Pool Q and A
Posted on August 12, 2019
Q: Why do pools do safety checks?
A: Pools do safety checks to give not only the lifeguards a break, but also the pool patrons. It is important that everyone takes a swimming break (especially on hot/humid days) to rest, rehydrate and get out of the sun for a couple minutes. We use these breaks at our facility to run in-service training with our guards. They get a chance to cool off in the pool, take a mental break, and the patrons get a chance to see the continuous training and skill evaluations that our guards go through.
Other pools in the area use them as an opportunity for the guards to take a break, as most facilities don’t have a designated break built into their guard rotation. They are also useful when we go visit other water parks with our camp kids to do a head count and make sure no one has gotten lost from our group. If any of you have visited the area water parks you can’t help but notice that there are a lot of school-age groups, daycare’s and field trips. These breaks help facilitate exit from the pool area without having to go individually round up the group members. They are a good practice for every facility and benefits the employees and patrons.
Q: How do you decide when to close the pool?
A: We will never intentionally put our members or guests at risk. There are many reasons that we may close the pool. Weather, accidental fecal release, vomit, pool water not being in balance, high combined chlorine, or circulation equipment not working correctly.
For our outdoor facility, we do not have overhead lights, so once dusk has set in and the guards can no longer see the bottom of the pool, for everyone’s safety it’s closing time. Dusk is a very uncertain science! With the way our building is positioned on the West side of the pool, dusk sets in earlier than other places. On cloudy days, that closing time comes even earlier. We typically try to stay open until about 25-30 minutes before sunset. As the summer goes on, that time gets earlier and earlier.
Weather closures are for the safety of everyone. When lightning is seen or thunder is heard, we clear the pool. Lightning is electricity, and electricity loves to follow water. Our policy is that we remain closed until 30 minutes after the last strike of lightning was seen or thunder was heard. If we close due to weather, depending on the future forecast for the day, the decision may be made to keep it closed.
There have been several instances this summer where the storms just keep regenerating over our area or the system is large and stretches across a large part of the state. This has resulted in a large number of daily closures. We will also close the outdoor pool when severe weather is imminent. If either a Severe Thunderstorm Warning or Tornado Warning are issued for Olmsted County, we will close the outdoor pool immediately. This gives patrons an opportunity to gather up everything and exit in a timely fashion prior to the storm hitting. In the event of a Tornado Warning in our area, we would also close the indoor pool for everyone’s safety.
If there are very few or no patrons swimming in the evening at the outdoor pool, the Manager on Duty may elect to close the pool early. This helps us to conserve our resources and manage our staff effectively. If the pool closes early due to lack of patrons, adults 18 and over are still allowed to utilize the pool until dusk.
Q: What determines how long a pool is shut down when there are bodily fluids such as vomit or fecal matter?
A: Solid stool - Pool should be closed for minimum of 30-minutes to allow water to filtrate and to allow the chlorine in the water to kill off any germs associated with solid stools (mainly Giardia). Chlorine readings must meet state requirements before we re-open the pool.
Liquid stool - Pool must be closed for a minimum of 12.75 hours to allow water to filtrate and to allow the chlorine in the water to kill off any germs associated with diarrhea (mainly Cryptosporidium or “Crypto”). Chlorine readings must meet state requirements before we re-open the pool.
Vomit - Treated the same as a solid stool.
Q: Why can’t you do something about people that have the above accidents in the pool?
A: Accidents happen! There are signs posted in the pool and family locker room areas reminding parents to take their young children to the bathroom often. It is encouraged that patrons who have been ill refrain from using the pool until they have been symptom free for 24 hours. Sometimes vomit and fecal accidents happen. You can try to prevent them by utilizing the restroom often, encouraging children to rest for a bit immediately after eating a meal and staying home if your children are not feeling well. The CDC recommends every hour-everyone out! Utilize this time once per hour to take the kids to the bathroom, check diapers (in the changing area, not poolside!) reapply sunscreen and re-hydrate.
A little prevention will go a long way in most instances. We don’t have a health checkpoint at the door to determine if you are fit to swim for the day, each member needs to take responsibility for their health and the health of their children.
Q: Am I really supposed to take a shower before entering a pool or whirlpool?
A: YES! The main reason to shower before entering the pool is to remove body oils, sweat, soap, perfume, shampoo, deodorant, urine, and even feces. When these contaminants get in the water the free chlorine in the pool reacts with them to neutralize them. Once, the free chlorine has reacted with the contaminants it turns into a chlorine called combined chlorine which is what causes skin, eye, and mucus irritation. If each person that uses a pool brings in contaminants with them it starts to add up and can be very hard to control the combined chlorine levels especially at busy times. Elevated combined chlorine levels can result in a closure if it gets too high and is not taken care of right away. Members showering before using the pool will help keep the pool and pool environment much more comfortable.