Are kids safe in public pools?

Are kids safe in public pools?

By Valerie Cavazos. CREATED Jun 4, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A near drowning at a Marana public pool has parents concerned in Pima County. They want to know -- are my kids safe at any public pool?

It's an important question, especially now, at the start of the summer swimming season. But it's not easy to answer because public pools are run by different municipalities. So KGUN9 checked with the Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department, which operates several pools.

To sit in one of the chairs as a professional lifeguard at the Manzanita pool, training is required.  Marnie Green is an American Red Cross lifeguard instructor and she's strict. Not knowing what to do when someone is drowning is unacceptable. "We have a vigorous testing policy. Where they have to go through a scenario step by step without us giving them any hints and if they're not capable of doing that, they don't pass," she said.

But donning a red bathing suit doesn't mean the training stops. "They do what is called simulated scenarios, where they do drills and ensure they do practice those training's," said Grant Bourguet, Recreation Program Manager.

Each Pima County public pool has its own set of policies that must be followed. At Manzanita, has two lifeguards on watch during swim lesson -- a minimum number required by the Pima County Health Code. Even the changing of the guards follows strict procedures. There is a 1 to 25 ratio -- so lifeguards are added  during open swim as more people enter the pool.

"If it all gets too much we put a guard walking here and a guard walking here to make sure we can see everyone," said head life guard, Oscar Caballeros.

Lifeguards must scan the pool at all times for anything suspicious. No horse-playing. No dunking.  No dead man's float allowed. "If they're dead man floating, we're going to jump in because we think they're in trouble," said Green.

KGUN9's Valerie Cavazos asked Green, "So what about someone just lying at the bottom of the pool." She answered "Then they're trained to go in and get them hopefully that won't happen because they weren't doing their job correctly if they see that."

And if lifeguards fail to do the jobs they're trained for -- "They're asked to leave because we drill them almost every day," she said.

Are kids safe in public pools. Green and Bourguet say something might go wrong even in the best case scenario, but it's imperative lifeguards follow pool protocols to reduce the risks.

If you have concerns about your children's safety at public pools, it doesn't hurt to ask staff about their safety procedures.