There was a rush job on seven new air vents now sticking out of the side of U.S. Cellular Coliseum in downtown Bloomington. Bloomington Fire Chief Mike Kimmerling says city workers have implemented a permanent fix to the ventilation system at the Coliseum. There had been concern that under certain conditions, the emergency fan system could create negative air pressure, effectively sealing the doors and preventing people from escaping the building in case of fire. The Coliseum was able to hold weekend events by keeping someone there to operate the system on manual as a temporary solution. Chief Kimmerling says the permanent solution was to simplify the mechanism.
"Put in a set of seven air returns on the side of the building and remove some of the louvers in this system of changing where the air flow came in. so it just basically all you do is start the fans, the louvers open up and it lets air into the building to make sure the pressures remain the same and the smoke is actually lifted out of the top of the building."
Kimmerling says the system as previously designed was fine, as long as all parts of the complex arrangement functioned.
"There was a much simpler way to make the same thing happen that didn't leave us hoping that this fan starts and this one doesn't and this louver opens and this one doesn't. So, it made a lot of sense to us to make it a more simplified system."
Kimmerling says firefighters have tested the new arrangement and it works.
"We've already had one of our personnel go and observe to make sure that yes the doors open properly that actually the air did move through the building the way it was supposed to in the automatic mode."
A consultant examining emergency systems at the coliseum turned up the potential issue. Chief Kimmerling stresses the Coliseum is also equipped with a number of other safety systems which worked just fine. He says in particular, the sprinkler mechanisms would be important to keeping people safe long enough to evacuate the facility. Mayor Tari Renner says he is disappointed a structure this new could have such a problem. The city is still determining from whom to recoup the cost of the changes.
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