Aim: The purpose of this paper is to evaluate potential fire hazards in cinemas and theatres, equipped with upholstered furniture, which satisfy prevailing technical requirements. Upholstered seating in public places, which accommodate above two hundred adults or one hundred children, are tested in laboratories with the aid of small fire sources (a smouldering cigarette or ignited match). However, it is appropriate to determine the behaviour of upholstery material and potential development of a fire when other fire sources are applied, such as a folded burning newspaper.

Methodology: The study was conducted on upholstered furniture, which is generally available on the European market and, which satisfies fire safety standards for upholstered furniture in accordance with EN-PN 1021-1. The fire source used for tests was a smouldering cigarette in accordance with EN-PN 1021-2 and the equivalent of a burning match flame. In order to determine the fire hazard of upholstered seating from other ignition sources, research was performed in accordance with test standards; EN 45545-2, Annex B and C, PN-ISO 9705, ISO/TR 9705-2 (Furniture Calorimeter). Additionally, temperature profiles were identified on the surface of ignited armchairs with the aid of thermal cameras.

Results: The fire hazard level in premises furnished with upholstered furniture, which satisfy standards (PN-EN1021-1/2), increases, depending on the employed ignition source. Upholstered furniture, which was considered safe and satisfied fire safety standards was further exposed to tests on a furniture calorimeter with following results: The maximum intensity of heat release for armchair 1 = 10.78 kW, armchair 2 = 356.83 kW; total heat release for armchair 1 = 635.8 kJ, armchair 2 = 81605.6 kJ; MAHRE armchair 1 = 1.62 kW, MAHRE armchair 2 = 204.37 kW, which demonstrates a high risk of fire. During laboratory tests a large volume of smoke was observed in the room where research was performed. This is borne out by the total volume of smoke output for armchair 1 = 5.3 m², armchair 2 = 750.3 m². and the reduction in intensity of light rays, measured by the light meter, was approaching 91%. During a fire of armchair 2 the surface temperature exceeded 900°C.

Conclusions: It is recommended that the range of ignition tests utilised in current standards is modified and extended. United Kingdom (UK) provides such an example with the BS 5852 standard, where eight different sources of ignition are employed, depending on type and use the premises are put to (cinema, hospital, hotel, museum). An examination of upholstered furniture, involving an evaluation of flammability, should be performed within a full range of the most significant sources of ignition, such as balls of newspaper or piles of wood.

Keywords: upholstered seating, EN1021, furniture calorimeter, heat release rate, fire, fire protection, thermal, smoke, EN 45545

Type of article: original scientific article