By my estimate, I have either exhibited at or participated in well over 200 trade shows worldwide in the course of my career. And although I have not experienced this personally, I know of at least one exhibitor who was shocked the first time she saw a fire marshal hold a cigarette lighter to a hidden portion of her exhibit to test the fire resistance of some suspicious-looking exhibit materials. In fact, in the vast majority of exhibition halls, you must not only have a certificate of fire retardancy for all materials, but you may also have to provide a sample of the material for the fire marshal to perform an on-site test.
Below are just a few of the trade show facility regulations regarding flame retardance of exhibit materials:
- Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, GA: All display materials must be flame-retardant according to fire codes, and a fire retardancy certificate must be posted or readily available.
- McCormick Place, Chicago, IL: Your exhibit’s construction and decoration materials must be fire retardant. It is suggested that you have a certificate of retardancy at the show to prevent the need for possible on‐site testing of the material. Fabrics must pass the NFPA‐701 Code.
- Jacob K Javits Convention Center, New York City: All display materials used in the JKJCC must be flame retardant and conform to New York City Fire Department regulations. An affidavit must be kept available in the display for inspection by the New York City Fire Department, stating clearly (i) by whom and when such flameproofing was done; (ii) the exact materials flameproofed and the flameproofing compound used; and (iii) the approximate period of effectiveness of such flameproofing. Exhibitors should be aware that a flame test may be performed by the New York Fire Department at an inspector's discretion.
- Las Vegas Convention Center: All materials used in exhibit construction, decoration, or as a temporary cover must be certified as flame retardant or a sample must be available for testing.
- Mirage Event Center, Las Vegas, NV: All decorations, drapes, signs, banners, and similar decorative materials shall be flame retardant to the satisfaction of the Clark County Fire Marshal. Canvas, cloth, cardboard, or similar combustible materials shall be completely flame-retardant. Oilcloth, tarpapers, sisal paper, nylon, orlon and certain other plastic materials cannot be made flame retardant and their use is PROHIBITED. ALL MATERIAL MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY AN OFFICIAL FLAME-RETARDANT CERTIFICATE.
The list goes on and with good reason: not one person should lose his/her life in a convention center because an exhibitor was careless with their lighting, electrical or other flame hazard. The fire marshals really are our life protectors in these environments. Therefore, make certain that all materials used in an exhibit area conform to local fire ordinances and meet standards established by the National Association of Fire Underwriters. The industry fire standards are published by the National Fire Protection Association and are usually referenced within the convention center’s published guidelines.