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Bench-Scale Predictions of Mattress and Upholstered Chair Fires: Similarities and Differences.

pdf icon Bench-Scale Predictions of Mattress and Upholstered Chair Fires: Similarities and Differences. (601 K)
Babrauskas, V.

NISTIR 5152; 22 p. March 1993.

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Fire and Flammability of Furnishings and Contents of Buildings. ASTM STP 1233. Sponsored by ASTM Committee E5 on Fire Standards and Its Subcommittee E05.32 on Research. December 7, 1992, Miami, FL, ASTM, Philadelphia, PA, Fowell, A. J., Editor(s), 50-62 pp, 1992.


National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC

Available from:

National Technical Information Service

ON BOOK SHELF: TH1091.S1233 1994
Order number: PB93-186005


mattresses; upholstered furniture; fire hazard; fire tests; heat release rate; scaling; fire spread; prisons


The life safety hazard issues associated with flaming fires of mattress and upholstered furniture are explored. It is shown that full-scale heat release rate (HRR) is the dominant variable which needs to be controlled. This can be determined directly by full-scale measurement. In many cases, full-scale tests are not convenient to conduct. It is, thus, desirable that bench-scale procedures be available which can be used to predict some of the important features of the full-scale test. Such procedures have been developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology for upholstered furniture during several prior studies. In the present work, differences between the behavior of mattresses and of upholstered furniture are explored. Mattresses and upholstered chairs are soft goods which are constructed in a somewhat similar way: both use padding foams or battings, covered by upholstery fabric. There are differences in construction, however. Mattresses are flat, whereas upholstered chairs normally have seats, backs, and sidearms. Also, an upholstered chair is normally constructed on a wood frame, whereas a mattress has no structural components, or else has steel innersprings. The quantitative knowledge of mattress behavior is still not as advanced as that for upholstered furniture. Nonetheless, based on a recent set of tests, the behavior of mattress fires can initially be quantified. Especially, data are now available to predict whether or not a particular mattress construction will lead to a propagating fire. Similarly as for upholstered furniture, such a limit value can be used to determine whether certain regulatory pass/fail criteria are met. The relationship obtained is incomplete, however, because the known roles of ignition source power level (i.e., kilowatts output) and geometrical configuration are not yet quantified. Also, there is not yet a detailed explanation for differences between the observed relationships for mattresses and for upholstered chairs. Thus, future work will need to be done to address and further quantify these effects.