Cassville Aquatic Park sets the standard for other area pools to follow
It's safety first, fun second at the Cassville Aquatic Center. Youngsters flock to the pool during the summer months, and a crew of 27 highly trained lifeguards are there to watch over them.
The pool is open daily, and each day there are 10 guards and a manager on duty. Staffing is based on a ratio of one guard to every 25 swimmers, which determines the pool's capacity.
Last summer, an additional guard stand was added at the local pool, which allows for one guard to specifically watch over the kiddie pool. Stands have also been repositioned to eliminate blindspots and provide clear visual angles for all portions of the pool.
To become a lifeguard, individuals must pass stringent written and practical tests administered through the Red Cross. The certification process involves 25 hours of training with a focus on life-saving skills. Guards are all certified in rescue techniques, CPR, AED and adult and pediatric First Aid.
"In addition, we hold inservices once a month, which provide four hours of training to refresh the life guards' skills," said Dove Haney, director of the Cassville YMCA. "We also do two mock drownings a month."
Lifeguards must also pass a strenous swimming test, which has become more difficult over the past two years. Before they begin the certification process, a life guard in training must be able to swim 300 yards with confidence, tread water for two minutes without using their hands and pass a timed brick test, which involves retrieving a brick submerged in 12 feet of water.
"Those are just the prerequisites and then we do training beyond those basic skills," explained Haney.
"We have a great group of lifeguards this year," added Haney. "We have a lot of newer and enthusiastic guards. It's good to have experience but it's also good to have a new view on things because they're not complacent."
In addition to hiring certified lifeguards, the Cassville YMCA has instituted a number of safety policies and procedures, which have become the standard for other pools and aquatic centers operated by the Ozarks Regional YMCA.
"Two years ago, it came to my attention that not every YMCA pool in our area was run by the same set of standards," said Haney. "So we formed an aquatics task force to review best policies and procedures, so we're consistent and can learn from each other. Now we have an 80-page aquatics handbook that we follow."
Haney serves as chairperson of the aquatics task force for the Ozarks Regional YMCA.
"The Cassville Aquatic Park was the standard for other pools to follow, because we had the most strenous, strictest policy enforcement," said Haney.
One policy that Cassville instituted requires all patrons under the age of 18 to pass a swim test before they can swim in water over three and a half feet deep. Swimmers must be able to swim the width of the deep end of the pool twice before they are given a red wrist band that allows them to swim in the deeper water.
"Guards are also empowered, if they see a child struggling or someone who has gotten too tired, to take a band away and make them sit out for awhile," said Haney.
Young swimmers who do not pass the swim test can wear a certified life jacket and be in the pool with their parents.
"We encourage parents to get in the water and work with their kids to become better swimmers," said Haney. "We also highly encourage parents to keep track of their kids even though the lifeguards are there. Parental supervision is definitely a necessity."
No one under the age of 10 is allowed to come to the pool without a parent or responsible guardian.
For those parents who want to ensure their children become strong swimmers, the Cassville YMCA offers swim lessons at the pool. Four two-week sessions are held throughout the summer with classes offered at noon and 6 p.m.
The pool is open for open swim from 1 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and Sunday and from 1 to 8 p.m. on Saturday.
For additional information about the Cassville Aquatic Center, call 846-1535.