Lessons Learned from the 2007 Insurance Roundtable Discussion, Part 1: What Generation Is Your Staff?

by Gaetana De Angelo

Family history is usually shared from one generation to the next. As the information filters down, some of it gets lost or reinterpreted. What, you are wondering, does family history have to do with camp insurance and risk management? Well read on . . . it will all come together.

Each year during the American Camp Association’s (ACA’s) National Conference, the National Insurance Committee hosts a roundtable discussion with our insurance business partners and other insurers of camps. At the roundtable, we discuss trends in the insurance industry that may impact camp operations, what types of claims were filed the year before, and risk management issues. This year’s roundtable discussion, as the ones in the past, has proven to be an excellent source for risk management issues we as camp professionals cannot afford to ignore. The National Insurance Committee has a charge to help educate members in areas related to risk management, and the roundtable provides a starting point for many issues. Following the roundtable, members of the Insurance Committee report what was learned during an educational session at the national conference, which many camp professionals attending the conference find very enlightening. This article spotlights two of the topics covered during the 2007 insurance roundtable, challenge course staff training and medical-related concerns. The fall 2007 issue of The CampLine will feature Part 2 of lessons learned from this important roundtable discussion.

Challenge Course Staff Training

One of the items that has come up for several years is in-house training of challenge course staff. These staff are referred to as second generation trained; if they in turn train someone, they are considered third generation, and so on. History has shown that when a claim is filed related to a challenge course injury, it can usually be traced back to supervision by a second or third generation trained staff member. Many of these claims were the result of avoidable mistakes, mistakes that may not have occurred if everyone had received the same professional training. As we enter a new camp season, here are some things to keep in mind regarding challenge course staff:

  • n Have lead staff attend a training by a professional challenge course instructor conducted on your own equipment (it’s even better if all challenge course staff are able to do this).
  • If necessary, have professionally-trained lead staff train additional challenge course camp staff.
  • Professionally trained lead staff should frequently evaluate the performance of the staff they have trained (sounds like a standard to me!).
  • Never allow third and fourth generation training; it gets too diluted.
  • Every few years have a professional challenge course instructor come to camp to evaluate the skills of the staff running your challenge course—retrain as needed.

Will doing all of these things ensure that you never have another challenge course injury? Most likely no; however, if an accident does occur, wouldn’t you want to have peace of mind knowing that the staff you had on duty that day were properly trained?

Medical-Related Concerns

Did that last section cause your heart to do little flip-flops from worry and make you wonder if someone needed to pull out the AED? The Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a marvelous lifesaving device that almost any adult can use with minimal training. If your camp is not scheduled for an accreditation visit this summer, you may not be aware of standard HW-17, the recently added standard related to assessing the need at your camp for an AED. Some factors to consider when determining the need at your camp for an AED include the age of your campers and visitors, the type of activities that are offered, and how far your camp is from medical response. At the roundtable, it was also noted that AEDs are not often very helpful for backcountry or wilderness trips, as they are intended to give a victim a chance for survival until immediate professional medical assistance can be provided and are not intended to maintain a victim for a long period of time such as when medical assistance might be delayed. The use of AEDs is now included as part of lifeguard training (see the article “ACA Standards . . . the FIRST STEP in Creating a Safer Aquatic Environment for Campers,” on page 9 for more information), and the cost of the devices has been slowly going down, but beware, you get what you pay for and the cheapest is sometimes no better than none at all. If you determine that you do need an AED at your camp, be sure to check with your local Emergency Medical Service to see what type they are using, because you should try to purchase a compatible machine.

Portable Oxygen Devices
Another handy device that staff can be easily trained to use and which is relatively inexpensive is a portable oxygen device. At the roundtable, we learned that 20 percent of all near drownings result in permanent neurological damage that can be directly traced to a loss of oxygen. This was a topic of interest and resulted in some great dialogue during the educational session at the conference. If you decide to make portable oxygen available during your camp season, you should consider leasing the equipment from a reputable company. Leasing the equipment allows you the opportunity to have the most reliable, properly-serviced equipment available. If you own the equipment, you must make sure to have it inspected and serviced by a professional at least once a year, especially if you put it in storage for the winter months. (For more information about portable oxygen devices as part of the American Red Cross Lifeguard program, see the article, “ACA Standards . . . the FIRST STEP in Creating a Safer Aquatic Environment for Campers,” on page 9.)

Medication Management During Wilderness Trips
How do you record, store, and dispense medication when a group goes on a wilderness trip? Careful consideration should be given to how you will maintain the integrity of medication that must be kept refrigerated or protected from extreme temperatures. Improper storage of these types of medicines could result in disaster when administered. Check with your local doctor, hospital, or pharmacy for suggestions on how you might be able to properly manage the storage of these types of medicines.

Have I got you thinking? Good, that was my intention! The Insurance Committee is pleased to provide members with easily understood and useful educational resources related to risk management and insurance. Questions related to your individual insurance coverage should be directed to your broker or agent. However, if you have an insurance-related question or concern that you would like to dialogue about with an impartial party, feel free to contact one of the Insurance Committee members. Visit www.ACAcamps.org/volunteers/insurance for committee contact information. For a listing of ACA partners and business affiliates in the insurance industry and other helpful risk management and insurance information go to www.ACAcamps.org/vendors.

Originally published in the 2007 Spring issue of The CampLine.