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Vinyl tents and fire inspection

January 1st, 2011 / By: / Resources

My local fire inspector won’t approve my tent, even though I have a flame cert. He says the tent is old enough that it needs to be retreated. Is there a way to do that with vinyl?

Originally, event tents were made out of FR-treated cotton canvas, which did require retreating after about three years of use. As you know, however, cotton canvas has largely been replaced in the event tent industry by vinyl fabrics, often vinyl laminates. With the vinyl materials, the FR component is part of the vinyl and therefore part of the fabric; it should remain during the useable life of the material. Unfortunately, one of the characteristics that makes vinyl so suitable for event tents is working against you in this case—it doesn’t absorb moisture. This makes “retreating” a vinyl material impossible. You need to gently update your fire official on the characteristics of modern fabric, or maybe request additional information from the manufacturer of the fabric used in the tent. Perhaps if your fire inspector can see additional test results, he’ll be convinced. If not, the other option is to have him conduct a field test. As an option, that’s a last resort type, since it isn’t always practical to have a fabric swatch cut out of the tent, but it might be better than the tent not being installed at all.

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

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