picture at municipal swimming pool
Credit: FILE PHOTO

An investigation conducted after a near drowning in June at the Houston Municipal Swimming Pool concludes that understaffing was a contributing factor.

In a nine-page report, an investigator with the Houston Police Department says the pool didn’t have enough lifeguards that day and attempts were not made to shut down some areas where trouble would have been probable. It also questions whether lifeguards were being attentive.

The Houston Police Department conducted the inquiry after a 7-year-old male non-swimmer went down a slide and was in distress. Witnesses believed the boy was unconscious for an extended period of time. A 10-year-old girl brought him to the side of the pool and a family member administered CPR as a lifeguard assisted.

The boy was taken by private vehicle because of an expected ambulance delay to Texas County Memorial Hospital, where he was admitted for overnight observation. He has since recovered.

The Houston Police Department visited with five lifeguards, two pool managers and other witnesses as part of the investigation.

The day after the June 19 accident, a training company, Starguard, arrived as part of an already scheduled audit. It found that lifeguards did not scan the pool as trained and were easily distracted. It gave the pool a “rectify” grade because of the inattention and lifeguards being easily distracted.

The city’s insurance carrier suggested that Starguard be contacted to gain additional insights to the pool’s operation. The police department said the president of the company said he believed managers should have shut down sections of the pool that were short of lifeguards and should never be given additional responsibility when short-staffed.

Other findings: Lifeguards should never leave their assigned stands unless an emergency occurs, an on-duty manager should never leave the pool deck and should insure that lifeguards are scanning their zones as trained and not horseplaying or talking to others.

The training company said it was somewhat alarmed about the audit, and that it was willing to send a trainer to make improvements.

The City of Houston said many steps have already been put in place to enhance safety and that will continue with the hiring of lifeguards and managers for the 2022 season. The pool will close on Labor Day, and is currently operating on a limited schedule due to staff returning back to school.

Starguard has already given continuing education topics to the city. Drills are done weekly. City Administrator Scott Avery said a much more robust program of continuing education will be introduced next year with planning well before the normal Memorial Day weekend opener.

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