Guarding The Bottom Line

Are you wondering how to squeeze a few more days and dollars out of your aquatic equipment?

Like most other aquatic complexes built decades ago, the pools in Garland, Texas, utilized standard lifeguard chairs, made of fiberglass and mounted on a steel pole bolted to the pool deck.

After 30 years of using this type of stand, city staff decided in 1996 to replace all stands with a new design that could be manufactured in-house. The entire chair was made from treated lumber and painted white.

Being easy to build and maintain with replacement parts readily available, the design could be modified to accommodate needs at all pool facilities. After some minor adjustments to finishes and anti-skid treatments, the overall design proved successful for many years.

However, by 2006, due to the blistering Texas heat, the lifeguard chairs needed to be re-designed. Maintenance staff again developed a design that increased durability, allowed for faster lifeguard exits, and reduced maintenance expenses.

In researching materials that could be utilized for the lifeguard stands, the staff determined that recycled plastic wood was the best option. It looked like wood and could be worked and painted like wood, but was far more durable, and was available in several different colors.

After consulting with staff from other park systems and examining several designs, a new model was developed that was durable, had increased sun protection and a smaller footprint, and included a holder to keep umbrellas from blowing into pool guests.

The new chairs debuted at the beginning of the 2007 season. They proved to be quite successful with the added benefit that crews were able to reduce the time required to maintain the chairs between each season.

Chairs could now be cleaned with power washers rather than re-painted between seasons. An added bonus was they have proven to be far more durable and vandal-resistant than any chairs previously used.

First-Aid Shack

In 2007, department managers also decided to make a significant change in the way lifeguards responded to aquatic incidents and first aid. A small “first-aid shack,” resembling an outhouse, was designed and centrally located within the city’s wave-action pool complex.

Prior to 2006, first-aid supplies and emergency-response equipment were stored in various areas of the park nearest to those responsible for bringing the equipment to the pool deck during an “incident,” as part of the emergency-action plan.

The main objective in relocating the equipment was to store everything in a central location, while keeping it hidden.

The inside structure of the shack is simple, with shelves to store first-aid supplies and reports, gloves and a few cleaning supplies. There is also space on the floor and under the shelves to store the response bag containing the AED, oxygen and other supplies. The backboard stands against the back wall and is easily accessible.

The introduction of the shack has helped reduce response time to incidents. It has also helped the first-aid budget by reducing the wear and tear on the response equipment. Before the shack was built, the backboard and other equipment were stored outdoors, causing weather and UV-related wear to equipment, which meant additional costs to replace it.

Before conducting a routine inventory and automatically rounding up the “usual” supplies to buy, look around, evaluate your resources, and be creative. A little innovation may save big money in any aquatic facility.

Nathan Swanson has worked in various capacities for the city of Garland (Texas) Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department. Since joining the city as a Learn-to-Swim instructor in 2000, Nathan has moved through the ranks to become Senior Aquatic Business Manager. He can be reached via e-mail at