Wrist band program coming at the Slave Lake pool

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

The Northern Lights Aquatic Centre in Slave Lake is going to be implementing a new program to reduce the risk of incompetent swimmers ending up in deep water. It’s called the swim test/wrist band program, and town council got the details on it last week from pool manager Brianne Paulson and the town’s community services director Tasha Albert.

Mitigating risk is a big part of what is driving the move towards the program, council heard. That would be risk to swimmers – especially young kids – as well as liability risk to the organization.

Council heard that RCMP in Fort McMurray have charged a lifeguard for the drowning death of a patron of a pool there. The lifeguard – as well as his or her employer – are also facing private legal action by the family.

What’s proposed is a swimming competency test, based on Canadian Lifesaving Society guidelines. Once a kid has proven a certain competency in the water, he or she will be issued a wristband of a certain colour. Failure in the swim test will result in a wristband of another colour, and banishment to the shallower parts of the pool.

“We have had incidents where non-swimmers entering the facility have immediately jumped into water over their head and required rescuing,” says the written report in council’s agenda package.

Another risky thing that has been happened is young kids getting onto a pool toy, which then may float out into deeper water. Pool staff have no easy way of knowing whether the child is at risk of drowning. The wrist band system would help staff quickly ID high-risk swimmers.

Three wristband colours are proposed: red means the child must be within arms’ reach of an adult at all times; yellow means the child cannot go deeper than chest depth without a life jacket; green means the swimmer is okay to go anywhere in the pool without a life jacket.

Council heard that many other municipalities are already implementing the swim test/wrist band program. It will cause some inconvenience at first, but once it gets going it works well.

Councillor Steve Adams asked if staffing challenges could slow the transition and make things even more inconvenient for pool patrons. We’re working on it, said Albert, and can handle it with the current staff.

When will it start? Asked councillor Julie Brandle.

“As soon as possible,” said Paulson. “We already have the wrist bands and the database.”

Council accepted the report as information.

After being tested, kids will wear one of these wrist bands at the pool.

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