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The One Thing Wrong With All Hotel Pools logo 5/1/2015 Keryn Means


Life vests are such a simple invention, but too few hotels and resorts with pools offer them to guests. These are bulky items that are inconvenient for parents to pack, so they leave them at home, which opens everyone up to a greater risk of drowning.

Hotels and resorts who want families to visit their location need to step up and start offering this simple amenity.

Dear Family-Friendly Resorts and Hotels,

As a mother with two small boys who have no fear when it comes to the water, I implore you to offer free life vests to every child who visits the pool at your establishment. Yes, I will always be on hand watching my boys. But even a moment's distraction can make the difference between life and death for a child. Parents aren't perfect, but the easiest way to prevent drowning is to stick the kids in a life vest in the pool, especially if I am not in the pool with them, and they are not strong swimmers.

Vests are cheaper than extra staff and will give everyone peace of mind.

Drowning is a very real and very scary prospect for parents. According to the CDC, "Every day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. ... For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries."

If the cost of a few life vests at the pool, which can be signed out to a guest's room or just given freely, means that the children at your establishment will stay safe. I think it is worth the money. I'm sure your property insurance company will be all for this cheap amenity too, but you would be surprised by how few family-friendly resorts do have life vests available for guests.

Looking to diffuse the costs of this "luxury" amenity? Partner with a life vest company so you can brand the vests with your logo. Don't go for the cheap vests either. For under $30 you can get a vest that will protect children, fit them well and not cause their heads to tip forward into the water. Sell the branded vests in your gift shops so parents can take them home. Pick a fun color that works for both boys and girls, so you don't have to have a pink and a blue one (tropical greens and blues work very well).

Life vests are especially important if you do not have a lifeguard on staff. Vests are cheaper than extra staff and will give everyone peace of mind. As we all know, parents get distracted on vacation. They may think their children are fine or their toddler will stick to the steps while they order appetizers, but kids will also thwart their parents' best efforts.

If you do have life vests, make sure you educate your entire staff about where they are. I was once visiting a very high-end beach resort, and I asked the concierge, activities organizers and even the general manager of the hotel if they had life vests for the kids. No one had a clue. This is a safety tool that cannot only protect your guests, but also shows your guests that you care about their safety, not just their dollars.

If the child has a life vest on, she may have more time for you to get to her. If she doesn't have a life vest on, the child might only have a matter of seconds to be rescued.

Signs of drowning

Possibly the highest hurdles parents face when it comes to drowning is that they don't know what it looks like. Hollywood has inundated us with dramatic images of drowning victims shouting for help, when, in reality, drowning is a silent killer. Mario Vittone wrote an excellent article a few years back highlighting the signs of drowning.

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs—vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

The biggest thing to remember is that just because someone looks OK doesn't mean they are OK. Drowning doesn't look like it does in the movies: it is much more quiet and passive. If parents notice that their children are quiet in a pool or staff sees a calm child in a pool, which just isn't normal behavior for most kids, something is wrong. Find out what it is.

If the child has a life vest on, she may have more time for you to get to her. If she doesn't have a life vest on, the child might only have a matter of seconds to be rescued.

Life vests make a difference to parents, children and the places they are staying. If parents are assured of their children's safety, they will have a better time and are more likely to make a return trip to your property. By showing you care about safety, make it a priority and don't force parents to have to pack bulky vests that take up more than half of their suitcases. Doing so guarantees a much better experience overall for families.

So I implore you, find the money to get life vests at your pool. Advertise that you have them. Add them to the amenities list. Send emails out to booked families who are traveling to you soon, so they know it is one less thing they have to pack.

Everyone will be much happier if you do.

Thank you.


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