Category Archives: Programming

The Pool and Spa Industry can Shine by “Making it Magical!”

About 15 years ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Disney Institute at Walt Disney World in Florida with hundreds of professional pool retailers and service companies. I’m not sure one thing they taught is still true, but I think it is. I’ll find out for sure when I follow up with a neighbor who will work at Disney for the fall semester.

It was my understanding that every job description (EVERY JOB DESCRIPTION!) started with two responsibilities at Disney:

1) Make the experience magical

2) Pick up trash Then

3) was something like “enter accounts receivables in the general ledger…. Or, perform water tests for customers…. Or, clean and treat pools…Or, whatever we all normally think of as the “job description.”

Yes, make it magical and pick up trash. It is a pretty simple idea. It is not always easy to “create magic” since we are not used to thinking from the customer’s perspective and acting on it. Based on this experience, every NSPF job description starts with the “make it magical” requirement. I am not saying we are as good as we should be. We have room to improve. Yet, just imagine if we implemented this philosophy and made it part of our day-to-day practice with every business in our field? Our businesses would be better off and so would the industry as a whole.

What are you doing to make it “magical” for your customers?

The above was posted on the NSPF blog by Tom Lachocki

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What Is A Bulkhead?

 A bulkhead is a structure that can separate a pool into different sections.  Typically these structures are moveable in the United States to allow the pool to be adjusted to accommodate different field of play (Yards and Meters).  For example, in a 50 meter pool with 2 movable bulkheads there can be as many as 19 different course configurations that can support swimming, water polo and synchronized swimming.  For NCAA swimming, race courses that utilize a bulkhead as a turning surface must be Certified for each session of a competition.  Courses with two hard walls require certification only once.  In the United States movable bulkheads are typically 4 or 6 feet wide. 


Bulkheads that are designed to move typically rest on the pool gutter.  There are either skid plates or wheels on the bottom of the bulkhead that role along the pool gutter lip.  Many of the bulkheads that are designed to move have the ability to be filled with air to minimize the weight impact when moving the structure.  Some are completely buoyant.  Other manufactures provide a power driven solution.  When the bulkhead reaches its new position it is secured in place with a mechanism to confirm the proper dimension for the activity.  If air was used to move the bulkhead it would be removed to add stability to the structure during programming. 

Switching a pool between long course and short course can be very time consuming.  Nonetheless some facilities switch back and forth daily.  In the United States where 25 yard courses are important many 50 meter pool have a 25 yard with.  This allows switching from 50 meters to 25 yards without relocating bulkhead(s).  Most world markets only swim in a metric format.  In these situations a retractable bulkhead can be used that recesses into the floor.  This allows for the pool to be shorter since the width of the bulkhead does not need to be taken into account in the 50 meter dimension.  This is the solution that is uses at the London Olympic Facility. 

Alternatively, some bulkhead manufacturers can provide passages through bulkhead for the 50 meter lane lines.  With this approach the pool can go from long course to short course without moving lane lines.  

Bulkheads are typically made out of fiberglass or stainless steel.  Issues that may impact material selection may include ability to easily move the bulkhead (weight), durability and maintenance requirements. 

For competition swimming the end of the pool (or bulkhead) must be rigid enough and wide enough to accommodate officials, lap counters, etc. But, for training all you really need is a rigid turning surface.  For this reason a submersible swim wall could be considered.  This approach is very popular in Australia and the benefits are obvious.  First of all the pool can go from long course to short course very quickly by simply raising the swim wall from its resting place on the pool floor. Air is added to the swim wall to raise it and released to lower it.   Another benefit is that swim walls are typically the width of two lanes and can be raised individually in about 1 minute.  This allows a single 50 meter pool to offer short course and long course swimming at the same time!  Some pools in Australia have traditional bulkhead for competition and swim walls for daily training.     

An economical version of a movable swim wall is basically a turning wall that simply attaches to the floating lane lines.  They are very affordable, surprisingly stable and easy to install/remove.       

Thank you for use of the above photos from Stark Industries, Vario Pool, Anti Wave International, Finis USA, Neptune Benson


Lifeguarding/Bather Supervision Module Open For Public Comment

The Lifeguarding/Bather Supervision Module for the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) was posted by the CDC on May 31, 2012 for public comment.  With most of the seasonal pools in the United States opening that week, we suspect that many industry professionals may have  missed the posting, including us.  The deadline for public comments is October 14, 2012. Counsilman-Hunsaker strongly encourages everyone in the aquatic community to review and participate in this process.

MAHC Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision Module Abstract

Health and safety issues related to bather supervision and lifeguarding for both the patron and the potential rescuer of an aquatic facility are increasingly being documented. The Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision Module is a first step towards improving the consistency in training, lifeguard management and supervision, lifeguard competency for guarded facilities and proper bather supervision at unguarded facilities. The Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision Module contains requirements for unguarded and guarded aquatics along with the training necessary to be a qualified lifeguard. The module includes:

  1. Standards for which aquatic facilities need to be guarded and which may not need to have professional lifeguard supervision but are still supervised.
  2. An Aquatic Facilities Safety Plan guide including pre-service, in-service, staffing, single lifeguard, lifeguard management and Emergency Action Plan requirements.
  3. Requirements for aquatic facilities to define, diagram, and document required zones of patron surveillance.
  4. Determination of what constitutes proper staffing by the ability of the lifeguard to reach all areas of their zone of patron surveillance within a certain time frame.
  5. Required lifesaving equipment, communications standards, and general requirements for lifeguards and lifeguard supervision/management training.

