Each year, the ACA Camp Crisis Hotline Team identifies several case studies for a more in-depth look. These cases serve as examples for other camps to use in staff training and the development of their own risk management plans. Our hope is that by understanding the actual crisis events encountered by other camps, your camp can learn and prepare for the future.

Case Study 1 — Very Thorough Camp Nurse

A camp director called the Hotline concerned that the camp nurse may have been unnecessarily overextending herself. The camp nurse had a very thorough intake process for medication, which included counting all meds to verify the quantity, color, shape, and imprint of each medicine to make sure meds matched the reference information for the prescription. This process was very time-consuming and required the nurse to work late into the night. The camp director saw it as overkill and wanted to know if ACA had any knowledge of whether this process was a requirement or simply what the nurse judged as a best practice. The main concern was balancing the nurse's need to feel that everything under her control is accurate against other job duties, overtime policies, need for rest, and so on.

Questions and Considerations — Very Thorough Camp Nurse

  • What does state law require regarding medication management?
  • Has the camp contacted its on-call medical expert for his or her opinion?
  • Has the camp contacted the organization's governing body for advice, both for their expectation of appropriate medication management and any human resources issues that arise from overtime and/or insubordination?

Resources — Very Thorough Camp Nurse

Case Study 2 — Apparent Suicide of a Staff Member

The director of a day camp found out from other staff and a Facebook post that a 24-year-old staff member passed away overnight at home from an apparent suicide. The director was shocked, because this staff member always seemed happy and appeared to love camp. He didn't know where to start and the other staff and kids would be arriving soon.

Questions and Considerations — Apparent Suicide 

  • Who will be the camp's one spokesperson?
  • Who will write the press statement that might be needed? What content will be shared?
  • Will you need a separate statement for camper and staff families?
  • How will coverage of the deceased job responsibilities be handled?
  • What information should be shared and discussed with the staff, and at what point in time?
  • What information should be shared with campers and by whom?
  • Will the camp be a part of any police investigation if one is conducted?
  • Does the camp have mental health support available if needed, such as on-site or off-site help for staff and campers?
  • Who will reach out to the family, including returning any belongings or personal items of the deceased?
  • What (if anything) will be done as a memorial? What are the wishes of the family? What about staffing considerations during a memorial if during the camp season? Once immediate actions are taken, are there any implications from this tragic event for the camp's policies and practices, particularly crisis communication, staff coverage, or staff training? The mental health issues of staff and campers present emerging and challenging questions for camp administrative teams. While camp staff hope never to face a tragic event related to mental health issues, camps may want to focus on mental, emotional, and social health (MESH) information and practices that help promote proactive measures.

Resources — Apparent Suicide

Case Study 3 — Yellow Jacket Invasion

A camp director called for ideas on dealing with yellow jackets (eradication and mitigation). The director wanted to discuss whether the next session of camp should be cancelled due to the number of stings in the current session, which was significantly higher than typically seen by the health care staff. The nests were not close to the main part of camp, but the yellow jackets were attracted to water and had invaded the pool area. The camp talked to a bee expert and was considering poison to eradicate the yellow jackets. The earliest this action could be taken was 7 to 10 days. The camp closed the swimming pool, covered all outdoor faucets and drinking fountains, obtained portable drinking fountains, and was looking for netted canopies to keep the yellow jackets away from the portable fountains.

Questions and Considerations — Yellow Jacket Invasion

  • Regarding allergic reactions:
    • Has anyone had an allergic reaction from a sting?
    • Have any of the campers this session or next session had allergic reactions to stings previously?
    • Have any staff members had allergic reactions to stings previously?
  • Have you considered that yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets can sting repeatedly, unlike bees?
  • Regarding parent communication:
  • If the next session is not cancelled, what is the communication to the parents of campers who have had allergic reactions previously?
    • What information will be shared? And by whom?
    • Who will be consulted in making the decision, in writing the letter, and in taking calls from parents?
  • Has the camp contacted the physician who signs off on treatment procedures to see if epi-pens could be prescribed for a camper that might have an unanticipated reaction? What does state's law allow? It is also important to consider EMS response time in the event of an emergency. This factor is an important consideration when deciding whether to cancel the next session of camp.
  • Have you exhausted local resources for ideas and services for eradication and mitigation of pests? These resources may include a bee, insect, or pest expert, the county agricultural department, or the county extension agent.
  • Have you considered partnering with the county health department? They may have eradication and mitigation resources, can share what others in the area have done, and may have thoughts or guidelines regarding the possible cancellation of the next session.
  • Has the director contacted the camp's insurance provider? Does the camp have business interruption insurance? Are the expenses that have been incurred because of the yellow jacket invasion covered?

