Camp Directors – Information about the Safe Operations of Aquatics Facilities

A camp director should have a solid understanding of aquatics to ensure the safety and enjoyment of campers and staff participating in water-related activities. This page will provide camp directors and leaders with some basic information to start creating a safety plan for any aquatic activities.

Below are a few topics that affect Camp Directors and Supervisors universally:   

Develop a risk management plan that includes risk assessments,
hazard identification, and strategies for minimizing risks associated with aquatic
activities.

Be sure to follow your state, county and local regulations as
it pertains to staffing and camper ratios. Provide ongoing training for your emergency
response staff. Encourage them to stay current with the latest safety guidelines and
techniques.

It is not just the aquatic staff’s responsibility to watch campers during
aquatic activities. Regardless if you are at your own facility or visiting an aquatics facility
it is important for everyone to be vigilant. Non aquatic staff can add extra layers of
protection—helping ensure that all activities are safe and appropriate. Responsibilities
can include watching for vulnerable campers, managing campers in the water, enforcing
rules, and assisting with non-aquatic activities.

Develop and regularly review emergency action plans for
aquatic activities. Part of the review should be realistic, site-specific drills including all
staff members. Ensure that all staff are trained in responding to water-related
emergencies, including drowning, injuries, and waterborne illnesses.

Educate parents and campers about water safety rules,
procedures, and expectations. Provide information about swim tests, water depths, and
the importance of following lifeguard instructions.

Establish clear communication protocols between staff members
during aquatic activities. Radios or whistles can be essential tools for effective
communication.

Ensure that your camp has appropriate liability insurance coverage for
aquatic activities and that staff are aware of the insurance policies and procedures in
case of incidents.

Maintain records of staff certifications, incident reports, water quality
tests, and emergency response drills. These records are important for accountability and
continuous improvement.

Establish policies for inclement weather, such as thunderstorms, and
lightning safety protocols. Ensure that all staff know when and how to clear the water in
the event of severe weather. If you are visiting a facility, they should educate you on
their process, so you are knowledgeable before the visit.

Implement a safety swim test and swim-level identification (bands, caps,
etc.) protocol for all swimmers. Consider restricting poor and non-swimmers to chest-
deep water or less, with additional protections in place (wearing a USCG-approved life

jacket and/or within arm’s reach of an adult); inability to swim is the primary cause of
drowning.

The buddy system is a safety practice commonly used in
various outdoor and aquatic activities. The primary purpose is to have individuals pair
up and look out for each other while engaging in these activities. Follow your local
regulations as to the frequency of buddy checks if required. In the absence of local
regulations, buddy checks generally happen every 10-20 minutes depending on age, and
ability of the campers.

Below, we have broken information into four sections with various topics to consider depending on the situation: A camp that contains a waterfront, a camp that contains a swimming pool, a camp visiting a swimming pool and a camp visiting a waterfront. Each has its own set of items to consider when addressing water safety.

A Camp that Contains a Waterfront

Familiarize yourself with local, state, and federal regulations governing aquatic activities. These regulations may include lifeguard-to-swimmer ratios, water quality standards, and signage requirements. Some states may not require lifeguards for waterfronts. That DOES NOT mean you should not utilize lifeguards. If this is the case, you may want to consider requiring your staff to become certified. Contact your local health department for more information.

Ensure that all aquatic staff, including lifeguards and swim instructors,
have the necessary certifications. These typically include lifeguarding, CPR, First Aid, and
Water Safety Instructor (WSI) certifications. Be sure to consult state regulations and
your insurance carrier about the need for lifeguards to be certified with water front
training.

Understand the maintenance requirements for your waterfront.
Regular inspections and maintenance are crucial to prevent accidents.

Reach out to local environmental agencies, water management organizations, or the state’s environmental protection department. They often monitor and report on the water quality of lakes in the region and may have recent data available.

Be knowledgeable about the design and layout of swim areas. Ensure that they are appropriately marked, have clearly defined boundaries, and are free from hazards and know the depth of the water.

Plan aquatic activities that are suitable for the age and skill levels of your campers. Ensure that there are separate areas for beginner, intermediate, and advanced swimmers.

