Do You Always Feel Like Somebody Is Watching You? — 2016 Insurance Roundtable Report

person looking through binoculars

Report from the 2016 Insurance Roundtable: Held at the ACA National Conference
Gaetano De Angelo, Chair, ACA Insurance Committee 

While the song is a little old, the words are very true these days, “there is very little privacy left in the world!”  It is amazing what Google Earth drones have recorded and what is viewable on the web.  Speaking of drones – do you use drones in your program at camp or allow your staff to bring them on property?  This year at the annual ACA Insurance Roundtable, drones were just one of the many topics discussed. More to come on drones.

Each year the American Camp Association (ACA) Insurance Committee conducts an Insurance Roundtable with our insurance partners, during which we talk about claim trends, the general state of the insurance market, and risk management issues. Along with a report-out session at the ACA National Conference, we also publish the findings of the Roundtable in the spring. In this article, I will be sharing the findings and also challenge you to really review all of your policies, procedures, and practices.  You may be surprised how your camp’s actual practices vary from the policy or procedure that is in place.  Remember, risk management is shared by everyone; if you bend or ignore a policy or procedure, you have implied permission for your staff to do the same.  Policies and procedures are only as good as the actions associated with them.

Top Claims in 2015

The following claims were seen in the greatest numbers during 2015.

Auto/Vehicle-related Claims – These claims included both autos and golf carts and were a top claim in 2014 also!   Review The CampLine Spring 2015 Article for several important tips to help you avoid these types of claims.

Trips and Falls – A high frequency of trip and fall claims was seen in 2015, but none that were outstanding in scope.  Many of these claims occurred on playgrounds.

Zipline Accidents – Unfortunately, a couple of these falls resulted in death.  As mentioned in last year’s article, challenge course and zipline accidents are on the rise after a few years of relative quiet. Managing risk in this area includes keeping excellent equipment logs, replacing any damaged or aged-out equipment and ropes, and providing appropriate training for staff.  Do everything you can to avoid operator error.  Keep the following in mind when scheduling staff on high-volume user days:

  • Consider instituting a maximum four-hour shift per staff person per day and/or provide adequate rest periods between groups of users.  This is especially important in the heat of the summer months and will potentially help to reduce the fatigue and stress of managing multiple users in quick succession.
  • Make it part of your standard operating procedure to always have at least one person on the team who has first-generation training (i.e., who has been professionally trained by an industry expert).
  • Conduct frequent skills assessments of your staff.
  • Have support staff observe the program in action each day at different times during the day to benefit from a fresh set of eyes watching the activity in action.

Contracts and Agreements – One of the best ways to transfer the financial responsibility (related to risk) away from your own pocket or insurance policy is to have good solid contracts and agreements with third parties.  How can you help ensure that you have a good solid agreement or contract that protects the interests of the camp?

  • Check your contracts for outside groups using your facility, equipment, and/or program areas.
    • Have an attorney in your state write and/or review contracts and agreements that you issue to others.  This is not something you want to borrow from another camp, especially if they are in another state.  You might consider asking another camp in your state to review your contract or you might borrow their contract, but it is important to have an attorney review it and make necessary adjustments.
    • Include hold harmless and indemnity clauses appropriate for your state.
    • Include what might seem like an excessive amount of information!  If something is not stated in the contract you will have a harder time holding the group to that expectation.  Specifically list what areas of camp they do and do not have access to, the dates and times of use, cancellation and refund policies, makeup of the group (such as – youth and adults, or adults only), and who is responsible for what.  Be very clear about what is acceptable programing and what is not. Require the group to give you detailed information about any special activities, such as adventure races.
    • Include a venue clause. This type of clause specifically lists where legal action can be taken. Be as specific as the state and county.  Why is this important?  If you are located in Georgia and have a user group from Wisconsin, you do not want to litigate a case in Wisconsin. If you have to do it, you want to do it on your home turf.
  • Have your insurance broker or insurance professional review contracts you are asked to sign to ensure that you have coverage for items that the contract specifically outlines, such as hold harmless agreements, waivers, and subrogation clauses.  You do not want to find out after the fact that the camp is going to have to pay for something because of a denied claim.

Property Claims – Many of the property claims in 2015 were related to severe drought and/or fire. 

  • Keep in mind the concept of civil authority. An example of this is when the authorities close down roads and access around and near a fire, potentially as far as five miles out.  You may find that you do not have access to your own property or the ability to evacuate if you chose to do so.  If you have to cancel camp, you may or may not have coverage.  Be sure to:
    • Inform local authorities that you are operating a camp and what your emergency plans are.  Make friends with everyone you can.
    • Check with your broker or insurer to find out what, if any, coverage might be available for such a scenario.
  • How often do you review your structures or your insurance policy building schedule?  Have you added new buildings or significantly updated any?  Do you have the financial resources to replace a building or structure that may have been overlooked?  Take a walk around camp with the insurance schedule in hand and compare what is on the schedule and what you see.  If you have updated a building, you will want the increased value of it on the schedule so that you can be sure that you get a comparable replacement in the event of loss.

