If a crypto outbreak or a significant increase in cases is reported in your area, expect to field a barrage of inquiries from patrons, whether crypto has been linked to your pool or not. Here are several strategies for effective communication with the public regarding a crypto event.
• Establish healthy swimming policies. Provide signage and other materials, such as brochures and e-mail messages, to educate patrons and explain appropriate behavior.
• Educate your staff and train them to enforce healthy swimming practices and policies.
• Directly communicate healthy swimming behaviors to group users — such as swim teams, day care centers, camps or after-school programs — and assist program leaders in informing participants and parents by providing materials explaining appropriate behavior.
• Work with those who handle public relations and communications to include healthy swimming guidelines in any general information Web sites, brochures and other communications.
• Assist the public relations staff in developing a crisis communications message strategy aimed at patrons.
• Notify your staff and schedule a meeting to review information on crypto and coordinate the response effort, such as designating someone to hang up signage.
• Work with public relations and communications personnel to alert members, program participants and all other patrons. Use all available channels: Send an e-blast, update any general information Web sites with the outbreak announcement, post signage, and create outbreak announcement handouts for patrons.
• Personally share updated information on the crypto incident with patrons and managers of group-user programs. Explain what you’re doing to make sure your facility is safe and remind them that they can help by practicing healthy swimming behaviors.
• Empower your employees. Lifeguards and other aquatics staffers often have the most direct contact with the public, so provide your team with “scripted” responses relative to the specific crypto event. The staff should be trained to empathize with patrons’ frustration and explain that all reasonable measures are being taken to protect public health. They also must be able to confidently convey that pool operators are actively concerned about the threat of crypto and that as employees, they feel safe swimming in this pool. Finally, enable your team to direct patrons to a higher authority or other sources of information if they find it necessary.
• Help those handling public relations and communications to update patrons. Use all available message channels.
• Maintain a visible presence. Talk with parents and program participants, and actively walk the pool deck during public swim hours.
• Work with supervisors to develop and implement a strategy for handling any repercussions, such as requests for refunds, and inform your staff of all new policies or procedural changes.
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.