Category Archives: Operations

What is your policy for staff in chemical rooms?

Keeping your pool properly balanced and within federal, state and city codes is an enormous and important task. It’s normally too time consuming to be given to just one person.  If you’re the only one checking chemicals and maintaining pool balance, you likely won’t have time for anything else.  This job needs to be safely and effectively delegated.

Heritage Pk_Aqua Ctr_089_eDepending on your facility, this job is usually delegated to Pool Managers, Head Lifeguards, or Lifeguards. However, Lifeguards and Head Lifeguards aren’t born with the knowledge of what to do around a chemical room, and often the kinds of chemicals they will have to work with go well beyond a normal high school chemistry classroom.  A well-written training manual and chemical room policy can be your best resource for keeping your staff and patrons safe.

Your training manual should cover some of the very basics of what your staff should know. Here are some things to include:

  • List of chemicals they will encounter on the job
  • What each chemical is used for and about how much is usually kept on site
  • Specific safety concerns for each chemical
  • Necessary safety equipment
  • Where to find Safety Data Sheets (formerly MSDS)
  • Where to find emergency information
  • Where to find the chemical handling policy manual

Staff should be trained before ever handling any chemicals.  They should be trained on what chemicals are used at the facility, what the chemicals are used for, how to properly handle them and add them to the pool.  Staff should also know how chemicals need to be stored, and where they can be stored.  For instance, chlorine cannot be stored on the same secondary containment device as muriatic acid.  If the two were to leak at the same time and mix, it would create a costly and dangerous situation.

Once a training manual has been, a chemical room policy reflecting that training should be written as well. Written policies should address chemical handling, safety concerns, disposal standards, and incident reporting procedures.  Staff should also have documented continuous training on those policies.

Items to include in the chemical room policy.

  • Where chemicals should be stored
  • Protocols on adding chemicals to the pools
  • Protocols on how manual chemical additions should be recorded
  • Where to find safety equipment
  • What safety equipment is required and recommended
  • Protocols for safe chemical handling
  • Protocols for emergencies
  • Location of SDS binder

Beyond safety policies, there are also ever-changing health codes (as with the Model Aquatic Health Code), and OSHA guidelines that can affect operations. Organizations should ensure they are complying with OSHA guidelines and have a written hazard communication policy.  This involves educating employees on the hazards they are likely to encounter on the job and precautionary measures they should take.  Most of what will already be found in your training manual and chemical room policy.  Often times an organization is not able to handle all of these aspects on their own.  Hiring a company to review OSHA standards and other applicable codes will help to provide a safe and efficient workplace.

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What is the best pool temperature to maintain in my pool?

One of the most common questions we receive from aquatic users and operators is, “What temperature should I keep my indoor pool?”  While that seems like such a simple question, it’s really quite complex depending on who the primary users and what types of programs you are offering at your aquatic facility.  This questions has really transformed indoor aquatics over the past 15 to 20 years as the industry has moved from a single body of water indoors, to multiple bodies of water depending on the needs of the aquatic user groups, competitive, recreational, instructional and wellness and therapy.

Competitive swimming prefers colder water that is typically below 82 degrees, while recreational, instructional and therapy users like it a little warmer, usually 86 or even a little warmer for true therapy purposes (closer to 92 degrees).  So, if you only have one body of water and are serving all of these various user groups the answer is to keep the water at 84 degress so everyone is equally unhappy!  In all seriousness, 84 degrees is the happy medium that is just a little warm for competitive users, and a little chilly for recreation and instructional users, but it’s not too extreme for either and both can function for the time they are in the water.  One piece of advice that I learned during my days as an aquatic operator, you can never please everyone and will always have complaints about water temperature.  This makes it even more important to ensure the water temperature at your facility is always consistent, no matter what that temperature is.  The second that 84 becomes 83 you’ll hear about it from the instructional and therapy users, and when 84 becomes 85 you’ll hear about it from the competitive swimmers.  Do your best to maintain consistency and to educate your users on why you keep the pools at a certain temperature. 



Zones and Coverage

Several of our clients ask us, “How many guards will my pool need?” The problem is … that’s not always an easy answer. There are several “rules of thumb” in the industry, but the truth is this number varies based on different situations. Several factors impact this requirement, including:

  • Size of pool
  • Number of people in the pool
  • Ability to have double coverage / overlap
  • Ability to comply with 10-20 rule
  • Blend between high stands, low stands, and roaming guards
  • Change in glare throughout the day
  • Types of programs / activities

As far as “rule of thumb”, I’ve found the using 1 guard per 1,500 sq. ft. for traditional pools and 1 guard for every 800 sq. ft. of free form pools is a good starting point. But before opening a pool, a detailed plan should be created that confirms the zones are appropriate. This would include verifying blind spots are covered and that guards can respond to emergencies in a reasonable amount of time.

The last piece of the puzzle is break / rotation guards. While everyone agrees that guards need to be rotated and given a break from scanning every so often, the amount of time and frequency of breaks varies greatly around the country.  Make sure you include enough guards on your schedule to account for rotations.  Depending on the weather and crowds, guards may need more breaks under certain conditions.

