Summer is here—a time of vacations, swimming, and fun in the sun. Many churches and districts also host annual summer camps for both children and teenagers. These camps are a fantastic outreach opportunity, but they also present possible risks.
With water sports, outdoor activities, and a crowd of people of varying ages, the potential for injury or incident is significant. But with risk management, you can help prepare your camp for the unexpected. Here are simple tips on checking the facilities, avoiding injury, and protecting children from sexual abuse.
Check the Facilities
Just taking the time to thoroughly examine your facilities and grounds can help you minimize or eliminate common dangers.
Here are a few things you should look for during your camp walkthrough:
- Any hazard that could cause someone to trip or fall, such as loose carpet or cords stretched across walking areas
- Sufficient lighting, handrails, steps that are resistant to slips
- Emergency exits – clearly marked, well lit, and free of obstruction
- Damage to buildings or other structures that could cause accidents or injuries
- Inspect heating and ventilation systems, as well as any appliances
Be sure you have a release form on file for each camper, documenting both parental permission and the activities in which they are allowed to participate. The form should include emergency contact information, a list of medications and allergies, and a release authorizing medical care should the camper be injured.
A few summer camp staples with tips to avoid accidents:
- Campfires: gasoline should not be used, don’t allow paint or aerosol nearby, and set a proper safe zone
- Golf carts and ATVs: create a rule that no one under 18 years of age is permitted to drive one of these vehicles and drivers should not have any passengers
- Water activities: pay attention to the weather, be aware of every camper’s swimming ability, have a CPR-certified lifeguard at all times
- Inflatables: make sure the camp leaders know and follow the manufacturer’s instructions
If your camp has a blob or iceberg-style inflatable, be sure to take the following precautions:
- Require all participants to wear life jackets
- Instruct jumpers to start in a seated position and to land on their rear ends
- Make sure the area is clear before allowing the next participant to jump
- Ensure that two lifeguards are always present – one on the platform and one in the water in a canoe or kayak
- Be sure that lifeguards have 360-degree visibility around the area
- Do not allow anyone to swim beneath the blob
- Post rules in a prominent area
- Create a barrier to prevent access to an unsupervised blob
- There are many items that could potentially cause injury, but being aware of these main issues could greatly decrease the number of accidents at your camp. An extra tip is to have swimmers wear colored armbands to be aware of each camper’s swimming ability. Church Mutual offers the bands free of charge to customers.
Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse
Sexual misconduct with minors is the primary reason that churches end up in court. Fortunately, there are several ways to minimize the potential of an incident happening, as well as the ministry’s liability. A smart rule for camps is the “6/2” rule. This rule requires adult volunteers must have been church members for at least six months, and a minor should never be alone with just one adult. Check out this video highlighting 10 steps churches can take to help protect against child abuse occurrences.
When preparing for summer camp, safety is our priority. Protecting my students from danger, risk or injury sets them up for success during the camp week to experience everything God has for them! - Aaron Edwards, Hope Church’s Student Pastor
Mission Assure, a product of AGFinancial Insurance Solutions, offers superior short-term protection for camps and other church events and outings. Learn more about Mission Assure here.
This information is not legal advice. Information is from sources deemed reliable. Information is subject to error, omission, withdrawal, or change. Contact your own legal advisor before taking any action that would have a legal consequence.