When using stage draperies and stage curtainin the public area such as school, universities, theatre, auditorium and performance arts center it is important to consider using the flame retardant fabric for fire safety reason. Most of the local fire and rescue department authority require that such drapery fabrics used in such places be certified as fire retardant.
Consider this all fabric will burn when there is fire and some fabric has more resistant to fire than others. Those that are more flammable can have their fire resistance drastically improved by treatment with flame retardant chemicals.
Fabric such as cotton and linen if untreated can ignite quickly and resulting in spreading flame fast to other area. The ignition and burn factors of fabric are typically affected by the weight and weave of the fabric. Most of the fabric surface texture such as napped fabric (for velvets and velours) will ignite easily than smooth surface type.
So what is flame retardant?
Most of the fabric supplied by the curtain manufacturer is certified flame retardant where the fabric has been chemically treated to be more resistance to fire. Should the fabric caught fire, the chemical will reacts with the gases and tars generated naturally by the fabric and converting the gases and tars to carbon char and this will drastically slowing the burning rate.
Flame retardant fabric can fall into 2 main categories that is the DFR and NDFR. DFR is an acronym for Durably Flame Retardant refers to a process in which the fabrics are chemically treated during the manufacturing process with a non-water soluble chemical. This can withstand a number of dry cleaning without losing the flame retardancy.
A NDFR is Non Durably Flame Retardant is where the fabrics are chemically treated with a water based solution and if wetted in any way then the flame retardancy will be diminish and must be retreated again to meet the flammability requirements.
Typically, any flame retardant fabric will not last long and is usually certified for one year and it will vary based on the number of times the drapery is dry cleaned and the environmental conditions. It is recommended to retreat the curtain again for the flame retardant requirement after one year or two years.
Generally DFR material is more expensive than the NDFR type. Check with the design spec and fire department on the type of curtain before ordering.
Do I have to use FR fabrics?
In most answer is yes if you are installing the curtain to be used in public places in auditorium and large hall. It also complies with most Bomba or the local fire department requirement. It is wise to check with them before starting the curtain design. Ensuring the safety of the public means that anyone utilizing drapery fabrics in a public space, such as for stage drapery, stage curtains and special event décor, needs to be aware of the potential for fire – and take steps to reduce that risk to the greatest extent possible.
How do we know that the fabric is Flame Retardant?
Most of the curtain and fabric manufacturer generally produce fabric as flame retardant where those fabric meet the NFPA 701 standards and will note in the certificate as “FR” or “DFR/PFR/IFR”.
NFPA 701 is a US national standard developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) : NFPA 701: Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films. Under NFPA 701, drapery fabric is tested by burning a small sample and measuring the flame, chars length and flaming residue. If a fabric meets the NFPA 701 standardsin these three areas, the fabric is considered flame retardant.
In UK the British Standard for flame retardant fabrics used for curtains and drapes is BS5867 Pt2.
What is the NFPA 701 Test?
Fabrics used in most public spaces (including schools, churches, auditoriums, theatres, and more.) is required by law in many states and cities to be certified as flame retardant, according to standards developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NFPA has various standards depending on how the fabric will be used. In the case of draperies, curtains, and similar hanging textiles, the standard that applies is NFPA 701: Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films. This test measures the flammability of a fabric when it is exposed to specific sources of ignition.
NFPA 701 (Small Scale) testing measures the ignition resistance of a fabric after it is exposed to a flame for 12 seconds. The flame, char length, and flaming residue are recorded. The fabric will pass the test if all samples meet the following criteria:
- An after flame of less than 2.0 seconds
- A char length of less than 6.5”
- The specimen does not continue to flame after reaching the floor of the test chamber
Fabric certified as flame retardant is certified to have been tested and passed the NFPA 701 test.
Sources : What is the NFPA 701 Test?