Fernie am­mo­nia leak leads to ques­tions

Lo­cal are­nas have mea­sures in place

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - FARM & RANCH TODAY - MICHAEL JOEL-HANSEN

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.

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The Rouleau Rink Alumni Hockey Tour­na­ment is one of a num­ber of events that takes place at the com­mu­nity’s rink.

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