Tips for summer camp safety
Is your child is heading to camp this summer? Whether it’s a sleepaway sports camp, nearby day camp or wilderness adventure camp, there are steps you can take before camp starts to help keep your children healthy and safe.
Ask the right questions
The first step in the process of finding a camp where your child will have a safe and enjoyable experience is to carefully vet the programs you’re considering. Getting the answers to these questions can help you gather the information you need to make a decision.
- Does the camp have a written health policy and protocols in place in case a child is sick, injured or there’s an emergency that requires evacuation, like a severe storm or wildfire?
- Find out what type of medical staff the camp has on the premises and where your child would receive care if an injury or illness required treatment in a hospital. You should also ask what the experience of on-staff medical personnel is. If your child has a health condition or takes medication regularly, find out who manages and dispenses the medications.
- What type of health and safety training do the counselors undergo? Are the counselors CPR and AED certified? Are they trained in basic first aid and recognizing common summer ailments like heat exhaustion?
- Does the camp have a process for preventing and tracking dehydration, such as hourly water and shade breaks and weigh-ins and weigh-outs for children taking part in sports camps? Are safety precautions like wearing lifejackets on the water and helmets when taking part in activities like biking, climbing or horseback riding enforced?
- What type of transportation is used at the camp? Are all vehicles used to transport campers regularly inspected by quality mechanics?
- What’s the ratio of counselors to campers? The American Camp Association recommends the following staffing ratios based on camper age and whether the camp is a day or overnight camp:
- 4-to-5-year-olds: Overnight: 5:1. Day camp: 6:1.
- 6-to-8-year-olds: Overnight: 6:1. Day camp: 8:1.
- 9-to-14-year-olds: Overnight: 8:1. Day camp: 10:1.
- 15-to-18-year-olds: Overnight: 10:1. Day camp: 12:1.
The ratio should be higher for adventure camps and camps for children with special needs.
Make sure your children are prepared
If your children will be going to a sports camp, they should be active well before camp starts so that they’re physically ready for a more intense level of activity. It’s not wise expect them to play themselves into shape once they get to camp, because that can lead to injuries.
Your child should have a check-up before camp—most camps require them—to make sure there are no undiagnosed health problems. Especially if your child has an ongoing health issue, like a food allergy, behavioral condition like ADHD, or asthma, you should provide the camp medical staff with your child’s comprehensive medical record. If there is an emergency, the information in his or her medical record can be life-saving.
Check out the camp for yourself
If possible, you should visit the camp while it’s in session before signing up your children. Check to make sure the counselors are following appropriate safety precautions, handle discipline in a way that you’re comfortable with, and that the facility and equipment are in good condition and don’t present any obvious safety hazards. If you can’t visit the camp, ask other parents you know who’ve sent their children to the camp about their family’s experience.