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Recommendations for Pool Inspection Data Collection & Database Construction

[These recommendations are based on information from the 2010 MMWR report on pool inspection violations that can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5919a2.htm.]

Inspections are an essential component of every state or local government pool program. Collecting and analyzing inspection data can help pool programs identify common violations of pool regulations and give them the evidence they need to determine priorities to help ensure healthy and safe swimming experiences in their communities. This is especially important for many pool officials, whose tightening budgets require them to make strategic decisions on how to best use their limited resources to effectively protect the public health and safety.

Before creating a pool inspection database, it is important for pool program officials to determine what information is needed to support program activities, decision making, and evaluation, and to consult with epidemiology colleagues to examine opportunities to collaborate. Establishing these objectives will determine what and how data are collected, entered, and analyzed.

CDC recommends the use of electronic inspection data to facilitate:

  • data analysis (for example, electronic forms can help ensure all required information is collected, uniform data entry, and data quality) and
  • use of these data for public health decision making (for example, planning and evaluation)

Capturing electronic data at point of observation (for example, using a handheld computer) is ideal but not always possible. Another option is to scan data collection forms to reduce the resource burden. Electronic data can also allow for public access if inspection reports are uploaded to the web.

For more information, please read the CDC report on common pool inspection violations that supports these recommendations.

Recommendations and Rationale for Pool Inspection Data Collection and Database Construction
Recommendation Analysis Outcome or Rationale
Provide a unique identifier for each aquatic venue (for example, permit number or facility title). Generates a violation history for each venue.
Provide a unique identifier for each body of treated recreational water at an aquatic venue. Generates a violation history for each body of treated recreational water at the venue. This allows tracking of specific high-risk areas at larger venues (for example, kiddie pools).
Provide a unique identifier for each inspection of each individual body of treated recreational water at an aquatic venue (for example, do not include multiple bodies in one inspection record). Allows analysis of inspection data by body of treated recreational water over time.
Specify pool setting (for example, water park vs. apartment/condo). Allows identification of differences in risk for recreational water illnesses and injuries by pool setting.
Specify pool type (for example, pool, wading pool, therapy pool, interactive fountain, etc.). Allows identification of differences in risk for recreational water illnesses and injuries by pool type.
Specify water location (for example, indoor or outdoor). Allows identification of differences in maintaining water and air quality by location.
Specify type of inspection conducted (for example, routine inspection or inspection due to public complaint). Directs program planning and evaluation and provides census of mandatory inspections.
Identify inspector who conducted inspection. Allows identification of differences among inspectors and helps ensure uniformity of program inspections.
Limit each data field to one inspection item (for example, do not combine multiple violations into one category). Facilitates data interpretation and analysis.
Set value limits for data entry for each inspection item. Reduces data entry errors and facilitates data analysis.
Differentiate between inspected items found to be in compliance, out of compliance, corrected on spot, not observed, or not applicable. Allows determination of the number of inspections in the denominator of the proportions of inspections with identified violations. Proportions can be used to track trends over time.
Standardize inspector notes (for example, provide a pick list). Facilitates data entry and analysis. Inspector’s notes (for example, for pH, “pH is too low and needs to be raised”) provide detailed information.
Specify disinfectant type. Differentiates among disinfectants, which have different required minimum and/or maximum level(s).
Include actual numeric values measured for total and free disinfectant, cyanurate, and pH or note that no reading was taken.
Note: It is important to limit this field to numerical data only (including characters such as "<" or ">" increases the need for data cleaning).
Allows analysis of critical variables, particularly those with upper and lower limits, to determine which limits were violated. Total and free disinfectant levels can be used to calculate combined disinfectant levels.
If data entry is too resource intensive, prioritize data entry by order of importance (for example, critical pool closure items). Facilitates data entry and analysis.
Specify inspection outcome (for example, pool closed due to serious violations, pool passed inspection, re-inspection needed, or inspection not completed because aquatics venue closed by operator). Directs program planning and evaluation.
Log time required for inspection. Assesses resource requirements and guides resource allocation.
Design database that is flexible and allows data fields to change over time. Allows database to be altered with changes in pool code and program needs.
Note: Changes to data collection or entry can preclude analysis of trends over time.
 
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