Feature Article - February 2007
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Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Aquatic Centers

By Jessic Royer Ocken



World Aquatic Health Conference

This year's World Aquatic Health Conference will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct. 2 through 4.

Find more information at www.nspf.org.

All are welcome to attend, but if that seems like a long time away, seminars from last year's conference are available for viewing online through March 31, 2007. There's a fee for the access codes, but you can pack as many people in for a viewing as you'd like.

Visit www.eproacademy.org to get started viewing seminars on topics from recreational water illness prevention to the health benefits of water to safety and lifeguarding.


TEAM TRAINING

"It's similar to raising children," said Knapp, manager and safety coordinator for the Midlothian Park District pool, about training her staff. "You may have to bring things to their level if you want them to understand the rules. You can't just have them read something. You have to find a way to get it across to them."

When orientation begins, Knapp explains that they'll be having a party at the pool every day, which is their new house for the summer. "We have to clean house, we have to entertain the guests, and we have to make sure everyone is safe," she tells her new lifeguards. Then they go over rules and procedures, from skimming and vacuuming the pool to checking on the chlorine and acid levels to rotating lifeguard positions every 15 minutes to teaching swimming lessons.

And this isn't just a one-time seminar, either. Weekly training meetings and in-services keep skills sharp and allow employees to review procedures throughout the season. "If someone is lacking, we may have a mini in-service just for certain staffers to work on skills," Knapp added. "You show them subtly."

Knapp is also careful not to over-schedule her staff. They can't work every day for eight hours. "Your body won't let you," she tells them. But she keeps them plenty busy, as a staff of 21 guards—some of whom double as managers and half of whom double as swim instructors—keep the pool running smoothly.

And if you think Knapp is detail-oriented, check out the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), which is currently funding research to help eliminate the "data gaps" that exist where effective lifeguard training is concerned.

Specialists with the United States Lifesaving Association, the YMCA and the American Red Cross are collaborating to determine "what is and isn't science-based for lifeguarding," explained Lachocki of the NSPF. Stay tuned for their findings, which will be presented at next year's World Aquatic Health Conference.

"Especially for public pools, making sure operators are trained is almost too obvious to say. If people are running facilities with no background on what the risks are, the likelihood that they'll prevent risks is very low," Lachocki said. "We need to raise education standards so people are aware of the issues and can look at how to reduce risk." In addition, constant education is important because the new features found in aquatic complexes—slides, lazy rivers, spraygrounds—"bring new challenges from a lifeguarding standpoint," Lachocki noted. "It's harder to see patrons in the water of a wave pool. With a lazy river you have lots of patrons in tubes in a large area, and you need to add lifeguards accordingly."

If you feel a bit overwhelmed about providing all this training yourself, don't worry. You have help. Visit the U.S. Water Fitness Association at www.uswfa.com or contact your local Red Cross chapter for more information on lifeguard training and certifications.

"The majority of aquatic facilities are now requiring that their aquatic fitness instructors have a national certification," reported Spannuth of the U.S. Water Fitness Association. "The problem is that land instructors in the past have taught water fitness, and that's like comparing grapes to watermelons. Our opinion is that anyone teaching in the water should have at least a basic national certification. There are contraindicated exercises [in the water], and you want those in the class to get as much out of it as possible."