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How fabrics can pass NFPA 701

Resources | March 1, 2009 | By:

Our fabric meets CPAI-84. What do we have to do to it to make sure it passes NFPA 701?

Both CPAI-84 and NFPA 701 are methods that assess the flammability of fabric. CPAI-84 is a specification written especially for materials used in tents, whereas NFPA 701 is a more general test method. However, NFPA 701 does have provisions within it for samples to be exposed to weathering before being tested, making it appropriate for use in assessing the flammability of a material intended for use in an outdoor end product.

There are some flame-retardant treatments used by contract finishers, but whether they would be appropriate to use on your tent fabric depends on the type of fabric it is. These treatments are liquid, and your fabric must be able to absorb liquid in order for them to work; if your fabric is a vinyl material, the spray would just run off. For vinyl materials, the flame retardant is usually part of the vinyl, and it is not generally possible to FR treat the fabric after the fact. If, however, your material is a cotton, cotton blend or other fabric that can absorb moisture, you may want to investigate a contract finisher who can advise if your fabric can be treated with a flame retardant. We’ve found several possibilities:

Aurora Specialty Textiles Group

Buckeye Fabric Finishing Co.

Duro Textiles LLC, Fall River

Excello Fabric Finishers Inc.

If you’re looking to FR treat a small yardage of fabric, such as cut yardage, your choices are limited. There do exist some FR topical sprays, but these are also liquid based, so the capability to absorb moisture must exist in the fabric. Equally important is that topical sprays are not as durable as something applied at the mill level. The spray may even be water based, so check to see if it is intended for outdoor use.

A last word of advice: make sure that treating the fabric is even necessary. If your supplier has tested to CPAI-84, there’s a chance that they’ve also tested to NFPA 701.

Juli Case is IFAI’s information and technical services manager.

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