NFPA 701 Testing Method Is the U.S. Standard

There are three primary FR test methods that are used for Architectural Fabrics, Shadecloth and most Vinyl Fabrics; ASTM E-84, NFPA 701, and California State Fire Marshall (CSFM) Title 19. In my last blog we covered CSFM testing at length, so this month I will discuss the NFPA 701 test method.

NFPA is an acronym for the National Fire Protection Association, which is a United States trade association made up of U.S. members and some international members. Founded in 1896, its primary purpose creates and maintains private, copyrighted standards and codes for usage and adoption by local governments. One of those standards is NFPA 701.

So, what is NFPA 701?

NFPA 701-15 (the most recent revision of the NFPA 701) measures the mass before test, mass after test, mass loss percentage, the number of seconds of any burning drips, and the after flame of the material in seconds during and after a specified burn period at a specified flame temperature.  Once the flame is extinguished the after flame in seconds is measured.  10 samples are tested, 5 in the machine direction, 5 in the cross direction (also known as warp/weft respectively).  This test is a Pass/Fail test based on the following criteria.  If the material fails any of the following criteria, it fails the test

Mass Loss: 40% Maximum Average or Average + 3 Standard Deviations Maximum Individual

Drip Burn/Afterflame: 2 seconds maximum average

There are different sections of the test method itself, intended for different categories of products. NFPA 701 Test Method 1 is intended more for interior products such as curtains and draperies; NFPA 701 Test Method 2 is designed for outdoor materials such as awnings, tents, and tarps.

Many state and local governments have not developed their own standards; instead they require that architectural fabrics used in public spaces meet the NFPA 701 standard. The 2005 Florida Fire Prevention Code, for example, specifies in Chapter 20 that fabric used in places of assembly must meet NFPA 701 standards. Some states and cities, however, have developed their own standards and/or procedures such as California with the State Fire Marshal, compliance with CSFM Title 19 of the California Code of Regulations.

These requirements are separate and distinct from NFPA 701 standards. While the State of New York and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts both accept NFPA 701 certification, New York City requires certification that fabrics meet requirements outlined in Title 27 (Chapters 1 and 4) of the New York Administrative Code, while the City of Boston requires that end users submit an application for a use permit, in advance, for each fabric to be used in a public space.

NFPA 701 is a voluntary industry specification, and the NFPA does not keep the detailed records on which fabrics pass. NFPA 701 is, however, the flammability specification quoted in the International Building Code for products such as canopies. It is perhaps the most widely quoted flammability specification for specialty fabric products in the United States.

The NFPA headquarters, located in Quincy MA is not a testing facility so any material tested will need to be done at an independent lab. Value Vinyls have many fabrics that meet NFPA 701 Standards. For more information contact us at the following link Value Vinyls, or call us at 877-716-6651.

Stay Tuned… Dr. Shade’s final blog on FR test methods will be addressing the ASTM-E84 Class A Flame Retardant test method.

SOURCE National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)