Category Archives: Operations


Fort LuptonA regular program of preventive maintenance will curb depreciation and improve both the appearance and performance of the various components in every facility.

Preventive maintenance consists of three elements:

  1. Inspection of the items. This can help detect or give indications of substandard performance that can be corrected before costly repairs are needed.
  2. Scheduled maintenance and lubrication, as needed, can minimize wear, improve operation and reduce costs.
  3. Housekeeping or cleaning of the various components of each building including the equipment can help prevent the build-up of dirt, dust and grime. These impeded the operation of the various components including the mechanical elements.

The following is a list of typical pool items that should be checked on a regular basis.


Pool pumps and Circulation Motors

All motors and pumps will be check by the Maintenance Technician, the first week of every three months. The following should be checked:

  1. Amps on the Circulation Motors.
    1. Running amps
    2. Starting amps
  2. Grease the following fittings:
    1. Motor
    2. Pump
  3. Listen for any whining of motors or any metal rubbing together in pumps.
  4. Check all contacts on the following:
    1. Starter
    2. Disconnects
  5. Check all Vacuum and Pressure gauges for each motor.
  6. Check for any loose wiring or the arcing in wires.

Pool Chemical Pumps and Supply Lines

The chemical pumps will be check weekly to make sure there are no leaks in the feeding tube. The chemicals should be feeding through the clear tubing.

  1. Inspect the chemical supply lines to make sure chemicals are flowing through
  2. the clear tubing. (Watch as the air bubbles move along the tubing.)
  3. Inspect the chemical tubing in the chemical feeder and make sure that it is not leaking or moisture in the housing.   Make sure the brass ends are not broken off in the feeder tube in the pump. If need, put a new feeder tube in.
  4. Replace the feeder tube in all chemical pumps the first week of the June and December, or if needed before hand.
  5. If supply lines are hard and brittle, or full of chemical deposits, they should be replaced.

Chemical Controllers

The chemical controllers must be properly maintained in order for the controller to function properly. The following procedure should be followed one a week to clean the probes.

  1. Shut valves to flow cell.
  2. Remove probes.
  3. Clean probes with mild detergent.
  4. Rinse with clean water (not pool water).
  5. Rinse probes in an acid dilution (1 part acid to 10 parts water).
  6. Rinse with clean water (not pool water).
  7. Replace probes back in flow cell.
  8. Open flow cell valves.

Pool Boilers

The pool boilers should be checked to make sure they have power to them at all times. The pool boilers should have a constant supply of water running through them at all times. Please check the following:

  1. Make sure the power light is on. The switch should be on for the heater pump and the heater itself.
  2. Make sure water is flowing through the heater at all times. This means making sure all valves are open.
  3. Check water temperature through the day to make sure the heater is working.

Pool Filters

The filters should be checked regularly to ensure proper filtration of the pool water. The following should be checked:

  1. Check filters for air by opening the air relief valve
  2. Check influent and effluent pressure readings
  3. Backwash filters when pressure differential is between 10-15 psi.
  4. By following a preventative maintenance schedule, facilities will find repair items before they become inoperable and save money over the life of the facility.
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Teach your lifeguards where to look.

Lifeguards need to know their zone of protection for each stand they cover like the back of their hand. They need to know where their zone begins and ends; where any blind spots may be; how the glare on the surface changes from stand to stand depending on the time of day; and which parts of the zone pose the most risk to their guests. For example, at the wave pool that I managed in the100_7344 past, 90 percent of our rescues occur where the depth quickly goes from 3 feet to 5 feet. Once the waves come on, those who could stand in that area are caught off-guard and have little time to recover. It’s vitally important to teach lifeguards the location of these areas. I’ve also noticed the sun position changes drastically toward the end of July and beginning of August compared to its location on Memorial Day. Examine your zones again and adjust stands accordingly. Most importantly, inform your lifeguards of the changing position of the sun and how it affects their zone of coverage.

Teach your lifeguards how to look

Scanning a zone for 20-30 minutes without a break definitely has some drawbacks to it. Operators need to make certain their lifeguards are following some basic protocol in regards to scanning. Teach your lifeguards the importance of continuous head movement ensuring they are scanning 100 percent of their zone. Lifeguards need to realize that certain scanning patterns do not provide 100 percent coverage. Scanning techniques need to be practiced and reinforced weekly. Don’t forget to do some type of vigilance training, be it mannequin drops or another form of guest recognition awareness.

Most importantly, always teach lifeguards to scan from the bottom up since a guest already on the bottom needs immediate care.

Teach your lifeguards what to look for

It’s great if lifeguards know where and how to look, but operators need to teach them the signs of distress they need to recognize. Lifeguards should look for the distressed swimmer who has their head back in the water struggling to keep their mouth and nose out of the water. Some guests will look surprised and then full of fear. And, of course, lifeguards should always keep an eye out for motionless guests; they obviously need help right away. Lifeguards also should be taught to be proactive in the scanning. When they see a 3 year old slowly wandering away from a parent whose back is turned, they need to act. When an 8 year old starts closing in on deeper water, they need to act. And when they think they see a guest struggling, they need to act. Teach your lifeguards to jump in early and jump in often! As Jim Wheeler says, “If you think it’s a rescue, then it’s a rescue!”

