Just In Case

Whatever fluctuating Federal alert level we might be at any given time, the fact remains that we live in a radically different world than we did before September 11, 2001.

Related Article: Where To Start

At least it’s a world in which we’re much more aware of the potential dangers that exist outside the ever-present specter of natural and man-made disasters.

The fact that there has been, and always will be, some kind of potential danger lurking around the corner as fate dictates simply points to the fact that camps should always be prepared for any extraordinary event, be it terrorism, flood, wildfire or a giant chemical spill.

The important thing to remember is that emergency response — regardless of the emergency — should be consistent and well-planned.

Make the Team

First, form an emergency planning team. This team should have representatives from all the key positions in your camp organization such as administration, medical, counselors and any others that are specific to your organization.

Local first responders should also be part of your team. Fire, police, emergency management and emergency medical personnel are critical to your planning process.

Next, conduct a hazard assessment. Your plan and planning will be based on the hazards and risks your camp is vulnerable to. “When you’re doing a hazard assessment you start with the big picture and work to the small — what affects my region, my state and right here, down to my buildings,” explains Gregg Champlin, with the State of New Hampshire Office of Emergency Management.

“Do a hazard assessment of the camp, which basically asks, ‘What will affect us?’ If you’re in California you’ll spend more time on the earthquake threat, if you’re in the Midwest and the South tornadoes will be one of your major threats. Local conditions need to be taken into consideration too — if the camp’s near a chemical plant, for example.”

Then start your plan development. Utilize the Incident Command System (ICS) in developing your plan. ICS is a system used by fire, police and emergency personnel for managing emergencies. It lays out a chain of command, which is particularly important when things could get chaotic. If the camp leader’s gone, there should be a designated second in command and so on down the line.

Champlin recommends setting up different teams, such as a medical team and a camper care team, and be task oriented, no matter what the event is. For example, one of the medical team’s tasks would be injuries. Counselors who are certified in First Aid could be designated for the command chain.

“ICS provides a management structure and will help the camp coordinate with outside officials when they respond. HAZMAT is HAZMAT, a crime scene is a crime scene, so a plan is a plan. I don’t care if a city is hit by a major earthquake or terrorist attack, you’ll be using the same tasks and functions,” says Champlin. “It’s task oriented, not hazard oriented. If someone releases sarin gas, or a tanker truck rolls over with chlorine outside the camp, they’ll have the same result, except one’s a crime scene.”

Champlin emphasizes that clear lines of communication with local officials should be an ongoing component of any emergency procedure plan. Work on tightening communication while you create your teams, formulate the procedures and drill.

“It’s about being aware of your surroundings, having close communication with local officials and responding based on their recommendations. For instance, we recommend five drills for schools — drop-and-cover to protect them from things flying through the air, reverse evacuation, evacuation, lock-down and shelter-in-place,” says Champlin. “One of two things happens in any HAZMAT — you either shelter in place (close vents and other openings) until the event is over and you’re given the all-clear. This is where staying in contact with emergency officials is so important, because you don’t want to run out into what could be a toxic plume. Or, they’re going to provide transportation to take you out of the area. But you’re still sheltering in place until the transportation gets there.”

One aspect of the emergency plan that should not be overlooked is to have “go-bags” ready. Go-bags include medical go-kits with necessary First Aid equipment and a go-bag with all of the children’s information in it.

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Where To Start
  2. Off-Season Prep
  3. Capital Improvements
  4. Trip Tight
  5. The Recognition Factor
  • Columns & Features
  • Departments
  • Writers