Careful planning can help keep summer camp fun and safe.
Spring is a busy season for parents reserving spots for their children in summer camps and activities, and many health, tennis, racquet and athletic clubs are starting to ramp up for summer.
If you are a club owner, you are probably finalizing the types of camps you will offer. Once you decide among sports, arts and crafts, adventure or other activities and determine the age groups you will serve, you can move on to other details. Here are some areas of primary concern:
Putting the right person in position to lead your camp programs is vital. You may not be around every minute of every camp day, and you want someone in charge who shares your vision and understands the mission of your organization.
The right leader can:
- manage staff expectations
- keep everyone organized and on task
- react to a quickly changing environment
- keep safety a top priority
- communicate well
Get your leadership team in place early, and then involve them in hiring and training any remaining staff.
Training for camp leaders and staff should cover:
- emergency medical response – defibrillator (AED), cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid
- your established camp policies and protocols
- swim safety, including lifeguard training
- emergency weather training
- discipline policies
- abuse awareness and protocols
- communication plans and other safety protocols for field trips and activities
Partnering with recognized community organizations – such as the Red Cross for lifeguard or CPR training, child advocacy groups, local hospitals or local police, fire and EMS services – can increase the credibility and effectiveness of your training. Make sure your staff members – especially younger members – gain some basic understanding of childhood development and behavior.
Pools – Define expectations and responsibilities for your camp staff and lifeguards to assure smooth swim times. Be clear if camp staff need to remain in the pool area to provide extra supervision while lifeguards are in charge.
Field Trips – A cornerstone of most summer camp programs, field trips also present some of the biggest safety challenges. Unfamiliar locations with unknown hazards – along with the added element of contact with the public – call for heightened awareness and protocols. Increase staffing or add volunteers to reduce the ratio of children to adults. Take frequent head counts and position staff members where they are most needed. Protocols should prevent a sole staff member or volunteer from being alone with children.
Transportation – Whether you use parent volunteer drivers, own or lease vans or buses or contract a third-party bus company, have measures in place to assure safety.. When using a bus company, your contract should hold the company liable for any injury that occurs while campers are on the bus. For in-house transportation, hire trained drivers and check their driving credentials.
Allergies – As you prepare for summer camp thoroughly review participant applications for allergies, medical conditions or personal issues. Involve staff in action planning and in sit-down meetings with parents and guardians to assure each child has a safe and fun summer.
Equipment – Inspect the play set and other equipment, picnic tables and anything that may have been in storage since last summer to make sure everything is in good working order.
Providing a wonderful camp experience for the children you serve can be a rewarding experience for you and your staff, create memories for the youth and help cement the families as dedicated, satisfied members of your club. Planning for the expected – and the unexpected – can help everyone involved confidently focus on the fun!
This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.