Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rink Collapses in Bad Weather

Usually I reserve Sundays for funny stories, but Hurricane Sandy is due to hit the US East Coast this week. Respecting that, I decided to go for a safety related post. I spent years working as a volunteer in Disaster Preparedness, it gives you a certain mindset.

Stay safe everyone. Prepare for loss of power. Remember, canned food can be eaten even if it's cold (have a manual can opener handy), get a flashlight not candles (a house a block from me burned down because the owner wanted to amuse her kids by using candles in the last big hurricane--10 years later it's finally getting rebuilt), don't open your refrigerator unless you have to (in order to keep the cold in), and if you see anything worth videoing--you'd probably be better off finding someplace safer to be. If your house has trees near it, don't stay on the upper floor if the storm is likely to blow a tree down on your house.  Have suitable clothing on. If you think you'll have to walk out of your house, have an emergency kit ready to go. Have cash. Keep your cellphone charged and your car's gas tank full. Be ready to live without power for 3 days. Don't dither.

But what about ice rinks in bad weather? Anyone on the East Coast worrying about their ice rink not surviving the storm?

Rink roof collapses due to heavy winter snows surprisingly are not that uncommon. I can imagine that a hurricane will also do damage. So, in general, what's it like being in an ice rink when it collapses?

Roof Collapses
Hallowell, Maine ice rink after collapse
Well, here's a video of a rink in Slovakia when it collapsed. As far as I know, everyone walked away (there was a youth team in the rink for a game). (Article) All the adults seem to be organized and effective in getting everyone out of the building. And, just a note, I'll never think about the boards and the barriers the same way again.

Even scarier is the collapse of a rink in Pennsylvania where the ice resurfacer was on ice when the roof went and the police called out cadaver dogs.  Or what about the one in Maine, where 'they felt the rink shake'.

Fortunately, most rink collapses are without loss of life. There are a couple of notable exceptions--Bad Reichenhall in Germany comes to mind with charges of managerial negligence being made. I believe the collapse occurred during what we would call public sessions. Given the inexperience of most skaters on public and the number of people on ice, it may have been impossible to clear the ice before the roof collapsed. In all the cases I read of where there was no loss of life, the people on ice were all experienced skaters.

In several cases I read about, there was mention of a loud snap or sound like a gunshot shortly before the collapse as structural members gave way. In most of the cases there appeared to be enough warning to get people off the ice (provided they were people who skated regularly) before the roof completely gave away. Usually it was only a short period of time (perhaps a couple of minutes or less), but one rink took several hours before the roof caved in. This last rink appeared to be an exception.

What's my survival plan?
Don't Panic. Don't Dither.
Know where the emergency exits are.
Get off the ice and out of the building if possible and next to an exterior wall if not possible, or at least get next to the boards where there's some barrier above it. Inside the boxes also might be survivable. In some cases the lobby might be under a separate roof structure than the rink. That may be safe as well.
As an adult skater, help others that need it. In other words, be a grownup and don't panic.

Or move to some state without snow. Texas has some nice rinks.

Take care in the storm and be safe!


  1. All good points. I've spent the last two days prepping for Sandy. This afternoon my daughter and I went skating. No roof collapse. We figured we'd going before the rink lost power.

    1. My home rink just sent me an email about extended freestyle hours! (I assume bec. hockey cancelled) With public skate til 5!

      I expect most rinks will close well before Sandy hits. But I do wonder how many will suffer damage.

    2. I've still got power this morning but the city has wisely closed the rink for the day--just as well since my right knee is achy this morning and if the rink was open I'd probably go make it worse! I expect the power to go off later today as the storm gets closer.

  2. Thanks for the post--it never hurts to be reminded that disaster can be just a blink of an eye away and can happen anywhere, at any time, to anyone.

    There are just as many people who freeze as who panic. They need the assistance of calmer heads just as much. Be on the lookout for them as well.

  3. I used to skate at the one in Kennebec occassionaly. A rink collapse is just devastating. I will personally not be skating until Sandy blows over, but only because I have to drive a minimum of 30 minutes to a rink.

  4. western NC/SC, too...some lovely rinks hours from the coast, even one where Paul Wylie is a coach. *wink*

    We barely get a little rain whenever there's a hurricane. And that's dandy with me. I lived through Hurricane Andrew in Miami. I'm done with hurricanes.