In addition to the Lifeguarding and Bather Supervision module, an annex section is provides support information to assist users in understanding the background of the provisions.

The Model Aquatic Health Code Steering Committee and Technical Committees appreciate your willingness to comment on the draft MAHC modules. Click here to download comment form.

All public comments will filter back to the Technical Committee for review before the module is officially released.

MAHC Background

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) effort began in February 2005. The first industry standard was issued in 1958. In the subsequent 50 years, there have been at least 50 different state codes and many independent county codes. What was required in one jurisdiction may be illegal in another. It is clear that this historic approach is not working. Thus, the National Swimming Pool Foundation took a leadership position and provided funding to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for the creation of the MAHC. The MAHC is intended to transform the patch work of industry codes into a data-driven, knowledge-based, risk reduction effort to prevent disease, injuries and promote healthy water experiences. To view the latest updates regarding the Model Aquatic Health Code go to

University of Tennessee Hosts U.S. Olympic Team

The Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center at the University of Tennessee is currently hosting the 2012 U.S. Men’s and Women’s Olympic Swimming Teams for a last-minute training camp as part of their final preparations for London later this month.  The aquatic design and engineering of the state-of-the-art facility was done by Counsilman-Hunsaker and opened up in 2008.  1,800 spectators were on hand along with 100 members of the media for their first practice.  While Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Missy Franklin typically receive the most attention, it was Knoxville-native Davis Tarwater who arguably received the warmest welcome from the local fans.

Swimming World reported that the Stars and Stripes held their first open practice on July 12, 2012 and sports fans lined up around the block to get a chance to see some of the world’s best swimmers.

Spectator Seating Basics

Spectator seating is more often associated with natatoria than with outdoor pools that are used primarily for recreation. Spectator seating is universally associated with competition in any sport. For swimming, the seating shall be located with viewing from the side of the course so the spectator can follow the race, water polo matches and synchronized swimming from end to end. Likewise the viewing of springboard and platform diving is preferred from the side, not head on.

Seating locations vary. Deck seating is usually found in small natatoria with short course pools, i.e., 25M. Larger natatoria with diving platforms and long spans develop overhead clearances that will easily accommodate second floor gallery seating. Sometimes budget or other influencing factors leads the designer to create mezzanine seating where the first row is 1 to 1.5 meters above the pool deck which improves the line of sight over deck seating but is not quite as desirable as gallery seating. Like those sitting in deck seating, spectators in mezzanine seats can still have their view blocked by athletes and officials walking on the deck. End seats are sometimes provided when building configuration dictates and the primary racecourse is in the short course direction, across the long course direction of the pool. Traditionally the preference is for side seating that is parallel with the main race course. It is only when extraordinary circumstances exist that alternative orientations occur.  A design that combines permanent seats and a flat mezzanine either behind the permanent seats or to the side may “fit” with the natatorium space.

There are several configuration options and combinations among those the most advantageous view is from a balcony one story above the water. Lesser quality viewing is a mezzanine approximately 1.2 M above the pool deck. The least desirable but still acceptable is deck level. The varying factor is obstruction of view by people walking back and forth along the deck, i.e., officials, athletes and coaches.  For locations that do have elevated seating, accessibility will become a key part of the design as multiple entrance/exist points will be required.

The line of site or viewing angle of the spectator seating is also a key design element for consideration.

Other factors that must be considered with spectator seating is controlled access, traffic patterns that do not cross wet decks, ADA design issues, emergency exits, restrooms for spectator use only, custodial implications and considerations, and parking requirements.

Seating construction can vary. Permanent seats are often considered the first choice due to easier housekeeping tasks and lower annual costs. However, when other issues are considered such as first costs, convertible space, frequency of competition events, emergency exit requirements, density of spectators and parking requirement ratios, a mixture of seat construction types are considered, i.e., retractable, temporary and portable.

A typical seat count for a short course Pool (25M or 25 Yard) natatorium is 100-250 seats.  Facilities hosting multi-team meets, will usually require 250 to 500 seats. Since these events are infrequent, a combination of permanent and temporary seats is the most cost effective. Some pools are in locales with many age group teams that want access for bigger meets. These facilities can justify 500 – 1,000 combined seats.  A long course pool (50M) that will host major competition will typically require a minimum of 1000 plus permanent seats, with space for placement of additional temporary seats.  Larger attendance may occur for a US age group invitational meet.    U.S. Division I universities with highly developed swimming and diving programs that wish to attract the National NCAA Championship meets frequently provide 1000 to 2000 seats made up of both permanent and temporary seats. The U.S. Olympic Festival requirements were 2500 to 3000 seats prior to that events demise. Major international swimming events such as the FINA World Championships or Pan American Games, would typically require 7,500 to 10,000 seats.  At the top of the scale is the Olympic Venue for aquatic sports with a requirement of 15,000 to 20,000 seats, which includes up to 1/3 reserved for VIP’s, the Olympic family and the media.