This month, a tree fell during a YMCA camp’s outdoor education programming and injured three campers. A newspaper article about this incident, which has been redacted, is included below.
[MIDWEST TOWN] - Three [Public School] students were struck by a fallen tree and injured Wednesday morning at the [YMCA Camp] in [Township].
At around 10:24 a.m. Wednesday, March 16, the [Township] Police Department responded to the [YMCA Camp], on [address], after a tree fell down and struck three children, [Township] [Interim Police Chief] said.
According to [Interim Police Chief], the children had been standing among a larger group of students from [Public School System] and participating in a camp activity when the tree, measuring roughly 18 inches in diameter, fell.
Two boys, ages 10 and 11, were struck in backs of their heads by branches, [Interim Police Chief] said, while an 11-year-old girl suffered scrapes to her back.
The 10-year-old boy was transported to [hospital] for an evaluation of a head injury. He was alert and conscious before being transported, [Interim Police Chief] said.
The 11-old-boy and girl were both treated at the campgrounds by an EMT, [Interim Police Chief] said.
The tree fell in the southeast corner of the camp's North Center, while high winds and moist ground could have caused the dead tree to fall, [Interim Police Chief] said.
[Public School System], which lies southeast of [City], had been participating in its third day of a three-day trip at the camp, [Interim Police Chief] said.
The [Township] Fire Departments assisted at the scene.
Time is of the essence. Many camps are already offering outdoor education programs for school groups and weekend groups. You can start protecting against falling trees anytime. Before this summer camping season starts, you can start proactive measures to reduce the likelihood of accidents from falling trees and limbs.
Many camps are set in and amongst dense forests. This creates the separation from technology that camp provides. These locations should be your focus, and are the right place to start. But even urban day camps without the boundless forest are at risk.
Have a trusted tree care professional come review your trees. An arborist is the best person to review your canopy and make suggestions of trees to be reviewed or removed. You can find an arborist in your area through the International Society of Arboriculture.
Arborists can be costly. If you’re looking for an immediate solution or a lower cost option, contact colleges and universities in your state that have arborist degrees (especially State schools and Polytechnic schools). Masters of Forestry students, accompanied by a professor, are a great interim solution.
Hire Professionals – Removing trees on your own can be as dangerous as leaving the tree alone. Ask your arborist for recommendations on professionals for tree removal. Make sure any tree care professional that will be removing trees has insurance before they begin work.
Walk the Property – Ask staff to be alert and look for tree problems. A planned tour of highly trafficked camp areas, such as cabins and trails, can help identify issues. Look up in the trees. Do you see any dead limbs that could fall onto trails or cabins? If so, block off this area until the limbs can be removed.
Prepare for Wildfire – Severe droughts make any region susceptible, even where no history of wildfire exists. Prepare for wildfires before their outbreak. Request a visit from your local forestry service to evaluate your property and provide recommendations for reducing or eliminating a fire’s spread.
You can also invite your local fire department for a tour of your facilities. If the risk of fire is high, educate staff and campers about the potential dangers and clear brush off of the forest floor.
Create Resilient Protocols – When trees fall in severe weather events, they often bring down power lines and make communication challenging. Have a plan in place for such situations and review it with staff prior to severe weather or storms.
Document Preventative Actions – If tragedy does strike, you will want to show that you took every measure possible to reduce the likelihood of an incident. Record the date of consultations, as well as detailed accounts of any actions taken. This includes maintaining inspection reports and remedial measures.
Trees offer much needed shade in the summer and are vital for wildlife. Spending time in the woods is important for childhood development, too.
Working with experienced arborists and tree care professionals will allow you to identify and remove hazards before they become tragedies, and still care for these crucially important assets.