Guest Column - September 2011
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Auditing Facilities & Preparing for Emergencies

By Alex Antoniou, Ph.D., Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., & Laurie Batter

Emergency Response Planning

Audits play an important role in identifying and minimizing risks. However, all risk cannot be eliminated. As a result, it is important to prepare for emergencies. Circumstances in the workplace can change and employees should be prepared to respond to an emergency.

Each employer has a duty to outline emergency response procedures in the organization's Emergency Response Plan (ERP). Employees have the responsibility to follow the plan. Every person needs to know their responsibilities. Thus, staff training is critical.

Employees should be able to access the emergency response plans. There are several factors to be considered when creating a plan. The facility layout, the number of employees and vendors, hazards like equipment and chemicals around the facility, and the type of people using the facility.

An employer must designate and train staff to assist in the safe and orderly evacuation of employees. An ERP must include escape procedures and routes for employees and patrons, and methods to account for employees. Employees may be assigned to assist with medical, rescue, calling for help, accounting for employees or guests. The ERP also details employee procedures for critical operations like turning off chemical feeders or electrical equipment if appropriate.

The ERP is a resource. As a result, the ERP should include the contact information for each employee. The employer should review the plan with employees and when the employee's responsibilities or emergency plans substantially change. The employee is responsible to follow the plan.

When there is an emergency, emotions run high. The ERP helps keep staff clearheaded and focused. The key is to not delay care. The types of emergencies that can occur at an aquatic facility include distressed swimmers, active drowning victims, passive drowning victims, breathing and cardiac emergencies, head, neck and back injuries, fecal incidents, chemical exposure, lightning storms, fire, and violence. An ERP may include appropriate training and necessary certifications, such as lifeguard, first aid and CPR certifications for any employee attempting to rescue and administer assistance to a victim.

Communication is essential in emergencies. Staff can communicate using different methods such as hand signals, whistles, telephones and walkie-talkies (radio). Employees can call for help by dialing 911. The telephone or walkie-talkie links vital employees to organize a quick response. Mobile communications is important in a crisis.

During an emergency, media coverage may result. The emergency response plan should outline who is designated to speak with the media. It is helpful to provide guidance on what to say and not say.

Bringing It All Together

Conducting audits and developing emergency response plans is an important management function. Too often organizations play a game of chance, hoping that nothing bad will happen. When an employee or guest is injured, made ill or dies, tremendous pain and suffering results. In addition, financial and liability consequences can be devastating. Regular, scheduled facility audits and development of an emergency response plan will protect employers, employees, customers and stakeholders. Take the first step today to help your own organization to minimize risk due to an emergency and respond effectively when needed.


Alex Antoniou, Ph.D., is director of educational programs for the National Swimming Pool Foundation. (NSPF). Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., is the NSPF chief executive officer. Laurie Batter provides marketing and public relations services to various associations, educational institutions and professionals within the aquatic industry. For more information, visit