The Florida Swimming Pool Association Training, Education and Professionalism for Pool Administrators

The Florida Swimming Pool Association

 Floridians are one of the few people that have the privilege to enjoy their pool  practically year round. But before that can happen there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation and maintenance that has to happen to  get those pool facilities ready for the upcoming season. That is where the  Florida Swimming Pool Association (FSPA) comes into play. FSPA is a trade  association for professionals involved in the pool industry and has sixteen  chapters in the state including the Broward and Greater Miami chapters in south  Florida.  

 Pooling More Members

 FSPA, which is an affiliate of the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals  (APSP), has more than thirty years of commitment to the pool industry. FSPA was  formed in 1970 by groups of people who were members of the national association  at the time, which is now the APSP, says Wendy Parker Barsell, the executive  director of FSPA in Sarasota. “They came together to have a Florida association to address the needs in Florida  and coordinate what was going on in the state in a cohesive nature,” she says.  

 “Since then, we have continued to grow. From the main office in Sarasota we  provide all the chapters with assistance in operating, but on a local level  they have meetings, events, and offer education to their members,” she adds.  

 The mission of FSPA is not surprising: to promote the swimming pool industry in  Florida. Barsell elaborates that this is promoting the use and benefits of  pools.  

 “There are about 1.2 million pools in Florida so for most people they come in  contact with them on a daily basis. We want to be that resource for information  whether for professionals to get education or home owners who want to know  about safety and maintenance of their pool.”  

 Members of FSPA reap many benefits from being in this professional trade  organization.  

 “To be a member of the association gives you information first. That is a big  reason. With things that impact the industry or business, whether you are  building pools or repairing pools, we are in the front lines, we have full-time  representation in Tallahassee and with all the regulatory boards. Once that  information comes from them and we know what is going to happen, we get that  information out to our members as soon as we can. Whether that means a  legislative alert for the day or new code is going into effect, we remind our  members and we will explain things if they call us,” says Barsell.  

 She also adds that FSPA gives out about $20,000 annually in scholarships for  students with family in members companies. Members also have the privilege of  being listed in a directory, allowing consumers to search them and channel  business.  

 Continuing Education

 In order to keep professionals current on technology and advance their skills,  FSPA offers continuing education courses. It is an approved course sponsor by  the Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board (CILB), the Electrical  Contractors' Licensing Board (ECLB) and the Board of Landscape Architects  (BOLA). A CE Advisory Committee reviews all courses and instructors to assure  that they meet standards of high quality and relevancy to members' needs as  pool and spa professionals  

 “In the state of Florida you need to be licensed to do work and in order to  maintain that license you need 14 hours of continuing education credits every  two years. We offer more than 100 classes that have been approved that meet the  criteria for a license holder to keep their license ,” says Barsell.  

 Currently FSPA has continuing education courses on topics ranging from basic  pool operation to business management. Almost every course the association  provides can be found at the annual Orlando Pool & Spa Show. Local chapters also offer continuing education for a small fee. The  fees for CE credit for a course sponsored by the FSPA are considerably less for  members. Many courses are available online, allowing members more opportunity  and flexibility to complete necessary coursework.  

 Each February, FSPA organizes the Orlando Pool and Spa show which brings  together more than 4,000 domestic and international manufacturers and vendors  in the pool industry. Barsell says that 85 percent of attendees are from  Florida but the past show attained representation from more than 30 countries.  

 The show features a wide range of educational seminars, available for both  credit and non-credit; credits will be issued for the APSP Certified Service  Professional program, the APSP Business Leadership Series and the Certified  Building Professional program depending on the subject matter of the seminar.  Prior courses included advanced water chemistry, achieving energy efficiency  with heat pumps, design and repair of a solar heated pool and managing sales,  just to name a few. More hands-on courses are also offered and focus on  product-specific training such as using the MX8 Automated Pool Cleaner or  Ecostar installation and application. The next show will be held February  15-16, 2013, at the North Complex of the Orange County Convention Center. The  show is open to any pool professionals and not limited to just members.  

 Educating the Public

 Water is both friend and foe. A 2009 study at the University of South Carolina  revealed that swimmers live longer than both walkers and runners. The study  followed more than 40,000 men ages 20-90 for 32 years and showed that swimmers  were 50 percent less likely to die. On the contrary, according to the Centers  for Disease Control, drowning is the sixth leading cause of unintentional death  for people of all ages and the second leading cause for children ages one to  fourteen. Florida's Department of Health reports that 60 percent of drowning  deaths occur in residential pools.  

 While enjoying pools and hot tubs, it is vital to ensure the safety of both  adults and children. FSPA works to educate consumers about practices and  equipment that can prevent drowning. FSPA offers checklists, diagrams,  emergency procedures and many other helpful documents, and FSPA members are  committed to discussing pool and spa safety with prospective buyers.  

 In partnership with the American Red Cross, National Recreation and Park  Association and World Water park Association, the Association of Pool and Spa  Professionals (APSP) is delegating May 2012 as Water Safety Month. These  organizations represent businesses and associations such as FSPA, which is also  an affiliate of APSP. They are providing consumers and members with free resources to share to the  community. On the national website, you can find event planning guides for a  water safety fair, sample press releases, a radio script to broadcast on your  local station, a lesson planning guide for a classroom, posters and a sample  newspaper ad. Those interested can mix and match the guides which are versatile  enough to be used in a classroom or at your monthly association meeting. More  information can be found at:  

 The VGB Act

 One of the most important consumer safety measures to directly involve the FSPA  and the ASPA and its professionals came out of the tragedy involving a young  girl named Virginia Graeme Baker.  

 In 2008, APSP worked with Congress to enact the Federal Pool and Spa Act known  as the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB Act), which is named  for the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. In 2002  at the age of seven, Graeme Baker died in a spa after the powerful suction of a  drain entrapped her under the water. Baker joined Nancy Baker, Graeme's mother,  and Safe Kids USA in a three-year advocacy campaign to pass the legislation.  

 The act requires retrofitting all drains and covers on public and commercial  pools to be fitted with VGB-compliant covers. This includes condos and HOAs.  The Florida laws on this are even more restrictive and require a gravity  drainage system, according to FSPA.  

 The Florida Swimming Pool Association is committed to educate its members and  the public on the latest technology and water safety so that public and  residential pools and spas can be enjoyed stress-free.   

 Maggie Puniewska is an editorial assistant at The South Florida Cooperator.