What Is NFPA 701 And Why Should I Care About It?

If you’re installing fabric on your ceiling, walls or using it as a backdrop at your event you fabricfiretestimageneed to be aware that fabric used in most public spaces (i.e. schools, churches, auditoriums, theatres) is required by law in many states and cities to be certified as flame retardant. The standards by which fabric is determined to be flame retardant is National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 701: Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films. NFPA 701 requires a lab test and the limits the amount of allowable burning of the fabric.

The lab test measures the flame 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 fabric specimen does not continue to flame after reaching the floor

Fabric certified as flame retardant is certified to have been tested and meets NFPA 701.

Fabric is fire protected when it is inherently flame resistant or it has been treated with a flame-retardant chemical.  Inherently flame resistant fibers are materials that have flame resistance built into their chemical structures.  The actual structure of the fiber itself is not flammable.  With fabric that is not inherently flame resistant, a flame-retardant chemical can be applied to meet fire safety standards.  In the case of fabric chemically treated the flame retardancy may only be temporary as any washing or wetting of the fabric will likely remove all or portions of the chemical from the fabric.  Inherently resistant fabric remain flame retardant for their lifetime, even after repeated washings.

We have identified on our website those inherently flame resistant fabrics with the label “Inherently Fire Resistant Fabric“.

Before you buy fabric make sure the product you are buying is fire protected.  If the product description does not disclose that it is fire protected, be sure to ask before you buy.