Weather policies at outdoor aquatic facilities are a critical component of both your safety protocol and your guest service protocol. When developing a weather policy you want to ensure that you keep the guest’s safety as the key priority, but balance that with service, as well. There’s a way to keep your guests safe and happy and that’s the balance you need to find. Clearing a pool should be immediate upon the first sight of lightning or sound of thunder, and the pool(s) should remain clear for at least 30 minutes after the last strike of lighting or sound of thunder. During this time your facility staff needs to keep guests and staff clear of the water, trees and other equipment that could be an attractor to a lightning strike.
While this is fairly cut and dry information, the hard part comes when determining what to do with the 200, 500 or 1,000 guests who are currently in your park who paid a pretty penny to come and enjoy an afternoon at the family aquatic center of waterpark. You want to make sure that on these days where you have to clear for weather that you don’t lose all of your revenue, but you also need to be gracious to your guests who had their stay shortened. Providing rain checks (instead of a cash refund) should be a no-brainer when it comes to balancing service vs. business. A typical industry standard in regards to severe weather is to not automatically give out rain checks in the event of severe weather; rather, write into your policy “If operations are suspended for more than 60 minutes, guests who remain in the park are eligible for a rain check for another day.” This prevents giving out rain checks when a quick 15-20 minute thunderstorm is merely on the outer edges of your park, but doesn’t cause you to clear the pool for more than 30-45 minutes.
In summation, remember that safety trumps service in the event of severe weather and life safety, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fair and reasonable policy in place to keep your guests satisfied in the event of severe weather.