While the swimming pool may be a great place to beat the heat, Manchester Parks and Recreation Director Doug Foley reminds swimmers they still need to protect themselves from the sun and drink plenty of fluids.
“For our patrons and staff members, we want to make sure everybody is alert with the weather as far as staying hydrated and using a lot of sunscreen,” he said.
As expected, the pool sees an increase in usage when summer heat rolls in. “When it’s hot, the pool is busy,” said Foley.
A normal attendance day will see close to 400 patrons use the center, while the busiest days will see over 500.
Last season the Manchester Family Aquatics Center saw over 18,000 patrons pass through its gates. The center features three water slides, a diving board, zero-depth entry, spray fountains, sand volleyball, a sunbathing area and a concession stand.
Foley said the heat can also affect lifeguards. “Their number-one duty is to watch the water and be alert, to make sure they are proactive to any potential accidents or mishaps that could happen. Sometimes in the heat, they get slowed down.”
According to Foley, lifeguards take breaks every hour and come down from their chair, come in the bathhouse area and get something to drink or to eat.
“Shade goes a long way,” Foley said. “They can stay out of the sun during break. Also, when it’s hot, we put the umbrellas up on their chairs whether they want them or not. We know in the long run it’s better for them.”
The staff at the aquatics center keep their eyes out not only for pool patrons but also for each other. “We want to make sure everybody takes care of everybody,” said Foley.
When a child comes to the pool without the things needed to combat the heat, the staff steps in to help. “If we see someone who is getting a little bit pink, we make sure to let them know to get some sunscreen on,” Foley said. “We do have sunscreen available for patron use for free at the front desk. We try to encourage that regularly. We also have a drinking fountain in case someone doesn’t want to spend money on a Gatorade or a bottle of water, or doesn’t have the money for one.”
Hot, humid weather can often generate summer storms. “We are glued to the radar when we know there is weather coming,” Foley admitted. “If we know a storm is inevitable, we will clear the pool preemptively rather than scramble at the last second.”
Foley stressed that parents or sitters need to watch the children in their charge. “We have lifeguards on duty that are trained, but all supervision, including parental, is still necessary. The more people in the pool, the harder it is to see everyone every second. We want to make sure everybody is being watched.”
Foley advises parents to not just drop their children off at the pool, especially if they can’t swim. “If they have flotation devices, make sure they are Coast Guard approved. But that doesn’t mean they will be 100% safe. They still need to be supervised.”
Foley said the goal of the aquatic center staff remains the same. “Safety is our number-one priority. We want to make sure everyone is having fun.”