To summarize, operators can use rules of thumb and information from neighboring facilities to get an idea of the quantity of guards they will need, but to ensure a safe facility operators need to be ready to adjust on a daily basis.

Yesterday’s Numbers

When analyzing the efficiency of your aquatic operation’s business plan and financial sustainability, it’s extremely important to know where you’ve been in order to know where you are headed and how you can get there. There are several categories that can give you a good indication of your overall financial situation in terms of revenues and expenses, and analyzing evaluating these can help you determine in what areas you can increase revenues and decrease expenses, the key to financial viability and continued success. The following are the key areas you need data for in terms of both revenue and expenses:

  1. Total Attendance
  2. Total Revenue
    1. Admission Revenue
    2. Rental Revenue
    3. Food and Beverage Revenue
    4. Retail Revenue
  3. Daily Revenue Average
  4. Daily Attendance Average
  5. Total Expenses
    1. Total Salary Expenses
    2. Total Operational Expenses
  6. Expenses Per Operating Day
  7. Expense Per Guest
  8. Salary Expense Per Day
  9. Guests Needed to Cover Expenses

Aquatic facilities should track these numbers on an annual basis and keep a 3-5 year track record so it can be compared to the current financials of your operation. This will help you to see areas where your operation is thriving, as well as areas that provide opportunity for growth. For example, analyzing your personnel salaries on a year to year basis will help you to see where you currently stand on labor expenses compared to the previous years and will better enable you to identify if you are overstaffing your operation, or staying on par with your 3-year average. When starting to track these numbers on a year to year basis, it will be a great benefit to the efficiency of your operation and help you to better meet your financial sustainability goals.

Xciting Programs

Aquatic programs don’t have to be dull and boring. Check out the list we compiled of some “oldie, but goodie” programs, as well as some new exciting programs to keep your guests engaged and enjoying your facility all year long!

  • Lessons – Standardized swim lesson program for all ages
  • Swim Team – Year-round or summer league with opportunity for off-season workouts
  • Lifeguard – Lifeguard certification course
  • Junior Lifeguard – Lifeguard course for ages 12-15 to prepare them for lifeguard certification at age 16
  • Water Polo – Intro to water polo class to teach basics
  • SCUBA – Rent deep end to local scuba organization
  • Kayak – Provide intro to kayak lessons
  • Aerobics – Shallow/deep water fitness courses with specialty classes for seniors
  • Aqua Core & Cardio – Shallow and deep water, strength for abs, arms, legs and back
  • Aquatic Core Express – Abs workout in 20 minutes
  • Aquatic Fusion – Combining cardio, strength, abdominal & yoga training
  • Masters Swimming – US Masters Swimming Club
  • Triathlons – Triathlon events and training practices for triathletes
  • Dog Swim – End of summer day for owners and their dogs
  • Fun and Fit – Low impact cardio and toning
  • Flow and Flex –  Low impact aerobics with specific exercises to improve range of motion, increase flexibility, and endurance
  • Gut Buster – High intensity cardio and plyometric using resistance bands in
  • Cardio Challenge –  High resistance workout with low-moderate cardio, building strength, endurance & core.
  • Camps – Weeklong camps emphasizing water safety, water skills, outside games and arts and crafts
  • Egg Hunt – In-water Easter egg hunt the Saturday before Easter for ages 3-10
  • Super Family Sundays – Plan family friendly events on Sunday afternoons
  • VIP Night – Invite facility members for special nights where they get the pools all to themselves
  • Dive-In Movies – Buy a projector and screen and show a movie on the side of the pool while guests float in tubes and enjoy the show
  • Friday Night Lights – Facility open later than normal on Friday nights
  • Theme Night – Pick a theme (pirate, Spiderman, superheroes, etc.) and hand out goodies, discount admission, etc.
  • Christmas in July – Christmas themed party at your facility in the middle of summer
  • Tiny Tot Time – Open the park for early bird hours for kids and families with children 7-under
  • Luau – Plan a Hawaiian-themed Luau
  • Family Float – Allow your guests to bring in outside floatables for a fun day at the pool
  • Floating Recycled Boat Race – Encourage guests to make a boat our of recycled materials and see if it floats
  • Swim Smart Party – Emphasis on safe water practices during open swim, stations to emphasize key points
  • Shark Week – Shark-themed games and goodies and end the night with dive-in movie (Jaws, Finding Nemo, etc.)
  • Shrimpie Saturdays – Special early morning swim time for kids 7 and under
  • Anniversary Celebration/Birthday Bash – Annual day celebrating facility opening with original admission prices
  • Back to School Bash – Special event the week before school starts with school supply giveaways and reduced admission cost
  • Pirate Night – Pirate-themed swim night with giveaways, reduced admission, dive-in pirate movie
  • Aquathon – Triathlon without the bike! 800m swim followed by 5k run (Splash and Dash, Soak and Scamper)
  • Underwater Hockey – The game is played on the bottom of the pool where players use a short stick to push a puck around their opponents to score goals at either end of the pool
  • Not Your Mother’s Aqua Aerobics – Gentle, yet intense!