Safety First (Post 1 of 3)
By Ruby Compton
Thus begins a three part series of blog posts regarding safety at camp. Why three parts? Think about this: Green River Preserve is an American Camp Association (ACA) accredited camp with our most recent re-accreditation occurring during summer 2012. The ACA has over 350 standards that camps meet to earn accreditation status. Compare that to most daycare accreditation programs which typically only have between 18-24 standards.
Staff Training: Safety starts first and foremost with our staff. All staff are at least 18 years old, have completed a year of college, and undergo background checks prior to employment. Staff are also personally interviewed by the camp directors and are hired for the full summer season. Ten days of staff training at the beginning of summer is mandatory for all summer staff and includes verification of skills and training on policies and procedures and emergency protocols. All staff employed at Green River Preserve are certified in First Aid and CPR and in epinephrine administration (in case of an anaphylactic reaction). Mentors (professional naturalists) have Wilderness First Aid training and carry radios and first aid kits on their morning hikes.
Hikes: Mentors “check-in” each morning with the program office to ensure their radios are functioning properly. During Mentor hikes, staff have the capability of being in constant contact with base camp and office staff. Likewise, the camp office can communicate with groups to arrange early pickups in case of severe weather or in case of injury or illness. Even in the most remote areas of the preserve, the radios are able to communicate with the office. All hikes are led by Mentors with at least one counselor assisting so there are at least two adults with every group.
The Wild: Green River Preserve is made up of over 3,400 acres of privately-owned wildlife preserve that is only for our campers to explore during the summer. Before every hike, Mentors give a safety briefing including what to do in several “what if” scenarios. Mentors are also our more seasoned staff who have experience leading children in nature in exploration and practicing Leave No Trace ethics, as well as experience in decision-making for minimizing risk in the wilderness.
Vehicles: Campers are transported to and from hikes in the morning on our brilliantly painted buses. All our bus drivers have a current CDL and have attended GRP driver safety training conducted by a camp administrator. The buses aren’t just a ride—they are a program area as well. Staff members spread out to ride on the buses leading songs all the way down the Upper and Lower Roads. Often the bus ride can be a great time to spot Grand Slam-inals!
Ratios: Our camper to staff ratio is three to one with most cabins housing six campers and two counselors. Each cabin is also assigned an “Adopt-a-Mentor” who provides guidance to campers and staff in times of need (and in times of fun!). Our maximum number of campers per session is 104.
No Discount Zone: Every session begins with a Respect Circle when campers are asked to take a respect pledge. There are no put downs at GRP and every camper is given the chance to agree to respect themselves, one another, and the land by, each in turn, saying, “I will.” This sets up an emotionally healthy camp where campers and staff alike hold each other accountable to this agreement made in the first hours of camp.
If you have questions about any of the above or about camp in general, please don’t hesitate to call us.
Keep an eye on the GRP blog for the second blog in the series with a tour of the infirmary and an explanation of health and safety procedures at base camp.