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“I’ve had times where people who — once they got their card — said, ‘I’m a lifeguard.’ No… You have a lifeguard card. You’re not a lifeguard. A lifeguard has an eye to see things unfolding before they happen, and once you get to that point, I know you’re a lifeguard. Preventative is the best way, and your training is going to be key,” says Basil.

“I require a certain amount of water time each week, and if they don’t have it, they don’t work until it’s completed. When they come back in after they’ve been gone, the first thing they do is get their water time in, and I don’t deviate from that. Their physical training is one of the keys to make sure their job is done the right way. We don’t begin anything we can’t finish.”

Additionally, Basil requires weekly in-service training sessions and adds responsibilities as each employee’s progress merits it. Lifeguards are constantly tested and questioned, whether it’s a written, verbal or physical test.

“If someone comes over and jeopardizes the standard of the facility — I don’t care if it’s the boss — you cannot tolerate it. Especially with a small town; one incident, and you’re closed,” says Basil. “If you don’t have the skills and training to do it, you don’t do it, regardless of your title.”

From a daily lifeguard management standpoint, Basil keeps them moving and rotating or on break every 15-20 minutes. Basil also alters the rotation so that it doesn’t become routine, helping to keep the lifeguards fresh.

An accountability and communication program is another thread that runs through the lifeguard program. Basil emphasizes that it’s not a tattle-tale program as much as it is a truth-telling one.

“If it’s the truth, speak it, even if it’s about me. There’s no way we can get better if we can’t speak the truth. If someone’s on the deck not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, call it out. Have a line of communication between the manager, assistant manager, head lifeguards and lifeguards all the time,” says Basil.

As part of that communication, minute documentation is employed at the Jones Recreation Center, whether it’s equipment, programming or personnel.

“I’m a stickler for keeping every little tidbit of information. The biggest thing is organizing it and being able to utilize it. Any information we have, we make sure to write it up. Don’t wait until after it happens. If your personnel are doing a certain thing a certain way and it’s working, have them jot it down and make a note of it. Get your information now,” says Basil.

“Our biggest thing now is the way people think about lawsuits, and the liability end of it. That’s our biggest thought every day — making sure things are done consistently and documented, especially since we’re dealing with the public and an aquatic facility. I see people get themselves in trouble by having something like an aquatics facility, but not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. In a small town people often look for an easy way out, but especially in a small town you can’t take those kinds of chances. You have one little incident and the whole program’s dead.”

Basil takes a before, during and after approach where everything and everyone is inspected and checked before, during and after pool time, both daily and seasonally. “You always have a certain amount of hazards in any operation, so you need to make sure those hazards are minimized before, during and after,” says Basil.

Balanced Management

Basil’s risk management philosophies are somewhat intuitive, given that he had emergency management experience prior to running Jones Recreation Center. Though lacking general pool care background, Basil has experience running a water plant, which comes in handy.

“I’ve taken river water and made it look like this pool. Number one, it takes water balance. I’ll adjust pH first, then alkalinity. Those two things have to be done first,” says Basil.

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