Pet Boarding & Daycare

Fending Off Fire: Is Your Facility Prepared?

Fending Off Fire: Is Your Facility Prepared?

By Tammy Higgins

You think about it, but it will never happen to you. The scary, dark things happen to others. Not others we know, certainly, just others.  Until it does. It happens. The darkest, scariest thing does happen—to you or to someone you love and respect.

Lenny Zannin, owner and trainer at Breakthrough K9 Training, received that dark news in April of this year when friends he admired in the kennel/boarding industry faced the tragedy he had always personally worried about; fire. A blaze ripped through his friend’s home and took the lives of the owner’s 27 training dogs. They ran a rehabilitation center, and their personal dogs were the pack that helped clients’ dogs recover. Luckily, help came swiftly enough so that the fire did not have the opportunity to spread to the fifteen dogs being boarded for training, a comfort in the face of devastation.

“Fire has been my worst fear,” says Zannin. “I always worried that a fire would start in my house when I wasn’t home, and it would take my pets.” Now that he boards the animals of others, it has become an even greater concern. He had already secured his kennel structure with climate control, CO2 detection, and security devices to protect his animals. However, after the loss his colleagues faced, he had a renewed mission to protect his kennel from fire as well. “I started by searching fire suppression systems. There was so much to learn and sort through and costs to consider”, he explained.

Zannin found himself in a place many kennel owners, large and small, might find themselves—not knowing where to start. John Woods, Battalion Chief in the York Area United Fire and Rescue Department in York, Pennsylvania, recommends knowing the national codes. “The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) is a great resource to educate yourself about what the minimum national standard even is. Every state or municipality may have their own requirements, but the NFPA’s consensus code sets a standard of care that is best practice for folks to follow.”

Woods explains, “NFPA 150 is a code that covers kennels, boarding facilities, vets and stables. It was developed after a series of terrible stable fires and has been revised to include any boarding business to protect the animals and the people taking care of them. It’s important for business owners to know the code to protect themselves not only from the emotional devastation that comes from fire, but from legal repercussions as well.”

Any boarder must adhere to the codes issued by the municipality in which they reside. However, it is helpful to understand the levels of protection available, and the costs each entails before navigating local requirements. Owners may find themselves wanting to do more than the local code requires in order to protect themselves, their business and, of course, the animals they care for.

The most basic level of fire protection is simple detection. With a detection level system, an owner is installing a smoke alarm (detector). Some alarms are individual devices sounding in the affected room only. Some systems, however, can be interconnected, so when activated, will sound all devices within the structure. The drawback to this type of system is that when fire strikes, someone must manually notify the fire service. In the boarding business, if animals are alone at any time during the day and alarms are not heard, this can be catastrophic.

Some smoke alarm systems work in conjunction with a third-party security company. In this case, there is the added benefit of immediate notification to the fire service which reduces response time for help.

The next level of protection to consider is adding suppression to an alarm notification system. Sprinkler systems eliminate the spread of fire during response time as they suppress the fire upon detection. Sprinkler systems come in both commercial and residential options. The biggest differences to consider between these types of systems come down to water supply and cost.

Traditional commercial sprinkler systems, installed in the ceilings of a structure, aim to protect both life and property. This type of system requires a direct connection to a fire main and possibly a fire pump. The benefit of this system is that it provides complete fire suppression within the building and installation may reduce insurance premiums. The drawbacks include the cost required to connect to the infrastructure of a municipality, the installation of piping that may be needed in a pre–existing structure, and costs for a third–party alarm company to monitor the system.

Residential sprinkler systems require less water pressure than commercial systems, but still require the piping infrastructure of commercial installations. These systems emit less water upon activation and do not last as long. They are designed to get people out of a building and to protect firefighters from flashover situations.

A newer sprinkler system technology developed in the United Kingdom is now being used in the U.S. It can be applied both residentially and commercially and, instead of an overhead installation, a wall unit or faucet mount is used. It utilizes a fine water mist that requires less water pressure. The system can run in any building that has enough pressure to run a sink or flush a toilet. This system comes with built–in notification to the owner’s cell phone and to emergency services as well. The benefit of this system (in addition to those of other sprinkler systems) is the ease of the installation; it takes less space and does not require the costs of connecting to a fire main.

Lastly, in rural buildings that don’t have their own water supply or cannot be connected to a water main, a personal protection system is another option. It can be installed in each room to provide sprinkling protection for an occupant until help arrives. It is a portable system that stands alone with its own water tank and pump. It was originally designed as a compact unit for those who are infirm and unable to exit a building on their own, but serves the same purpose for animals that are crated and have no means of escape during a fire.

“I went with a fire mist system because of my location,” states Zannin of Breakthrough K9. He explains that because of the acreage of his land and his distance from the water main, hundreds of feet of pipe would have been required, and in the end, the entire project was entirely too cost prohibitive for him. It provides the protection and the peace of mind he wanted for his business, his dogs and especially their owners who entrust them to his care. “Now I can monitor my kennel’s climate, security and fire protection right from my Droid.”

Unfortunately, sometimes the worst-case scenario for kennel and boarding owners happens. It happens more often than most animal caregivers may like to believe. However, the right fire protection system can empower owners to be prepared for, and hopefully avoid, the darkest, scariest things all together. And that helps owners, and the pets in their care, rest a whole lot easier. n

Plumis, Inc. is the developer and manufacturer of the award winning, Automist Smartscan, a revolutionary device creating the ability to address fires more effectively and efficiently. Once activated in response to the onset of a growing blaze, Automist’s scanning technology seeks out the fire with its unique pivoting sensor and water-misting nozzle arrangement. When the source of the fire is established, a powerful and targeted spray of water mist from a domestic water source is directed, suppressing it rapidly and with 90% less water damage than with traditional sprinklers. To learn more, visit or contact Erin Schmidt, Business Manager 717-887-8921 [email protected]