Feature Article - February 2006
Find a printable version here

Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Aquatic Centers

Just Add Water

By Kelli Anderson


Good staff also requires good evaluation with an auditing system. Lifeguards should be assessed regularly for qualities like good head motion, walking their routes and watching their water. Although Ellis & Associates audits three or four times per year, Stuart audits his lifeguards even more frequently, believing that more audits and four hours of service training every month will ensure even higher quality work.

"It all comes down to watching their water," Stuart says. "With lifeguarding there's never slack time. Anything can happen at any time, so we have to be ready all the time."

At Moose Mountain Falls, Kanelos makes sure they know what can happen by showing training videos and daily reviews of CPR. Like the Great Wolf Lodge, staff members are audited frequently with various incognito methods, including the use of video cameras.

To stay in top form, lifeguards should have ongoing evaluation and training. They also must keep on the move. The Five-Minute Scanning Strategy, which teaches that lifeguards should adjust their posture or change their scanning pattern every five minutes, helps them stay alert.


In instances where it is difficult to see underwater, such as in lazy rivers obscured by inner tubes or glare from glass structures, some facilities are finding the use of underwater surveillance cameras to be a helpful solution. Although these systems are not intended to replace lifeguards, they can be valuable tools in the prevention of drowning.

According to latest statistics, minorities and underprivileged children have a 40 percent higher rate of drowning, with Native Americans ranking the highest, closely followed by African-Americans. The most common denominator in the many factors contributing to this inequity is lack of funds to pay for swimming lessons.

Some facilities, such as the Jack Nelson Swim School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are taking on the challenge by offering scholarships to minority or underprivileged children to help put an end to this alarming trend. Education—swim instruction—is certainly the best prevention for these drowning tragedies.

In fact, drowning is at the top of the list when it comes to safety issues, followed closely by electrocution, recreational water illness (RWI), entrapment, diving injuries, and slips and falls, all of which demand careful planning and preventative measures.


In the case of electricity, extreme caution should be taken around the pool and wet areas. Even extension poles, when being used to help a swimmer or for maintenance use, can become deadly if they come into contact with any electrical equipment near the water.

For the safest bet, radios, fans, light fixtures, televisions or any electrically powered appliances, unless approved for poolside use, should be far removed from a pool area. Nearest electrical outlets should be at a recommended minimum of 10 feet from a pool and should be protected by ground fault circuit interrupters in the event that a cord is damaged.