International Activities Continue Remotely, Despite Pandemic

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration has post-poned its international activities, with conferences scheduled in Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador all moved to the winter and spring of 2021.

But Yesinia Rector, chair of the International Committee, said that doesn’t mean efforts to engage with the international community have ground to a halt. The International Committee is still very active and working to make IIAR a more global association.

Starting on April 20, the Academy of Natural Refrigerants, offered through IIAR’s new learning management system, is now offering a course on the IIAR-2 standard, the safe design of ammonia refrigeration systems, taught entirely in Spanish. Upon completion, students will be prepared to become certified in IIAR-2.

The program was developed in part with IIAR’s Costa Rican MOU [memorandum of understanding] partner, CIEMI [Colegio de Ingenieros Electricistas, Mecánicos e Industriales], as well as the Costa Rican IIAR chapter, Rector said. Originally, the program was supposed to be live and hosted Costa Rica. That became impossible with the pandemic, so the decision was made to move it to the virtual Academy of Natural Refrigerants, opening it up to even more international students. Now there are approximately 30 students enrolled in the course, hailing not only from Costa Rica but also Honduras, Nicaragua, Columbia, and others, Rector said. The virtual nature of the Academy of Natural Refrigerants was not in response to the pandemic, Rector said, but its availability couldn’t have come at a better time. As travel was restricted and shelter-in-place orders went into effect, online training quickly became the only option. “Thankfully, we got the platform up and running in the international market just when we needed it the most, when it was the most useful,” Rector said. “It worked out very nicely.”

Rector said that is a step in the right direction for IIAR’s push to begin offering more of its resources to Spanish-speaking countries. There is momentum to translate other offerings from the Academy of Natural Refrigerants, and the association’s newest standard – IIAR-9 – which provides the minimum safety requirements for existing closed-circuit ammonia refrigeration systems and provides a method to determine compliance, has already been translated into Spanish. That version, she said, will be available in the next few months. Additionally, some of IIAR’s monthly webinars are being translated for the Spanish speaking community. It’s a developing process, Rector said, but prioritizing inclusiveness is an important goal. The six-part Spanish series will focus on safety, inspection of systems, mechanical integrity, process hazard analysis, documentation review, and other topics, Rector said.

Outside the U.S., the international committee is working with its Colombian partners to adopt IIAR standards into their national norms dictating the safe design and use of ammonia refrigeration systems. The process is slow-moving because unlike in Costa Rica, the Colombian regulatory bodies aren’t adopting the standards wholesale. Instead, they are incorporating IIAR’s standards into their existing framework. Although it’s a heavier lift, the process is “moving along nicely,” Rector said.