#101Wednesdays: Occupant safety in animal housing facilities and the 2018 Life Safety Code

Blog Post created by gharrington Employee on Oct 11, 2017

In what seems like a continuous string of tragedies (earthquakes in Mexico; hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean; and the deadly Las Vegas mass shooting), Northern California is now in the grip of devastating wildfires, which have left at least 17 people dead and another 180 missing – a sad, ironic twist to 2017’s Fire Prevention Week. I’ve been able to connect some of the earlier events to my #101Wednesdays posts, but wildfires are a bit of an enigma to me, and there’s no direct correlation to the Life Safety Code. My experience with wildfires was limited to strapping on an Indian can in my late-teens and early twenties as an on-call firefighter in Central Massachusetts and wetting down the edges of relatively small brush fires. We never had fires where I grew up like they have out West. Fortunately, NFPA has a group of experts dedicated to the wildland fire problem. I invite you to check out their Fire Break blog posts for the latest information.

On a happier note, the 2018 edition of NFPA 101 has officially hit the street. If you were unable to view my one-hour webinar on changes from the 2015 edition, it was recorded and can be viewed here free of charge. One of the changes I touched on was the addition of new occupant life safety requirements for animal housing facilities, which are now categorized as special structures in Chapter 11 of the code. Animal housing facilities are defined as areas of a building or structure, including interior and adjacent exterior spaces, where animals are fed, rested, worked, exercised, treated, exhibited, or used for production (3.3.19). Note that an animal housing facility is not an occupancy classification; an animal housing facility could be a storage occupancy (e.g., barns and stables), a business occupancy (e.g., a veterinary hospital), or a mercantile occupancy (e.g., a pet store), among others. As with other special structures, the usual occupancy-specific requirements apply in addition to any modifications by the special structure provisions of Chapter 11. In the case of a horse stable, for example, the storage occupancy requirements of Chapter 42 would apply as modified by the new animal housing facility provisions of Section 11.1.

Section 11.1 provides a reference to NFPA 150, Standard on Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities, 2016 edition. While the scope of NFPA 150 includes the safety of both human and animal occupants, the scope of NFPA 101 is limited to the safety of human occupants. Section 11.1 indicates that where human occupants are expected to delay their egress to care for animals or assist with their evacuation in the event of a fire, the means of egress requirements of NFPA 150 are to be applied where they are more restrictive than those of NFPA 101.

Chapter 8 of NFPA 150 specifies requirements for means of egress in animal housing facilities where handlers will assist with animal evacuation:

  • At least two means of egress must be provided
  • Doors must have a clear width of not less than 32 in., 1.5-times the average width of the largest animal expected to be accommodated, or 1.5-times the width of any equipment needed to facilitate evacuation, whichever is greater
  • Door height must also be sufficient to accommodate any animals or evacuation equipment
  • In nonsprinklered facilities, the travel distance to an exit meeting the aforementioned requirements is limited to 75 feet
  • With automatic sprinklers, the permitted travel distance increases to 100 feet


It is expected these travel distance limits will be more restrictive than the typical NFPA 101 travel distance limits. For example, in ordinary-hazard storage occupancies, exit travel distance is limited to 200 feet (nonsprinklered) or 400 feet (sprinklered) (42.2.6); so the reduced exit travel distance limits of NFPA 150 are probably the most significant implications of the new animal housing facility requirements in the Life Safety Code. As noted in Annex A of NFPA 150, these reduced travel distances recognize the difficulty associated with evacuating panicking animals from a facility during an emergency.

It should be noted that NFPA 150 contains additional requirements which help to protect animals and their handlers from the effects of fire. For example, facilities that house what it refers to as Category A animals (animals that pose a potential risk to the health or safety of rescuers or the general public; animals that cannot be removed without potential risk to the health and welfare of the animal or other animals; animals that are impossible or impractical to move; animals that are not mobile or not in a mobile enclosure) or horses must be protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system. Although NFPA 101 requires compliance only with the means of egress provisions of NFPA 150, application of its numerous other requirements should be considered where humans might need to remain in the facility to assist with the evacuation of animals during a fire.

I hope this glimpse at one of the new requirements of the 2018 edition of NFPA 101 has been useful. I’ll look at highlighting additional revisions in the coming weeks. Until then, thanks again for reading and stay safe.

Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to and click on “FREE ACCESS.”

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