Feature Article - August 2008
Find a printable version here

Safety First

Proactive Approaches Prevent Problems

By Dana Carman

Similarly, protect for the activity, Lucenko said. For example, have the right flooring or mats in place. Keep the floors in good shape on courts.

"Each facility, each activity will dictate the safety measures you need to take," Lucenko said. "The maintenance and inspection is very, very important."

That means it's better to find out that something isn't working, something is wet or something is out of place through your own routine inspections than because a patron has been injured due to the club's negligence.

You're only as good, though, as your staff, which is why The Atlantic Club in Manasquan, N.J., puts its staff through rigorous training during new-hire orientation. The club comprises 44 acres with 6,200 full-paying members, which doesn't include their children. When you add those 1,000 kids and a staff that ranges from 450 in the off-season to 700 people during the summer, you have a lot of people and a lot of responsibility. Senior Director Ellen Veprek said that the training is imperative and puts every single staff member through it—right at the beginning. That training includes certification in CPR, first aid, blood-borne pathogens, AED and oxygen use.

In recent years, the automated external defibrillator or AED has become a hot topic as several states are requiring them in schools, health clubs and other public buildings. New Jersey is one such state, requiring health clubs to have at least one AED.

That's fine by Veprek who has first-hand experience of just how life-saving these devices can be. In one instance, a gentleman collapsed while playing tennis, having suffered a massive heart attack. An AED was used during the resuscitation, and today he's still playing tennis.

However, simply having the device on site is of little use. The Atlantic Club staff is well trained in AED use as well as emergency procedures, such as where the AEDs are located along with the other emergency equipment.

James Kozlowski, counsel to the public policy division of the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), recalled a case in which a facility had an AED, but no one knew where it was and the person in need died.

Beyond having the tools, Veprek stressed that safety is a commitment that must be undertaken by all those involved in the club, from the owner down to the last staff member. At The Atlantic Club, the maintenance staff is also certified in the above measures and the staff runs through "virtual codes" or drills to reinforce education, such as fire drills, pool rescues or directing of emergency personnel. "It works like a ballet," Veprek said of the staff's response to an emergency. Each role is crucial in a situation where a few seconds makes all the difference.

Because the club is so large and comprises so many elements, there's a nurse and EMTs on the property. Veprek said the club also offers its first responders discount memberships so they familiarize themselves with the property, as well as having mangers conduct daily walk-through inspections of each area of the property to avoid things like slippery floors, loose pool ladders, cluttered walkways, broken lights and anything else that could cause a potential problem. "You have to put a lot of money toward safety," she said. "But what a beautiful outcome. When we operate anything, it's safety first, fun next."