Supplement Feature - February 2017
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Improving Efficiency in Pool Operations

By Chris Gelbach

The Importance of Maintenance

Another potent contributor to a more efficient aquatic operation is staying on top of manufacturer-recommended maintenance schedules. "When you don't do your routine preventive maintenance, that's when things start to go wrong and cost more to fix, particularly if something breaks during your operational season," DeRosa said.

At Penn State, DeRosa has also found standard operating procedures to be helpful in boosting operational efficiency. This includes opening checklists, daily checklists and closing procedures in addition to things like regular cleaning schedules. Creating these processes has, in turn, created the opportunity for unexpected additional efficiencies. One example occurred when the aquatic staff undertook the manufacturer-recommended monthly scrub of the diving board.

"In doing that, we noticed that we also have to tighten down the bolts," DeRosa said. "So there's a lot of operational benefit by following standard practices, because you can identify things on the preventive side before it becomes a long-term replacement issue."

Efficiency Through Education

Paying to have your pool operators certified is one sure way to potentially increase operational efficiency at minimal expense—often $350 or less, depending on the program. It can make your facility better-prepared to address risk management and operational concerns that can contribute to overall operational efficiency.

"If you have someone who really understands how the pool runs and what they can do to be more efficient, you're going to realize long-term savings," said DeRosa. He teaches a program called Practical Pool Management Plus, but also views the NSPF's Certified Pool/Spa Operator (CPO) Certification, the Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO) Certification from the National Recreation and Park Association and the AquaTech certification from Starfish Aquatics Institute as viable alternatives.

"Those are probably the four primary swimming pool operator certification programs, and I would say that they're all excellent programs," DeRosa said. "I'll often tell operators to rotate between classes. That way they just get a different view from a different provider. They'll all cover the same material, but some might have a slightly different spin on it."

Because the information changes over time with new technology advances, it's also worth revisiting the educational opportunity. Dittmar, for instance, retakes the CPO course every few years. "I learn something every time I go to the class," she said.

While it's important to have a certified pool manager on the premises or immediately available, the training is affordable enough that it can also be helpful to get more staff certified. Penn State, for instance, currently employs two full-time pool operators.

"You want some depth so if someone is sick or on vacation, you have other people there who are knowledgeable," DeRosa said. For this reason, Penn State is now training six additional staff to be certified. "That way, anyone who has anything to do with chemical handling, chemical transport, or pool testing—they know what they're doing."

Bang for Your Buck

As recreation managers face budget difficulties, options such as certification and other efficiencies such as LED lighting can often be the easiest to implement given their low cost and quick potential payback. But big-ticket items that have tremendous long-term benefits remain a difficult sell.

"We get stuck in a position where we're unable to do some long-term financial planning," Dittmar said. "The money isn't always available. It sometimes can be difficult to convince your organization to spend the money to get some expensive item."

"To convince people to think long-term is a difficult task, because they want to see a quick payback," Dittmar added. "But quick paybacks are rare — and they're usually not part of a good long-term plan."