Feature Article - May 2008
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All in the Family

Ensuring Locker Rooms & Restrooms Are Fit for Everyone

By Stacy St. Clair


Locker rooms have become a popular place for thieves to strike, especially because patrons are usually yards away from their valuables at any given moment. While most facilities have signs abdicating any responsibility for lost or stolen articles, locker room thefts can damage users' confidence in the club and their attendance. It behooves all recreation managers to make the area as secure as possible—especially in companion locker rooms, where patrons' guards may be down because of the presence of so many young children. Again, IHRSA comes through with ways to improve security:

  • Front-desk staff should make eye contact with all entering and exiting patrons. The possibility of being identified is a powerful deterrent to would-be thieves.
  • Require that every guest complete a registration card. Once the card has been filled out, request (and photocopy) a photo ID, and check that the information on the documents matches. Document the time of the visit in case a theft occurs.
  • Have staff conduct frequent, random sweeps of locker rooms.
  • Remind patrons to lock their lockers and that valuable items shouldn't be brought into the club. Pay extra for heavy-duty locks, and discourage members from using combination locks, which are easier to pick than key-type locks. If you provide keys for lockers, put the keys on a wristband.
  • Ask patrons to report suspicious individuals to management. They may spot behavior that thieves wouldn't dare try in front of uniformed staff.
  • Membership tracking software can help identify thieves. When a theft occurs, study the roster and try to identify the possible perpetrators. Also, track when crimes occur and heighten locker room security during those times.
  • When designing or renovating locker rooms, install lockers at a 45-degree angle to the walls. This not only creates a spacious feel, it also eliminates thief-friendly hiding spots that perpendicular locker rows create.
  • Though it is illegal in many states to videotape inside locker rooms, some gym operators place cameras at locker room entrances and exits. The Cleveland County YMCA, for example, installed surveillance cameras in the main area of the family locker room to cut down on theft.

Sound the Alarm

In family-based facilities, it's also important to provide customers with a way to get help in an emergency. If a patron's child or disabled family member becomes ill or over-heated in the humid atmosphere of the locker room, there often isn't a way to contact anyone—and chances are they don't want to leave their loved one alone to run out and find help.

This potential problem can be easily solved with emergency alarms. These systems are like fire alarms, but they have long cords reaching to the ground in case the person has fallen and cannot get up. Another useful safety feature is a phone—either for general dialing or that connects directly to the front desk and emergency assistance. If you have the staff for it, experts recommend circulating an employee periodically through the locker rooms and restrooms. This enhances security, safety, customer service and sanitation, as this staffer can make sure to check that everything is as it should be.

"Through design," Bouck said, "you can take care of a lot of issues."

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