Category Archives: Swimming

Is Swimmer Safety Your Priority?

While the sport of swimming has seen tremendous growth within the last 30 years due to better training methods, coaching techniques, and above all else better aquatic venues, the question is whether or not swim team safety really is keeping up with society’s expectations.

The last several years there have been plenty of fatal and non-fatal drowning incidents at swim practices that illustrate the need for the swimming community to pick up the pace when it comes to safety in and around the water.  We not only have an obligation to promote safety around the pools, but also to keep our swimmers safe through better training of aquatic and coaching staffs, having professional lifeguards or other certified professionals, and by taking steps to promote water safety for the community.

Is your facility staff ready for any and all aquatic emergencies?   Moreover, does your swim club or team promote and model safe swimming practices?  If water safety is important, then you must have a plan, have a good training program, and employ certified professionals.

Do you have an Emergency Response Plan? Being prepared to handle an emergency is the key step to having a safe facility.  An Emergency Response Plan is both on paper and practiced by all staff that would be involved in an emergency at a specific facility.  This includes constant familiarity and practice with all team members.

Is your staff appropriately trained for aquatic emergencies? An industry standard for lifeguards is at least 60 minutes per week of dedicated training. While  lifeguards are certified and knowledgeable in aquatic emergencies, they still require continual practice to keep their skills sharp and prepared for anything.  So it would stand to reason that other staff members, serving in a safety capacity of their swimmers, would need that kind of training and practice to insure a truly safe environment.

The industry wants to shy away from the issue of should a lifeguard be on surveillance duty during a swim team workout.  But we must ask ourselves, is the safety of your swimmers compromised when it comes to swim teams and other aquatic sports not using lifeguards?  To answer that, we must discuss the role of a lifeguard vs others that may be responsible on the pool decks.

The term lifeguard reminds us of those mid-to-late teenagers who sit around looking at the water, and the term swimmer reminds us that these athletes are experienced swimmers.  So no one is surprised when we have not seen trending growth in swim clubs and teams having lifeguards at all times, as well as more safety training for coaching staffs.  And to be fair, professional teams may have lifeguards or the facility from which they rent already has lifeguards.

No professional can argue that training is not necessary and important for aquatic and coaching staffs.  But what does that really mean?  Do they know the latest science in hydrodynamics or the trending stroke development in the industry?  Part of having a safe environment for swimmers and water sports is not only knowing all the potential dangers, but also being able to recognize and respond to them quickly.  Knowing the swimmers’ abilities and not putting them at risk is part of the problem.  The number of swimmers per lane, their specific needs and abilities, or the pressure to push their limits can result in unsafe situations.  How is the staff trained to handle emergencies?

So what makes them professional?  As a supervisor of lifeguards for most of my career, I will tell you that certification alone does not cut it.  Neither does being on stand or looking good.  It takes constant training from management.  Not only does the management have to be well trained in emergency procedures, but they must require the safety team train hard, they must ensure constant evaluation of the team, and they must promote an atmosphere of positive development with these certified professionals.

To achieve these goals, lifeguards must be training constantly, with an industry standard of at least 60 minutes per week of dedicated training.  They should also be evaluated routinely to ensure that the training is adequate for the environment.  Using third-party organizations to come and evaluate the staff can identify areas needing improvement and also demonstrate the staff’s training success.  But, without these key training concepts, the safety team will not be prepared for emergencies.  Unfortunately, as our industry has shown, we have been too reactionary, waiting until after an incident to implement what we know as safety.

Promoting and modeling safe swimming practices must also be strictly enforced.  Back when I was on swim team and the master of my lane, we thought we were tough.  We could dive in the shallow end without incident, we could swim underwater farther than most others, and many other limits were pushed way too hard.  But as we now know with science and safety as our guide, we have the responsibility to make sure that everyone is safe.

Teams must incorporate safe swimming practices for all.  We can do this through public awareness events and swim lessons for sure.  But all certified professionals must also model this behavior everyday.  Being safe is respectable and demonstrates to the community, to parents, and to the swimmers that our programs are not only professional, but also fun with safety in mind.

It is up to all of us to mandate that these safety requirements be upheld.

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PARTNER SPOTLIGHT: NDPA

“United, we can prevent the tragedy of drowning.” While this short mission statement seems like just simple words, they are the essence of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s core values and beliefs. The NDPA is U.S. based 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a simple mission to attack a complex problem.  According to the World Health Organizations’ Global Drowning Report, drowning takes the lives of an estimated 372,000 individuals each year and countless more experience a non-fatal drowning. In the U.S. specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 3,602 fatal drownings and 9,001 non-fatal drowning victims seeking emergency department care in 2015. With these staggeringly high numbers something must be done to combat drowning and increase water safety.