Teach your lifeguards why it’s so important

After the where, how and what, operators should teach their lifeguards why they should be so vigilant in their scanning.

Lifeguards need to know that a drowning can happen at their facility. Statistics show that close to DSCN1474 (480x640)500 drownings occur every year in lifeguarded pools. Lifeguards need to know that anyone can go into distress at any time. At the wave pool I managed, we rescued guests whose ages ranged from 3 to 53. We had rescues when we had 20 guests in the pool and 2,000 guests in the pool. Rescues can and will happen at any time. Lifeguards should view themselves as protectors and take pride in the fact they prevent the loss of life every day. This gives them added incentive to perform well on the job and remain vigilant while on the stand.


*Originally published in July/August 2011 World Waterpark Magazine

Keeping Records

One of the most important, yet tedious, responsibilities of a pool operator or manager is maintaining proper records. Accurate records are essential to reducing costs, increasing safety, and reducing facility liability. It is imperative for pool operators and facility managers to know what records to keep and how long to keep them. Follow these guidelines as outlined in the National Swimming Pool Foundation’s Pool and Spa Operator Handbook:

What Records Should be Kept?

  • Supervisors’ Reports
  • Incident Reports
  • Staff Records
  • Maintenance Records
  • Training Reports
  • Water Chemistry Logs
  • User Load Logs
  • Daily/Weekly/Monthly Inspection Records


The following forms can help managers understand how the facility operates and where wasteful spending can be reduced: NSPF Pool & Spa Operator Handbook

  • Daily Opening & Closing Checklists
  • Daily Pool Chemical Log
  • Daily Locker Room Maintenance Checklist
  • Aquatic Incident Report
  • Seasonal Opening Checklist
  • Seasonal Closing Checklist
  • Preventative Maintenance Checklist
  • Pool/Spa Inspection Checklist


Daily Operations Records

The most necessary records to a facility are those kept daily. When recording information, remember to include the date and time that checks are completed. Most codes allow custom daily checklists, as long as they include the minimum requirements including:

  • Free Chlorine or Total Bromine
  • Combined Chlorine
  • Total Chlorine
  • pH
  • Safety Equipment is in place and functional
  • Suction Drain covers are in place and undamaged
  • Flow Meter Reading
  • Filter Pressure Differential or Pump Vacuum
  • Number of Users (daily)
  • Water Temperature
  • Air Temperature
  • Water Clarity
  • Filter Backwashing
  • Chemicals Added
  • Injury Reports
  • Skimmer and hair/lint baskets cleaned
  • Deck waste containers emptied

* Local codes and regulations will determine exactly what the daily operations report should include.


Opening and Closing Checklist

Before the facility opens, any unsafe conditions or damaged equipment should be corrected. If it cannot be fixed or made safe by opening time, guests should not be allowed access to the affected area. Signs, ropes or barriers may be necessary to prevent the use of damaged equipment or unsafe areas. When closing the facility, it’s important to ensure all equipment is in place, that no patrons remain and the facility is secured.

Other Important Records Include:

  • Routine Maintenance Records:
  • Manufacturer’s Equipment Manuals
  • Preventative Maintenance Schedules
  • Training Schedules
  • Hazard Communication Reports
  • Proficiency Reports
  • Emergency Response Plans

Job Placement/Recruiting

Do you find yourself understaffed and experiencing high turnover every summer?  Do you hire then fire consistently?  Evaluating your hiring practices can assist in reducing the amount of time, and ultimately, the impact of human resources on your bottom line.

Lifeguard Shortage?

There is a misconception in the industry that there are not enough qualified lifeguards to work in our facilities.  Are you simply posting your job openings on the internet and hoping for the best?  100_7344For the current generation of lifeguards and aquatic facility staff, applying for a summer job does not occur to them until they are in finals week, which is far too late to get them hired and trained in time for your Memorial weekend opening.  Develop a relationship with your local high schools and community colleges. Schedule times to set up a table during the lunch hour where you can distribute information on how to apply, get certified, or attend your hiring events.  Bringing the information to the potential applicants can make the difference between picking from the best and hoping for the best.

Evaluate Your Application Process

Is your application online? If not, it should be.  This generation of seasonal staff are constantly connected, and asking them to print out and submit a paper application can drive them to apply at another business with a more millennial-friendly application process.  If possible, make the application as short as possible and refrain from asking applicants to submit a resume, as this can alienate applicants whDSCN1474 (480x640)o have no work history.

Skills Testing

Once you have a list of interested applicants, schedule a physical skills test to determine whether they are physically fit and skilled enough to work as a lifeguard.  This portion of the process should be pass or fail.  Many applicants are unwilling to enroll in the certification class until they have a better understanding of whether or not they will have the endurance and skills to pass.  The physical skills test should reflect, at a minimum, the pre-requisite requirements of your lifeguard certification agency.


