Camp Safety Tips

Provide a safe environment in which kids can hear God's message

Few things encourage spiritual growth in kids like attending a Christian camp. Away from other distractions, kids have time to focus on their relationship with God. Unfortunately, camps also provide plenty of opportunities for kids to get hurt—miles from the nearest hospital. Good risk management helps you prevent many injuries and lessen the severity of those that can’t be avoided.

Make a commitment to improving the camp you operate through risk management. Evaluate your camp's current safety program. Determine what steps you can take immediately to improve your camp's safety. Take these tips from camp directors and risk-management professionals:

Appoint a Risk Manager

This person will be responsible for developing and overseeing your camp’s safety program, perhaps with the help of a safety committee. The risk manager (and safety committee) should inspect camp facilities and programs regularly and study all accidents to determine how future incidents could be prevented.

Screen Your Staff

The best-run camps have great people working for them. Carefully select the supervisors, counselors, and others who will be working with children. Everyone should be screened, whether employee or volunteer. Letters of recommendation can help narrow your list of job candidates, but they can’t replace screening process, which should include:

  • A written application.
  • Multiple reference checks.
  • Personal interviews.
  • A criminal background check.

Train Your Staff

Train your staff thoroughly, creating a risk-management culture in the process. Hold training sessions before camp begins each year. Don’t rely on returning staff to take new people under their wings and “show them the ropes.” A formal training program—even for late hires—is the only way to know that every staff member has received complete information on the camp's safety procedures.

Train Campers, Too

Make sure campers learn what they need to stay safe by giving them an orientation when they arrive on site.

  • Take them on a walking tour.
  • Explain emergency procedures. (Emphasize that you care about them and their safety and that safety measures allow everyone to have a good time because no one gets hurt. Tell them where to go in case of lightning, a thunderstorm, or a tornado.
  • Go over camp rules. Point out that the water, the ropes courses, horseback riding, cooking in the kitchen, and other activities are off limits unless they're supervised. Note that campers can identify staffers easily (perhaps with a nametag, hat, or t-shirt), so they can quickly find someone to help if they witness an accident or feel threatened.

Seek Accreditation

There are a host of regional, state, denominational, and national organizations dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in camping and/or camp ministries. The Christian Camp and Conference Association (CCCA) and the American Camp Association (ACA) are two of the largest. Joining either one gives you access to resources and materials that are unavailable elsewhere, as well as the ability to exchange knowledge with other camp professionals who share your vision—and your frustrations.

Also, consider pursuing accreditation through your state or the American Camp Association. The ACA’s accreditation program is recognized nationwide for excellence. Even if your organization can’t afford the accreditation process right now, it’s a good idea to order a copy of the standards.

The accreditation standards provide a detailed road map you can follow to make immediate improvements to your camp’s facilities, policies, and procedures.

Download our Camp Risk Management Checklist >>