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A Secret Shopper of a Different Kind: Water Park Safety Auditor

Village of Niles, Illinois Park District Oasis Water Park - Water park safety auditors are a different kind of secret shopper

My friend, Erik, recently met a woman who worked as an auditor for a water park/community pool safety certification company. He asked her a few questions about it, and turned it into an article for us.

I met Michelle (not her real name) at a coffee shop while she was studying to be a physician’s assistant, and she mentioned a job she used to have that saw her traveling all over the country.

“What was that?” I asked, envisioning a salesperson or some kind of consultant.

“I was a safety auditor,” Michelle said. “Sort of like a secret shopper for a company that certifies water parks and community pools for safety purposes.”

Ellis & Associates is an international aquatic safety and risk management consultant agency. According to their website, the company is. . .

dedicated to the prevention and elimination of drowning.  E&A provides Lifeguard Instructor training, Aquatic Risk Management services, Accident Investigation, Litigation Support, Emergency Care training, Learn to Swim and Continuing Education programs for all types of aquatic facilities around the world.

Michelle had been a lifeguard in high school and college, which made her a natural fit for the position. And in her role, which saw her driving all around the country, from city to city, pool to pool, she would not only train the lifeguards, but then she would secretly videotape them at work. This would help them measure the accountability for their actions and help them understand what they were doing right or wrong.

Village of Niles, Illinois Park District Oasis Water Park - Water park safety auditors are a different kind of secret shopper

“Parents often treat the lifeguards as babysitters,” said Michelle. “They just drop them off at the pool and expect the lifeguards to watch over them. The goal is to have zero drownings and near drownings.”

“A near drowning is when you have to resuscitate a victim,” she added.

Michelle’s employer has about 20 auditors on the road each summer. They spend 90 days during the summer driving all around the country, visiting a different state and water park every day.

“It’s kind of funny to see a bunch of 20 year olds terrorize the US with their Avis cars,” said Michelle.

But this is not a typical secret shopper role, she said. They look for someone who’s had supervisory and teaching experience. Michelle had originally been a camper at a summer camp, then a volunteer, and finally a camp counselor. Then she started teaching lifeguard classes and became an on deck supervisor.

Michelle originally applied when she was 19, but didn’t get the role. She applied again the following year, and they said the only reason she didn’t get it the year before was because she was too young. They told her she had the best communication interview the previous year, out of all 500 applicants.

Yes, that’s right: five hundred applicants. A lot of people want to be water park safety auditors, but they only need 20 for the 90 day summer. So let that be a lesson to anyone who wants to be a secret shopper: you need strong communication skills in order to impress your potential employer. You need to be able to write clear, concise reports, so communication skills are a must.

Michelle said the main operating season for water parks and pools are the unofficial days of summer — Memorial Day to Labor Day. That’s where most of the auditors spend their time. Then there are the year-round clients, like we have here in Florida. They get quarterly audits from the off-season auditors who live in the state. Or maybe they’ll send someone from their home office, if necessary.

Michelle is fortunate in that she’s neither regular season or off-season. She’s more or less a free agent, and will get an occasional call to see if she’s available to do a training and assessment.

This was an interesting look to see another place where a secret shopper type of function can be performed, but outside the traditional mystery shopping arena. This one requires special skills that you would have started acquiring while you were still in high school. While it may not be a lucrative career move, it’s a good way for a college student to spend their summers.

And if you’re a looking for a lifeguard or even a water safety supervisor at a YMCA/YWCA or even major theme park, check out Ellis & Associates’ job listing’s page. That’s where you’ll find the safety auditor positions — and they’re already recruiting.

Photo credit: VNiles (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)