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Safety for Saints

21 October 2008

Football stadia are now big businesses hosting not only sport but pop concerts and other events. They can’t afford for the lights to go out, but if they do emergency power protection is essential to ensure a safe evacuation of the facility

KEEPING A LARGE CROWD SAFE is always a significant challenge, when it’s 30,000 football fans however, that challenge becomes even greater. It is crucial that on busy match days every aspect is meticulously planned and the systems in place are unquestionably reliable.

In any stadium, spectator safety is paramount and in the case of an emergency both staff and officials need to be able evacuate the stadium quickly and efficiently with minimal distress caused to its patrons. With this in mind, Southampton Football Club turned to Uninterruptible Power Supplies Ltd (UPSL) of Aldermaston, to give it the emergency power protection and reassurance it needed.

Southampton Football Club (SFC) moved to its current location after the City Council offered the club the chance to build a new ground on a disused gas works site in the heart of the city. About one and half miles from their former home, the club’s new stadium, St Mary’s, is a UEFA 4-star rated stadium with a capacity of
32,689 and is the one of the largest in the Coca-Cola Championship. Construction for the £32m stadium commenced in late 1999 and was completed ahead of schedule and in time for the start of the new season in 2001.

With 25,000 supporters filling the stands for the 25 home fixtures each season, as well as music concerts and corporate events, St Mary’s is a stadium in constant use. Over a million visitors pass through SFC’s turnstiles every year, and the health and safety of its guests is always the most important thing the club has to consider.

The stadium, in accordance with FIFA regulations, features an emergency lighting scheme in case of a mains power failure in poor light, or during an evening event. This is to ensure that during the resulting evacuation all public areas can maintain an acceptably safe standard of lighting and assist the public in
vacating the arena in a relaxed fashion.

The club asked UPSL to provide a system that facilitated the transition between the mains power and a diesel powered generator, allowing the emergency lighting to remain constant until mains power was restored. UPSL advised the club to install two 10kVA PowerWAVE 3000 UPS units, each supporting half of the 28 emergency lights that encompass the stadium.

The PowerWAVE 3000 range is a single-phase uninterruptible power supply specifically designed to meet the requirements of mid-size server rooms, networks, telecommunication systems and industrial processes. The unit, which is available between 7kVA and 20kVA, represents excellent value for money, without ever compromising reliability. With efficiency up to 95 per cent, the system has very low running costs and can offer up to 20 minutes back-up power, or handle the transition to a generator without any loss in system performance.

Situated in the floodlight control room, the compact UPS is able to run at near capacity with the fixed load it is supporting. To ensure that the UPS system is always operational, SFC awarded UPSL the contract to maintain the units, consisting of regular inspections of the equipment and complete access to fully trained
engineers 24/7.

“If the power goes down in an office block that’s one thing but in a stadium we could have real panic on our hands. In a business like ours public safety is the most important thing so it’s a vital piece of kit for us,” comments Southampton FC facilities and H&S supervisor, Mark Humby. “UPSL’s equipment has proved
very reliable. It’s that peace of mind that’s so important for us.”

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