Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer Camp Bus Roll-over Highlights Safety

It's that time of year ... summer camp.  Alice and I spent 25 years helping around camp. For 10 of those years I served full-time as the Executive Director. We gave up our early careers to be involved with camp.  I have been privileged to see several generations regularly return to camp and bring their friends.  I think the love for camp and what it can do is in my blood.

I believe every child should have the opportunity to go to camp.

You'll understand then why I cried when I first heard everyone was safe from last Thursday's bus roll-over, the very bus that was carrying a number of  the kids and their cabin leaders from 'our' camp, back home to meet their parents after a great week of friends and activity.

Thankfully, when it was all done, there were no life-threatening injuries. One camper suffered a broken collar bone. We can thank God that what could have been so much more serious, wasn't. One media report praised the staff for immediately putting their first-aid training into practice. Motorists stopped and gave assistance. Fire and police personnel arrived quickly.

The Directors conducted themselves admirably. They managed a hundred and one things during a high stress period ... no easy feat. And they did it with a new camp arriving that very day.

A few years back I developed a program of best practices for Christian camps. It consists of 88 practices which can be measured year over year (or less) and targeted for improvement. As a reminder, here are the headlines from the Safety section.

  1. Buildings, equipment and locations are safe

  2. A current emergency response plan is in place

  3. Staff is regularly trained to carry out the emergency response plan

  4. Campers review what to do in emergency situations

  5. Government and industry standards are met or exceeded

  6. Insurance coverage meets or exceeds the industry standard

  7. Designated staff supervises safety procedures

  8. Safety is a priority, not an option

I called these the Attitudes of Excellence because attitude drives action. Directors and their boards will determine the level of attention they pay to each of these points.

When it comes to risk and safety, "It'll never happen to us" won't do. This camp would have never dreamt of a bus roll-over. It was out of their control. But they could do something about the attitude and training of the staff on that bus. And that's probably why staff were mentioned for their quick action in taking control of the situation. They had an attitude of excellence that made them realize camp wasn't over until campers were safely back home with their parents.

They were as prepared as they could be for whatever might happen. And when the unforseen did happen, they took the best actions they could. Our appreciation to the staff. Our prayers and support to the campers and parents involved.

Directors, Boards ... of summer camps ... use this as a strong reminder. Risk is real. Take it seriously. Be as prepared as you possibly can for anything to happen. Rejoice when it doesn't.

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