Camp Safety and Security


In July, 2011 a terrorist entered a youth camp in Norway. Disguised as a police officer he gained access to the camp and received the trust of many campers. Due to the camp’s remote location, the police did not arrive until 90 minutes later, but more than 75 campers had already been killed. This tragedy brings to light some important improvements that, if your camp is not doing them, could provide higher levels of safety and security to your camp.

Secure Access to Your Camp

In 86% of the recent visits to our customers, Redwoods employees were able to get inside of the building without being questioned. This statistic stresses the ease with which a non- member could enter your facility and have access to the camp program. To lessen the likelihood of this occurring, double-check that:

  • All side doors to the facility are locked or only able to be opened from the inside.
  • Those working the front desk question all who enter the facility, ensuring that everyone is meant to be there or fills out the appropriate guest forms.
  • Staff consistently patrol the perimeter when using an off-site park or field.
  • Staff know the boundaries of any outside areas you use and can adequately monitor the area,
  • Staff are knowledgeable of access points, both indoor and outdoor, and monitor them accordingly.

Confrontational vs. Conversational

Upon entry into a camp program area, Redwoods employees were questioned about their presence less than half of the time.

Typically, interaction with the children by strangers went unchallenged by counselors.

The act of confronting a stranger about the validity of their presence may be intimidating to some counselors, but it is important to stress the difference between being confrontational and conversational. Striking up a conversation with any unfamiliar face that enters the room is extremely important.

Other Tips to Consider:

  • Have all employees wear staff shirts and/or nametags to help clarify who children can trust and go to for help.
  • Teach the kids to call attention to a new person in the area. They can help alert an otherwise distracted counselor of the presence of a stranger.
  • Provide your counselors with walkie- talkies, this can offer rapid and easy communication that is beneficial in both emergency and non-emergency situations.
  • If your staff use cell phones instead of walkie-talkies, make sure they know what number to call.
  • Have an emergency phrase that all employees know, for instance, “Johnny is at Disney World,” could alert other employees that Johnny is missing.
  • Review and practice Crisis and Emergency Action Plans with all employees so that the most efficient steps are taken in case of an emergency.

Consistent and strict compliance with all of these tips can greatly increase the security of your camp and the well being of all children involved.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.


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