There are several different interview formats that have proven successful at aquatic facilities.  One on one or panel interviews give the opportunity to showcase a single employee, however, they are very time consuming, especially when hiring 30+ employees each season. Group interviews, where 3-6 applicants sit with the panelists in a circle and ask several different questions are a great way to evaluate their social skills and initiative.  Be careful when conducting group interviews that the more introverted applicants are not overpowered by the livelier applicants and are given the opportunity to answer questions as well.  In addition, it is more difficult to be objective in scoring applicants since they are not all asked the same set of questions.

When selecting interview questions, make a concentrated effort to steer away from scenario-based questions that lead the applicant to give cookie cutter answers.  These types of questions do not give you insight into what the applicant has done or will do.  Rather, ask them to describe situations they have dealt with to better understand their thought process.


If a customer approached you and was upset about the pool being closed due to a fecal accident, what would you do?

A better question would be….

Describe a difficult customer service situation you have encountered and how you dealt with it.

For the second question, you will better understand their work experience, experience dealing with upset customers, their thought process, how they feel about customers, and their loyalty to the program.  You can gain so much more insight just by re-phrasing the question!

The Last, But Most Important Step

Many people would offer a position after the interview, but what do you really know about them at this point?  You know they can pass a skills test, they can socialize well with others, and can answer some questions.  Putting applicants through a “bootcamp” type event will give you even more insight into how they will truly thrive or fail when employed at your facility.  Whether they are a lifeguard, cashier, swim instructor, or concessions applicant, creating a real-life situation that tests their job skills, teamwork, and ability to be coached and trained is easier than you may think.  For example with lifeguard applicants, break them into teams and test their skills over the course of a day.  In between skills, complete team building activities to make the day more fun.  Applicants can only remain on their best behavior for about 30 minutes, and then their real personalities come out.  You can fully assess their skill level, whether they respond well to the culture of your facility, how they take direction, and who steps up as a leader.  There have been many times where using the “bootcamp” style hiring event has saved a hiring manager from hiring a great interviewer with no skills and a bad attitude.

Use some of these tools or all of them to recruit and hire the best employees for your facility.  Each facility will have different requirements and preferences and designing a hiring process to fully evaluate applicants will ensure that you spend your valuable time developing and building your staff instead of searching for more each year.

In-Park Spending

In-park spending is crucial to any outdoor waterpark or aquatic center’s financial success.  It’s also the biggest driver of revenue next to season pass sales and daily admission rates.  Operators typically use the word “per cap” to determine the total amount a guest pays on each visit to their park, which includes the combined amount of admission fees and any in-park spending, primarily food and beverage or retail/souvenir purchases.  We’ll take a quick look at each and give you some tips to help maximize your park’s revenue through these two categories.

Food and beverage sales make up the majority of in-park spending by your guests because, let’s face it, everyone gets eit34her hungry or thirsty while at your park!  Couple that with having a captured audience and the opportunity exists to generate revenue through a quality food and beverage operation.  You want to make sure you provide good food at a reasonable price or else your sales will start to dwindle.

A key indicator to your success in this area is your facility’s philosophy on allowing guests to bring in outside food and drink.  The more restrictions you have on outside food and drink, the more opportunity you have to sell food and beverages to your guests.  Don’t forget to include a wide variety of menu options including the top sellers of burgers, pizza, hot dogs, nachos, French Fries, fountain drinks shaved ice and funnel cakes.  But, you also need to offer a few healthier options such as a salad or grilled chicken.  Be sure to mix it up from time to time with specials, discounts and combo meals and track sales of all of your menu items so you know which ones sell the best and which items you can take off the menu because you aren’t selling enough of them to make it worth your time to carry the added inventory.

Retail sales at a municipal family aquatic center can be a bit trickier compared to a destination waterpark, as most guests don’t show much interest in purchasing souvenirs for the local swimming pool.  Items that they will buy include sunscreen, goggles and small snacks including novelty ice cream or frozen treats.  The key in this area is to not keep inventory of items that historically don’t sell.  As a former municipal operator myself, I used to carry 50 items in our retail shop at the waterpark I managed.  I found after my first summer that we only sold 100 or more of 6 of those items during the previous summer.  Meanwhile, we spent countless hours over the course of a summer tracking inventory of the other 44 items we weren’t even selling!  The next year we scaled down our retail operation to only sell those 6 items and it made inventory tracking a breeze.

Now, a few tips for success and we’ll send you on your way.

  1. Develop an attractive and easy-to-read menu board for your food and beverage operation. Nothing creates hunger better than having a picture of a burger, fries and cold soft drink staring at your guests when they’re in line.
  2. Train your food and beverage team to upsell your guests to a combo meal, a larger size drink, or an additional food item. Just a quick, “Would you like to make it a combo meal?” by your team members can pay huge dividends over the course of a season.
  3. Track food and beverage and retail sales over the course of each season to ensure you are maximizing your facility’s revenue.