NFPA 701 and ASTM E-84 both have to do with flames and fire, but one is not necessarily better than the other. Let's take a look at their differences.
ASTM E-84 or "E84" as it's shortened name. It's the test to learn how fast the flames will spread if a fire should errupt on a material horizontally.
ASTM E-84 is intended to provide only comparative measurements of surface flame spread and smoke density with that of select grade red oak an fiber-cement board survaces under the specific fire exposture conditions. Simply put, ASTM E-84 measures the flame spread and smoke index, which are considered the surface burning characteristics of a material.
Depending on the numbers, materials can have classifications of Class A, B, or C according to NFPA , ANSI/NFPA No. 101, "life Safety Code" , 2006 Edition, or IBC (International Building Code), 2006 Edition, Chapter 8, Interior Finishes, Section 803, if they pass any level of this standard. The test is conducted in a fire tunnel using a 22" x 24' sample of the material. The ignition source is 7 seconds in duration, total test is 10 minutes. The flame front cannot exceed 24" during the test. Results are expressed as Flame Spread Index, and Smoke Developed Value. Following are the criteria for each level of this test, regardless of whether NFPA or IBC.
For products that pass these criteria
Class A, Flame Spread 1-25, Smoke Developed Less than or equal to 450
Class B, Flame Spread 26-75, Smoke Developed Less than or equal to 450
Class C, Flame Spread 76-200, Smoke Developed Less than or equal to 450.
Please note, this test is comparable to UL 723, ANSI/NFPA No 255, and UBC No. 8-1
NFPA 701-015 Test 1 or 2- The test to measure the flammability of a fabric/plastic item measured vertically
NFPA 701-15 (the most recent revision of the NFPA 701) measures the mass before test, mass after test, mass loss percentage, the number of seconds of any burning drips, and the after flame of the material in seconds during and after a specified burn period at a specified flame temperature. Once the flame is extinguished the after flame in seconds is measured. 10 samples are tested, 5 in the machine direction, 5 in the cross direction (also known as warp/weft respectively). This test is a Pass/Fail test based on the following criteria. If the material fails any of the following criteria, it fails the test
Mass Loss: 40% Max Average or Average + 3 standard Deviations Max Individual
Drip Burn/Afterflame: 2 seconds Max. Avg.