Waterfront Safety And Preparation

In 1981, I was the assistant waterfront director (AWD) at a camp that had nearly a mile of lakefront on Lake Lure in western North Carolina.

Inspect all of your waterfront before camp opens for the summer.

When the waterfront director (WD) had to leave camp for a few days, I was called into the office and became the WD after a brief meeting with the assistant camp director that went something like this: “Mitch, you’re in charge, make sure nobody gets hurt.”

Fortunately, I felt fairly confident in my promotion as I was already handling the lifeguard rotation schedule and attending the waterfront meetings with the now-absent WD.

What I was not ready for was the real responsibility that came with the job and the supervision needed to have a safe waterfront.

Now that I am a camp owner and director, the first thing on my mind every summer is the responsibility and safety of campers and staff members.

Here are a few suggestions to make your waterfront safer; although some of them seem basic, don’t assume they are being attended to at your facility now.

Start At The Top

The first and most important aspect of waterfront safety starts with the WD and AWD. Their supervision and adherence to policy are critical.

As the owner, let them hear directly from you how important their job is. Make sure both have the necessary experience and training required for the position, and be sure both are included at all pre-camp and camp discussions pertaining to waterfront safety, lifeguard staffing, and waterfront program staffing.

Before camp starts, make sure both have surveyed the entire waterfront and understand the programming. Utilize their expertise to identify potential safety issues, and have both people develop and/or enhance the waterfront-safety policy and procedures.

Early in the session, put each in charge of the waterfront and observe that person at work. Confirm that the AWD can handle the job; you never know when he or she will be in charge.

Know The Waterfront

Most camps have a considerable amount of waterfront, whether a lake, ocean, river, pool, or pond. It is important to recognize any additional dangers these areas may present.

Does the waterfront have cliffs or boulders that would be fun for kids to jump from?

Did last year’s senior boys put up a rope swing somewhere out of eyesight from land (I know we did in 1976)?

Safe swimmers are happy swimmers.

Walk the waterfront from shore, then go out in a boat and view the shoreline from the water to make sure you aren’t in for any surprises. For example, winter storms can cause trees to fall over and submerge, which could be hazards to swimming and boating.

Prepare Beaches, Pools, And Docks

As a result of a major storm, we now install the swim docks during staff training. Even if you think you have enough mooring lines with enough weight, add more.

Utilize the staff resources to clean the shorefront and lake, river, or sea bottom at all swim entry points.

Be sure there are no open or broken pool grates where kids can get clothing or hands stuck.

Prepare a site-inspection checklist, and have both the WD and AWD sign off that the equipment and swim areas are safe.

Observe Lifeguard Certification

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