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Powell River Recreation Complex evacuation triggers review

False alarm highlights gaps in recreation centre policy

A recent fire evacuation due to a false alarm at Powell River Recreation Complex has given facility management the opportunity to review evacuation protocols after reports of soaking wet children being forced to stand outside in chilly temperatures.

Powell River Fire Rescue responded to a fire alarm call at the recreation complex at approximately 7:15 pm on Wednesday, September 28.

According to City of Powell River manager of recreation Neil Pukesh, approximately 450 people, including those watching a Powell River Kings game and swimmers in the pool area, were evacuated from the building while firefighters swept the facility looking for the alarm source.

An arena food concession heat sensor was responsible for the alarm triggering, said Pukesh. He said it is not clear why it triggered, although a popcorn machine had blown a breaker about 30 minutes prior to the alarm, and he would bring an electrician in to investigate further.

“We couldn’t find anything else that could have triggered this, so we’re looking at an ongoing investigation,” said Pukesh.

Once the alarm was determined to be false by the fire department, the public was allowed to return to the arena and pool, said Pukesh. But one Powell River mother said complex staff should be doing more to look out for children left at the pool without their parents.

Kami Neeme, mother of 11-year-old Zayda, said pool staff directed her daughter and her friend to stand outside after the alarm sounded; neither girl was able to grab a towel. Neeme arrived early that evening to pick Zayda up and found them “standing outside dripping wet in their bathing suits, shivering.”

Neeme said Zayda was probably outside for less than 10 minutes and it was not exceptionally cold, but had it “been winter and a bit colder, it would have been a much worse situation.”

Pukesh said the complex would rather “err on the side of caution” when it comes to fire alarms and full evacuations.

Neeme said when events such as evacuations happen, more needs to be done to make sure children who are there without their parents are taken care of.

“There needs to be some kind of protection for them, like warm blankets, when something like this happens,” said Neeme.

Pukesh said the event is “an opportunity for us to review all of our procedures.”