Monday, July 18, 2016

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

by Sandy Kellogg

Aquatic Operations Supervisor, Mount Vernon RECenter
Fairfax County Park Authority
VRPS Aquatics Resource Group 2016 Chair
VRPS 2016 Awards Co-Chair

The Latin quote above is often translated into “Who watches the watchers”, but according to the ultimate authority, Wikipedia, it literally translates into “Who will guard the guards themselves?”.  Last week I had the privilege of being asked to come tour an aquatic facility in Loudoun County.  The Lovettsville Community Center has a beautiful seasonal pool overlooking the mountains to the north, and with their new lounge chairs it definitely has a country club atmosphere.  I saw lots of interesting things at the facility, but the one thing that sticks in my mind are the surveillance cameras that they have pointed at the pool.

Many facilities will have security cameras on the front desk or entrances, but there seems to be a reluctance to have similar surveillance for the aquatic areas.  Many people have told me that they are reluctant to have video surveillance, especially with recording capability, simply for liability issues.  Yes, having a video that shows negligence or unprofessionalism behavior would definitely show up in a courtroom, but the liability would be very straightforward, and in today’s connected world the video and pictures are happening anyway.  And as a training tool, the Lovettsville Pool has a decided advantage.  A recent rescue was caught on video, and was a great training tool for other staff.  It was also a great tool for seeing what went well, and what could go better.

I have taught a lot of aquatic risk management, and there is nothing more powerful than actual video footage.  At a recent camp director training the 13 minute video of the Yoni Gottesman incident was much more powerful that anything I could say or do.

We can use cameras to ‘watch the watchers’, but lacking the technological investment aquatic facilities can still benefit from staff that knows people are watching them.  We use unannounced audits when an aquatic staff member comes from another facility, often in street clothes, and watches the guards.  They even go as far as to put a silhouette into the water, or swimming themselves and simulating an emergency.  The staff on duty never know` when or who, and the unknown is often the extra edge to their scanning.  A simple spot check can let the guards know that people are watching, just like back in 2nd Century when the Roman poet Juvenil wondered who would guard the guards.  

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