Fire and Life Safety Advisory for Hospital Curtains

Cubicle/Hospital Curtains are not difficult to install within a building, however there are important factors that a designer or end-user facility should make sure they are aware of when it comes to fire and life safety codes as it pertains to cubicle curtains and track.


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Codes to be aware of:


(which is an excerpt from the 2013 edition of NFPA 13: Installation of Sprinkler Systems).

This code establishes that “for the proper operation of sprinkler systems, cubicle curtains and sprinkler locations need to be coordinated. Improperly designed systems might obstruct the sprinkler spray from reaching the fire or might shield the heat from the sprinkler.

Many options are available to the designer including, but not limited to, hanging the cubicle curtains 18" Below the sprinkler deflector using 1/2" diagonal mesh or a 70 percent open weave top panel that extends 18" below the sprinkler deflector; or designing the system to have to have a horizontal and minimum vertical distance that meets the requirements of NFPA 13" (basically having an open space in that area). These requirements were determined by the NFPA via fire tests with sprinkler discharge that penetrated a single privacy curtain (refer to NFPA 101: A.

NFPA 701

Refers to the “Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films”. This test measures the flammability of a fabric or fabric material when it is exposed to specific sources of ignition. Cubicle curtain fabric is tested by burning a small sample and measuring the flame, char length and flaming residue. If a fabric meets the NFPA 701 standards in these three areas, the fabric is considered flame retardant.

NFPA 701 (Small Scale) testing measures the ignition resistance of a fabric after it is exposed to a flame for 12 seconds. The flame, char length, and flaming residue are recorded. The fabric will pass the test if all samples meet the following criteria:

  1. An after flame of less than 2.0 seconds
  2. A char length of less than 6.5"
  3. The specimen does not continue to flame after reaching the floor of the test chamber

Fabric certified as flame retardant is certified to have been tested and passed the NFPA 701 test.


Although NFPA 701 is the national standard, it is not a law or regulation in itself. The full authority to make/enforce laws and regulations in this area is granted to state and local governments. However, many state and local governments have not adopted their own standards. Instead, they require that cubicle curtains used in public spaces meet the NFPA 701 standard.

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