Be familiar with the various types of aquatic equipment, such as life jackets, rescue tubes, and backboards. Ensure that they are in good condition and available when needed.

A Camp that Contains a Swimming Pool

A Camp that contains a swimming pool:

Familiarize yourself with local, state, and federal regulations governing aquatic activities. These regulations may include lifeguard-to-swimmer ratios, water quality standards, and signage requirements. Regulations vary greatly by state
and county. If you are not required to have lifeguards, that does not mean you don’t need to utilize them. If this is the case, you may want to consider requiring your staff to become certified. Contact your local health department and insurance carrier for additional information. In addition, the CDC has a Model Aquatics Health Code (MAHC) that can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/mahc/editions/current.html. State, county and local regulations take precedent over anything contained in the MAHC.

Ensure that all aquatic staff, including lifeguards and swim instructors, have the necessary certifications. These typically include lifeguarding, CPR, First Aid, and Water Safety Instructor (WSI) certifications. Facilities with water park features (e.g., water slides, splash pads, water playgrounds, etc.) should consult their state regulations and insurance carrier about the need for lifeguards to be certified with water park training.

Understand the maintenance requirements of your aquatic facility. Regular inspections and maintenance are crucial to prevent accidents and ensure water quality.

Learn about water chemistry and quality control. Regularly test water for pH, chlorine levels, and other parameters to ensure it is safe for swimming.

Be knowledgeable about the design and layout of swim areas. Ensure that they are appropriately marked, have clearly defined boundaries, and are free from hazards.

Plan aquatic activities that are suitable for the age and skill levels of your campers. Ensure that there are separate areas for beginner, intermediate, and advanced swimmers.

Be familiar with the various types of aquatic equipment, such as life jackets, rescue tubes, and backboards. Ensure that they are in good condition and available when needed.

A Camp Visiting a Waterfront

Be aware of the visiting facilities rules and how it
will be staffed. Understand what the expectations are and who will be supervising the
campers. Be sure to ask what about the level of training of the staff.

The facility you are visiting should have an emergency action plan and should cover the basic rules before the campers are allowed to play at the facility.

Be knowledgeable about the layout of swimming areas and know where campers are allowed to swim. Be sure to report any hazards or concerns to the waterfront staff.

Plan aquatic activities that are suitable for the age and skill levels of your campers. The waterfront may not have boundaries that match the skill level you have determined for each camper, and you may have to adjust accordingly.

Establish clear communication protocols between staff members during aquatic activities. Radios or whistles can be essential tools for effective communication.

Develop a risk management plan that includes risk assessments, hazard identification, and strategies for minimizing risks associated with aquatic activities.

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A Camp Visiting a Swimming Pool

Be aware of the visiting facilities rules and how it will be staffed. Understand what the expectations are and who will be supervising the campers. Be sure to ask what about the level of training of the staff.

The facility you are visiting should have an emergency action plan and should cover the basic rules before the campers are allowed to play at the facility.

Understand the maintenance requirements of the aquatic facilities that you are going to, including pools, lakes, or waterfront areas. Regular inspections and maintenance are crucial to prevent accidents and ensure water quality. Make sure that the facility that you are going to does regular maintenance and meets industry safety standards.

Water testing is left to the swimming pool operator. However, if you cannot clearly see the bottom of the swimming pool at the deepest point, do not let campers enter the water.

Be knowledgeable about the layout of swimming areas and know where campers are allowed to swim. Be sure to report any hazards or concerns to the aquatics staff.

Plan aquatic activities that are suitable for the age and skill levels of your campers. The waterfront may not have boundaries that match the skill level you have determined for each camper, and you may have to adjust accordingly.

Be familiar with the various types of aquatic equipment, such as life jackets, rescue tubes, and backboards. Ensure that they are in good condition and available by having a strong understanding of these aspects of aquatics, a camp director can create a safe and enjoyable aquatic experience for campers while minimizing risks and ensuring compliance with regulations. Additionally, ongoing monitoring and evaluation of aquatic programs can help identify areas for improvement and enhance the overall camp experience.