Our pool operates approximately 10 weeks per year serving over 27,000 customers annually. This ten week operation is the highest risk activity in which the City of Selah participates, to include police and fire operations. The worst case scenario is always present. City pool operations can get quite hectic. Over the last three years we have had 64 incidents (first-aid, 911 calls, medical assistance) and 28 rescues. A rescue can be classified as a near drowning event. That means, if the lifeguard did not intervene, the individual would likely drown. Prior to commencing operations this year, I contacted our insurance provider for guidance in dealing with unaccompanied minors. This was a routine request as we are partnering with our insurance carrier to comprehensively evaluate and advise the City of Selah on ways to reduce risk and save tax payer resources. Our Risk Management Advisor referred to the Washington Administrative Code 246-260-131. He recommended that we adopt the restrictions cited in the code that apply to unattended pools. This is more restrictive than what is required for attended pools. This policy was discussed by the Mayor, City Administrator, City Attorney, Parks Department Manager, Pool Manager and Insurance Carrier Risk Manager. There was 100% concurrence on adopting this course of action. The current policy is as follows:
“Children 12 years and under must be accompanied by an adult (18 years or older) at all times while using the facility. Youth between the ages of 13-17 years of age must be with another person in this age group or an adult at all times while using the facility.”
We have had some feedback from community members objecting to the requirements to have an adult to accompany a child 12 or younger and a buddy system for children 13 to 18 years. I will explain how we came to this policy and our rationale for keeping it in place. Early this year, it was brought to my attention that we had an ongoing issue with unaccompanied children (between 5 years and 12) being dropped off at the pool for long periods of the day without adult supervision. Children are, by nature, unpredictable and rambunctious. In the absence of direct supervision, this behavior can be more acute. This is a routine occurrence which detracts from our lifeguard’s ability to be fully effective in their duties. At any given time, we can have up to 100 people in the pool and most of them are children. It is imperative for our lifeguards to be laser focused on what is happening in the pool. Unattended children detract from that focus. The presence of parents and responsible adults multiplies our ability to provide a safe environment at our facility. The buddy system for teens is also an excellent way to provide an additional layer of observation. This policy, with more restrictions, has been adopted in order to prevent that horrible possibility that we work so hard to prevent, the loss of a child.
The Mayor and the City Staff will always put the safety of our children first at all of our facilities. We recognize there is implied risk in operating a public pool and we take positive measures to mitigate that risk. We have recently added a Pool Manager, instituted drug testing for our lifeguards and emphasized the hiring and retention of well qualified lifeguards. We know this policy may effect individuals who have purchased passes with the understanding that their child can use the pool unattended. We will offer refunds to any individuals who wish them. In addition, the City will not charge an admittance fee to any non-swimming adult who accompanies a child and/or a teenager.
Please direct your questions and comments to me and I will happily discuss this or any other issue of concern.