Records Retention – This includes all types of records, including insurance policies.  Some claims may not surface for many years. It is important to be able to identify what insurance was in place at the time of an earlier event and to provide other related documents from the earlier time frame that you may need.

  • Identify what you need to keep, what you should not keep, how long each type of record will be kept, and in what format (paper, electronic, etc.).
  • Keep health records until campers reach at least the age of majority. Remember, the length of time such documents are kept might be dictated by your state.
  • Keep copies of all insurance policy “forms lists” and declarations pages.
  • If keeping documents electronically, be sure to periodically update the format. For example, micro fiche documents moved to floppy disk, and so on. The information should be accessible when needed.
  • If you use a third party to store your records, including registration, health, and medical files, be sure you archive the information each year and receive a copy of all the data.  Make sure you know who “owns” the information and if you will be able to access it when needed.

Cyber Crime – At times we are our own worst enemy in this area!  There were several claims in 2015 of laptops or other electronic devices being lost or left out in the open, allowing sensitive camper information to be compromised.  Did you know that personal information (i.e., name, address, social security numbers, and medical policy info) is more valued on the black market than credit card or banking information?  Keep the following in mind related to how and where you collect data, and discuss it with your leadership staff and insurance company or broker.

  • Do you use a third party vendor for digital records management and storage?  How are they protecting your information?  Who is responsible for notifying and protecting your customers if the third party data is breached?
  • Who has access to your data – both electronic and paper?  Some information should be on a need-to-know basis only.
  • Do you have policies in place detailing appropriate use of both business and personal electronic devices?  Do you allow your staff to download sensitive camp or camper data onto their personal devices?
  • When disposing of documents no longer needed, make sure you shred them, especially if they contain identifiable personal information.
  • There are many different types of cyber protection, and navigating which is the best for your operation involves talking in depth with an insurance professional – there is not a one-size-fits-all claims coverage.

Additional Claims

Other claims in 2015 included the following.

  • Camper concussion after falling out of a top bunk that did not have rails.
    • Check your rails. Are they easy to remove? And do you allow campers to remove them?  Consider making them fixed so they cannot be easily removed.
    • Check the size of your mattresses.  Have you recently replaced your mattresses with new, deeper ones?  How much protection is still provided by the rail?
  • Workers comp – A number of claims related to “play” injuries were seen in 2015. These incidents involved staff who were supposedly supervising the activity but were so involved, they ended being injured.  Finding a balance between an actively engaged staff member and one who is in full competitive play mode can sometimes be a challenge but must be strived for.
  • Employment practices liability (EPL) – It is very important to have coverage for staffing-related issues.  If you are a nonprofit camp or agency, directors and officers (D & O) coverage is a must-have and includes EPL coverage.

Additional Areas of Concern – Owners and directors should be aware of the following current issues and have plans in place to deal with related threats.

  • Bed bug
  • Deer ticks
  • Bats
  • Social media and electronic communications
  • Fraudulent emails made to look legitimate, usually involving the transfer of money.  Have clear financial policies outlining when and who can transfer money. Include redundant checks and balances.
  • Amusement-park-type activities, which some states are seeking to regulate. These activities include ziplines, water parks, playgrounds, etc.
  • Forest fires. If your camp is remote, consider having maintenance staff trained in basic firefighting skills. Have the needed resources available. Reinforce that staff are not to consider themselves primary responders, but supporting responders based on their level of training.


Oh yes, you thought I forgot about drones. I simply saved the best for last!  There are many risks associated with the use of drones.  Like any other program offering, you can plan for and avoid many dangers when using drones.  Keep the following in mind:

  • Currently drones are considered small aircraft, and most general insurance policy excludes aircraft.  Check with your broker or insurer to be sure you have coverage. If you don’t, find out how to get it. It may not be inexpensive.
  • Claims related to drones are not always property related; many have liability repercussions associated with them. A recent claim at a camp resulted from a drone crashing onto a roadway, causing an accident.
  • Be very clear about who may use drones and when. Consider not allowing personal drones on property; they will most likely not be covered by any insurance, and you may find yourself liable in the event of an accident.
  • Make sure any drone is appropriately licensed and registered.

As the summer quickly approaches, take time now to review your insurance policies as well as other critical policies.  It will be time well spent. 

Gaetana De Angelo is the director of risk & business operations for the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta and serves as chair of the ACA Insurance Committee. She is an ACA standards visitor. De Angelo attended Georgia State University and has BBAs in risk management and insurance and hospitality administration. She can be reached at