Feature Article - June 2010
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A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities

Staff and Safety

The majority of respondents with aquatic facilities said that a lifeguard is on duty during all hours of operation at their facilities. Just 13.8 percent said that this was not the case, and 86.2 percent said it was.

Those most likely to have a lifeguard on duty were from YMCAs (where 97.4 percent said a lifeguard was on duty during all hours of operation), parks and recreation respondents (95.3 percent), and colleges and universities (92.1 percent). Those who were least likely to have a lifeguard on duty were from health clubs (47.5 percent said a lifeguard was on duty during all hours of operation) and camp facilities (65.3 percent).

The reduction in staff at facilities of all types may be having a particularly adverse affect on safety-conscious aquatic facility managers. One respondent put it this way: "It makes it very hard when you have to staff the facility with the minimum amount of staff needed. Safety is always number one, and a few extra eyes are always welcome—especially in the aquatic field."

Lifeguards are among the most important safeguards a facility can employ, though they are not foolproof. In December 2007, Congress enacted the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, which was intended to provide a further level of safety for aquatic facilities. The act requires pools to install anti-entrapment drains and devices such as a safety vacuum release system, or SVRS, to protect swimmers from the dangers of entrapment in drains. The law went into effect in December 2008, and there was a great deal of concern throughout the spring of 2009 that facilities would have difficulty complying with the law.

Last year, we asked respondents about how they stood in terms of compliance with the requirements of the Act. At that time, just 51.2 percent of aquatics respondents said that they were in compliance, and 27.9 percent didn't know if they were in compliance or not, highlighting the need for an educational effort to reach out to these facilities about the requirements of the act.

After a year, the number of facilities reporting they are in compliance has jumped significantly, and the number of those who do not know has also fallen. In this year's survey, a solid majority of respondents (76.8 percent) said that they were in compliance. (See Figure 39.) Just 3.7 percent of respondents said they were not in compliance, and 19.5 percent were unsure.

Accessibility: It's the Law

Pool lifts and other accessibility equipment are already among the top features included at many aquatic facilities. And, on top of that, many more are planning to add these items to their pools and aquatic facilities over the next several years.

Providing access to the water for those with disabilities, for the elderly and for others, accessibility equipment ranges in scope from portable and fixed pool lifts, to railings, stairs and more.

On top of being the right thing to do, having accessibility equipment in place can open up your facility to a whole new audience of water-lovers.