If summer is the season for fun in the sun, then spring is the time to prepare for that wonderful time of togetherness, outdoor activities, and faith-filled fellowship.
Of course, this summer again will be different for camps and faith-based organizations due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The best way to get ready for this busy season is return to the basics.
Tracy Schmeltzer, AIS, AINS, director for camps and conference centers for Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I.1, is in constant communication with hundreds of camps and conference centers, getting a close look at their daily operational challenges and supporting them as they manage potential risks.
Here, she answers organizations’ questions about what they should be doing to prepare.
As more people become vaccinated from COVID-19, it’s hard to know what precautions we should take. Where do we look for guidelines?
Schmeltzer: In January 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its recommendations for youth and summer camps. Make sure you clearly communicate with staff and participating families about the precautions you will be taking, and update your policies and procedures accordingly.
What steps can we take right now to prepare our property for the busy season?
Schmeltzer: The trees on your property might have taken some damage over the past year. Look for dead or dying trees, and either clear out those trees yourself or hire a tree removal company. Check all lights to ensure they are working correctly. Walk over all pathways to make sure freeze and thaw cycles have not warped the surface. Also, you should check all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
How do we make sure we are hiring the right people?
Schmeltzer: Finding the right staff is one of the most important parts of running a safe and successful camp. With the rising concern of abuse at camp, it’s important to perform extensive screening on all employees and volunteers before allowing them to come into contact with campers. The screening should include a criminal background check, reference check, interviews and verification of previous work. Additional resources can be found on our website.
What can we do right now to make the summer as smooth as possible for our staff?
Schmeltzer: Update or establish safety protocols and abuse prevention policies; enforce adherence to all policies; and provide adequate training to all staff and volunteers. Review your training programs to make sure they address new activities and protocols. Your new employees will depend on this training to prepare for the summer, and even your seasoned staff members will need refreshers — particularly in this era of COVID-19 restrictions. Maintain documentation of all employee training and plan an orientation session for all staff.
How can we best support our housekeeping, maintenance and custodial staff?
Schmeltzer: All employees should have some level of personal protective equipment (PPE). But maintenance workers, in particular, need proper PPE for their jobs. You will need to train them on appropriate uses of PPE and on all cleaning agents and chemicals they work with. Keep up-to-date Safety Data Sheets (SDS) on all chemicals available to those who could come in contact with them.
It has been a long winter. What kinds of changes may have occurred on our property that we should especially check out?
Schmeltzer: If your facility is in an area that experiences heavy snow, it might have affected some of your buildings. Snow that accumulates on roofs can weaken them, which can lead to weak structures and dangerous conditions for your campers. Perform a thorough inspection of all structures. Additionally, pests such as rodents, stinging insects and bats might have taken up residence in some areas of your camp. If you find evidence of these animals, such as droppings, check the building to make sure they haven’t damaged the wiring or insulation.
Do we need to perform any maintenance on our vehicles?
Schmeltzer: Yes. Those vehicles might have been sitting idle for months, so they will need a tune-up at the very least. Check to see if tire tread is sufficient, lights are operating and tire pressure is appropriate. You should also check for evidence of pests — rodents can chew through vital parts of a vehicle.
Even though this year again will be different due to the effects of the pandemic, don’t forget to attend to the basics of preparing for the summer. And remember to reach out to a trusted insurance partner to make sure your coverage is up to date and appropriate. Summer will be here before you know it!
1Church Mutual is a stock insurer whose policyholders are members of the parent mutual holding company formed on 1/1/20. S.I. = a stock insurer.