Flameproofing For Public Buildings, Schools and Theaters

Fire Safety with textiles is a real issue. Fires at events are responsible for some of the Worst Historical Fire Disasters on record. Textiles are highly flammable, add the presence of hot lights, electrical sparks, props, and pyrotechnics greatly increases the risk of fire. To prevent this from happening in the future, we have developed regulations designed to protect us from fires in theaters, schools and public event venues. However, regulations cannot be successful in saving lives if they are mostly ignored.

Regulatory Compliance Summary - Drapes & Curtains

There is no national code, as a result there is a patchwork of regulations, administered at the local state or provincial level. Typically, fire codes reference National Fire Protection Association Standards (NFPA) which sets the standards in North America. In Europe, there is an EU and British Standard. Some states, notably New York and California, have implemented a higher level of standard than that set out by the NFPA. Also, individual venues, or school boards may have set their own standards as they relate the textiles and their flammability.

The code can be summarized as What, Where, and Which Test.

What: Drapes, curtains, netting, and other similar or decorative materials, including textiles and films used in buildings

Where: Lobbies or Exits of any Public Building, Care, Treatment and Detention Facilities, Any Room with Occupancy Greater than 100, Any Open Floor Area Greater than 16,000 ft.

Which Test: Typically, regional state/provincial Fire Code follows the guidance of the NFPA, when it comes to textiles. For new textiles in public buildings, NFPA 701 is typically used in the US.

In addition, most Fire Codes understand that flame retardant treatments wear off over time and need to be renewed. Flameproofing treatments shall be renewed as often as required to ensure the material will pass the match flame test in NFPA 705, Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame-Resistant Textiles and Films.

While these little know sections of the Fire Code are easy to miss, things are starting to change. Just because your local fire inspector has never asked before, do not assume you are covered. Fire Inspectors in the western states, and several provinces are increasingly adding textile and drapery flammability to their inspections enforcing the regulations.

Types of Flame Retardant Drape Fabrics

There are two types of Flame Retardant Fabrics, Inherently Flame Resistant (IFR), and Flame Resistant. IFR drapes are made of a patented material which has flame retardant woven into the fabric itself. This fabric is considerably more expensive and does not have the same aesthetic and acoustical appeal as traditional drapery fabrics.

Stage Drapes manufactured from natural fibers such as cotton are typically treated with flame retardant at the mill. The flame retardants work by coating the flammable fabrics with a mineral based barrier, preventing fire from reaching the fibers.

Wide Variety of Chemicals Used to inhibit, suppress or delay combustion of materials. Two primary types:

Halogenated - Chemically Alter under combustion. Includes - Brominate, Chlorine and Nitrogen.

Thermal Shielding - Non-combustive barrier between the flame and combustible materials. Includes – Phosphorous – most commonly used in textiles, furniture, plastics, electronics and foam.

Mineral Based - Includes salts, phosphors, sulfurs and other mineral based coatings. Contain NO Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), PCB’s or PSDE’s therefore non-hazardous.

It is the Mineral Based flame retardants which are commonly used today. The Health, Flammability, Reactivity ratings are all 0.Slight hazards listed are related to prolonged skin exposure or eye contact – irritations Ingestion of large quantities may, however, cause gastrointestinal discomfort, so don’t drink it.

Flame Retardant Renewal

Typically the Flame Retardancy of Drapery will require renewal every 5 years.

For IFR drapery, cleaning them will restore the flame retardant properties as it is the dust which is flammable. IFR draperies do not typically lose their flame retardant properties when dry cleaned.

Flame Retardant Treated Materials will require cleaning and re-treatment of drapery. Flame retardants wear off over time and are affected by humid or dry environments. Flame retardant properties are typically removed when washed, dry cleaned or steam cleaned. Non-Immersion Drapery Cleaning is the only method of cleaning drapes which will not remove the flame retardant properties.

Click Here for more information on Care and Maintenance of Drapery

Summary: Drapery Flame Retardant Compliance

When it comes to fire safety, proactive is the only way to go. Be sure to include Flammability Testing of all drapes, decorative materials and props into your annual safety inspection regime. Not sure if your drapes are in compliance? Contact On-Site Drapery Cleaners today to arrange NFPA testing of your drapes.

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