It’s vital that pool operators develop action plans to respond immediately if health officials announce an outbreak or increase in crypto cases. Here are some guidelines.
• Strive to exceed all guidelines for water quality and sanitization. If applicable, consider adding supplemental disinfection or other measures known to destroy crypto, such as regular hyperchlorination.
• Develop a fecal incident response plan and train your staff on the response procedures.
• Establish and enforce healthy swimming behavior rules. This includes firm diarrhea-exclusion policies for patrons as well as staff.
• Get to know local health officials and keep them apprised of any updated information. Also maintain contact information for other local aquatics operators.
• Educate your staff and establish a culture that allows lifeguards with diarrhea to feel comfortable coming forward. Also train all employees to enforce healthy swimming behaviors and prevention strategies.
• Push the healthy swimming message. Work with public relations experts, health officials and other local aquatics operators to develop and distribute information on crypto and safe swimming practices.
• Stay informed. Keep up to date on any outbreaks in your region and make sure your staff and supervisors also are aware.
• Develop a crisis communication strategy that includes protocols for informing media and patrons. Coordinate with supervisors, public relations staff and other stakeholders, and train your staff on plan execution.
• Stay in regular contact with health officials and other operators to collaborate on a response.
• Implement intensified crypto-response control measures. This should include an initial hyperchlorination as recommended by the CDC and possibly regular hyperchlorination (weekly). Health officials also may recommend additional actions, such as suspending programming.
• Implement your crisis management plan. Make sure all stakeholders — staff, supervisors and others — have all necessary information.
• Monitor progress. Make sure assigned tasks are completed, review media coverage and follow through on communication with patrons.
• Schedule debriefings with staff, supervisors and others. Assess how the crypto crisis was handled and determine whether any policy or procedural changes are required.
• Look for the lessons. Were there other outbreaks or strategies that you can learn from?
• Stay in communication with health officials and other affected operators. Share strategies and provide any follow-up data as requested.
• Work with PR personnel to develop and pitch follow-up news stories to the media, and prepare final updates for patrons.
Information provided by the CDC; Elise Knox, aquatic park manager, The Colony, Texas; Dave Strueber, assistant director, West Region Parks & Recreation Department, Dallas; and Ray Dunham, principal, Raymond K. Dunham and Associates.