Preventing tragedy in public pools

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – As people flock to public pools to escape the summer heat, safety may be more of an afterthought.

The State of Indiana has standards to create a safer pool environment, but West Lafayette Municipal Pool Manager Sue Mattern said accidents may not always be preventable.

“I don’t know that everybody can be 100 percent safe all the time,” said Mattern.

Every year about 19 percent of U.S. drowning deaths involving children happen in a public swimming pool with lifeguards present. However, Mattern said they are striving to lower that statistic.

“Our primary goal is to educate the public and be proactive,” said Mattern. “We try to prevent accidents before they happen.”

Lifeguards play a big role in educating swimmers. Leah McCormick helps manage the pool and is certified as a lifeguard through the American Red Cross.

She said all lifeguards have been certified in the state standard of CPR, first aid and lifeguard training, but the training doesn’t stop there.

Employees must go through in-service training to review specific pool rules.

“We have our own personal standards here that we follow which would be the no cell phones, no talking to people on chair,” said McCormick.

The pool is also required by the state to have one guard on duty for every 75 swimmers, but usually have more guards than necessary. Mattern said having the extra set of eyes is worth it.

“Paying an extra guard or someone that you may not think is necessary, really trumps having an accident,” added Mattern.

McCormick said it’s communication keeping the guards aware of what’s going on around them.

“Communication is really key here,” said McCormick. “We all are talking throughout the day to make sure everyone is safe.”

No matter how many rules are put in place, McCormick said accidents can still happen.

“Though lifeguards are extremely trained, parents need to be aware of where their children are, watching them,” said McCormick. “That way the parents and the lifeguards can work together.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language, off topic, or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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