How Should Aquatics Professionals Respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Unprecedented. For me, this word will now forever be associated with the coronavirus pandemic. And calling it unprecedented is true — none of us has experienced a public safety crisis of this magnitude in our lifetime. To make matters worse, our anxiety is doubled because of the resulting economic crash. Not only are our lives at stake, our livelihoods are in danger as well.

But as aquatics professionals, we know that to respond with panic is never the solution. In fact, I’d say aquatics professionals are uniquely trained to handle crises, even a pandemic of this proportion. After all, you are used to doing emergency preparation and planning — whether it’s continuing lifeguard drills and training or devising an active shooter response plan — aquatics pros know that preparation is key.

So what can you do now?

Well, first off, communication is essential. Be sure to keep in regular contact with your staff, and be as transparent as possible.

Next, as Fred Rogers famously said, “Look for the helpers.” What resources can you rely on now to make important decisions affecting your facility? If you haven’t already done so, check in with certification organizations, risk management firms, and your association to see what they advise.

Speaking of associations, I spoke with Juliene Hefter, the executive director and CEO of the Association of Aquatic Professionals, and she had some solid advice.

“Use this downtime to get ready,” she said. “This should have been the time where you’re knee-deep in hiring. Do all the classroom stuff now and get your onboarding done online now so your guards will be ready to train in the pool as soon as it’s open again.”

She’s right — now is the time to be active and prepare. Review your various programs and EAPs — can they be improved? This time can also be used to advance skills or learning. For example, Hefter reports increased registration in AOAP’s AqP designation.

And, of course, you can rely on us to help keep you informed on the crisis and what you can do to help your facility through it. In this issue, Rebecca Robledo reports on the industry’s response to the pandemic, along with important advice from industry experts on pool closures; and Lifesavers columnist Pete DeQuincy shares how his life as been upended by the virus

Remember, aquatics people are uniquely capable to get through this pandemic because you’ve been prepping for emergencies every single day. You are just doing it in a different way now. Stay safe, everyone.

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