Thousands of kids in metro Detroit will be heading to the pool in the coming days as warm weather continues, and more schools wrap up for the year. If you’re a parent you may be paying close attention to what’s going on at the pool, but do you know who’s making sure it’s safe?
In Michigan, the local DEQ issues permits for public pools; however, it’s the local health department that’s charged with doing weekly tests of water samples to ensure the water is safe for swimmers.
Matt Pardy, a supervisor at Red Oaks Waterpark in Madison Heights, said the reality is his crews do their own samples regularly to make sure chlorine levels and ph balance is proper.
“It does take a lot of work and we have full-time and part-time maintenance staff who are day-to-day checking and working on those things,” said Pardy. “It’s not something you can forget about for a day or something, it’s something we are constantly monitoring and balancing.”
It’s easy to ignore, but the science of a pool changes rapidly depending on how many people are in it. The Red Oaks Waterpark can have thousands of visitors in a single day, it’s why they’ve used more than 3,000 gallons of chlorine in the past on some of their busier weeks.
Of course, not all pools are as busy — some aren’t being checked as regularly. In 2016, the CDC reported that as many as 80 percent of public pools checked for a study had at least one code violation. One in eight of those pools had to be closed at least temporarily, which is why the CDC suggests that you do your own inspection before getting into any pool.
You can find a simple 4-step checklist that’s printable, and easy to follow, by clicking here. It suggests three visuals checks, and a simple PH balance test you can use (they cost a few dollars at most local stores that sell basic pool supplies).
Beyond water quality, it’s also important to know who’s watching over swimmers. Most lifeguards are trained by one of two groups: the American Red Cross or Ellis & Associates. There are a handful of other groups that offer training.
It’s important you know whether a pool has a trained lifeguard on-duty. Statistics from the United States Lifesaving Association noted that less than one percent of drownings in the U.S. happen at pools with trained lifeguards. Meanwhile, drowning remains the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 1-14.
At the Red Oaks Waterpark, Matt Pardy told 7 Action News that they’re used to working to save lives — it’s not a question of whether their lifeguards will jump into the water to “save” as swimmer, but when. A save is classified as any time a lifeguard has to jump into the water to help a distressed swimmer. It’s not unusual for six to seven saves to occur in a single day.
In fact, last year the lifeguards at Red Oaks received a special recognition from the county after a 9-year-old who had gone underwater and nearly drowned was rescued by a lifeguard who eventually did CPR on the child.
“It only takes a couple seconds for tragedy to happen, so we have to be vigilant every second of the day that we’re operating because tragedy can happen so fast,” said Pardy. “It’s something that we train on and we practice on to make sure our lifeguards are keeping everyone safe.”