Swim­mers left out in the cold

Kapiti Observer - - FRONT PAGE - JOEL MAXWELL

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.

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