Fernie ammonia leak leads to questions
Local arenas have measures in place
Safety issues at ice skating rinks came onto the national scene in a big way recently, after three workers were killed at rink in Fernie, BC, Oct. 17.
An ammonia leak is suspected to be what caused the deaths. Todd Muir is the manager of Parks and Recreation for the City of Moose Jaw. He said safety is important at all of the city’s facilities.
“Safety is our top priority, keeping all of our three rinks as safe as we can,” he told the Times-Herald.
Muir explained the city has a number of safety features and policies in place to make sure that everyone, from the general public to employees, are safe while inside facilities. This includes some specific measures.
“We have special (sensors) designed to detect any ammonia leaks,” he said.
Muir said once the sensors trigger an alarm, a large exhaust fan kicks in and help to clear out the area.
The fan is accompanied by a warning system.
“An alarm alerts the caretakers in those facilities and the public will hear them as well,” he said.
After an alarm is tripped, Muir said the city’s rinks have a policy in place to help get people to safety.
“(After the alarms) everyone is to get out and that’s what our staff are trained to do,” he said.
From there, the fire department is called in to help manage the situation. Muir added that in the event it is necessary, refrigeration mechanics are called in to fix any serious issues with the equipment.
The city regularly inspects the alarm systems to make sure they are in working order. Smaller communities are also responding to the tragedy. Landon Krauss is the president of the rink board in Rouleau, which — similar to a number of rinks in Saskatchewan — is mostly a volunteer effort. Krauss said the rink has a system in place to make sure that harmful gases don’t cause problems.
“We’ve installed an ammonia detection system and we’ve upgraded our ventilation system,” he said.
If the warning system picks up certain levels of ammonia the arena’s fan will speed up and a vent will open, which brings in air from outside.
He added that arena equipment has safety valves installed, which are maintained regularly and changed every five years. Krauss said they make sure that only people who are properly trained deal with the rink’s refrigeration system. “There shouldn’t be any access to that room other than the workers that deal with the plant,” he said.
The Rouleau rink is in a good situation, as Krauss and another member of the board have certifications, which give them insight and expertise into how the facilities work.
“A few of us, myself and another board member, we hold power engineering tickets, so we’re familiar that way with it,” he said.
However, not all small town rinks have to deal with the same issues. Rod Ward volunteers with the rink in Mortlach. He explained the ice they use in their facility is a bit different than most.
“It’s natural ice so we wait until its cold out (to) put the ice in, and then as soon as it gets warm out in the spring it goes away,” he said.
The Rouleau Rink Alumni Hockey Tournament is one of a number of events that takes place at the community’s rink.