Feature Article - September 2004
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Safe and Secure

Health clubs and recreation facilities are excellent hunting grounds for thieves

By Kyle Ryan


Child-care areas

Because of the devastating potential of poorly managed child-care areas, they're often the most scrutinized places in a facility.

"There's not a lot of ground-breaking things there," Bouck says, but there are plenty of safeguards that need to be in place.

For example, both he and Barton say a child-care area needs to be supervised by two staff members at all times, never fewer. That way if one becomes distracted, the other can keep an eye on the rest of the children.

Barton recommends having the door to the child-care room open into a staging area, not the room itself. Parents can drop their kids off there and receive some kind of ID tag or bracelet to have when picking up their children later.

Keep the area where the children play cordoned off by a half wall to provide another barrier between them and the outside world. Doors also should signal when they open so the staff can know if someone is coming in or out. It's also a good idea to have a lot of windows to see into the child-care area, and it should be in an nonsecluded place in the facility so many people can see what occurs there.

Gymnasiums

The threat from gymnasiums mostly comes from the activity that occurs there, not the areas themselves. People play basketball in gymnasiums, and particularly when it's male and full-court, altercations occur because of the aggressive nature of the sport.

Barton has even gone as far as hiring a police officer to make sure everyone plays nicely. If that's not in the budget, just having a staff member there and keeping the games organized (as opposed to pickup games) can help decrease the likelihood of problems.

"It's unfortunate, but it is a pretty competitive sport, and depending on what you get in there it cannot be a great situation," Barton says.

Bouck adds that certain design elements can make the environment less conducive to overly aggressive behavior: natural, even lighting; soothing color schemes; and ample space around the court so that no one gets pushed into walls easily.

"One of the biggest things we can do is to make sure we've got as many windows from other places so that people walking by can see what's going on," he says. "We always try to run the running track through there so you can watch what's happening in there and report it to the staff."

Barton also suggests posting a code of conduct, so that the rules are clear and people know what is not allowed—and can't claim ignorance if asked to leave.