NFPA 701 Test 2 Is A Piece of Cake for Tent Vinyl

I must confess that I did not come up with this narration of comparing baking a cake to NFPA 701 test results. The credit goes to the vinyl industry gurus Steve, Linc, and Jeff for giving me a “Dick and Jane” teaching moment on how tent vinyl becomes inherently flame retardant.

We begin by gathering our cake ingredients flour: sugar, eggs, and so on, but you must envision linking our cake ingredients to the raw components that eventually create vinyl tent material. We continue with mixing our ingredients and then pour our batter into a pan, and we are ready for baking. Once we have completed the baking, the next step is sending our cake to an NFPA certified testing lab. If the test results come back with a passing grade, then our cake is NFPA 701 Test 2 compliant.

We have passed the first hurdle, but why does the vinyl industry refer to our cake as Inherently Flame Retardant? It begins with the original ingredients which cannot be separated from the newly formed vinyl material. Our cake has transformed into newly configured material that has NFPA 701 certification, and the vinyl and tent industry deems it Inherently Flame Retardant, simply meaning that no further re-treatment with flame retardant is required for the life of the vinyl. The newly created fabric will not degenerate over time because the vinyl industry follows a weather resistance standard. You can compare the vinyl degradation to a yellow spongy dessert where the rumor has it that this dessert is still edible sitting on a shelf after 50 years!

Our second cake has ingredients from a different recipe, creating a flammable mixture. However, if we cover our cake with flame retardant frosting, and send our frosted cake to the same testing lab, it will pass NFPA 701 Test 2. We do have a problem with our second cake. The frosting could be scrape off, heat could melt the coating, or the frosting could get old and crack, exposing the flammable ingredients. Our second cake is considered a retreated flammable product, and there is a code requirement for scheduled maintenance to retreat or in our case re-frost. Here is where the batter hits the pan. Once we remove the frosting, we have exposed a flammable product that is not flame retardant. We compounded this problem with lack of maintenance data as to when we should retreat and test.

As a consumer, you have a choice to purchase IFR or treated Flame Retardant products. For the AHJ the decision for IFR is relatively straight forward. Treated Flame Retardant products may be good out of the gate, but we cannot say with certainty how long the gate is open.

There you have it a tale of two cakes.

Until next time this is Jim Erickson reminding you that our number one priority is Life Safety.

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