May is National Water Safety Month! Here's what we do to promote safety at PAC.
As we approach 1 million visits, a point of pride for me as the Aquatic Supervisor at PAC, is that there have been no fatal accidents at PAC. Having well trained staff is one of my top priorities and I want to humbly brag about some of the things we do make PAC a safer place!
PAC’s pools contain a combined 566,800 gallons of water, all of which needs to be heated, treated, filtered, and maintained at very stringent state regulations. The water is tested every four hours, as well as at opening and closing to ensure compliance. If chemical levels are found to be outside of regulations, the pool must be closed as staff work to bring the chemistry levels into compliance before reopening.
State Regulations require that lifeguards be certified in CPR, First Aid, and Lifeguarding by a nationally recognized organization. All PAC staff are required to be trained in CPR, First Aid, and AED use. Many of our team, lifeguards included, are trained in CPR for the professional rescuer and several staff members are trained to use Emergency Oxygen onsite. PAC also has Lifeguard Instructors who provide training to our lifeguards.
PAC lifeguards also undergo annual competency evaluations to test their swimming, basic water rescue, spinal immobilization, CPR, and First Aid skills. Before being hired, lifeguard candidates must be lifeguard certified and are tested on the above skills. PAC works hard to provide highly qualified staff.
Each month, PAC Aquatic Staff must complete four hours of training. This training takes place in two different settings.
The first is at our monthly aquatic staff meeting where we review policies and procedures as well as highlight upcoming events. Then we break into groups and review skills. This training is two hours and topics range from patron surveillance, to facility operation procedures, to CPR and First Aid training and water rescue training. This training usually incorporates some element of fitness.
Lifeguards are also required to attend an additional two hours of training which covers CPR, First Aid, Basic Water Rescue, and Spinal Immobilization.
In the four years I have been the Aquatic Supervisor, I have watched the lifeguards skills grow. I find myself watching their technical skills advance and am able to focus on team dynamics during trainings. I feel confident that PAC lifeguards are some of the best trained in Wyoming. I am assured that their training allows them to be confident in their role and abilities as lifeguards.
Training with EMS
PAC is proud to partner with Sublette County EMS as part of our training program. EMTs come to PAC and assist in training our staff during a variety of scenarios. This helps our lifeguards become familiar with EMT staff as well as helps us better coordinate care in real life emergencies.
I am grateful for the assistance that Sublette County EMS has provided to PAC both with care to our patrons and the training they have provided to our staff.
Equipment and Emergency Action Plans
PAC has four Automated External Defibrillators (AED) in our facility. There are also several important pieces of equipment readily available in case of an emergency that allow staff to begin basic life support measures for injured or ill patrons. PAC staff frequently train using the equipment we have available as well as using scenarios from our Emergency Action Plan so they are capable to respond if the need should arise.
Students at SCSD#1 are frequently exposed to the waters at PAC. 3rd and 4th graders have the privilege of participating in a three week session of swim lessons at PAC. Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders are given vouchers for free swim lessons at PAC and we have seen an increase in the use of these vouchers every year. All students in the middle school go through a swim unit as part of their PE class and high school freshman participate in swim lessons from PAC Staff. Skyline Academy is also regularly seen in the pools at PAC. We also provide lessons to Pinedale Preschool, BOCES BEEP, Discovery Center, and the REAL center. Outside of the lessons PAC provides the students in our school district, our Learn to Swim Program averages around 500 participants per year.
Our swim program relies on The American Red Cross curriculum, which requires 30 hours of instructor training to be able to teach. However our programs would not be a success without the incredible instructors and program manager, Kirby Walker. Kirby and the instructors dedication to the program have made an impact and many students participate and excel in higher level swim programs.
Patron Surveillance and Zone testing
Presently, there are two areas of zone coverage for each pool at PAC. Those two zones serve the purposes of giving Lifeguards the highest possible degree of visibility coupled with the ability of the lifeguard to be able to quickly reach all areas of that zone as quickly as possible.
