Schools Under Attack For Fire Code Violations

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Fire Marshals Requiring Drapes and Decorations to be Treated with Fire Retardant

Elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and even colleges are coming under increased scrutiny by their local fire marshals for fire code violations. The days of brightly colored curtains and walls covered with posters and art projects may be fading away due to the risk of fire.

In November 2012, school officials in Gary, Indiana were required to address serious fire code violations found at nearly all of the district's schools. Gary's chief fire inspector, John A. Leslie Jr., says he's disturbed that outstanding violations found earlier this year at the Gary Community School Corp. still haven't been corrected. Only one school of out of 16 inspected was not cited for fire violations.

The NFPA Life Code 101 is the governing document used by most fire marshals across the country, and it has strict regulations about the amount of paper on the walls and the types of curtains that may be used, not in schools but in every building with public access. Curtains, for instance, need to be treated with an approved fire retardant.

One Oklahoma company, RDR Technologies, has been offering schools a new non-toxic flame retardant spray called Fire'z Off, and it is becoming increasingly popular in school districts across the country. Effective on paper, fabric and wood, it is an easy to use fire retardant spray that is simple for the school maintenance worker to apply. RDR Technologies even provides all the paperwork that the school needs to create a "paper trail" for the fire inspector.

Many teachers decorate their classroom with posters, stuffed animals, furniture and curtains that they bring from home. But those items won't meet fire code, unless they are treated with some type of fire retardant. Fire'z Off meets both NFPA 701 standard for fabrics, as well as ASTM E84 for wood and construction materials.

Theater stage curtains are another culprit for fire code violations. Often put in place when the school is built, those heavy velveteen drapes may be close to 100 years old, and filled with century worth of flammable dust. They need to treated with a fire retardant.

One such retardant is Fire'z Off. One of the few retardants on the market with a Class A rating for both fabrics and construction materials, it has the added benefit of being completely non-toxic. Many countries and several states like California have banned certain retardants that contain bio-persistent chemicals like poly-brominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE's).

"With Fire'z Off, you can just leave the curtains on the rods and spray them with a common garden sprayer," said Doug Stafford, RDR Technology's chief of operations. "It dries quickly with no odor. It can be used on nearly any absorbent material, like fabric, paper and wood. We give the school the proper documentation to give the fire marshal, and they are back in business."

Fire retardants are made to slow fire spread and decrease the amount of smoke. In case of fire, this buys some time to get everyone out and let the firefighters do their jobs. It can mean the difference between life and death.

While you can buy fabric that has been pre-treated with a retardant at the factory, the costs are often prohibitive, and the selection is narrow. Many schools are turning to do-it-yourself spray-on fire retardants, and they are being accepted by most fire marshals.

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Doug Stafford
RDR Technologies

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