Fire and Flammability Tests: How they Work

Consumer products need to satisfy safety and regulatory requirements before they enter the market. These requirements include the rate of burning, heat, and smoke release criteria. These products need to undergo thorough flammability and fire testing to reduce the risk for businesses and consumers.

What is Fire and Flammability Testing?

This testing involves taking a product and testing its resistance to heat, open flames, electrical current, and/or other conditions that might cause a fire. Fire resting laboratories will assign a rating to a material or product after testing it. In general, this will state the amount of time before object combustion takes place when exposed to fire or intense heat. Fire and inflammability tests include the following:

  • Reaction to fire. This test is meant to determine how a product reacts when exposed to a fire. It can be done under predesigned conditions. This is not a test of the resistance of the material but instead what happens to its consistency, form, and rigidity when exposed to fire. As fire causes materials to break down, the test will also determine how the decomposition of the material impacts the fire.
  • Resistance to fire. This test determines the ability of a material to resist and withstand when it catches fire. The time rating is a useful result of this test. The higher the time, the better chance to put out the fire and ensure occupants reach safety. An example of this test is exposing a fire-retardant door to flames and measuring how long it lasts before it can transmit a dangerous amount of heat to the other side.
  • Fires spread. Fire can be spread through materials and a fire spread test makes use of various strategies to gauge the tendency of the material to do so.

How a Flammability Test is performed

Flammability tests are meant to measure how easily materials ignite, how quickly they burn, and how they react when burned. Test facilitators will place the materials over a burner either horizontally or vertically, depending on the business’ specifications. When a vertical flammability test is done, the material is observed for the duration it burns following the removal of the igniting flame. Also, the facilitator will observe how much of the specimen burns and whether or not it drips flaming particles. In a horizontal test, the facilitator observes if the material still burns after removing the test flame. Then, they will calculate the rate at which the specimen burns.