What Did Winter Do to Your Camp Property?

April 2019
Cleaning debris from gutters

The winter of 2018–2019 was one that many hope is not repeated soon! Winds, torrential rains, snow, and even drought were prevalent. As you prepare for the upcoming summer, it is important to pay as much attention to your property as you do to your staff hiring and training. Is conducting a “property audit” on your “to do” list? If not, consider the benefits of adding it to the list.

What is included in a property audit varies based on location, property type, and known risks. Plan to walk your full property on a periodic basis with the specific purpose to note what’s not right. Often, your insurance provider will provide a checklist to assist with this process. This article contains a starter as you conduct a property audit.

A few words about trees: Falling trees or large limbs have been the cause of several deaths over the past years at camp. Consider contracting with a licensed arborist to conduct an inspection of trees on your property that — if they fall — could cause damage to property or worse. While it is unrealistic to check all trees, evaluating the health of those along paths, in living areas, and where trees might fall on buildings is good risk management. Having this inspection prior to the opening of your facilities and learning what to observe on a weekly walkaround could prevent damage.

Sidewalks and Paths 

  • If concrete/asphalt — are they free of tripping hazards and cracks?
  • If of natural materials — are they free of loose gravel, holes, tree roots?
  • Are paths clearly marked and lit?
  • Are paths regularly maintained?

Buildings (exterior)

  • Are roofs inspected annually? Has snow load or excessive rain caused internal damage?
  • Are the steps and railing solid and secure?
  • Have birds/animals made holes in the sides of the buildings or burrowed under a building?
  • Are gutters secure and cleaned on a regular basis?
  • Do downspouts direct water into the most appropriate location (and not across walkways)?
  • Are any electrical/phone/cable lines securely fastened and at the appropriate height above the roofline?

Buildings (interior):

  • Are all exits (and exit routes) free of obstructions?
  • Are windows and screens functioning and in good repair?
  • Are all electrical outlets and switches operating?
  • Are fire extinguishers properly mounted and checked on a regular basis?
  • Is the floor free of tripping hazards?
  • If bunk beds are used, are bunk upper rails secure?

Kitchen

  • Do kitchen appliances (to include any fire suppression systems) have an annual inspection and receive regular maintenance?
  • Does the walk-in refrigerator/ freezer have safety handles?
  • Are mops conveniently located?
  • Are the floor and all countertops made from materials that are easily disinfected?
  • Are all cleaning supplies located away from food?

Maintenance Areas

  • Are hazardous materials clearly marked and locked/stored when not in use?
  • Are tools regularly checked and stored in a safe manner?
  • Is the area free of clutter?

Program Areas

  • Are paths/walkways to program areas clear?
  • Have any branches or surface erosion caused damage to any areas?
  • Has all equipment been checked for necessary repairs?

Fire Mitigation (this is an area of great concern, especially for camps in the western US)

  • Is the building material used in siding and roofing fire resistant?
  • Have you had a “fire audit” conducted? (These are sometimes offered by your insurance provider or the local fire department.)
  • Do you have a plan to lean all gutters on a regular basis?
  • Do you have a plan to remove ground “litter” from around all buildings?
  • Have you designated the appropriate defensible space?

Keep in mind this list is a start and a comprehensive property safety audit checklist could be several pages long. Creating your own list and involving authoritative sources (along with your own maintenance staff) can result in a tool to that leads to a safer environment for your participants It might also save you money (and headaches) in the long run.

Resources

  • National Fire Protection Agency: nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Wildfire/Firewise-USA
  • Self-Inspection Safety Checklist for Camps and Conference Centers from Church Mutual Insurance Company: churchmutual.com/102/Self-Inspection-Safety-Checklists
  • Hazard Tree Safety USDA Forest Service: fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5433697.pdf