Camp Maintenance

Reduce accidents with thorough camp maintenance

Summer is a busy time for Christian camps. Some facilities may have visitors year-round, but most have downtime during the fall, winter, and spring, allowing time for updates and repairs to the facilities and equipment.

Quality maintenance is important for the safety of both visiting campers and the camp itself. Injuries and accidents are possible in the best conditions, but by forming a thorough maintenance plan, camps can reduce the risk of accidents that occur because of maintenance issues.

Hire Professionals

Just about every camp could use the help of volunteers for maintenance before and during the camping season, but it’s a good idea to hire paid professionals to head up the building and grounds team.

“My experience suggests that it is more effective, and no more costly, to bring in two to four skilled, local workers when the snow clears, and then a precamp crew of eight to 10 staff several weeks before orientation. This prevents extra workers from distracting those who do the best job,” says Daniel Zenkle, a consult and partner from The Camp Professionals, in the March/April 2010 issue of Camping Magazine.

Using professionals also keeps the camp up to date with state and federal regulations. Volunteers may be well intentioned, but if they aren’t professionals in the field, it’s more likely that they could miss something that might make a big difference when campers are on site.

Start with Equipment

Routine maintenance is important for all of your maintenance equipment?mowers, tractors, and weed eaters. Do a thorough inspection of tires, lights, oil, and other working parts before taking equipment out of winter storage for use.

It’s also important to maintain non-electric gear. Generally, here’s what to look for in tools like blades, ladders, and even rakes and shovels.

  • Sharpened blades allow users to focus on using the tool safely, instead of pressing all their weight onto the tool or twisting around to complete a job, which may put workers at risk.
  • Ladders should be inspected from the top down. The rungs should be sturdy, clean, and free from grease or oil. Look for any cracks, splits, or bent edges, and make sure braces are solid. In addition, nails and screws should be tight, and the feet should be examined for damage.
  • Rakes and shovels should be checked to make sure the handles are secured to their heads and not rusted out from sitting through the winter.

If any equipment doesn’t pass inspection, it should be repaired or replaced. This will save money in the long run, and prevent injury when it’s time to clean up the camp.

Inspect Buildings

No structure will last forever, but annual inspections of camp facilities will go a long way toward keeping costs down and buildings up to date and safe. Sites that budget for preventive maintenance to preserve their facilities save more money than sites that make “bandage repairs” to make it through each camping season, according to the American Camping Association.

Staying a step ahead of maintenance also signals a safety mindset that looks for ways campers might be hurt, and reduces the risk before they happen. Here are a few important building maintenance jobs to keep in mind before campers arrive:

  • Roofs: Inspecting roofs can spot small issues early and prevent bigger problems down the road. Water from a leak can damage not only walls and floors, but mechanical and electrical systems as well.
  • Pipes: Some buildings sit empty through the winter, so it’s important to make sure everything flows like it should. Burst pipes or clogs can lead to a big, expensive mess, but regular checkups should help you stay a step ahead of the most common problems.
  • Septic systems: Camps that have been around a long time may have systems that have been “grandfathered” in, despite new codes in the area. However, septic systems tend to fail, requiring camps to comply with new regulations. Having a plan to update the system as soon as possible can save a camp from having to make surprise repairs all at once when campers are already on site.
  • Mold: Many camps are located in a country setting or near a body of water. Both are breeding grounds for mold when buildings sit unused in the off-season. If you suspect or know there is a mold problem in a building, do some research to find out how best to deal with it.
  • Furniture: It’s common for camps provide bunks, couches, or other furniture for campers. Use the spring as a time to inspect frames and tighten screws to keep campers safe when they arrive.

Clean Up the Property

Remember that grounds are just as important to maintain as buildings are, especially at camps, where many activities take place outside. Sport fields and courts, landscaping, sidewalks, and beachfronts could all use a check-up before campers arrive. 
Slip-and-fall incidents are one of the most common causes of twisted ankles and broken legs. When the snow melts and the ground is visible again, take the time to repair or clean up:

  • Cracks and uneven spots in sidewalks and walkways
  • Potholes in parking lots and on other paved surfaces
  • Animal holes or sunken ground in grassy areas or playing fields
  • Debris on beaches
  • Broken boards on balconies or boat docks

Also make these other property updates as needed:

  • Reinforce fences and repair gate locks
  • Prune dead or over-hanging trees
  • Clean up fallen branches
  • Tighten bench and beach chair screws
  • Clean up and anchor trash dumpsters
  • Remove weeds and plants that could sting or scratch if stepped on

If your camp doesn’t already have a comprehensive maintenance plan, get started by doing some research or hire a qualified professional to consult on the status of your camp facilities. The possibilities for maintenance are endless, but it is important to know what really needs attention, and that whatever you do is done correctly.

Additional Resources

Brotherhood Mutual has many resources to help assess maintenance issues. Check out the Buildings and Property section of the safety library for additional articles and checklists.