Trip Tight

What do the campers need to know before they participate? The answer to this question should point to the importance of a pre-trip meeting. They need to have a complete understanding of the goals of the activity and what is expected of them.

They also need to know what fitness levels do they have to have with respect to safely participating, what health history and informed consent needs to be documented and what rules need to be followed.

Constructing a code of conduct with all group members contributing and agreeing is a great way of having everyone on the trip “owning” the rules.

What expertise is needed from the staff? Commitment to the risk management plan, having skills required for the activity, first-aid and CPR certifications, and the knowledge of their role in case of an emergency should all be established before anyone is assigned to an adventure activity.

What should be the camper/staff ratio? This really depends on the maturity and skills required for the activity. No matter how small the number of campers is, there needs to be at least two staff members so that if one becomes ill or has to bring a camper for medical attention, the group still has supervision.

What equipment will be needed? This should be closely scrutinized and once determined, the capacity of what campers and staff can carry, the numbers of vans needed, and the competent drivers that are needed with a backup are all keys to safety.

What should be in the emergency kit? The most important item in an emergency kit is usually missing when a risk management plan has not been developed — the health history and who to contact in case of an injury for every camper/staff on the trip.

If someone is allergic to bee stings or a sulfur drug, if a camper needs surgery and the physician needs a guardian’s written consent, it is just as important that this information is with the group as it is in the camp administrator’s office.

Most emergency kits start off with a good supply of bandages, disinfectants, and pain killers, but as they are used, who is responsible for their replenishment?

How will the base camp know where to find you? A detailed itinerary should be given to a camp administrator and if it changes, it needs to be updated.

What will you do if a camper gets sick or injured? A plan should be in place for who will be the first responder, who makes the call when additional help is needed, and who will stay with the other campers.

What will you do if a staff member gets sick or injured? Hopefully, staff members’ health histories are with the group and that there is enough supervision if the staff member cannot continue or there needs to be a carefully made decision to end the activity early.

4. Have a contingency plan. While credit cards and cell phones can help when the weather turns nasty or medical help needs to be summoned, in remote areas their value may be reduced to the plastic that they are made of.

An exit strategy must be researched in advance so that there is a thorough knowledge of where landline phones, local hospitals, and alternative transportation can be accessed.

A staff discussion about the conditions that it would take to call the trip short from bad weather scenarios to camper fatigue should be part of the risk management and these guidelines should also be in writing.

5. Document every event. Keep records of who participated and use a checklist to show that you were sure that every person was accounted for, log the times of departure and arrival at key points, and if someone suffers an injury, document how it occurred, how it was treated, and any follow-up care that was given.

6. Evaluate with the mindset for improvement. Discuss what went well and what didn’t. Were the campers fit enough and did they have enough preparation? In the case of an overnight adventure backpacking trip, sore muscles because they had not been active enough before the hike, blisters because their socks were too thin, or too ambitious a distance was required to hike so that the tents were erected in the dark. These developments all need to be problem-solved before another trip is planned.

While you know the most about how your camp operates, the capabilities of your staff members, and the nature of your campers, once you have a risk management plan in place, it would be really smart to review it with your insurance company.

Most companies are eager to help you because injuries that are prevented produces a healthier bottom line for both of your businesses. Also, many insurance companies have experts who can help you to identify risks that you may not see.

Also, to help you get started, you might like to look at the risk management information on the Web. From manuals, best practices, and research articles, there are a lot of great insights from professionals who are committed to making adventure programming more fun and less risk. Here are a few to get you started:

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