NFPA 701 (National Fire Protection Agency) got its start in 1938! Since then it has been rewritten and modify to better reflect the needs of the times. It became apparent that flameproofing of fabrics (textiles) and films such as plastic were necessary for the public's safety. NFPA 701 is looking at the propagation of flames beyond the area exposed to the ignition source. A distinction to recognize is that this test is not determining if the item is flame proof, but merely how well the flames will propagate. As time went on there were two distinctions made- Test Method 1 and Test Method 2.
When you see a number posted after the letters "NFPA" that number reflects the year of the test and therefore compliance. In this case, NFPA 701-15 means this was the test requirements for 2015. Products that pass the NFPA 701-04 (2004) may not meet the standards set in 2015.
Test Method 1 applies to materials with a density less than or equal to 700/b/m². Items that fall within this category would be draperies/curtains or other fabrics used as window treatments. They are single layer fabrics. It is usually single-layer fabrics. The exception to this is when more than one layer is fastened together by sewing or other mechanical means.
Test Method 2 applies to plastic films, vinyl-coated fabric such as blackout linings, or lined curtains that have a vinyl coating. Decorative materials other than fabrics fall within this category. fabrics with or without reinforcement or a backing that is used as decoration inside a building must also pass Test 2. This also includes permanent enclosures for building under construction. Of course awnings, plastic tarps, tents, banners or membrane structures must meet the Test 2 requirements. These items cannot be tested to Test 1, only Test 2. If you aren't sure, please contact the NFPA or visit their website. The inforatiopn is quite extensive and detailed. The purpose of this article was to give the read a mere glimps into the fire certifications that apply to fire retardat/ flame retardancy of plastic sheeting.