Flameproofing Guidelines and Fire Safety for Theaters

As New Yorkers, we have access to some of the best theater productions on the planet. Often in sold-out performances, the theaters are packed to capacity with enthusiastic show-goers. However, when you have that many people in one place, the potential for a catastrophe multiplies exponentially if there happened to be a fire. A theater owner has a huge responsibility to the public to see that his or her performance house is in full compliance with FDNY codes. Today, we’re going to discuss just how those running the theater business can protect both their property and human lives from fires.

A prime way a fire can grow once it starts inside a theater is when the curtains or scenery are affected. In order to afford the best protection, the FDNY mandates that all decorative pieces in a theater are flameproofed, meaning they must be coated with or soaked in fire retardants. Objects that would fall into this category are drapes, curtains, carpets, scenery, stage props, seat cushions, upholstered furniture, decorations, etc.

Since curtains are the most outstanding object in a theater and take up a large amount of space, they will be the center of our discussion as we address fire prevention. 

The FDNY details several ways in which theater owners can be in compliance with the regulations for curtains. First, a theater owner can purchase curtains that are inherently non-combustible. That means that particular curtains are designed with polyester yarns and have already satisfied the NFPA 710 test specifications.  Because they are intrinsically flameproof, no procedures are needed. However, because dust and dirt can jeopardize their protective ability, a regular field flame test should be performed on these curtains each year.

Another way theater owners can be in compliance with the law is to purchase any curtain they want and then have a certified flameproofing company (a C-15 Certificate of Fitness holder) arrive on site and treat the curtains with flame repellents. The company would soak or coat the curtains with flame repellent chemicals and then conduct a field flame test to assure their non-combustible traits. There is a shelf life for the effectiveness of these procedures, so the curtains would require subsequents treatments following the expiration period.

A final choice for theater owners is to buy durably flame resistant curtains. This distinct sort of curtain has flame resistance to a certain degree, but not enough to pass the NFPA field flame test. Therefore, these curtains need flameproofing treatments that involve chemicals that seep to the innermost fibers of the fabric, not just resting on the exterior.

Why would a theater owner buy this type of curtain if it still requires flameproofing treatments? Well, the chemicals used on this sort of material are unique and not water-soluble, unlike the other flameproofing chemicals. Because of this, these curtains can be washed without needing to be treated again. However, an annual field flame test still needs to conducted to make sure they're still non-combustible.

While it’s true that flameproofing is a tremendous deterrent to the spread of a fire, theaters are also required to have automatic sprinklers, clearly marked emergency exit signage, as well as adequate emergency routes and egress, in case there's a fire.

Queens Flameproofing can help theater owners come into agreement with FDNY sanctions and perform flameproofing treatments on curtains and all required items and fabrics.  If your theater or other business has flameproofing needs, call us today. We would be pleased to serve you and add you to our growing list of satisfied customers in New York City and beyond! 800-972-5587 

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