If you explore any issue deeply enough you’re bound to find some unexpected nuance and complexity, especially when it comes to questions about fire and life safety. But rarely have I reported a story for NFPA Journal that unsurfaced so many different and unexpected questions as the November/December cover story “Critter Life Safety Code.”
The article details the development of NFPA 150, Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities Code, which is the first code of its kind to tackle animal housing safety in depth. What seems simple on the surface quickly turns into a thick web of thorny moral, ethical, and technical issues.
For instance, in some industries animals are commodities and their destiny is a dinner plate. Do they demand the same protections as other animals? If not, where do you draw the line? Should a chicken on a farm be treated differently than a gorilla in a zoo, or a rat in a lab?
On top of those tricky moral questions are the vast technical challenges that animal facilities present. Different species can exhibit very different, as well as unpredictable, behavior. Survivable conditions in a fire can also vary dramatically between species; smaller animals, for example, generally succumb to smoke faster than larger ones. The number and variety of facilities is immense. A zoo is much different than a chicken house, which is much different than a dog kennel, or an animal research lab at a university. How do you provide guidance for each of these seemingly limitless possibilities? On top of that, how do you balance human safety with animal safety in these facilities during an emergency?
All of these questions, coupled with the NFPA 150 committee’s wide range of stakeholders—animal rights advocates debating alongside livestock industry groups—and it’s no wonder that NFPA engineer Tracy Vecchiarelli called the creation of NFPA 150 “probably one of the most interesting and complex exercises I’ve ever had as a staff liaison working on a document.”
To learn much more about the guidance offered in NFPA 150 as well as how the committee squared its differences, please read the cover story in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal, “Critter Life Safety Code.”