Waterparks: Security in changing rooms ‘ How vulnerable is your facility?

Back in the earlier days of public bathhouses and changing rooms, the buildings were built from cement blocks and

Writes Greg Van Gompel

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Part of the attendant’s job back in those days also included responsibility for renting out swimsuits to guests. Fast forward to today where facilities are trying to maximize revenues by effectively utilizing the facility’s labor.  Most changing area’s labor is designed for guest conveniences such as opening lockers and handing out change needed to feed the lockers rentals.  Most restrooms and changing area are devoid of park labor and rely on self-policing by the users of the facilities.  Advances in modern technology have made voyeuring in such facilities much easier than ever before.  Flip video cameras are a big as the palm of your hand and most cell phones have built-in cameras.  These devices can be easily hidden in plain, everyday items or secured to various attachments for overhead or wide-angle views.

A recent lawsuit filed against Idlewild Park and SoakZone highlights some areas in which facilities managers should be concerned.  Three women are suing Idlewild & SoakZone, claiming the amusement park was negligent when it allowed a 15-year-old maintenance employee to sneak into a changing room and secretly take photographs.  The lawsuits allege that park management failed to inspect locker rooms in the SoakZone water park area and failed to erect adequate screens between segregated changing areas.  The women also claim that Idlewild failed to supervise the juvenile employee and improperly allowed the teen into changing areas without adult supervision.

According to police records, on July 16, 2008, a teen employee attached a cellular telephone to the end of a broomstick and extended the handle over a wall in a family dressing area to record pictures and videos. The women were changing in the females-only locker room, while the teen was supposed to be cleaning the family dressing area, according to the suit.  According to the attorney for the women, the 3 noticed the device, got dressed and went outside to alert park security.  Township police investigated the incident and the teen was arrested and charged with a summary disorderly conduct offense.  The park subsequently fired the employee

The women said they suffered psychological trauma and shock as a result of their privacy being invaded. Their lawsuits claim they suffered pain, inconvenience, embarrassment and mental anxiety and they are seeking an unspecified amount in damages from the defendants, which include Idlewild; the former park employee, who is now 17; and his mother.

Now is a good time, during this off-season, to review your changing and bathroom security.  Do you utilize people or mechanical means to monitor these areas?  Do you provide adequate warnings to users if you do employ either video and/or audio surveillance of these facilities?  What is your protocol in sending employees into such area to clean or straighten the area?  A little time revisiting your protocol in these areas can get your upcoming season off to a “swimming” start.