Getting a commercial or municipal pool ready for the season is a lot more than just pouring some chlorine in the water and opening the gates. You must ensure that your pool is safe and pleasurable for patrons, and that all equipment is ready for use. You must hire enough qualified staff members to deal with the busiest of days. And you have to have programs that entice people in your service area to return to your pool again and again.
In consultation with experts around the country, Aquatics International has put together a road map to summer for aquatics facility operators. Here you’ll find what you need to know about preparing your pool and facilities, hiring staffers and providing programming for a successful season. Have a great season!
Preparing the Pool
1) Get your water going. If any pool is empty, take the opportunity to inspect it for cracks and rough surfaces before refilling. Be sure to check any fittings and pool lights. Fill it, then start the circulation system. “I like to let the water run for at least one turnover period before trying to get it in balance. That ensures that the circulation system is in good shape,” says Chris Secue, water quality manager at CES, based in Jupiter, Fla. During that turnover period, add chlorine.
2) In balance. After the water has circulated a while, take a sample at the controller to check levels of chlorine, alkalinity, calcium and cyanuric acid. Don’t start the chemical feed pumps quite yet, though. Make adjustments manually. This will also enable you to calibrate your controller. When your water’s in balance, turn on the feed pumps, making sure to reset any fail-safe or limit settings that might’ve tripped during your manual adjustments.
3) Check filters and heaters. For sand filters, inspect the sand, then backwash the filter. For DE filters, disassemble the filter, clean the grids, assemble the filter and add filter media. Have a qualified service technician inspect the heater and light the pilot if necessary.
4) Check drain covers. Make sure they’re properly secured. If the pool has a safety vacuum release system (SVRS), test it in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that it is working as it should.
5) Equipment check. Go through the equipment cards you have. (You do have them, right?) Make sure any recommended maintenance is taken care of BEFORE you open the pool.
Preparing the Facilities
1) Get your guard up. Be sure the lifeguard stand is sturdy and ready for use. See to it that rescue tubes are available.
2) Safety first. Inventory your safety equipment and ensure that it’s in good shape. Will the rope in your lifeline last the season? Another thing to check is your first-aid kit; be sure that it’s well stocked.
3) Check the lifts. As of this year, nearly every commercial and municipal pool is required to comply with ADA requirements. In most cases, that means there’s a pool lift on your deck. Make sure it’s in good repair — that the battery holds a charge, any gears are lubricated, and the seat and arms are in good shape.
4) Good chemistry. Check your chemical stock. If any chemicals are left over from last season, they must still be effective. If you have contracts with chemical companies, now is the time to be sure you’ll have the right chemicals delivered to you at the right time. This is also when you should take a look in your chemical storage room. It should be clean and any unusable chemicals disposed of properly in accordance with local regulations. Also, check the reagents in your test kit — they do deteriorate over time. If you have an electronic tester, see that it’s working properly. Ensure that your material data sheets are accessible and that you have a written plan of action for chemical spills. Make sure your eye-wash station is functioning properly.
5) Read the signs. Ensure that all your signage is appropriate and legible.
6) Move the furniture. Inspect chairs and tables to be sure they’re in good repair. Fix any cracked or brittle webbing.
Preparing the Crew
1) Source your crowd. Call last season’s employees to see if they’re interested in returning. If your local high school or college is having a job fair, you should be staffing a table there. “About 95 percent of our lifeguards are University of Florida students,” says Jeff Moffitt, aquatic director for the city of Gainesville, Fla., where the university is situated. Advertise for recruits on Craigslist and elsewhere. If any swim teams train at your facility, those are natural places to mine recruits.
2) Train up. Schedule training for new and returning staff members. Check to see if their certifications are current.
3) Stress skin cancer prevention. Your staff will thank you in 20 years or so.
4) Plan in-service training early. Make sure all your staffers know that they must attend in-service training. Set the dates in advance, if possible, so vacations and days off can be planned around them.
PreparingMarketing and Programming
1) Develop a plan. The public needs to be aware of your facility. Go to county or regional fairs; increase your presence in social media; and participate in services such as Groupon. If your budget will allow it, investigate advertising on cable TV. “Any chance we have to put our name out there in a positive light, we do it,” says Peter Beireis, aquatic director for the city of Newark, Calif.
2) Spin a web. Your website should be current. List facility hours, address and directions, and contact information. Put a calendar of events on the webpage and make sure it’s kept current.
3) Take a leap. Try some new things. In addition to swim lessons and open swimming, some facilities are having family days and movie nights. Theme days and even weeks can be popular with patrons. Encourage your staff to participate in the themes as much as possible, even dressing for the occasion. This can be one way to prevent staff burnout. Work with other city departments. The pools in Gainesville, Fla., have pool parties open to area children, sponsored by the local police department. Police officers feed guests and participate in swimming relays with kids.
4) Start planning as early as possible. At the end of each busy season, meet with your staff and discuss what worked and what didn’t.