Seven Steps to Security

Years ago I had the pleasure of working for Rev. Richard Chamberlain, Director of Camp Merrowvista (an American Youth Foundation Camp) in Ossipee, N.H.

One of my early values in camp management came from Dick (a former President of the American Camping Association), who shared with me (and others) that he never stopped being concerned about camper safety until the season was over and the campers had all left for home.

When camp was over, one significant way Dick would measure a successful season was directly related to the camp’s overall ability to maintain a safe environment for the campers.

I truly admired Dick Chamberlain as a camp director, because of, among other things, his ability to advance the importance of camper safety to the staff.

He gave staff ownership in both policy development and implementation regarding the safety of the camp environment.

And, although there are technologies available now that can enhance camper safety (in ways we did not have back in the late ’60s and early ’70s); it is still up to the director and staff to insure that campers experience a truly safe environment. Therefore, safety risk management remains a significant factor in the overall operation of well-run camp!

Understand the Risk

Risk managing camper safety in a camp environment can be considered in three key ways: Campus safety, camp program participant/spectator safety and personal safety.

Campus safety: Risk managing the campus environment to insure camper safety. This aspect of camper safety includes such challenges as:

• Controlling all access to the campus

• Preventing unauthorized visitors on campus

• Managing authorized visitors on campus

• Managing movement of campers about the campus

• Establishing clear protocols for campus-related emergencies, like fire, severe weather, evacuation or local/regional/national crisis

Camp program participant/spectator safety: Risk managing the variety of programmatic risks related to camper activities and venues. This area of consideration includes such challenges as:

• Providing appropriate activities, instruction and supervision

• Maintaining safe venues (facilities and other activity spaces), including the range of risks related to activity programming, such as chemical exposure (photography), sports injury, wounds from archery and/or riflery, travel in camp vehicles, etc.

• Maintaining safe activity-related equipment including the range of risks related to ropes courses, gymnastics tumbling and apparatus, computer internet access controls, etc.

Personal safety: Risk managing the personal experience for each camper in a manner where they feel and remain safe within the camp environment. This area of consideration includes such challenges as:

• Preventing camper abduction or kidnapping by strangers or by an unauthorized relative or friend

• Preventing intentional or random acts of violence

• Managing the risk of abuse, molestation, or rape

• Risk managing the misuse/abuse of medications and/or controlled substances

Each of these safety risk management considerations is important, and deserving of attention. However, to better address the purpose of this article, I intend to focus on campus safety: Risk managing the campus environment to insure camper safety.

Focusing on this one key concern should facilitate the introduction of a seven-step process for risk managing all areas of consideration related to camper safety in a camp environment.

Seven Steps

The following seven-step process is recommended for use by camp directors and their staff, with the goal that the campus will remain a safe environment for campers.

This process can be implemented by a select group of experienced staff and/or by all the camp staff (thereby creating staff ownership in the camp’s safety risk management, policy development and implementation). Note: the same seven-step process can be utilized to address other safety risk management issues identified (or not identified) in this article.

Campus safety: Managing the campus environment to insure camper safety.

In recent years, a major concern regarding campus safety has focused on controlling access to the camp by authorized and unauthorized visitors.

Once on the campus, any visitor, especially if unnoticed, can cause serious and perhaps irreversible harm. What must not be ignored by the camp director and staff is the unimaginable.

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