Resources — Yellow Jacket Invasion

Case Study 4 — Alleged Sexual Assault of Female Staff

Between two sessions of camp, staff were off duty and off site. As often occurs, two staff members who were romantically involved went to an off-property party one evening. Upon returning to camp, the two were "messing around" and, when it got to a certain point, the female said both "Stop" and "No." The male continued to try to engage in sexual activity. Nothing beyond fondling occurred, yet the female staff member was very upset and felt she had been violated as she had clearly stated her wishes. The female reported this scenario to the director prior to the beginning of the next session. The director called the Hotline and wanted to talk through the camp's initial plan:

  • Talk with the male to get his side of the story.
  • If accusation was true, the camp will release him.

Questions and Considerations — Alleged Sexual Assault

  • Does the camp have any policies regarding staff relationships, dating, and so on? If this policy has been violated, it is important to address this violation (in the above scenario, no staff policies had been violated).
  • What is your camp's policy on sexual harassment, the reporting of such, the consequences of, and how is this policy being shared with all staff?
  • Have you talked with both individuals involved to hear "each side of the story" before action is taken (release of either staff member, etc.)?
  • Are you able to make an objective judgment?
  • What kind of support (medical, emotional, physical) might the victim need or want?
  • Is the victim going to press charges?
  • Does the age of the individuals require reporting?
  • Is there a need to contact legal counsel, especially if charges are filled or the perpetrator is released?
  • Have you considered where the alleged perpetrator is (physically) before final decisions are made?
  • Have you contacted your insurance provider?
  • If the staff person is released, how will the dismissal be shared with other staff? If both staff remain, what actions should be taken to offer a continued positive working environment for both staff members?

As instances of sexual assault and date rape have come to the forefront of discussion in society, the need for camps to address this type of allegation increases. It is important to think ahead regarding how you would deal with this type of situation at your camp.

Resources Case Study 4 — Alleged Sexual Assault 

Case Study 5 — International Campers Planning Not to Return Home

A resident camp director called because it has come to his attention that two campers, a 16-year-old female and a 17-year-old male, both from countries in West Africa, have no intention of returning to their home countries after camp is over. The campers shared that this was their plan all along. They see America as the land of opportunity and were simply going to take their chances here. The camp director is supposed to be delivering them to the airport so they can get on their flight home, but he is sure now that they won't get on the plane. The campers told him that he won't have to take them to the airport, as they have arranged for someone to pick them up at camp.

The director shared that the campers told him he will receive a communication from their parents telling him it is okay to release them to the person picking them up. The director shared that all communication from West Africa is in a foreign language, and he had never directly communicated with the parents, as it is a school in West Africa that arranged these camper placements for his camp. The campers were here on B2 tourist visas, and the director is in possession of their passports. Other staff at camp pressure him to not worry about it and that he is not responsible for their actions.

Questions and Considerations — International Campers Planning Not to Return Home

  • What are the safety issue for these campers? Do they have money? Other resources?
  • Is there some understanding of other risks related to young immigrants, including the risk of being recruited into human trafficking?
  • Can the director legally release them to someone (not known to director or indicated on any camper forms) and not be responsible for what happens afterward?
  • Are there placement agencies in this type of scenario since these are campers not staff?
  • What are the U.S. Department of State considerations? If the director knowingly allows these campers to not return home, will he be in trouble with the U.S. government?
  • Can the director physically force the campers to board a plane? If travel and flights home involve a layover, what can he do to insure they don't deplane and disappear from that airport?
  • How does in loco parentis apply here? These minors are indeed in the director's care regardless of where they came from and what "the law" would say. What does that mean?

Resource — International Campers Planning Not to Return Home