Safety and Security at Summer Camp

Alina Bitel
Written by
for Camps USA
Safety and Security at Summer Camp

Parents worry. No matter how safe your camp is, the No. 1 thought on the minds of moms and dads will always be their child's well-being.

You can't stop parents from worrying entirely, but you can alleviate some of their anxieties by implementing security measures so that parents, staff members, and campers can have a safe, fun, and relaxed summer.

Physical Safety

Before a single child sets foot on campus, thoroughly check for points of danger. Outdoor locations should be clear of debris, fallen limbs, and other obstacles. The landscape may look pristine, but broken glass and other objects can hide in the grass. Hire a landscaping company or recruit volunteers to scour the grounds for any such hazards. Remove potential problems like dead trees and loose boulders that might fall and cause injury.

Research geographical information about your region, noting perils such as venomous snakes, spiders, insects, and poisonous plants. This advice doesn't apply to wilderness camps only. Unwelcome creatures can visit suburban and urban environments as well. Teach staff and campers how to identify and avoid dangerous plants and animals.

Check all equipment and facilities. Make sure that bunk beds, mattresses, and other heavy pieces of furniture are properly assembled, steady and secure, and free of rusty nails, sharp points, and splinters. Schedule a building inspector to certify that all buildings are up to code.

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Finally, set up safety measures for treacherous areas like lakes, rivers, steep hills, slippery rocks, and nearby roads. Something as simple as a fence may save a life.

Security System

Natural and structural dangers aren't the only types of security threats. A location with public access may be susceptible to untrustworthy strangers wandering around the campus.

Reassess your security system. Are you able to monitor everyone on the premises at all times? Do you have physical barriers in place, such as a strong fence and gate? Are visitors required to check in and out, and is this policy strictly enforced? Do parents and guardians need to show ID before picking up their child? Are emergency services or an onsite security guard readily available?

It is also prudent to perform background checks on all staff members, even those who don't interact with campers directly, such as custodians, cafeteria workers, and groundskeepers. Establish rules for contact between staff and campers, and never allow an adult to be alone with one or two children for an extended amount of time.

Staff Training

Train counselors to recognize problems before they happen. A stranger lurking near the entrance, a camper who hasn't been seen in a while, or a group of kids jumping into a lake with an unknown depth can quickly turn into dire situations.

During staff orientation, make sure that every worker knows the safety protocols. Establish clear procedures for every scenario, including severe weather, medical emergencies, minor and major injuries, abductions and missing children, and camp closure. When staff memorize the appropriate protocols, they can resolve crises more effectively.

The procedures and training you put in place may vary based on your particular camp. A camp in California might emphasize earthquake safety while one in Kansas might focus on tornado safety. A camp for at-risk youth may train staff especially to address abuse, neglect, and bullying. A location in the deep woods may have special rules for exploring outdoors, and a large campus may implement a buddy system so kids don't get lost. You may also decide to train certain counselors in lifeguard practice, CPR, and first aid.

Virtual Security

More and more camp directors are electing to store registration forms, medical information, and other sensitive records on computers. While computer systems make handling and transmitting data easier, they're also susceptible to hacking. Setting up a secure system is critical, especially if your camp keeps personal information about minors on its computers.

Hire an expert in cyber security to review your website, databases, social media, and other virtual property. Enforce strict policies about who can access and share information, and if you need to, pay a little extra to upgrade your firewalls and encryption software.

You may also need to educate staff and camp families about online safety. While posting a group photo on Facebook may seem innocuous, consider who can see the pictures and how much information is really conveyed. A name on a jersey or a location embedded in the photo can be dangerous in the wrong hands, so restrict online access and respect the privacy of all individuals.

Safety is vital to the enjoyment and well-being of your staff, campers, and camp families. By establishing clear and detailed procedures for physical, social, and digital security, you can ensure that your camp will thrive.

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