The City of Cranbrook is reviewing their arena facilities in light of the tragic deaths of three workers due to a suspected ammonia leak at the Fernie Memorial Arena on Tuesday.
Stacy Paulsen, the Facility Operations Manager for the city, said staff is currently in the process of bringing in outside specialists to do an audit of operations at Western Financial Place, the Memorial Arena, the Kinsmen Arena and the Cranbrook Curling Centre.
“Our plan of attack is to do a real in-depth look at what we’re doing and ensure that our staff and all the public are safe,” said Paulsen.
Liquid ammonia is used in ice plants in hockey arenas as part of the refrigeration system, however, it can turn into a toxic gas under ambient conditions.
Paulsen assures that there are safety measures in place in all facilities, with diagnostic equipment that is constantly monitoring the ammonia content in parts per million (PPM) that will trigger an alarm if it goes past a certain threshold.
“There’s a device that we use in there, that sets off an alarm, so you would get an audible alarm as well as a visual,” Paulsen said. “So anything above a certain point you don’t enter. You’re allowed to enter wearing the proper safety gear to assess the situation; if it’s a small leak of some sort, if it’s preventable that we can deal with it, we have that ability.
“But at certain points — and it’s all spec’ed out in our procedures — at certain points there’s a full on-evacuation, shut the plant room right down, there’s emergency shutoff switches where you hit a button and the whole plant room shuts down and relieves some pressure.”
The cause of the suspected ammonia leak in Fernie remains under investigation, which continued Wednesday and involved city officials, emergency personnel and contractors. Two City of Fernie employees and an outside specialist from Calgary died at the scene.