We are constantly evaluating our zones to ensure we have the best possible balance between visibility and ease of access. Is it perfect? No. There are always challenges, a large pillar in the middle of your line of sight, or a bright yellow submarine, are only some of the things that obstruct our field of vision. That is why you regularly see lifeguards walking around the pool deck, so that they can more readily see as much of the pool as they can.
The job of a lifeguard is often underestimated. The public perception is that they get paid to sit in a chair and soak up the rays (or in our case, enjoy the nice LED lighting). The job is so much more than that. Lifeguards need to be constantly vigilant while on shift. They need to always be searching the water for patrons that slipped below the surface. Contrary to what we see in TV shows and movies, drowning is not a loud nor obvious event. It is often very subtle and requires a lot of training and skill to spot a drowning victim in a pool with eighty people.
Aquatic Examiner Service
PAC is also a proud participant in the American Red Cross’s Aquatic Examiner Service (AES). The American Red Cross offers lifeguard and other aquatic certifications which PAC uses to train its staff, and the Red Cross has developed a service that takes the ‘perfect world’ components of the Lifeguarding Course and applies it to a pool’s operations. They evaluate lifeguard patron surveillance and rescue skills, facility policies and procedures, lifeguard stations, emergency equipment, and more. I was impressed at the depth of the evaluation.
PAC was the first (and so far only) facility in Wyoming to participate in the Aquatic Examiner Service. Here are some of the comments from the evaluations:
It is commendable that emergency action plans include a wide variety of emergency situations, are practiced with lifeguards and support personnel, and that local emergency medical services have been included in that practice.
This aquatic facility appears to be very well equipped and ready for a wide variety of emergency situations.
The facility appears to maintain thorough documentation of activities and procedures.
You have a beautiful facility and it's clear that you are very much dedicated to making it as safe and enjoyable as possible.
Since the evaluations of have been performed, the following changes have been made:
A lifeguard station was moved to allow for better patron surveillance.
Drills that we have been doing for a long time are now being documented
We modified training documentation to include instructor qualifications and the start and end times of trainings
Lifeguards receive more feedback on patron surveillance
The AES also took some of our lifeguards and put them through three different emergency scenarios. When asked how hard they could make the scenarios, I told the examiners to make them as difficult as possible. The examiners surprised me at how strict they were with the scenarios. For example, the lifeguards had to redo a scenario because they did not verbalize that the scene was safe after having already extricated the patient from the water. I am proud to say that after a bit of remediation, we have passed all three scenarios both times we’ve had the evaluations performed.
PAC recently received an award from the American Red Cross for being the first facility in Wyoming to participate in the AES. I am proud of my staff’s performance during these evaluations, and I look forward to our future participation in the Aquatic Examiner Service. The AES has given us options for improving our risk management program and it has validated a lot of hard work my staff has done to make PAC a safer facility.
The last bit of our safety program at PAC is no small part. Everyday before opening, in all departments, staff complete checklists that ensure the facility is ready for the public. Chemicals are tested in the pools, trauma bags are checked to ensure they are stocked, any messes are cleaned up, snow is shoveled away, and all areas are inspected for any safety concerns.
Safety concerns are reported to supervisors to address as soon as possible. We don’t hesitate to close an area to the public if we cannot mitigate a safety concern quickly. Be it broken glass, a bloodborne pathogen spill or any other concern, staff across departments make sure that handling these concerns is a priority.
The purpose of this blog post was to allow the public the inside scoop on what PAC does to try to keep its visitors safer as they engage in risky, but rewarding activities on and in the water. But this post also afforded me the opportunity to talk about how great the people I work with are. PAC Staff strive to provide top-notch programming in an immaculate facility that serves the residents of Sublette County, and while we can’t guarantee safety, we train for the inevitable issues that do arise!
Because of our culture of safety and training, we are able to put a lot of our time and effort into our fantastic programs and services.
K. Chase Judd
Pinedale Aquatic Center