Update 5/9/20. Each time you enter a gym, what’s the first thing you normally see – the people at the front desk, right? It's ironic that these people are so important to the gym -yet the front desk staff are those the health club managers appear to give the least thought to. This is a mistake because they are critical. They are the nerve center when emergencies happen. Regrettably, its been my experience the owners of fitness centers do NOT train them properly – putting YOU at risk. Also, see the Gym Emergency Procedures review.
Front Desk Staff Are Important
It's very dissapointing that gym owners and managers give so little thought or training to those working at the front desk. Not only are they the first people you see when you enter the facility, the fitness center front desk staff can also be the first line of defense when it comes to keeping members safe from crime or medical emergencies. A recent incident got me to think about this.
In July 2010 a woman was raped after leaving an LA Fitness in Washington. The perpetrator of this horrible crime ran up behind the woman in the parking lot of the gym after she left the fitness center at midnight.
Could this crime have been prevented if the person working at the front desk watched the woman as she walked to her car? I don’t know, but this is a question that I think the fitness club industry needs to talk about.
If you belong to a health club – or work there yourself – how many times have you seen the people at the front desk:
- Text messaging
- Talking on the phone
- Reading magazines
- Doing homework
- Flirting with the fitness staff
If you work out on weekends… find nobody at the front desk!
I see this all the time. Do you?
Front Desk Failure
Gyms often hire anyone to sit at the desk. I remember seeing someone so short he could not even see over the desk. It didn't matter even if he could see over it because his face was obscured by a hoodie and he was staring down at his phone. He could not greet me as I entered if he wanted to.
While many fitness centers have become better prepared for catastrophic emergencies like heart attacks, what emergency training does the front desk staff receive? Unfortunately, I don't think most get any training in emergency procedures.
As proof of this, in 2012, a horrible incident occurred at Planet Fitness in New York. Early one morning on February 6, 2012, a 22-year-old woman named Emily Hamiln died after entering the lady's locker room following a workout.
Security video from the incident shows that when the first women informed the guy at the front desk of the incident, the male not only did not call 911 but says that he did not know what to do and that was not allowed to go in the ladies bathroom.” Only later, after a second woman runs to the front to tell what happened does he call 911.
He was obviously not properly trained.
Here is the security video. Watch it. Share it with others. This should NEVER happen again!
I'm hoping that these words don't fall on deaf ears and that something good comes from these terrible incidents.
Train Front Desk Properly
If you own a gym you MUST train your front desk. You need to have policies and procedures in place for what to do during medical and criminal incidents. All front desk staff needs to be both CPR and AED certified.
If you work at the front desk of a gym, I know it can be boring –especially on the weekends. But, please remember that bad stuff happens when we do not expect it. While you may not think about it, you CAN make a difference in the lives of others in ways you may not even be aware of. Watching members as they leave at night to go to their car can be a deterrent to crime.
If there is a medical emergency, you ARE allowed to go into the bathroom and locker-rooms of the opposite gender. It's our moral responsibility to help others, if we are able, no matter what the perceived consequences might be. When I worked in a gym, I have entered ladies' locker rooms during medical emergencies.
As I read this out loud to myself in preparation for posting, a friend of mine who happened to be visiting remarked: “but nobody cares.” Is that really how people feel? Is it really true that nobody cares about what happens to their fellow human beings? Does our moral obligation to safeguard gym members end when they walk out the door or go into taboo places like locker rooms or bathrooms?
I believe we are better than this.
I believe personal trainers and front desk staff need to think about this before they become involved in this industry. Working in at a gym is not like working at the local convenience store because at any moment when we least expect it, bad stuff can happen. When it does happen, how will you react?