Retardant FabricsNo one likes to be caught off guard right before an event, whether that's a trade show, religious ceremony, wedding, grand opening, press conference, or performance. But failure to correctly prepare for an event in which flame retardant products are required can result in a cancellation of the use of non-compliant fabrics, as mandated by a Fire Marshal and/or any other respective authority.
Following the below guidelines will help ensure that your event runs smoothly and avoids common mistakes that are often made.
Tip #1: Consult the local Fire Marshal and the venue
As we discussed in the first section, do a little research into the person or persons that will make the decisions regarding your fabric. Often this will be the local Fire Marshal who oversees the area of the venue and/or the appropriate authority at the venue location. These parties have a common goal: public safety, and you'll make a good impression by being proactive and helping to contribute to fire safety. Ask them about local requirements and if you are able to have any pre-approval for your products.
It's important to remember that fire codes are enforced at a local level, and are not the same at every location. If you are traveling to your event, you'll want to find the Fire Marshal that would oversee the venue at that location. For multiple venues, such as a trade show circuit, you will want to check with every Fire Marshal, and every venue, at each location to see if there are different requirements at different locations.
Tip #2: Make sure that you've requested a copy of your Flame Retardant Certificate
When placing your order for drapes, make sure to ask for a copy of the Flame Retardant Certificate at the time of ordering. It's a safe assumption that the Fire Marshal and/or other parties will require you to present this certificate. Any other documentation needed, such as lab testing results and specific numbers, may be sent directly to the Fire Marshal for his or her review. Note that our non-FR fabric does not have a certificate because it is not flame retardant. Any of our fabrics that are denoted as being FR, DFR, or IFR have certificates available to show that they pass the NFPA 701 standard.
Tip #3: Be aware if you plan to alter the fabric
If altering our fabric (which is not recommended), pay careful attention to the materials or chemicals that you use. For example, painting on our fabric or dyeing the fabric using could cause a Fire Marshal render your fabric as an unsafe fire hazard. Sewing other fabrics onto ours may also cause issues, if the other fabric is not flame retardant. Remember, the Fire Marshal will want to see that all portions meet their fire code requirements. Be sure to keep your fabric clean and to follow proper laundering instructions.
Tip #4 : If in doubt, test the fabric
If you are unsure about the flame retardant nature of your fabric, you could cut a piece off and perform a field test in a controlled environment. To be absolutely safe, consult your local fire department about the proper way to field test your fabric, or even better, check to see if they would be willing to perform the test.
When a flame is applied to flame retardant fabric it should not hold the flame. In other words, the fabric should melt or shrink into itself (a small amount of smoke may or may not result), but no fire should spread. Taking the flame away should leave the fabric extinguished without any further procedure necessary-- it should self-extinguish. In fact, the Fire Marshal may do his or her own field flame test to see that it passes the NFPA 705 standard.
Tip #5: Keep records of all fabric treatments
Besides keeping a copy of the original order, make sure that you have dated documentation showing all future treatments done to your fabric(s), as well as all technical information regarding the chemical(s) applied. Ask for Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to serve as further information, should it be needed. Dated hard copy proof from all appropriate parties who have worked on/with your fabric should also be kept.
It's also important to keep a log of the effective period of your treatment(s) so that you are aware of the time frame and conditions that the flame retardant treatment is considered valid. It's recommended that you test your fabrics at least once a year.
Following the 5 tips above not only help to ensure a safe event, but a hassle-free event as well. These tips are for use as a reference and may not be all-inclusive. Because a Fire Marshal will likely have the final say in the use of your fabric, it is very important that you seek their guidance and recommendations.