As mentioned above, drowning is a complex problem due to the multitude of factors that can contribute to a drowning. Swimming ability, supervision, socio-economic status, the environment, and lack of barriers are just some of the factors that can contribute to a drowning. So the question becomes; “how do you effectively prevent drowning?” While there isn’t a magic pill that can prevent drowning, we do know it is 100% preventable. The NDPA believes that we all must work together to prevent drowning and must attack the problem for all angles. The Alliance is comprised of members, partners, and sponsors who all have a vested interested in preventing drowning. This is operationalized by a structure of four distinct internal pillars working together towards a common goal. These pillars include NDPA’s Educational Partners, Corporate Partners, Task Force and Coalitions, and Families United to Prevent Drowning. Additionally, the individual members of the NDPA work in their communities every day to prevent tragedy. By bringing everyone together to fight for a common goal the NDPA believes they can positively impact drowning prevention and save lives.

In addition to their unique structure, the NDPA also hosts the only national conference solely dedicated to the topic of drowning prevention in the U.S. each year. In 2017, NDPA hosted one of their most successful events to date in Pittsburgh, PA. The NDPA is already hard at work planning for their 2018 Educational Conference in Tampa, FL. which is scheduled for April 2-7, 2018. Over 35 speakers have been selected to present on over 30 unique and informative topics. The NDPA has partnered with the Aquatic Law and Safety Institute to host the Aquatic Law and Risk Management Symposium and the International Rip Current Symposium in conjunction with the 2018 conference. The NDPA is also excited to announce that they have selected New Orleans, LA. as the host city for the 2019 conference and Fort Worth, TX. as the host city for the 2020 conference. For more information on NDPA’s annual conference, you can visit www.NDPAConference.org.

Another important aspect to the NDPA is its leadership. Dr. Adam Katchmarchi took over as NDPA’s newly minted Executive Director on July 1, 2017. Dr. Katchmarchi is no stranger to the NDPA. He served on the organization’s board of directors for 4 years and held past positions of Secretary, Vice President, and most recently as President before taking the helm as the Executive Director. Dr. Katchmarchi is an academic and researcher by trade as he is an Assistant Professor and the Aquatics Director for Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). IUP has served as NDPA’s national headquarters since 2016. Melissa Sutton of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona replaced Dr. Katchmarchi as president this year. She brings years of experience to the NDPA along with a passion for water safety, as Arizona continues to be a hotspot for drowning. Blake Collingsworth of the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation is serving as Vice President. Mr. Collingsworth joined the NDPA after losing his son to a drowning in 2008. The NDPA also has 14 board members representing a wide spectrum of experience and expertise.

The NDPA truly believes that drowning and aquatic injury numbers both in the U.S. and abroad can be substantially reduced. It isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t going to happen overnight. However, we can and must succeed on this goal. The NDPA will continue to work on new and innovated approaches to drowning prevention and water safety in the coming years. If you would like more information or would like to join the NDPA as a member, please go to www.NDPA.org or email ADMIN@NDPA.org.

10 Years of Make A Splash: The Start

This blog is from our industry partner, USA Swimming, INC. and the Make a Splash Program

Springboard Diving

As a full-service aquatic consulting firm, we strive to design facilities that meet the needs of all user groups. While many aquatic sport facilities revolve around competitive swimming, we certainly do not want to neglect diving. While most university and high school teams only have 5-10 divers on their roster, they can be a secret weapon to propel a team over the competition. For instance, Purdue University finished in 13th place at the 2017 NCAA Championships with a final score of 106.5. The Boilermakers, Purdue’s diving team, scored 94.5 of the total 106.5 score for Purdue. Without the diving team, Purdue would have finished tied for 32nd place. Clearly, consideration should be given to a facility’s diving amenities.

Coincidentally, Purdue has one of the premier diving training facilities in the country, which includes a separate warm water diving pool with a massive 1-meter, 3-meter, 5-meter, 7.5-meter, and 10-meter diving tower. This facility has even attracted athletes like Olympic platform diving medalists Steele Johnson and David Boudia to train and compete at the university. While not every facility has the capacity or need for a platform as elaborate as Purdue’s, there are subtle ways to make your facility stand out when it comes to springboard diving.

There are two ways to mount a 1-meter or 3-meter springboard: on a stand or on a concrete platform. We tend to see a prefabricated, manufactured stand more often than anything else. These stands are made of heavy-duty aluminum and anchored to the deck using bronze deck anchors. The stands include handrails on both sides, as well as a ladder at the rear end of the board.

Shelby Bartlett, the four-time NCAA Zone qualifier and recently-appointed head diving coach at Saginaw Valley State University said that she prefers concrete platforms.

