In my years here at Sew What? Inc., I have become the resident flame retardancy “expert.” While I readily admit that I don’t know it all, I do seek to constantly educate myself on the subject and to seek out others who can teach me . But the more I learn, the more frustrated I become at the differing requirements throughout the United States.
In my opinion, the greatest single problem with the question of flame retardancy of stage curtains and other hanging drapery in the United States is that there is no real Federal law governing this subject. Yes, there is a national standard (NFPA 701), but the fact is that NFPA 701 is not a law. It wasn’t even developed by a Federal, State or local government agency. It was developed by the National Fire Protection Association, a non-profit organization.
Now, I have the greatest respect for the National Fire Protection Association. They are a terrific organization dedicating to minimizing the devastation that fire can have on life and property. My issue is that it seems that we as a nation have abdicated responsibility in the area for FR standards to the NFPA.
Yes, some states have taken on the challenge. California, for example, has developed their own standards and regulations for flame retardancy – Title 19. But in a way, this is really the problem – the fact that regulations vary state to state and even city to city. Many states simply regulate that drapery must be flame retardant according to the NFPA 701 standard, but some states (such as California) have their own different standard. Then you add to the mix the fact that certain cities (such as New York City) have their own regulations (which often differ from those of the state). For example, the State of New York simply requires that drapery meet the NFPA 701 standard. New York City, however, has a different more specific standard.
So, what does a band do that will be performing at 20 different venues throughout the country? Tour management has to make sure that all the set drapery meets the FR requirements of all the show locations. So, if the band is playing in California and Boston and New York City and various other places throught the country, the band has to do the following:
1) Get a Certificate of Flame Retardancy from the drapery vendor showing the drapery meets both Title 19 (California) and NFPA 701 (various states) standards
2) Send a sample of each fabric, along with a use application, to the Boston Fire Department for approval
3) Get a special New York City Certificate of Flame Retardancy, signed by a certified NYC tester as well as notarized.
4) Depending on other other show locations, there could be even more – these are just the most common.
Doesn’t this just seem ridiculous? Why can’t there be a single standard, backed up by a single Federal law or regulation, that would apply to all cities and states throughout the country?
So my call is this - let’s come up with a single standard, regulate it on a Federal level, and get rid of all these differing state and local laws and regulations. Sounds like a no-brainer to me!