Kroc Center officials look into possible cell phone policy change for lifeguards

A recent scare in a Kroc Center pool has officials weighing a policy change that would prohibit lifeguards from having their cell phones on them while on guard.

Last week, a 4-year-old boy was sent to the hospital after becoming unresponsive in the shallow pool of the center’s family water park. The boy was brought to St. Christopher’s Hospital, where he remains. The most recent report from the hospital was that he was in stable condition. 

Comments posted on a previous NewsWorks article have suggested that the incident should serve as a wakeup call to get the center’s lifeguards more focused on their duties.

Randall Thomas, spokesman for the Salvation Army’s Eastern Pennsylvania Division, says surveillance tape from that day shows that it was a lifeguard who pulled the child from the water and administered CPR while another guard called 911.

Some firefighters, who’d been training in a pool nearby, also assisted at the scene, taking over the CPR.

Thomas said the video does not provide clear evidence on whether lifeguards were on their phones before the incident happened. 

A Kroc Center member who’s a regular at the pool said he’s noticed, on many occasions, that lifeguards were not paying as much attention as he felt they should.

“[The lifeguards] are on the phone constantly,” he said.

That member, Stephen, who asked for us not to use his last name for fear of being ousted as a member, said that two days after the incident, he noticed lifeguards using cell phones while on duty.

“Guards are not supposed to be doing that,” Thomas responded. “Their focus is supposed to be on the pool. “This incident will cause us to make a policy change [to limit or prohibit lifeguards from having cell phones in the pool area].”

Thomas added that members have brought similar cell phone complaints to management’s attention before and those lifeguards were “reprimanded at the time.” He asks for anyone who notices something that should be reported to notify management immediately.

Thomas added: “We want people to let us know right there and then if they see something. We have a suggestion box and if anyone sees something, please put it in the suggestion box. We do look at those, so please let us know in real time. We want the center to be safe.”

Disclosure: WHYY’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kyra McGrath serves on the Board of Directors of the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Center.

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