In Part One of "Fire Prevention and Safety at Camp," in the last issue of Camping Magazine, you learned some of the regulations and standards that must be considered when developing a written fire prevention and safety plan and you identified potential fire hazards. Part Two focuses on developing a written fire prevention and safety plan and creating an emergency action plan.
Develop a Written Fire Prevention and Safety Plan
Directors are responsible for the big picture, for the overall operation of the business. As a result, it is easy for the director to succumb to the temptation of writing the fire prevention and safety plan for the camp and presenting it to the staff as gospel. Resist this temptation if at all possible! Experience has demonstrated that the more input you get from others on risk management projects like this, the better and more comprehensive the result.
Start a list and share it
Once you have a revised list of fire hazards, evaluate the potential for loss and decide how to prevent, minimize, or manage each one. Keep your staff involved in this phase. Get their input on how to handle the fire risks and hazards you have jointly identified, and establish policies and practices. Some of these will be general, others specific to the hazard and risk involved.
An example of a general fire prevention policy might be that no smoking will be allowed in camp. Another might be that you will trim brush back fifty feet from camp buildings to reduce the potential for a fire spreading from one building to another. An example of a specific fire prevention policy could be that you will install an exhaust system, grease filters, and a dry chemical fire extinguishing system over all cooking surfaces in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association standard. In addition, you will have this system inspected and recharged annually by a fire systems contractor.
Put your policies in writing and incorporate the prevention and safety practices into your staff manual and training schedules. Seek input from your seasonal staff as you review this issue with them during staff training. Fire prevention and safety is everyone's job, so the more you communicate and seek help from others in maintaining a safe environment, the better your chances of accomplishing your objectives.
Form a safety committee
Create an Emergency Action Plan
No fire prevention and safety plan would be complete without an emergency action or crisis response plan. Planning your response in an emergency should be done in advance when time can be taken to consider the issues clearly and calmly.
Escape procedures and route assignments
These procedures work best when they are practiced and reviewed regularly with the staff. Also, have fire drills a couple of times during the summer when all campers are in camp so they become familiar with the procedures.
Sounding the alarm
Many camp directors choose not to have counselors attempt to fight the fire beyond discharging a portable fire extinguisher if they are the first to discover the fire. Other camp directors have formed fire brigades and provided training for staff to learn how to keep the fire from spreading. This usually involves wetting down the roof and the outside of the building as well as adjacent buildings exposed to the fire. If you choose to take this approach, realize that OSHA has very specific training requirements for employees who are on a fire brigade. Information on OSHA fire brigade standards may be found at www.osha.gov .
Add your own "what-if" questions to the list, and consider all of these issues when preparing your camp emergency action plan for fire. Prepare now before the emergency strikes so you will be better prepared to take confident action.
Originally published in the 1999 January/February issue of Camping Magazine.