Your stadium houses anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 people at any given time, and it’s up to you to help ensure their safety. To do that effectively and safeguard against injuries, casualties and the potential for mass hysteria, you need to have the proper fire and life safety systems in place – and keep them in top working order.
Each stadium presents a unique set of challenges, but there are several universal items to keep in mind when developing your fire and life safety plan:
1. Fire Alarm Systems
To help maximize safety and protection, it’s important to have a fire alarm system that allows you to target messages to specific areas of the stadium. For instance, if an alarm is triggered at a bay on one end of the stadium, a fire department official sitting at the panel can dispatch someone to the specific location. That person can then verify if it is a true event, at which point the officials can use the system’s voice capabilities to control and direct the crowd as needed.
Additionally, stadium managers should take into consideration new technology like addressable notification appliances. These devices have built-in intelligence and are electronically supervised 24/7 by the fire alarm panel. Addressable notification appliances are advanced to the point that they have the ability to test themselves, automatically or on demand, when the facility is least occupied. Traditionally, the operational readiness of a notification appliance is achieved through time-consuming manual tests, but some of today’s solutions have the intelligence to report their operational status to a fire alarm control panel. This addressable technology can save time and money – and help avoid disruptions.
2. Sprinkler Systems
We see a growing trend of stadiums moving towards open air facilities, which poses unique complications for sprinkler systems. Stadiums in cold weather areas need to have a plan for winterization of sprinkler system piping. It’s important to maintain and keep water out of the system to avoid freezing. A few specific steps to consider include:
• Verify the location of all known drains and provide the appropriate signage.
• Confirm heaters are working properly.
• Check Fire Department connections with the goal of ensuring they are not filled with water and that automatic drip valves are working properly.
• Check fire pump rooms for adequate heat. Check fire pump test header for proper drainage.
3. Kitchen Hood Suppression Systems
There are a large number of kitchen hoods in a stadium. Depending on the size of the stadium, there might be as many as 60 or 70 concession areas, with each one serving a different food type. This introduces a new range of considerations and requirements for stadium managers. For example, kitchen hoods by code have to be tested and inspected twice a year to verify that they are in top working order. The inspection includes an automatic trip test, verifying gas and electric shutoff functions, replacing fusible links, and inspecting and verifying all nozzles. Scheduled inspection and maintenance of these vital fire suppression systems can help prevent injury and costly, unnecessary discharges as well as loss of cooking media and valuable revenue-generating time.
4. Mass Notification
In an emergency, mass notification systems help to facilitate the appropriate response by disseminating important information. In a stadium, a voice-enabled fire alarm system can serve as the cornerstone of a mass notification system. To fully benefit from the advantages of a mass notification system, stadiums and other organizations must think beyond their well-known crisis applications. A mass notification solution can include not only the fire alarm system, but other assets like scoreboards and digital screens around the stadium. During the course of the stadium event, these devices can communicate scores, weather updates, attendance alerts, advertisements and other information. This trains visitors to become accustomed to looking at these screens for information. This way, should something need to be communicated in an emergency, the scoreboard and digital screens become part of the mass notification solution.
5. Fire and Life-Safety System Testing
Testing fire and life-safety systems is a crucial yet complicated task in a stadium environment. There’s a tight timeline within which testing can be completed. The systems should be tested in the downtime between seasons and events. In our experience, stadiums typically have anywhere from 200 to 300 events a year, including regularly scheduled games, concerts and corporate events. It’s important to consider advanced solutions, like the addressable notification appliances referenced above that have the functionality for self-testing. This can make the testing process more efficient and less time consuming.
In addition to all the items listed above, it’s important to align with an organization that you trust as a fire protection, security and life-safety partner. Choosing a partner with the ability to install, service and support multiple life-safety systems can bring significant benefits to stadium managers. It can simplify the inspection process through the bundling of multiple types of systems into a single service agreement including fire alarm, sprinkler, suppression, extinguishers and emergency lighting.
It’s also important to work with a company that has strong code knowledge and the expertise to provide updates on technology advancements. Some providers also offer certification for security, fire and life-safety systems integration services under the SAFETY Act, a key federal law administered by the US Department of Homeland Security. A SAFETY Act designation and certification can provide important liability protections to a stadium in the event of an act of terrorism at a site where the approved technologies have been deployed.
Technology is constantly evolving, and when used correctly, it can help boost the effectiveness of your fire and life-safety solutions. Stadium managers should begin to think about Internet-based technology such as remote fire alarm system diagnostics, automated inspection reporting, mobile inspection tools, and online access to data and reports to help streamline safety operations.
As a stadium manager you wear a lot of hats, but safety and security is always a top concern. By ensuring that you have the proper fire protection and life safety plans and solutions in place, you can help create a safe environment for your patrons and enable an effective response to an issue or emergency.