Furniture Fire Safety Seminar: Is your sofa fire safe?

On the 21st of November 2019, as part of European Fire Safety Week, stakeholders gathered to hear a range of experts discuss furniture fire safety. The presenters included fire scientist, fire services and representatives of the retail industry. The audience included a large range of stakeholders including fire safety experts, furniture industry value chain, NGOs experts, in and policy makers (European Commission).


The Seminar organized in collaboration with Flame Retardants Europe(FRE) experts included Guillermo Rein, Professor of Fire Science, Imperial College London, Rene Hagen, Professor of Fire Safety, Institute for Safety (IFV), Matthew Blais, Director of Fire Technology, Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) and Pär Stenmark, Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer, IKEA Range & Supply.

Guillermo Rein, Professor of Fire Science at the Imperial College London, moderated the seminar and highlighted the importance of “prevention” as the most important layer on Fire safety and the relevance of the work of fire Engineers that “make the world safer from fire: protecting people, their property, and the environment”.

Rene Hagen, Professor of Fire Safety, Institute for Safety (IFV) and former fire chief of Amsterdam fire department, shared the vision of the European Fire Services “Don’t focus on the behavior of the components but look at the performance of the end-use product and prevent the foam filling catching fire”.

He presented the results of research on “Fire Safety of upholstered furniture and mattresses in the domestic area” undertaken  by the Federation of the European Union Fire Officer Associations (FEU) and concluded that “By preventing ignition of the foam of upholstered furniture and mattresses, the survivability and possibility of escape from dwelling fires will increase. Domestic furniture and mattresses should be able to prevent this ignition by different ignition sources on the end use-product.”

Matthew Blais, Director of Fire Technology, Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) presented the results from a major study undertaken by him and his team at SWRI comparing  “USA, French and UK furniture standards using furnished room looking particularly at fire spread and smoke toxicity”. Matt explained the importance of flame retardants in furniture and noted  that “country fire codes for furniture and electrical equipment affect their performance in fires: the furniture standard in England (BS-5852) is significantly more protective than the equivalent codes in the US or France. Escape time is significantly increased. Performance of French and US furnishings are approximately the same with very short flashover times resulting from a small open flame ignition source.”


Pär Stenmark, Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer, IKEA Range & Supply, shared with the attendees the IKEA´s vision on furniture and the importance of “creating a better and safer everyday life for all the Ikea costumers” and stressed the importance of coming together with all the Fire Safety experts and stakeholders “in order to meet societal requirements”. Pär Stenmark, highlighted the fact that “Fire safety, Circularity and Chemical safety” need to work hand in hand in order to deliver the most performing and safer products.


10 actions that will improve Fire Safety in Europe

An outcome from the inaugural European Fire safety Week is the development by the European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA) of an Action Plan with ten specific actions that aim to reduce fires and the number of casualties in the event of a fire, with particular attention being paid to Europe’s most vulnerable communities.


The Action plan focuses on how to increase the fire safety of furniture and mattresses, promote a wider use of smoke detectors and automatic fire suppression systems, support fire safety competencies to accompany the energy transition of buildings, encourage and support community fire safety initiatives, stimulate scientific research and data collection, improve the efforts and widen the scope of the European Fire Information Exchange Platform overseen by the European Commission.  The plan also calls for increased cross-border cooperation among Member States on market surveillance.

This ambitious plan will be implemented in cooperation with relevant parties such as officials from the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament, national and regional bodies, academics, firefighters, fire services and all industries operating in the sector.

The action plan aims to ensure the continuation of the European Fire Safety Week as a tool for promoting fire safety at European level for the coming years.

If you would like to receive the full copy (38 pages) of the action plan, please contact EuroFSA at