By Dan Reynolds, senior editor, Risk & InsuranceŽ
When discussing the risk management lessons for summer camp operators from the horrific events emanating from Norway in late July, it's important to place things in context, said Kevin Trapani, the CEO of the Redwoods Group, the Morrisville, N.C.-based insurer of nonprofits.
One, as reported in the New York Times and elsewhere, the bombing and shootings in Oslo and the island of Utoeya were more akin to the bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995, than to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"Trying to manage against the actions of one radical individual requires a very different response than when we have a pervasive and ongoing threat," Trapani said in an interview with Risk & InsuranceŽon Aug. 1. Redwoods Group covers 175 overnight camps and approximately 2,100 day camps nationally.
Trapani said even in difficult economic times, there is much that summer camp operators can do, if they can find the resources. Over the past 10 years, Trapani said, there has been a significant evolution in the development of emergency plans and protocols of overnight and day camp operators. But what may be lacking in many cases is the regular practice and the drills that make those emergency plans and risk management protocols effective.
"I would say that by and large people have paid attention, people have made an assessment of their physical environment and by and large they have a plan," Trapani said.
The challenge, Trapani said, is how frequently nonprofits and other owners of summer camps are rehearsing their plans.
"When something happens your actions have to be instinctual. The lifeguard who is doing chest compressions on a potential drowning victim who hasn't practiced since the day they had their Red Cross training isn't going to do it," Trapani said.
Trapani said it's his impression that many camp operators aren't practicing the measures in their plans often enough. The good that can come out of this Norway nightmare, perhaps, is that camp operators and others will be more dutiful about rehearsing their safety measures.
Chief among them, Trapani said, is that camps have an "iron-clad" practice of receiving and engaging guests. Camp staff should all wear something along the lines of a uniform, a shirt with the camp logo, in many cases, that make them instantly recognizable.
Any unknown adult who is seen walking on camp grounds or who isn't identifiable as a camp employee should be engaged in a civil manner, Trapani said. This is the initial stage of camp threat assessment.
If a visitor responds in an odd or threatening manner to an attempt to engage, that is when command and control procedures come into place.
In the case of the Norway shooting carried out by Anders Behring Breivik, it is highly likely that the first camp employee that engaged him would have been shot. But the loss of that life could have prevented the loss of many others, as that nightmare scenario ended up playing out.
August 1, 2011
Copyright 2011© LRP Publications