Splash Campaign

Naval Base Kitsap (NBK), WA. is geographically located on the Kitsap Peninsula and supports two in-door aquatic facilities within the base which serve the personnel and their families. The Bangor Pool is a 10-lane facility with a diving well that is separated by a moveable bulkhead and the Bremerton Pool is a 6-lane facility. Robyn Gross is the Aquatics Manager for NBK, and has been in the industry for 9 ½ years. Here is an excerpt from her interview:
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Tell me about your SPLASH campaign?

The SPLASH campaign is a water safety drowning prevention program that was initiated by the Commander of Naval Installations Command (CNIC). The SPLASH campaign addressed one of the challenges aquatic professionals experienced at all 70 naval installations: providing a standardized swim test for children (under 18 years old) using any Navy pool. Most if not all military families move from base to base, and a family could be using a naval installation pool in different state or country one day, and the next day be here utilizing our pool. Now the test is the same at any Navy pool installation.

What is the swim test?

The test is a 25-yard swim that must be done on the stomach, either front crawl or breaststroke and once it was completed, it is followed up with a one-minute tread where the individual must keep their ears out of the water. If the child successfully completes the test, they can utilize our diving board and diving well. If the child is unsuccessful and under the height of 54 inches (4 ½ feet tall, an adult must be in the water with the child always and within arm’s reach. Life jackets can be used by children at the facility, either their own or they can borrow one from us. However, use of a life jacket doesn’t substitute passing a swim test or adult supervision, or access to the deep end of the pool.

Were there any challenges you encountered when you implemented this program?

The biggest challenge was the new height requirement and having an adult in the water with a child at any time. Parents had to be educated that parental supervision was required in the water even if their child could tip-toe on the bottom of the pool (still under the height of 54 inches.) It was a struggle for parents to understand that parental supervision from the deck was not acceptable. It took about two months for parents to finally get on board with our SPLASH campaign.

At the beginning of the campaign, we changed our wristband system which was used to identify paid entry into a wristband system to assist us in identifying the non-swimmers. An entry pass took the place of the paid entry wristband. For our wristband non-swimmer identification system; if the patron wears a green wristband, it means you’ve passed the swim test and you are permitted to go anywhere within the aquatic facility. If the patron wears a red wristband; this means you have not passed the swim test and must stay in the shallow end of the pool and you are taller than a height of 54 inches. This patron still has access to our recreational swim area where the water is chest-height or lower, and a parent is not required to be in the water and provide parental supervision. Any child without a wristband must have parental supervision and must within arm’s reach always.

How long did it take to develop the SPLASH campaign before it was implemented?

In October 2014, we met as a 10-person board and identified there was the need for the SPLASH program. We sent our ideas to CNIC, in which they took over and did the initial draft of the campaign. The draft was sent to the board and we vetted the material, giving comment on what worked, what was practical when it came to implementation. CNIC took our comments and suggestions and developed the final material we have now, which was implemented at all the Naval installation on Memorial Day of 2015.

What were the immediate benefits you saw with the implementation of the program?
We saw increased parental supervision in water. As the SPLASH program continues, we’ve seen an increase in children using life jackets. Since the guidelines are clearer, parents are resorting to putting their children into life jackets if there is any doubt on their child’s ability. We now keep about 75 life jackets available on site. We have a full spectrum of life jackets from infant to adult, varying in design. We have found that different life jacket designs provide better fitting to children of all shapes and sizes. Another immediate benefit is that the height guidelines were formalized and empowered the lifeguards on enforcing the height requirement. We have a PVC pipe that is the exact height, and lifeguards feel comfortable about measuring children if in doubt.
What advice would you give to another aquatic professional if he/she wanted to start a similar program?

Be excited about. Successful implementation requires having all your staff on board. You’ll need to champion of what the benefits are rather the differences.