• C. Scott Learned, MS, MBA, PE, LEED AP

How to Design Animal Hospitals with Fire Safety

Fires are a dangerous problem for animal care facilities. There have been multiple instances of fires in animal care facilities in recent months. A fire is the last thing a pet owner or business owner wants to happen at an animal hospital or animal shelter.


Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing


Fire safety is one of our main focuses as we design facilities. The National Fire Protection Association (the leading information and knowledge resource on fire, electrical, and related hazards) established the NFPA 150, the Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities Code. And, lucky for our clients, Scott Learned (our President) is one of the few Principal Committee Members for that fire and safety code - you could say he wrote the (digital) book! With Scott's extensive experience in designing animal care facilities and knowledge of code requirements, we have developed ways to help mitigate fire or smoke taking the lives of the animals in animal hospitals, veterinary clinics, and animal shelters.


Four Fire Safety Components for Animal Hospital


When we design animal hospitals or design animal shelters, fire safety is one of the most important factors. Here are four fire safety components we include in animal facility designs.

#1 – Use a Robust Sprinkler System in Animal Hopsital Designs


The first, and most obvious way, to fight against fire is to install robust sprinkler systems. Did you know that sprinkler systems are not "required" in all animal care buildings? We create building designs for clients that include a robust sprinkler system if needed. We often warn our clients that they can't rely on a sprinkler system alone for fire safety. The sprinkler system is just one component of a fire-safe approach. If it's the only component in a fire safety strategy, often, the animals may not be recoverable by the time the sprinklers are activated. In fire situations, it's not only the flames that may take the lives of animals but also smoke inhalation. With that in mind, keep reading to learn of other components necessary for fire safety.


#2 – Install a Comprehensive Alarm System in Animal Hospitals


A comprehensive alarm system that provides early warning alerts and notifications regarding the facility is essential to proactive fire safety approaches. With DLI, we design animal care facilities with alarms placed strategically throughout the building and within every animal area. These alarm systems are fundamental in close monitoring and early detection of fire events. The comprehensive alarm system is critical as the early warning alarms allow staff to evacuate all animals from the facility before a major fire outbreak. In addition to evacuating the animals, early warning alarms may enable staff to isolate the fire area and prevent it from spreading.


#3 – Use Non-Combustible Building Materials in Animal Hospitals


We cannot overlook the importance of the building material used in the animal care facility design. We strongly recommend the use of non-combustible material when building an animal care facility. In fact, using non-combustible materials may be much more effective than a sprinkler system in certain fire events. Using non-combustible material is a preventative measure to fire prevention - opposed to merely a reactive approach with sprinklers.


#4 – Install a Security System in Animal Hospital


Another fire safety approach we include in animal care designs is a security system. We don't like to think about crime or people intentionally harming animals - but there is the possibility of trespassing and malicious intent in some cases. Another way that security systems are helpful is when there is no staff in a building. Think about facilities that have a split shift for their staffing structure and leave animals overnight unattended in the building. A proper security system - with cameras, lights, and sirens - deters criminals and notifies staff in emergency events.


We don't want to think about fires or animal harm happening, but animal hospitals and animal shelter designs need to protect the animals placed in their care. At DLI, we provide animal hospital and animal shelter designs that integrate a robust sprinkler system, a comprehensive alarm system, non-combustible building materials, and a security system to protect animals from fire.


Request a Consultation to discuss Fire Safety for Your Upcoming Project


Are you looking for design and planning services for your upcoming veterinary hospital or animal shelter project? Schedule a complimentary consultation with the Design Learned team today!


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