False alarm led to evacuation of Kamloops recreation centre

City of Kamloops civic operations manager pleased with how staff acted after alarm sounded, indicating ammonia levels may have risen

More frequent testing stemming from a deadly ammonia leak in Fernie two years ago wore out a sensor and triggered a false alarm at the Brock Recreation Centre in Kamloops Monday night.

City of Kamloops civic operations manager Jeff Putnam said city staff more frequently tests ammonia sensors in each of its ice plants, in light of new procedures that followed the Oct. 17, 2017, tragedy in Fernie that killed three men who were trying to fix an ice-maker in the Kootenay’s town’s arena. While doing so, ammonia burst from the unit.

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A report from Technical Safety B.C. blamed the deaths on aging equipment and poor decision-making.

In Kamloops, city staff previously conducted tests several times a year, but now conducts them monthly.

“As a result of that, these sensors wear out sooner and that was the case here, so we’re replacing that today,” Putnam said on Tuesday morning.

At about 7 p.m. on Monday, internal alarms sounded, triggering procedures to deal with an ammonia link.

Putnam said staff responded “appropriately” in evacuating about two-dozen people from the building, which includes an arena and pool. Kamloops Fire Rescue arrived shortly after.

“It was basically a false alarm,” Putnam said.

Ammonia ice plants are self-contained and have vacuum exhausts. If ammonia levels reach 250 parts per million, alarms go off, the building is evacuated and the fire department is notified.

Sensors detect that. On Monday night, a digital display outside the plant read zero. Putnam said it is not possible the display was wrong because of other backup devices. The facility remained closed on Monday night, but re-opened on Tuesday morning.

“I was really actually quite pleased with how everyone handled it,” Putnam said.

© Kamloops This Week


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