“They provide a more stable surface. Manufactured stands sometimes tend to shake, especially if they are older. And if the hand railings extend past the fulcrum, you can sometimes hit your hand on your walk down the board,” said Bartlett.

While manufactured stands are a good solution for low-level competition, Counsilman-Hunsaker has found that most high-level competitors prefer the more permanent solution that concrete platforms provide. These platforms also tend to be safer to travel up and down on.

Concrete platforms can be customized depending on the number and type of boards needed. Typically, we recommend providing two of each type of board to allow for multiple divers to practice simultaneously. Reinforcement for concrete platforms is designed by a structural engineer and is tested under both static and dynamic loads. A manufactured short stand is mounted to the concrete platform using bronze anchors and can come with or without handrails. If owners would prefer no handrails, they can be moved to surround the outside concrete platform to provide additional security on the elevated surface. This eliminates the risk of hands hitting the rails during divers’ approaches. In some jurisdictions, the concrete stairs leading to platforms fall under the design requirements of the International Building Code (IBC), which states that a maximum riser height for stairs is 7” with a maximum tread width of 11”. Both measurements are lower than that of most codes.

Counsilman-Hunsaker’s designed concrete stands have two intermediate steps bridging the elevation difference from the deck to the top of the one meter diving board surface.  There is a 10” riser difference between the deck and the first step, as well as between the first and second steps.  Between the second step and the top of the diving board, there is a 19-3/8” difference. Also, each step only has a “tread” depth of 4-3/8” at the deepest point.

While manufactured stands do not fall under the IBC, Counsilman Hunsaker can design custom stands to fit the gutter profile and meet requirements to provide a safer springboard experience.

Being leaders in aquatic design means presenting clients with all of their aquatic sport facility options. Determining the right diving amenities for you is just one of the many decisions we help make during the programming phase of design. Counsilman-Hunsaker has the tools to help guide your aquatic design to meet all user group needs.

Underwater Pool Lighting: What You Need to Know

Underwater pool lighting is a surefire way to add to the wow factor of your pool. Pool lighting can enhance a pool’s visual appeal, add visibility or even change the overall mood of the pool with lights that change colors. With recent advancements in underwater lighting technology, it is important to understand the proper terminology, code standards and industry trends in order to successfully navigate the sometimes confusing world of underwater pool lighting.

Design of underwater lighting for the commercial pool industry has typically been based upon watts per square foot of water surface area. Wattage ratings for pool lights, however, are nearly obsolete, since incandescent lights are becoming a thing of the past. The latest and greatest lighting trend taking over the aquatics industry is light-emitting diode (LED) lighting. LED lights use much less energy and can last five times longer than a comparable incandescent light.

Wattage is a measure of how much energy a light bulb uses. In fact, it has nothing to do with the actual brightnLEss of a light bulb. Over time, consumers tend to gain a general idea of how bright a 60-watt light bulb is compared to a 100-watt light bulb. Because of this, people tend to associate the brightness of a light bulb based with its wattage rating. When looking at incandescent lights, this method for comparing brightness is useful. However, where other types of lights like LEDs are concerned, this method is useless.

The correct unit of measurement to use when measuring brightness is lumens. A lumen measures the amount of light that is emitted from a light source. One lumen is equal to the amount of light emitted from a standard birthday candle from one foot away. The ultimate goal is to produce the most light (lumens) with the least amount of energy (watts).

Many of the older swimming pool codes require 1.0 or even 0.5 watts/square foot of water surface area. Updated codes have taken the new aquatic trend of using LED-style lights into account, and have converted their measurement requirements to lumens/square foot. According to section 4.6.1.5.1 of the Model Aquatic Health Code, “Underwater lighting, where provided, shall be not less than eight initial rated lumens per square foot of pool water surface area.”

The location of underwater light fixtures in a commercial pool setting is vital to a safe and a visually-pleasing swimming pool. Depending on the shape and the intended use of the pool, a good general rule of thumb is to install light fixtures on opposing walls. For competition pools, it is not recommended to install fixtures at the ends of the pool, as swimmers need space for flip turns during competitions. It is important to ensure all tripping hazards and pool egress/ingress locations are adequately illuminated. This includes things like stairs, recessed steps, ledges and any slope transitions. Additional fixtures may be needed for swimming pools with deep water. For safety concerns, it is imperative that the entire floor of the pool is easily visible from the deck.

As fast as technology is progressing, it is important to stay up to speed on industry trends and terminology, even when it comes to items as simple as pool lighting. Knowledge of industry standards for lighting levels and fixture locations will guide owners to make informative and safety-driven decisions when lighting their pool. Luckily, Counsilman-Hunsaker is there to help ensure you have the latest industry knowledge available to you. Check out some of our latest projects and see our expertise today!