A few summers ago, I arrived at the waterpark early to conduct our morning inspections. Before turning anything on, I performed a visual inspection (per our standard operating procedures). This included a dry walk of all slides as well as an examination of all pools. I felt I had covered nearly every inch of the park.
Unfortunately, I was wrong.
Though I walked the slide section, I did not actually visually
inspect the bowl portion before turning it on. That proved to be a
As soon as I turned the slides on, the water in the bowl ride
started bubbling up. At first, I couldn’t figure out what was
happening, but soon I saw the cause: a box of powdered soap
floating in the catch pool. Apparently, it had been thrown into the
bowl overnight, perhaps even from outside. The soap had been
injected through the ride’s entire circulation system. Before
long, the bubbles had risen high enough to reach up 4 feet from the
waterline of the catch pool and into the bowl.
Initially, I thought the prank was pretty funny. I even brought a
couple of the lifeguards over to have a laugh and take a picture.
However, I wasn’t laughing for long. I had never dealt with
this problem before, and had absolutely no idea how to fix
I soon realized that the only solution was to drain the catch pool.
But only one-third to one-half of the pool can be backwashed, and
we didn’t have a pump to help remove the water. The general
manager also thought I might learn my lesson a little better if
some manual labor was involved in the cleaning.
So I had to start pulling the water out myself, using buckets. Keep
in mind, this pool held 14,000 gallons of water total, so when I
started using the “bucket method,” I was facing 7,000
to 10,000 gallons. Eventually, six or seven of us were on the
Of course, by this time, the park had already opened for the day
— without the bowl ride. Not only was it my job to lead the
soap problem fix, but I also had to explain to guests why their
favorite ride was unavailable. It took us most of the day to
finally get nearly all the water out of the catch pool.
As a result of overlooking one small area of the park, we went a
little over budget on operation for the day. We had to pay for approximately 14,000 gallons of
water to refill the pool, and a substantial amount of money went
toward wages for the employees who came in early or on their day
off to help. Not to mention the unhappy guests in the park.
1. Do thorough inspections. They aren’t just
something to be checked off. Inspections are your best defense
against patron inj-ury and other risk-management issues. Be sure
yours are done vigilantly and completely.
2. Know your rides. It’s not enough to
simply know where the on/off switch is. Staff members should be
familiar with the inner workings of water rides as well and what is
required if, say, the catch pool needs to be backwashed. Remember,
in an emergency there may not be time to contact your maintenance
3. Be prepared. With so much equipment, moving
parts, and wear and tear, facilities are bound to encounter
maintenance issues. The best defense is a good offense, so think
proactively, and have the necessary tools and equipment on hand (a
sump pump, for instance) to handle emergencies.