Probably no other municipal amenity is as complex to run as a community pool.
The pool at the Poway Community Swim Center has 800,000 gallons of water that needs to be treated, pumped, filtered and heated for the safety of its guests and to comply with public health standards.
“The pool has quite a few things that need regular attention in order to operate,” says Recreation Manager Mike Varga. “The pool chemistry and systems need to be monitored and maintained throughout each day to keep the water quality balanced just right. So, if one part of that system fails – such as an issue with a chemical supplier, or an unexpected repair needs to happen that takes longer than expected – it could result in having to close the facility.”
Operations and maintenance are only part of the equation.
On a recent sunny winter Wednesday there was a line of pool regulars by 10:25 a.m. waiting for the swim center to open at 10:30 sharp. Some were there to swim laps in the short course lanes. Other were enjoying some social time before the 11 a.m. water exercise class began. None of that could happen without lifeguards.
“Lifeguards are the backbone of everything that happens at the pool,” said Varga. “Without lifeguards, we wouldn’t be able to open to the public.”
Staffing isn’t always easy. Most lifeguards are part-time and balancing school and other activities (including swim team for many of the high schoolers). Though the swim center does regular training with staff, the most important piece – a lifeguard certification program – must be completed before applying.
Lifeguard and swim instructor Evan Monroe has worked at the pool for six years now.
“I like being a part of a team that brings the community together through all of the activities we provide here at the swim center,” Monroe said.
The job was definitely more diverse than what he imagined. Watching over the pool and responding to emergencies is just one component. Lifeguards ensure the swim center is a safe and enjoyable experience for all guests. They focus on preventative safety like enforcing rules, explaining policies, inspecting safety equipment, and keep the facility clean and in good working condition. Lifeguards also run swim lessons and water exercise classes. These programs help give participants the skills they need to keep themselves safe in the water as well as supporting a fit and healthy lifestyle.
As the swim center prepares for the busy spring and summer seasons, two lifeguard certification classes are planned to help interested applicants take the first step. The course costs $210, but if they apply for a lifeguard position with the city and are hired, they receive a course refund upon the completion of 80 hours of service.
For information on training, and more about Swim Center hours and amenities, visit poway.org/swim.