Ensure a Safe Adventure Course for Campers

Make sure high ropes courses are up-to-date on safety procedures.

Summer camp season is underway and many camp leaders are checking out high ropes courses, including zip lines, canopy tours, and climbing walls as part of their summer camping activities for youth groups. Falling under “adventure education,” ropes courses are a big hit at camps, but do you know how to look for a healthy adventure environment? It's good to take a second look at the equipment and operation before you sign up to go.

Observe Rope Courses Carefully

Paul Stultz, a risk control specialist at Brotherhood Mutual, is a level-1 facilitator and 12-year member of the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT). This keeps him up-to-date on current training procedures. There are three things to focus on when observing high ropes standards, Stultz says.

  • Do the courses follow industry standards?

Professional organizations, such as ACCT, have compiled proper procedures so the government and the insurance industry don’t have to. High ropes courses must either be built by professionals or be approved by one.

  • Do operators inspect courses and follow professional recommendations?

Brotherhood Mutual requires all ropes courses to be inspected yearly. Issues arise when camps:

  1. Do not have their equipment inspected at all.

  2. Do not follow through with professional recommendations after their inspections.

If the camp does not close or repair faulty rope elements, the camp may be held liable for any harm that occurs to campers as a result of using the faulty elements.

  • Are camp facilitators and course staff properly trained?

Human error has been a bigger issue than equipment failure. About 60 percent of a camp’s summer staff is new each year. Because of this and the extreme nature of high ropes, proper training is essential to risk management. Camp staffs must be trained by third-party industry professionals. Most accidents occur when:

  1. The course is operated incorrectly.

  2. Facilitators are not trained properly.

  3. Facilitators stray from their training.

When these elements are accounted for, Stultz says that a ropes course can be reasonably free from risk. While being fun for campers, high ropes courses teach teamwork, trust, and interdependence in a controlled and exciting environment. You  can ensure a challenging and educational experience by maintaining proper standards and a close watch on high-ropes courses that you intend to use with your campers.

Additional Resources