Preparing for Church Summer Camp Risk
It’s time to talk about church summer camp risk. If you’re running a church summer camp this year, keep reading. When it comes to young people, there are a lot of unique challenges they face that my generation (and maybe yours) didn’t have. One thing that hasn’t changed all that much is the excitement of summer approaching, school ending and the inevitable Summer Camp season.
If your ministry has an established camp program or is starting a summer camp this year (or even next year) the planning phase should already be well underway. To help you in your efforts, we’ve come up with some questions that every ministry with a camp should ask themselves about church summer camp risk.
Your church summer camp team’s priorities are probably a bit different than those of your attendees. The kids will be focused on getting out of the house, learning something new about the Kingdom, hanging out with their friends and a break from parents.
Your team’s focus is on connecting with the kids, administrating the camp and reducing or eliminating the aforementioned church summer camp risk.
For many camp programs, safety is already a priority. Yet even for the most seasoned camp administrators establishing a church summer camp risk management plan can seem overwhelming. You’ve got to figure out how to put the plan together, where to get reliable information and how to start.
Fortunately, we’ve got you covered. You can use this article to help you get started, and if you need more help you can give us a call and we’ll get you the answers you need. One note of caution, every camp program is different, so no article, guide or checklist can cover every church summer camp risk scenario. Please bear in mind that you may need to contact your insurance agent and your legal representative for the really tough stuff.
How Do I Start Preparing for Church Summer Camp Risk?
First, one thing that WILL be the same across all church summer camp programs is the need for someone to run it. You’ll need to pick the right team for the job, and that means you’ll need to hold interviews and run background screens on all the staff and volunteers that will be involved.
Next, pick an area of camp safety risk to start focusing on. As you improve each area’s safety you’ll begin to eliminate the overall church summer camp risk issues within your program.
Buildings and grounds – Safety starts with your property and its buildings. Focus on each area of the property and scrutinize all areas for safety issues. Are the buildings in good repair? Are there areas that kids could be hurt by falling building materials or furniture? Are the bunks sturdy? Are all areas sanitary? Are all smoke detectors working? Do you have enough smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and emergency exits? What about carbon monoxide? Do your safety systems detect carbon monoxide? If not they should. Are the buildings protected against leaks? Are windows broken? Do all doors and locks function as they should? Is the premises property marked for “No Trespassing” areas and well-lit for nighttime use? Have you had any lake or river water officially inspected for harmful bacteria or parasites? What will your stance be on illicit substances for campers AND staff?
Kitchens and food safety – Contaminated food can be a huge risk to your campers. The last thing you want is a camp overtaken by norovirus or worse. You can greatly reduce the risk of that happening by following common food industry safety guidelines. Verify that your food service supervisor is trained in food service management and that you have documentation of that training. Next, ask if your kitchen area and surfaces are clean and protected from rodents and insects? Are staff and volunteers trained on hand washing? Have you kept walkways, floors and appliances free of grease buildup? Are you keeping food storage and cooking temperatures at their FDA recommended levels? Check those every day. Is food cooked and held at proper temperatures? Do garbage cans remain covered when not in use? Have you officially verified camp water is safe to drink?
Fire Safety – This is a big one, especially since we’ve had so much drought in the western United States over the last decade. Fire and water damage are two of the biggest causes for property loss. They are also some of the most preventable. You’ll want to be sure that all heating, electrical and sprinkler systems are maintained and tested regularly. In addition, find out whether or not your evacuation plans have been updated to include any new camp building and property changes or additions. Do you have your heating and air systems inspected annually? Has your electrical system been inspected annually? Are paints and flammable liquids stored properly and away from heat sources? Is the camp protected against electrical surges with proper surge protection and grounding from lightning?
Youth activity safeguards – Your campers need to be protected from physical and mental harm. Have you made sure all water sports have certified life guards on duty in the appropriate number? Will you ask campers to avoid contact sports games? Will you have supervising staff use “Notice of Injury” forms when incidents occur? Will you allow any form of firearm on campus or camp property, whether it’s an actual firearm, a paintball gun or a pellet gun? Will vehicles be used for camp functions? Have you trained your drivers on what their responsibilities are and what they can and can’t do when driving? Will you have special needs accommodations and are you required to?
The very real danger of sexual predators – No ministry is immune to this risk. Do not ignore it. Whether the danger comes from adults in the program or other campers, you need to ask yourself how you’ll manage this risk. Be sure to implement background checks that include investigation into prior church membership and volunteer work, reference checks, and criminal records checks. In addition, make sure that two adults are supervising children at ALL times in ALL places. Make sure that all camp workers and volunteers are trained on who is a mandated reporter and how they can report suspected issues to comply with state and federal law and how reporters themselves are protected by those laws.
Where to Lean More About Church Summer Camp Risk
There are a lot of other church summer camp risk areas to safeguard against that weren’t covered in this article, so be sure to grab a copy of a risk management checklist to find out about more things to prepare and watch for. Here’s a good one from Brotherhood Mutual. There’s also a Guidelines for Camp Ministries booklet.
As I mentioned before, if you have any questions not covered here, or a question about something from the Brotherhood guide, just give us a call. We can also help with camper medical coverage. Remember, we’re here to help your summer camp program stay effective and free from risk.
Are you running a camp this year? Did you encounter a church summer camp risk we didn’t cover in the article? Let us know in the comments section, below. You can also talk to us on Twitter or Facebook.