Room With a View
by Larry Mundy
May 2006

 Hotel Pool Safety 101
There are two kinds of hotel pools, the kind that fitness-conscious adults swim laps in, and the kind that a dozen children splash and pee in.  But because pools are expensive, high-maintenance, and don’t add a nickel to your ADR, one pool must serve both types of users.

The pool is really unique, among all your common-area amenities in this regard.  Children are rarely seen in your fine-dining restaurant.  Adults never congregate in the video arcade.  Kids aren’t allowed in the exercise room, and shouldn’t be.  Press the “sprint” button on the treadmill, and some 5-year-old gets embedded into the back wall.  

But the pool is different; it appeals to young and old alike.  There is something comforting and womb-like about being enveloped in cool water amply seasoned with surfactants, chlorine and organic waste.  Water buoys pudgy old folks, so they can exercise without risking torn knee cartilage.  Water exhilarates youngsters, who learn to vent their energy and hostility by splashing and forcefully submerging their peers in a kid-friendly environment.  And you, the hotel owner, have to keep the pool clean and safe for all comers. 

Pool safety starts with some sort of enclosure around the pool that cannot be opened by nonswimming toddlers who have wandered out of their parents’ sight and/or awareness.  For outdoor pools, this can be a simple fence whose gate latch is high enough that only NBA stars can reach it, or rusty enough that only adult-level brute force can unlatch it.  Indoor pools can have doors operated by room card-keys and/or spring-type door hinges that will not yield to a child’s pressure.  And because you cannot afford a lifeguard for such a free amenity, the gate, fence, door, walls, plant urns, pool towels, pool deck, rescue equipment and deck chairs must all have bright red lettering large enough to be visible from space, that reads: “CAUTION!  NO LIFEGUARD ON DUTY.  SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK.”  Of course, the high-risk toddler is still a little fuzzy about the difference between the letter “A” and the color “blue,” but these signs do make your insurance company feel better.  At this stage in history, there is no universal symbol or pictogram for a toddler floating face-down.

The pool deck must have a non-skid surface.  This is not for the benefit of youngsters, who can run, fall and slide, and have the resultant damage fixed with a kiss and a Popsicle.  It’s for us older folks, who can incur severe back damage simply bending to pick up a dropped coin.  My personal girth is sufficient that if I slipped and fell on the pool deck, I would not only injure myself, but would leave a depression in the concrete where water would “pond” and exacerbate the danger to the next unwitting adult.  A non-skid surface is generally achieved during construction by mixing the decking cement with sand, charcoal briquettes or broken glass.  If this is not done during construction, you can make an inexpensive but temporary non-skid surface by coating the pool deck with sorghum or silicone glue, then sprinkling it with bits of steel wool.

There should be huge, clear depth markers at the edge of the pool at each elevation.  For children, they should read “You must be 42” tall to ride this ride.”  Kids understand that.  For the adults, they should read “3 FEET” although after a drunken frat party, some wastrel will do a headfirst dive into the shallow end anyway.  Again, this is really to make your insurance agent sleep better at night.

The pool water must be constantly filtered and cleaned, or your pool will turn funny colors and the EPA will declare it an environmental disaster area.  This means you must purchase and install a wastewater treatment plant sized for the water-purification needs of a small city.  This equipment is housed in a separate room along with a variety of treatment chemicals that, except in carefully measured doses, will dissolve diamonds into a watery goo and kill every living thing for miles.  Needless to say, access to this room should be controlled, possibly by installing a steel entry door and then welding it shut.

Every member of your staff should be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the Heimlich maneuver, first aid, basic arthroscopic surgery and charcoal-briquette extraction.  Somewhere in the pool area there should be a Red Cross-approved first aid kit inaccessible to the general public, but accessible by your staff if they break the glass with their fists and sever a major artery.  It’s simple psychology, really.  The old guy who slipped and fell will focus less on himself if he is being assisted by someone who is rapidly bleeding to death.

If your pool is indoors, its enclosure will have the humidity of the Brazilian rainforest, and it will grow mold cultures currently unknown to science.  You must keep air moving through the structure with giant fans, or keep the ambient temperature just barely north of freezing.  If your pool is outdoors, it will collect whatever is wafting by in the air – dirt, leaves, inadequately-fueled small planes.  You can have an employee walk around using a dip net, or simply flood the pool so the floating stuff spills over the coping, across the pool deck, and into the bushes.  The chlorine will kill the bushes over time, but this will cut your landscape maintenance budget considerably.

If your is a highly transient market with a short length of stay, you can avoid all this headache by stenciling a simple sign reading “Pool Closed For Maintenance” and locking the doors or gates.  That way the guest sees you have a lovely pool, just as advertised in the nice color brochure, and just figures he was unlucky enough to arrive during major pool maintenance.  With any luck you can keep up this ruse through the entire swimming season.  Most of your guests, you didn’t want to see in skimpy swimming suits anyway.

Larry Mundy works for a hotel company in Dallas.  His views are his own, and may differ considerably from those of a sane person."

Larry Mundy
[email protected]

Also See: Where Not To Build a Hotel / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
“Exterior Corridors” – Disappearing, Because They Never Existed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy
My Top Ten Worst Hotel Inventions / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
Bed Tech / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
A Sense of Arrival / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006

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