Whether you're managing a waterpark, natatorium or any aquatics facility, as an operator, the one unremitting definitive purpose is that every swimmer who walks in, walks out. With drowning as a leading cause of accidental death for children instigates the implementation of preventive policies and, eventually, laws. Unfortunately, having an elite lifeguard staff isn’t always enough. Consequently, our team created a Child Safety Policy.
In Houston, during the summer of 2009, a 3-year-old drowned at a nine-guard facility with parents in attendance. In 2013, a 5-year-old drowned at a five-guard facility, and again, the mother was present.
As operators, we are the experts. We should never allow non-swimmers in and around pools without the use of personal floatation devices.
Our Child Safety Policy is as follows:
Children 48 inches and under are issued a red wristband along with his or her guardian. Red wristbands are indicators to the lifeguards that the child is a non-swimmer and that the guardian is responsible for a non-swimmer. The non-swimming child also is issued a Coast Guard-approved life jacket that must be worn at all times.
Should the guardian elect to remove or not utilize the life jacket, the child must remain within arm’s reach at all times. The guardian will be asked to sign a release and liability waiver explaining the child safety policy and the risks associated with the removal of the personal flotation device.
Children who pass a swim test are issued a green wristband. The child’s name is documented in the facility Child Safety Log signifying that the child is not required to wear a life jacket or be within arm’s reach. Any child listed on the Child Safety Log can be asked to perform a swim test during any visit should a lifeguard deem it necessary.
The CSP was developed to protect the highest risk demographic — young children who cannot swim. We implement the policy at all of our commercial locations, and we have configured it as a contract requirement.
In 1978, an individual could drive down the freeway with no seat belt, an open container of alcohol, and their 4-year-old child riding shotgun. Lawmakers have since studied statistics to recognize these actions as dangerous behavior. Therefore, laws were developed prohibiting drinking and driving, requiring the use of a seat belt for all passengers, and obligating a 4-year-old to be placed in a child safety seat located in the back seat of a vehicle. The experts established regulations to protect society and provide comprehension of the do’s and don’ts when driving a car.
The state of Texas requires children under the age of 13 to wear a life jacket when on a boat. Seems logical — if the child falls into the water, he or she will be saved by a life jacket. Why would we not want to create the same safety benefits at a swimming pool? There seems to be a false sense of security that is generated because the water is clear and objects can be seen at the bottom. It must be safe, isn’t it? Don’t be foolish, a pool is just as dangerous as the largest ocean and has the ability to steal a life in seconds.
It is our duty as aquatics professionals to provide procedures that prevent drowning. We are not here to parent but to protect. Children can be elusive and slip away while having a 15-second conversation with a friend at the pool. This doesn’t constitute poor parenting; it only means that we are all susceptible to a kid being a kid. The greater the number of facilities utilizing CSP, the lower the drowning statistic becomes, and ultimately the more lives we save together.
As industry leaders, we cannot wait for federal, state or city laws to make serious changes to the way we operate our facilities. We challenge all aquatics professionals to answer the call to action. Join us in creating a new standard for aquatics management.