Assessing the physical facilities

Mick Nelson
Total Aquatic Programming
Colorado Springs, Colo.

This is the time to look at the pool surface — in other words, the interior of the pool. Regardless of what type pool you have, there will be occasional maintenance. It’s not necessarily yearly, but it is predictable.

If you have a tile pool, it should be regrouted, generally every four to six years, depending on the water chemistry. Check to see when it was done last. If it’s time to regrout, allow a month for the whole process. You have to drain the pool, and it has to dry. Then you regrout and that has to dry. Then you refill and reheat the water.

Also allow a month for plaster or even paint, both of which need time to cure to ensure the proper life. Some people don’t allow this time for painted pools to cure. They may be in a rush, and they figure the paint dries in four to seven days. But you need 14 to 21 days for the paint to cure and completely bind to the surface. With proper curing, the coat can last four to five years; without it, you’ll probably have to repaint every year or two.

Walk through the facility. Check fiberglass-reinforced plastic components, such as grates, to see if they’ve cracked and need replacement. That’s where kids can cut their feet. Check the decks and floors for slippery spots and cracks. Get those repaired, because slip-and-falls are the most common accidents to happen around pools, and especially in shower rooms.

Take a walk-through of the entire filter room, not only examining the equipment, but also finding out the last time key maintenance tasks were performed. For instance, the sand in filters needs replacement every four to five years. In a high-rate sand filter, the sand blasts the rough edges off itself, so it stops filtering. Every piece of equipment has a maintenance need, and they’re predictable, as long as the operator knows when it was done last.

Check things such as fire alarms, fire extinguishers and AEDs. Is everything charged? Do they have the proper batteries? I can’t tell you how many AEDs I see that are hanging on walls with parts missing, so they’re basically worthless.

Perform these walk-throughs at least six weeks before you’ll need to make the repairs or improvements, to allow enough time to order and receive the equipment and materials. With the current supply-chain shortages, orders can take five times longer than normal.

For indoor pools, have a trained professional conduct a complete inspection of the HVAC system. This could be a person on-site who’s been instructed on what to look for on heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units. You also could contract an engineer or a technical-services professional from the manufacturer. They’ll check on belts, compressors, fittings, filters, pumps and motors and the other components.

The importance of the debrief

Kevin Post
Principal/Studio Director
St. Louis

Immediately after summer is over, the first thing facility managers need to do is evaluate your summer operations. We’ve also heard people call it a debrief. In the middle of summer, it is so hard to think about making changes and improvements, because you’re in a day-to-day reaction mode. So after summer, take a step back to assess what worked and what didn’t.

I learned some of this from a business coach who came from a military background. He said at the end of every mission, they always did a debrief. It was not just to talk about what went wrong, but also if a mission went perfectly, why did it go right? How do you repeat those successes and avoid repeating the failures?

Evaluate personnel. Maybe certain personnel issues kept occurring. Try to group those concerns by categories, then look at how different training, programs or support could help.

Also look at your budgets. Did any areas go over budget. Did you spend too much on personnel or unforeseen repairs? Did those result from situations out of the ordinary, or were there mistakes in the budgeting?

When you can, create charts and graphs to make it easier to identify how the facility did and pinpoint issues. For instance, look at safety. We recommend charting rescue locations. It could be as simple as placing a dot on a map for each location. If all the dots are concentrated in one area or a couple areas, then you can easily see that perhaps you need another lifeguard, or to implement a new rule to ensure effective coverage. But it’s more easy to identify, as opposed to rescue sheets coming in one each day or week.

You could do the same for attendance. A year-over-year snapshot of attendance is great. But also compare month to month, and even hours of the day. So when you say, “We have 100,000 visits a year,” go deeper. Within those 100,000 visits, do half come at the beginning and half at the end of the day or the season? When you graph and chart things, trends and issues start to expose themselves.

Analyze hiring and training to see what you will repeat and what you won’t.

When doing this, don’t get caught up in what you’ve always done, what you already know, or your comfort zone. People can get stuck analyzing the same things over and over again. The debrief is an opportunity to go beyond that. To do this, consider incorporating more people. Don’t do the debrief by yourself. Bring your managers in and see what they have to say — benefit from their vantage point.

Looking at next year’s staff

Kelly Martinez
Aquatic Coordinator
City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation

During this time, we’re planning our staff for next summer.

We start by looking at our existing employees. We do our final performance evaluations for the aquatics team. This is when we start the retention efforts. We find out how many plan to come back next year. We ask which lifeguards would like a promotion to swim-lesson instructor, then note when they are they available to take the certification class. We find out who wants to move to a pool closer to home, to help place them for next year. We’re able to accommodate about 90% of those requests, which helps with retention.

With the information about returning staff, in November, we can start teaching new certification classes, since we already know what holes we need to fill with new hires.

We start reaching out to local high schools and colleges to discuss incentive programs to recruit new staff. The city also considers offering bonuses and other incentives.

Retention is a huge key to staffing our pools well, so we want to keep our returners. We stay engaged with them, even in the off season. We let them know what’s going on, when we’ve opened up applications, and ask them to refer friends. We invite them to participate in our photo shoots or events. We even let them know about other seasonal positions through the city, where they can potentially work between summers.

We do a lot to maintain communication during this time. I think that, early on, we used to overlook this step, but now we reach out every week or two.