I work at a year-round Vermont resort boasting eight pools and four water slides in summer, and one indoor pool in winter. When I say "indoor pool," picture this: an outdoor pool with two hot tubs that’s enclosed, from fall to spring, by a giant marshmallow-like bubble. Essentially, air heaters in the bubble supply pressure that keeps it aloft. There’s an auxiliary blower to use when work is being done on the heaters, but it’s not designed to keep the bubble up in strong wind gusts.

On a 0 degree day in December, I received a call from one of the supervisors at 11:30 a.m. The heaters were blowing cold air, and the temperature in the bubble was 60 degrees. The pool was 87 degrees. I know from experience that steam starts to overtake the bubble when the air temperature is 55 degrees. Once it drops as low as 50, the pool needs to be closed because the bottom is no longer visible. I knew we needed to get this fixed or close the pool early, which is not good during a holiday. Neither my boss nor I went to investigate the issue ourselves. Oops No. 1.

I called out the resort’s heater technician, who told the supervisor that the problem was a loose belt and he needed to shut the heaters down to replace it. The wind was gusting and he didn’t feel comfortable using the auxiliary blower. He said that he couldn’t fix the heaters until the next day. Neither I, nor my boss, ever spoke personally with the tech. Oops No. 2.

I gave my manager the bad news and we decided to close the pool early rather than waiting to see what would happen with the temperature. We thought it better to warn our Guest Service Desk rather than letting the lifeguards make the decision on the fly. We didn’t consult any of the resort’s upper management. Oops No. 3.

My boss and I thought everything was OK, so she went home. I began to receive calls from the lifeguards. It seems the Guest Services Desk had called twice with questions, and the chief planning and development officer (CPDO) also had called. I finally went to the pool to investigate and reassure the lifeguards.

I found air temperature that was at 62 degrees and rising; steam was not an issue. Who should walk in the door right after me? The CPDO, of course. He called the heater tech (who had gone home for the day) and asked him to come back. It turns out that in addition to the loose belt, there was an area where the heated air was leaking out of the unit. The tech was able to plug this leak, allowing us to stay open for the night.

The Lessons

1. Investigate the situation yourself. Don’t rely on information passed on to you. Speak with all the players yourself.

2. Follow up. If I had spoken with the tech before he left, he might have taken a second look and fixed the problem before the CPDO had to get involved.

3. Communicate with management. Tell upper management what’s going on. Often, they can motivate an employee to explore more avenues before giving up. They also need to be the ones making the final decision on closing attractions that can affect hundreds of people.