Contributed by Rhonda Mickelson and Susan E. Yoder.
Severe weather used to have a season. Now, severe weather can happen at virtually any time of the year. Camps need to be prepared.
The American Camp Association (ACA) standard OM.8 requires that a camp have site-specific emergency procedures established to appropriately respond to natural disasters typical of the area and other reasonably foreseeable emergencies. The “Contextual Education” for this standard goes on to state:
The phrase "natural disasters typical of the area and other reasonably forseeable emergenics" includes natural disasters such as storms, earthquakes, wildfires, and floods, as well as emergencies such as power outages and other local threats (e.g., train derailments, escaped prisoners, chemical/refinery plant issues, compromised drinking water, camp access restricted due to an emergency event occurring elsewhere).
Often, immediate action to address the emergency and activate an emergency plan can help prevent an emergency from turning into a crisis. An example of this might be the occurrence of a fast-moving lightning storm, which may catch you and your staff outdoors off guard and without shelter. The immediate response is to activate your emergency plan for lightning storms and find a makeshift shelter. The emergency might become a crisis if someone is struck by lightning and severely injured. If no one is injured and nothing is damaged, the emergency is over. (1)
It is important that camp leadership take the time now, in the pre-season, to identify potential emergencies and establish plans to deal with them. They might include severe storms (during any season) and the impact of such storms (flooding, wind or hail damage, etc.). Emergencies might also be those that deal with non-weather related situations, such as those described in the “Contextual Education” above.
As a camp prepares its emergency plans, some questions to ask include:
While this resource list will help you plan ahead, access to technology can also help a camp to be better prepared should the worst occur. Use of the NOAA radio, Doppler radar, and social media allow anyone to have up-to-date forecasts of potential storms. Lightning detectors are now widely used by golf courses and swimming pools, and by some camps.
With the extremes in weather that many areas of the country have experienced, being prepared for anything is the best advice.