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.

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