Supplement Feature - February 2011
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The Right Safeguards

Protecting Pool Patrons, Reducing Risk

By Wynn St. Clair

Aquatic centers are meant to be joyful recreation spaces. The waterslides, the lazy rivers and, yes, even the tween-commanded water cannons carry a promise of infinite fun to patrons.

Creating such an inviting atmosphere, however, is serious business because no swimming facility—regardless of its thrilling diversions and features—can survive without a meaningful safety plan. In addition to protecting lives, a safety-minded approach minimizes liability risks, reduces operation disruptions and encourages patronage.

Of course, it's impossible to inoculate a facility from every possible tragedy or minor mishap. But, with the proper programs, personnel, policies and procedures, aquatic managers can take tremendous strides toward making their waterpark or pool the healthiest, happiest and most hospitable facility possible.

The key, experts say, is to address these safety issues while keeping the spotlight on aquatic recreation. Swimming, water fitness classes and other aquatic sports can play an important role in combating diabetes, heart disease and obesity-related illnesses. In fact, swimmers have about half the risk of death compared with inactive people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To lose that focus would be as detrimental to the public as ignoring the risk management issues.

"You never want to make people afraid to swim," said aquatic expert Shawn Morris, who works with facilities across North America. "You want to address safety issues without making people terrified to go in the water."