On the heels of Florida’s “Hurricane Irma” in September 2017, the pool industry’s top convention coordinator INFORMA contacted Portofino Pools owner Jack Manilla for his advice on how the industry should prepare for natural disasters. After some discussion, it was decided that Jack and four other industry experts would form a panel to discuss their various solutions and recommendations for the industry. The event was held on November 2 at the 2017 International Pool Spa Patio Expo in Orlando Florida. The panel experts included:

  • Jack Manilla, outgoing APSP chairman and CEO of Portofino Pools in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Terry Arko, Recreational Water Specialist/Commercial Sales at NC Brands in Norwalk, Connecticut.
  • Ray Arouesty, vice president of Arrow Insurance Service in Westlake Village, California.
  • Bob Vincent, Environmental Administrator, Florida Department of Health
  • Joanne McClain, Senior Editor, Pool and Spa News

Jack offered the following advice for any area susceptible to hurricanes, based on his more than 20 years of serving high-end commercial resorts throughout northern Florida:

  1. Make sure you have a written plan in place, in advance.
  2. Review the plan annually.  Hurricane season is May 15 through November 30, so Portofino Pools always reviews the plan with all key team members at the first of May.
  3. Secure yourself and your family first, and then do what you can for the business and clients.
  4. Remember the hurricanes cause flooding, and flooding causes contamination and other water quality problems.  Assume that all water is tainted until tests confirm otherwise.
  5. Build relationships with your local or regional Disaster Preparedness Centers, to make sure all businesses and agencies are working together in advance, before an emergency arises.
  6. Make sure everyone understands these three stages of “early warning:
    1. “State of Emergency” – 7 to 10 days before predicted landfall. (Ideally, the local or state leadership – e.g., the mayor or governor – will declare the state of emergency this far in advance so that supplies and support can be mobilized in advance, and delivered as fast as possible.)
    2. “Emergency Watch” – This should be issued approximately three days before predicted landfall.
    3. “Emergency Warning” – This should be issued 24 hours before predicted landfall.


Ray Arouesty recommends that all technicians should check their clients’ pool and equipment areas to make sure everything is secured. For instance, make sure equipment and electrical conduit are secured in case of heavy winds or earthquake. Bolt down equipment so it’s not so vulnerable to flooding. Warn the customer if there are potential problems. Even though a disaster is not the pool professional’s fault, he or she can get snagged legally if the client believes proper care was not taken.

Terry Arko reminded everyone that there’s no way to know what flood waters have been in contact with. Flood waters that wind up in the pool could have irrigation runoff, solvents or worse, so you should warn your customers not to swim. Similarly, when refilling a pool, you should be sure to check the source water to make sure it’s safe, and so you can make proper chemical adjustments.

Bob Vincent reminded everyone that you can use “layers of protection” such as fencing” to help keep customers and their children out of the pool until it is confirmed safe.

Joanne McClain offered to publish one or more articles in Pool and Spa News to help share the advice offered by the panel. The goal concluded that everyone in the nation should be following similar recommendations.