Aquatics International’s annual virtual conference is designed to update the aquatics industry on today’s most pressing issues.

The event, titled “Game On: The Five Toughest Obstacles Facing Aquatics Facilities Today — and the Secrets to Overcoming Them,” launches Nov. 5 and is free of charge.

“The aquatics world isn’t the same as it was 10 years ago,” said Erika Taylor, event organizer and editorial director of Hanley Wood’s Pool Group. “Lawsuits, social media and a new economy have changed the rules. This year’s event will help attendees develop game plans for these hurdles.”

Currently, aquatics operators are being hit with five key issues: social media and its increasing importance; a higher awareness of safety; elevated concern about water quality and recreational water illnesses; shrinking budgets; and the ever-rising bar for lifeguard training.

To that end, Sharlyn Lauby will present “How to Avoid Social Media Disasters.” She is president of ITM Group Inc., and writes HR Bartender, a blog that addresses human resource and other workplace issues. She also has a blog on Mashable, a news website that specializes in digital technology and its impact. Named one of the Top 25 HR Digital Influencers by the magazine HR Examiner, Lauby has been quoted by Reuters, ABC News and The Wall Street Journal.

“Social media has been around for several years, but I think we’re still learning the ropes,” Lauby said. “We need to get used to this being a part of the way we do business and interact with our employees. We’re going to talk about some companies that have turned lemons into lemonade and some that didn’t manage social media as well as they should have.”

An update on water-quality issues will be given by Michelle Hlavsa, RN, MPH, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Swimming Program in the Domestic Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Team. As a former epidemic intelligence service officer, she has investigated a number of outbreaks involving waterborne disease. The bacterium cryptosporidium is one of her areas of expertise, and she works with state and local health officials and the private sector to prevent its occurrence in recreational water.

Hlavsa will update attendees on the latest resources available from the CDC and new data regarding RWI’s. She also will explain how to fend off outbreaks by having the ability to remove the pathogen but, more importantly, prevent it from entering the water. “I think that’s the swimmer’s role,” Hlavsa said. “Traditionally, swimmers haven’t been involved in water quality, in healthy swimming. But crypto has changed that paradigm because it can survive in a well-chlorinated pool for over 10 days. So it’s really about the swimmers keeping it out of the water in the first place.”

Lifeguarding issues will be discussed by frequent AI columnist Pete DeQuincy, an aquatics supervisor with the East Bay Regional Park District in Oakland, Calif. A lifeguard since 1985, he oversees more than 90 lifeguards and instructors who ensure the safety of 500,000 visitors. He is also Aquatic Section president of the California Park and Recreation Society.

DeQuincy’s presentation will focus on in-service training for lifeguards and staff. “A lot of times what you’ll see when you go to agencies is, if they’ve become a lifeguard training instructor, they think it’s the equivalent of being an in-service trainer. It’s not,” he said.

“How I see it is [that] a lifeguard training instructor certifies and creates a lifeguard, where an in-service trainer takes those brand-new guards, as well as seasoned veterans and teaches them how to work as a team,” DeQuincy continues. “What you’ll see in training is that agencies will do a lot of maintenance training, so they’ll help maintain either the lifeguard certification or their minimum qualifications, but they don’t work on integration — taking those skills and applying them to their site-specific facility so they can actually work together. The ones that do are the rare gems in the industry.”

Gregory A. Anderson, an attorney whose clients include USA Swimming, will present “Safety: The New Requirements of Risk Management.” The founder and senior shareholder in AndersonGlenn, LLP, will discuss the importance of risk management in light of new CDC guidelines. “The CDC is implementing its guidelines this year, with a high probability that it will push to make them federal regulations with the force of law in the near future,” Anderson said. “We are in a decidedly anti-corporate atmosphere, and even tiny errors can lead to big liability.”

Anderson also will offer advice on how to properly react in the face of an incident. “You have to get a handle on the pivotal facts as soon as possible, and pivotal facts are not always evident at the start,” he said. “Documents, tissue samples, witnesses get lost or destroyed. Equally important is how you document it. An inaccurate assessment of what happened in a report prepared by someone without training can greatly increase the difficulty in getting the truth out later.”

The event will be kicked off by a keynote speech by Rudy Garcia-Tolson, a Paralympic gold medal swimmer, runner and triathlete. In addition to his two golds and one silver for Paralympic swimming, he won silver for long jump in the World Championships for Track and Field. He also was the first bilateral amputee to complete an Ironman.

Aquatics International’s virtual event is designed to help attendees enhance their business and profession without the expense and time off incurred at on-site conferences and conventions. To register, go to