Swimmers left out in the cold
It was practice for a hypothetical emergency – but it left ageing swimmers shivering outdoors in their dripping togs.
AKa¯piti Coast man has spoken out after a group of mostly elderly, ‘‘frozen solid’’ swimmers, including a person lifted from a pool in a hoist, were evacuated from an aquatic centre in a practice drill.
But, the Ka¯piti Coast District Council says drills are necessary for true staff training, and all swimmers eventually received blankets. Carlos Dellabarca said about 15
20 elderly and mobility to impaired swimmers hovered outside Coastlands Aquatic Centre in wet swimwear after the evacuation: in his opinion risking their health.
‘‘There was at least one person who was being hoisted out of the swimming pool. Lots of people who were mobility impaired, but not necessarily in wheelchairs,‘‘ he said.
Dellabarca was in the sauna when alarms went off and, along with some swimmers, was directed out a side entrance..
He had grabbed his gear bag and towel, but about half of his group headed out without even a towel, he said.
They waited at least five minutes outside, many shivering.
‘‘At least one person was saying ‘I’ve just gotten better, I don’t want to get sick again’.’’
Eventually, they were told to move away from the building, and they would soon get blankets.
At this stage, a dripping Dellabarca walked to his car without going back in – returning the next day to retrieve gear he left behind.
It was ‘‘absolutely’’ not worth putting the elderly swimmers’ health at risk for the sake of an exercise, he said.
‘‘I used to work as a pool lifeguard ... and these exercises were always simulated for the sake of convenience. Unless it’s an emergency you don’t put people outside in the cold, in wet clothes.’’
Ka¯piti Coast District Council parks and recreation manager Alison Law said drills were about testing how prepared the council was in real situations.
‘‘We need our staff to experience the challenge of evacuating the pool during a range of different situations, so evacuation drills during daytime operating hours is necessary.’’
A group of people exited the spa sauna through the eastern exit, ‘‘and while there was a reported delay in issuing them blankets, they did receive them’’.
People who left through the front doors of the Paraparaumu complex during the exercise were given blankets straight away, she said.
‘‘One of the valuable takeaways for our staff from this week’s drill is that blankets need to be distributed more quickly in cold weather.’’
Staff were not warned of the emergency drill, she said, so it would be a true test of their skills.
MetService meteorologist Tom Adams said at midday in Paraparaumu on Tuesday there was a 22kmh wind from the north/north-east, and the temperature was hitting the day’s maximum of 13.5 degrees.