Calling All Risk Champions!

Gaetana De Angelo
May 2017

Each year, the Insurance Committee holds a Roundtable with many of the camp industry insurers and brokers in conjunction with the American Camp Association National Conference. The 2017 Roundtable included many familiar faces, and we were glad to welcome several newcomers. The one thing that remained constant is the enthusiasm and support from our camp insurers as risk champions of the camping industry.

As I looked over the notes from a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but ponder how cyclical some of the trends that we talk about are and wondering why some of them keep popping up again and again. Auto claims are a great example. Five to seven years ago, all we heard was how dangerous fifteen passenger vans were and of the alarming number of tragic mishaps related to poor training or inexperienced drivers. Along with the education and direction from our insurers, the insurance committee took to The CampLine to remind camping professionals to focus on training, how to “load” the van, to put fewer campers in the vans at one time, and the importance of proper tire pressure. The education seemed to work as we saw a decline in auto accidents involving large passenger vans.

This year, we heard that auto claims are up again – not due to rollovers and accidents, but due to damage from drivers backing large vans into trees and other inanimate objects (parked cars specifically).

About the same time the van issues rose to the top and several other times in the past ten years, challenge courses were the focus of upward trends for accident/near-misses. As with the large vans, we partnered with our insurers to push out education to members calling on them to only use first generation trained staff on the courses, use only professionally trained personal to build and inspect courses — and it was quiet for a few years. In 2016, and again this year, we heard about challenge course claims on the rise. The difference in some of these are not as much poor training or construction, yet due to staff exhaustion leading to human error, and the elements serving more as amusement rides (think family camp and moving everything through the zip line or giant swing as fast as you can to serve as many as possible) verses the team-building tools camps started with. Unfortunately, improper and/or lack of training is still a factor.

When I look at these two examples, I think that in most cases, these are true accidents that occur. Not because we at camp don’t care, but because due to economic times we are often very focused on income. This leads me to the following thought — I really want to see camp owners/directors/staff be risk champions at contract management.

Contracts? What do contracts have to do with being risk champions? Without a doubt, one trend that shows up every year during the Roundtable discussion is contract management. Countless claims against camps could have been avoided if good contract management was in place. Like insurance, a good contract is a method of risk transfer that can help camps eliminate unneeded financial loss. Contracts/agreements should be in place for more than just a rental group. A contract should be considered for activities such as building a ropes course, installing a new cabin, having a third-party vendor come on property for programming purposes, etc. Two prior articles related to contracts can be found in prior issues of ACA’s The CampLine: Risk Management, Tips for Contracts and Contracting With
User/Rental Groups Revisited

Be a risk champion — you don’t have to be an attorney, but you should have one who is knowledgeable of the laws in your state you can run contracts by. Asking and allowing your insurance provider to review your contracts before you sign them to give you advice regarding your insurance exposure is another action to be considered. Once you sign them, it really doesn’t help to send them to your insurer — you are already committed.

Other trends that were discussed during the Insurance Roundtable include:

  • Weather-related losses (hail, wind, flooding) continue to be an issue as storms seem to be more intense and occur in what might not be considered the normal time of the year. Some of the losses were collateral damage caused by dead trees or trees to close to buildings that were toppled.
  • Cyber security and the potential for being hijacked and/or hacked is a growing threat for everyone. Do you have systems in place to address a potential data breach? Do your third-party providers have systems in place? These are conversations to have with your insurance provider and others who provide online registrations, host your website, and your insurance provider.
  • Drones continue to be of concern. Most insurance policies do not cover drones without an additional endorsement. Ask before you need the coverage — it’s too late if you wait until something happens.
  • Abuse claims that occurred 20–30 years ago are on the rise. Do you know where your insurance policies are from 20 years ago? Check out the 2016 Insurance Roundtable article for recommendation related to document retention.
  • There has been an increase in discrimination claims and employment practices related to staff, campers, and third party claims. Do you have the appropriate coverage? Do you have a clear plan for how you will address the request for transgender children to attend your camp? What about staff?  (Reminder: Make sure to check the employment laws in your state.)
  • Business interruption coverage — what is it and how much do you need? Talk to your agent and make sure they have a clear understanding of your business cycles and practices so that they can advise you on limits of coverage and types of coverage needed. Just because you see the term in your current policy doesn’t mean it is going to respond to every situation. Know the factors required for this part of your policy to be enacted.
  • Off-season and alternative use of camps. The desire to increase income has prompted many camps to open their doors to new types of venues. Management should carefully consider the burdens some of these potential opportunities present and weigh them against the added income. While you can reasonably gauge the expectations of your young campers and parents and set parameters for behaviors, working with alternative groups is often quite difficult as the dynamic is very different.
    • Adult-only camps. While the enormous fees they are willing to pay may sound tempting, do your homework and make sure you have a solid contract that clearly states what you do and do not allow at camp, including the use of alcohol and unauthorized use of program equipment. Be sure that you have been added as additional insured to the renter’s insurance.
    • Family camping — Parent/child camps, entire families coming to camp. Claims are on the rise in these types of situations, some due to overzealous adults who overestimate their athletic ability and parents who feel they are better judges of what is safe and what is not versus the camp staff.
    • Adventure races that often include mud runs, mud pits, and numerous obstacles are risky business that are generally not worth the dollars. If you are renting your camp out to race or contest organizers, be very sure you have a solid contract that clearly outlays who is responsible for what (emergency procedures, emergency personnel, etc.) and what types of qualifications the organizers staff should hold. Require a Certificate of Insurance adding your camp and staff as additional insured.
  • As with society, camps are seeing an increase in behavioral and mental health issues with both staff and campers. It is important to have mental health resources identified and available.

How can you be a better risk champion?

Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Partner with your insurer to be sure that you have the best and most appropriate coverage for your business
  • Put risk management front and center when training new and returning staff. Risk management is part of their job, too!
  • When adding new activities, analyze and review all the implications. Have a conversation with authoritative sources, with others that currently offer those activities. Include your insurance provider in the conversation.
  • Read your contracts and seek advice from both legal and insurance partners.

It is important to consider your insurance provider as a partner and not your adversary. Talk with them before the summer and review your policies to make sure they are the best you can do with what you can spend. They can be a great resource.

Author Gaetana De Angelo is the Director, Risk & Business Operations for the Girl Scouts of Atlanta and has served as the Chair of the ACA Insurance Committee for several years.