Fire Protection “Model” Code for Animal Housing

November 29, 2018

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has issued a new “model” code that addresses how seven classes of animal housing facilities, including commercial livestock and poultry operations, should be designed and constructed to address fire and safety risks.  NFPA is a U.S. trade association that was formed in 1896 by a group of insurance companies to create and maintain private, copyrighted fire safety standards and codes for use and adoption by industry or local units of governments.  NFPA issues both standards and codes and offers them for voluntary use by industry, or adoption by local units of government as formal, enforceable codes.

This new model code called the “NFPA 150 Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities Code,” is the product of six years of effort by fire safety professionals with extensive involvement from UEP and representatives of animal agriculture groups.  NFPA 150 is not in itself mandatory or enforceable, but local units of government may adopt it and enforce its use for new construction or substantial modifications to existing facilities.  Egg producers building new facilities can use the new NFPA 150 as a  resource to reduce fire risks at a new operation.  In addition, producers should stay informed about their local fire code related ordinances, as some jurisdictions could adopt the model NFPA 150 code and make conformance mandatory for new construction.

Before 2012, the NFPA 150 had only nominally addressed fire safety in commercial livestock and poultry (agricultural) facilities.  UEP and others in livestock agriculture engaged with NFPA in 2012 when it issued new, draft 150 standards that called for fire and smoke suppression systems (i.e., sprinklers) to be installed in all animal housing facilities.  There was also discussion in the NFPA technical committee of including space requirements for each commercial species of animal housed in such a facility.  The Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights advocacy groups were engaged in the NFPA 150 process at this time.

UEP, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, and others in animal agriculture mobilized almost immediately, attending in-person meetings of the NFPA 150 technical committee and submitting extensive comments on the draft standards.  Those comments focused on the serious shortcomings of the draft, including the enormous costs of sprinkler systems that are not balanced by any meaningful fire risk management benefits for the animals, as well as the lack of justification for the NFPA to involve itself in recommending space requirements for individual animals in housing facilities.  Animal agriculture argued in 2012 for a different approach – the creation of standards that focused on fire prevention as the most practical and economical means to protect the health and welfare of the animals.

Fortunately, the NFPA agreed with these comments and set out on a multi-year process to create new standards, organizing them as a model code.  The new NFPA 150 does not weigh in on individual animals’ space requirements.  It includes seven different animal categories and 14 subcategories based on animal occupancy.  See Chapter 6 for a description of each category.  The NFPA 150 standard is also available in hard copy for purchase.