Safety Considerations for Meet Operations

Meet Planning (for the Meet Director)

A major responsibility of a meet director, as representative of a member club hosting a swim meet, is to provide a safe venue for the competition. Safety planning is critically important in order to ensure that risks are removed or mitigated, and to organize appropriate staff to enforce safety rules and procedures. USA Swimming has prepared a number of useful tools for swim meet planning.

Pacific Swimming has developed training material for meet directors. Several clubs have experienced keen interest on the part of their pool operator for the number and deployment of marshals. Meet directors should work closely with their respective pool operators to develop adequate and reasonable plans for marshals, and to agree on how meet marshals and pool lifeguard staffs will work together.

Training Material for Meet Directors


Marshal Training & Other Material

Every sanctioned competition must have a crew of marshals who are responsible for enforcing the safety rules of USA Swimming, Pacific Swimming, and meet management. A head marshal must be identified on the meet sheet in order for a meet to be sanctioned. (Note that meet marshals are no longer required to be members of USA Swimming.)

Marshal Roles and Responsibilities


Warm Up Procedures & Safety Guidelines

Statistics demonstrate that a large percentage of meet accidents occur during warm-up sessions, when a larger number of swimmers are in the water at the same time. Pacific's Warm-Up Procedures and Safety Guidelines establish standards for safe conduct during a swim meet, with particular attention to warm-up sessions. Copies of the procedures must be prominently posted within the swimming venue during any competition. Officials and marshals are obliged to enforce these procedures and guidelines.

Warm-Up Procedures & Guidelines


Report of Occurrence

USA Swimming requires that every incident involving either bodily injury or property damage, incurred during any activity sanctioned or approved by USA Swimming must be reported to USA Swimming via the Report of Occurrence form. This includes any incident (regardless of severity) involving any participant (athlete, coach, official, volunteer, or spectator) at any activity (a swim meet, practice session, or team outing). A copy of the report also goes to the Pacific Swimming office. Information from the reports is entered into a database of accident statistics compiled nationwide, and is used to analyze accident trends. This is important at both the national and local levels for developing safety policy and procedures.

Report of Occurrence Form

Claim Procedure

To make a claim to USA Swimming insurance, review the Claim Procedure Chart. To initiate a claim, a Report of Occurrence must have been filed. Thereafter, the process shown on the flowchart will commence. It is usually not necessary to contact USA Swimming to facilitate the process; however, Mary Illich is available at USA Swimming for assistance (719-866-4578). In her absence, Carol Burch, also of USA-S, can respond to questions. Please do not contact Risk Management Services or Mutual of Omaha. Any additional directions can be directed to Pacific's Safety Chairman.


Announcements at Meets

An announcer is required for any swim meet and is important for running an efficient and safe meet. Sound amplification is commonly used, but local noise ordinances at some venues prohibit early morning. Meet management must be aware of the oftentimes conflicting interests of swimmer safety and local noise control compliance.

During a meet it is useful for the announcer to make occasional safety announcements. Some appropriate safety announcements have been compiled by USA Swimming and are offered for use at meets.


Lightning Safety

Lightning must be taken seriously when conducting outdoor aquatics activities. Even though the non-mountainous parts of Northern California are not known for frequent electrical storms, thunderstorms can be expected each year in the Bay Area and the Central Valley.

The following advice is offered by the National Weather Service, regardless of location: If thuder is heard, a thunderstorm is close enough to pose an immmediate threat. All water activities should be suspended and everyone should be instructed to take shelter in a safe place, perferably a sturdy building, or even a hard-topped vehicle with the windows closed. The "30/30 Rule" should be your guide: When you see lightning, count the time until you hear thunder. If the interval is 30 seconds or less, the thunderstorm is close enough to be dangerourous. Seek shelter immediately. Stay indoors until 30 minutes after hearing last thunder. Coaches, officials and meet directors should act accordingly when conducting workouts or meets. Pool operators should consider incorporating lightning safety practices in their pool operations procedures.

Additional information is available at NOAA's lightning safety website.


Air Quality Issue Affecting Meet Operations

The EPA document (EPA-456/f-11-005) "Air Quality and Outdoor Activities: Recommendation for Schools" should be used as a guide that Pacific Swimming can refer to in the decision process for conducting meets.

AQI of 0-50

No impact on meet conduct

AQI of 51-100

Meet held or continued. Decision to swim or not resides with swimmers/coaches/parents. No show penalty, if applicable, suspended at meet

AQI of 101-150 

Meet may be held or continued, Decision to swim or not resides with swimmers/coaches/parents. No show penalty, if applicable, suspended at meet

AQI of 150+

Meet should be cancelled or stopped (if ongoing)

For full information on reliable AQI sources, decision process, and communication of decisions, consult our Policies and Procedures, Section XVII


Portable Gas Fired Space Heaters

Portable gas-fired (propane) space heaters pose a safety risk to people who may accidentally contact an operating heating unit. Several burn injuries caused by such heaters have been reported in recent years; in another incident, a gas-fired heater set fire to a sleeping bag within a tent located in an area where numerous swimmers were congregated. Pacific Swimming does not condone the use of such heaters within swimming venues, and meet referees and marshals must ask persons to remove their personal heater units from swimming venues.

("Swimming venue" means the area located on the sides and ends of the pool, spectator area, team areas within the pool facility, locker rooms, and any adjacent areas used by the swim meet, and such other areas that may be specifically designated by the host club or organization, meet director, or meet referee)


Animals on Deck

No one should bring an animal onto a pool deck or even into the swimming venue, including any area in which swimmers congregate at a meet or practice session. Within our LSC, incidents have been reported involving children being bitten by dogs. Meet management and officials should ask any person who brings an animal on deck to remove the animal immediately. The prohibition on animals is not only common sense but also a requirement under state law. (Exceptions should be made for a service dog that is required by its handler, or a dog in training for such purposes.)


Insect Control/Bee Stings

During the warmer parts of the year, insect control and bee stings can be a significant problem at swim meets, especially at food and drink vending and hospitality facilities. At least two effective measures are available for insect control:

  1. Adequate trash receptacles that are covered and kept from overflowing.
  2. Insect traps liberally deployed around the perimeter of the swimming venue are usually effective in drawing away insects.