Ammonia

The District of Squamish takes its responsibility to be prepared for community emergencies very seriously and works in partnership with local first responder agencies to develop and implement best practices to protect the community in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. 

Following new regulations introduced by Technical Safety BC and WorkSafeBC, the District has implemented ammonia response training and best practices in the unlikely event of an ammonia leak at Brennan Park Recreation Centre.

Facilities equipped with ammonia refrigeration systems are safe when properly designed and when their safety is assured by an operational security program. An extensive preventative and routine maintenance program is in place as part of the Refrigeration Maintenance Plan, which was most recently reviewed and updated in early 2017 to meet new safety requirements.

Technical Safety BC (formerly BC Safety Authority) and WorkSafeBC regulate ammonia use in ice arenas in British Columbia. The District of Squamish system complies with both of these regulators.

Qualified recreation facility maintenance staff complete safety training annually and a qualified contractor (CIMCO) conducts preventative maintenance three times a year. Formal evacuation training with Squamish Fire Rescue will be implemented bi-annually.

 The following Fact Sheet  outlines ammonia use at the Brennan Park Recreation Centre ice arena.

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Ammonia: Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is ammonia, and where is it used in the District of Squamish?

    Ammonia is a colourless gas with a strong odour that is commonly used in refrigeration systems, power generation, or other industrial and manufacturing processes. The Brennan Park Recreation Centre uses ammonia as a refrigerant to create and maintain the ice in the arena.

  • What is the District doing to ensure safe use and handling of ammonia?

    The District complies with all federal and provincial legislation and regulations on the safe use and storage of ammonia, and follows the ammonia safety standards set forth by WorkSafeBC and Technical Safety BC.  District staff and first responders undergo regular training and participation in drills to ensure that they are confident in what to do in case an ammonia leak occurs.  By taking the proper precautions, ammonia can be safely handled and used. 

  • What are the risks of ammonia?

    During transport and storage, ammonia is compressed in a pressurized environment. Although unusual, if there is a leak or damage to the process or storage equipment, ammonia gas may be released, potentially affecting workers or members of the public. Ammonia gas is very irritating to the eyes, nose, and respiratory system. These health effects make it easy to detect low concentrations in the air. Because the gas is physically irritating, a person is unlikely to remain in an area contaminated with a detectable concentration of ammonia, reducing the risk of irreversible health effects. Acute exposure to ammonia can be fatal.

  • What happens in the event of an ammonia release?

    Brennan Park Recreation Centre staff and first responders are trained on what to do if an ammonia leak is suspected. 

    In the unlikely event of an ammonia leak, the safest thing to do is to Shelter-In-Place: go indoors; seal doors, windows, and ventilation ducts; monitor Squamish.ca and local media sources for information; and wait for the all-clear from emergency officials. Brennan Park staff will advise patrons using the facility on what to do; people outside using the sports fields around Brennan Park should move away from the area.  Any schools or other public institutions in the affected area will be notified by officials and should also follow Shelter-In-Place steps to keep occupants safe. 

    Residents should Shelter-In-Place if there is any suspicion that an ammonia leak has happened.

    Due to the immediate urgency of an ammonia leak and the realities of the time it will take to mobilize staff and disseminate an emergency message to the public and media, be aware of the following indicators: sirens from Brennan Park; cloud-like plume of smoke near Brennan Park; sudden irritation in eyes, nose, respiratory system; or patrons evacuating Brennan Park. We will endeavour to get emergency messaging to you as quickly as possible.  

    If not already subscribed to the free SquamishAlert emergency notification system, sign up here to receive important emergency information by text, email and/or voice.

  • Detecting an ammonia leak

    Sensors are installed at Brennan Park Recreation Centre to detect any ammonia leaks and activate the alarm system.  Flashing blue lights and the fire alarm will signal staff and users at Brennan Park Recreation Centre that there is a possible high-level ammonia leak, and Squamish Fire Rescue will be contacted. 

  • How large of an area around Brennan Park would be affected by an ammonia plume?

    The District has conducted a study to scientifically model the extent of an ammonia release that would pose a danger to the public.  The study results show that a limited area of up to a 300-metre radius around Brennan Park Recreation Center may be affected.  

  • How does ammonia dissipate?

    Ammonia is lighter than air, so it will dissipate relatively quickly into the atmosphere.  Based on the amount of ammonia present at Brennan Park, it is expected that a high-level release would take a maximum of one hour to dissipate to safe levels within the 300 meter radius around the recreation centre.  Emergency officials would confirm that air quality levels are safe and communicate this to the public.

  • How can I get more information about ammonia?

    The following websites contain helpful information and facts about ammonia:

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