School shootings, damage by trespassers, tornadoes during what is not considered to be tornado season, watershed and water systems compromised — all are situations that have occurred in the past several months. If something similar impacted your camp/property, would you be prepared?

In response to these (and other emerging issues), the National Standards Commission highlights ACA standards that address such issues and shares ideas of what a camp might consider as they prepare not only to “meet the standard” but develop the best plan/practice for their situation. As a reminder, these areas (along with others) should also be considered in a camp’s risk management review and plan.

The two standards being highlighted in this article are SF.3 Contact with Local Officials and OM.7 Intruders.

Contact with Local Officials

SF.3.1 — Does the camp make annual contact with applicable local emergency officials to notify them of the camp’s dates of operation (seasonally or year-round) and to verify appropriate emergency response information?

While a letter written to the local emergency officials notifying them of the dates of a camp’s operation would technically meet the standard, camp personnel should consider some of the following recommendations:

  • Identify all the local emergency officials that might be involved should something occur at your camp or during one of your programs. This might include fire, law enforcement, public land administrators (e.g. forest service), EMS, etc. Make contact with all of them.
  • Consider inviting those most likely to be involved with emergencies to come visit your site, both prior to the start of the season and during the season as well. Whether it is for lunch, a special event, or something else, always involve a tour of the facility. The more familiar authorities are with a site and the programs conducted, the better they will be able to serve and respond.
  • Provide a tour of your camp/facility to the local community.
  • Make sure authorities know what resources you have available on site with regards to both equipment and personnel.
  • Invite local personnel to assist with staff training in their area of expertise.
  • Get involved in the community in which your camp is located! Do you have staff that might volunteer with local EMS / fire departments? Having someone on the “inside” can be valuable in many situations.
  • The bottom line — in addition to “making contact” develop a relationship with authorities so they know and are familiar with your camp, your camp personnel, your site, and your program. It can pay dividends if/when the need arises.


OM.7.1 — In order to address possible intrusion of unauthorized persons onto the camp site, does the camp:

A. Conduct a periodic review of security concerns of the site, and
B. Provide training for staff, campers, and rental groups (when applicable) about steps to take in the event of an intruder?

Does your staff know what to do when they see an unfamiliar face on property? Do you have a “check in at office” sign posted at the entrance to your camp? Does it work? The potential of intruders seems to be a concern of most camps and is an area where preparation and training can be of great value. Owners/directors should determine what steps they need to take to best minimize their risk with potential intruders.

  • When was the last time you had an external review of potential security concerns? Consider having those same local authorities who might be the ones to respond involved in this review.
  • What type of training do you provide to staff regarding an intruder? Do you rehearse this training?
  • Have “safe zones” been identified? In what situations would they be used? Is this information shared with all staff?

The American Camp Association has a significant number of resources and ideas, which can be found at:

Most importantly, as you prepare for your upcoming summer season — whether it is an accreditation year or not — now is the time to review your policies and procedures on these two standards, as well as others. Determine what is required to meet the standard as well as what best addresses the potential risks at your site and in your program. Don’t wait until a crisis occurs to have plans in place.

Originally published in the Winter 2014 CampLine.