Supplement Feature - May 2020
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Aquatic Pros Talk Safety

Facility Audits, Staff Training, Swim Lessons & More

By Dave Ramont


Bella's company developed a device and testing procedure that's an alternative to traditional mannequins, which they believe enhances the optimization of surveillance zones, scanning techniques and lifeguard placement. "When added to regularly-practiced rescue scenarios, (our) devices make it simple for in-house and/or outside firms to provide thorough lifeguard training."

One trend making the NDPA happy is aquatic facilities installing AEDs (automated external defibrillators), said Sutton. "Most of these facilities have made this decision on their own accord, but there are some municipal codes and state laws requiring having an AED at an aquatic facility. This is a minority, but we hope to see it become the majority."

She's also excited about other emerging drowning prevention technologies. "We're often asked if we'll ever see 'zero' for drowning numbers. Our response is 'Not if we rely on humanity alone, or technology alone. It must be a combination of the two to be successful.'"

"Some products and services incorporate the use of cameras both above and below the surface of the water, whereas others utilize wearable devices that operate on radio frequencies," noted DeRosa. "Like any profession, lifeguarding today means incorporating technologies into daily operations wherever possible. Particularly with new swimming pool construction, I anticipate more facilities will explore drowning detection technologies in an effort to enhance detection and rapid lifeguard response. Similarly, chemical controllers with internet connectivity and safety interlocks, which weren't standard in pool construction years ago, are quickly becoming standard."

DeRosa offers a Pool Operator Training Certification program, and said that in order to operate a clean and healthy aquatic facility, venue operators should be well-trained in sanitation, filtration and chemical adjustments. But he points out that not every state requires operators to be certified. "The standard of care in the industry is that the person responsible for maintaining water quality be certified to do so rather than just 'knowledgeable' in pool operations." He suggests checking the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) requirements for pool operators, and said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a list of pool operator programs.

Learn-to-swim programs are another integral piece of the safety puzzle, and can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% for 1- to 4-year-olds who take formal lessons, according to the CDC. Drowning is the No. 1 cause of accidental death for that same age group. Most facilities offer learn-to-swim programs, and many offer grants for those who can't afford them, or work with local grassroots groups.

Back in Illinois, Edwards said that in addition to their own financial aid program, they also work with multiple foundations to offer financial assistance for swim lessons. "We've seen an increase in overall swim lesson registration and free swim lessons offered because of these amazing partnerships."

However, the NDPA points out that children shouldn't be considered "drown-proof" because they've had swim lessons. "We see many of our swim school and swim provider members incorporate water safety messaging and education into their weekly lessons," said Sutton. "We applaud their effort in this as we know that swim lessons alone—although a key component to being safer in and near water—are not sufficient."

Edwards said they also offer adult swim lessons, something that pleases Sutton. "We're starting to see more private swim schools and municipal programs offer adult swim lessons, which is wonderful and certainly addressing a need. We know from research done by the USA Swimming Foundation that a child of a non-swimming parent only has a 13% chance of learning to swim. That is a staggering and dangerous statistic."

More facilities—including Swanson Pool—are offering U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for patrons to use. "Whereas once reliance on lifejackets was thought to discourage children from enrolling in swimming lessons, we now understand that much like seatbelts in a car, when properly sized and fitted, lifejackets save lives," said DeRosa. He added that research suggests enrollment in lessons seems to have increased at facilities requiring non-swimmers to wear lifejackets. "Learning to swim is seen as an incentive to then be able to take off the lifejacket."

There are many people and organizations working on the front lines to improve aquatic safety, including facility operators, consulting and training agencies, learn-to-swim groups, first responders, researchers and manufacturers, corporate America, the boating community, the pool service industry and many local coalitions and grassroots groups. Sutton said the NDPA serves as a connector for these groups to find and share data, trends and other information. "Our mission is 'United, we can prevent the tragedy of drowning.' We know that 'Drowning is preventable.'" RM