Top Five Risks Camps Must Protect Themselves Against


From day camp to sleep-away camp, horseback riding to rock wall climbing, arts and crafts to STEM, today there are camp programs and retreats offering children - and adults - every activity imaginable.

With so much to offer, it's not surprising camps are big business. According to the American Camp Association (ACA), it's an $18 billion industry with more than 14,000 day and resident camps enjoyed by 14 million children and adults.

However, camps may not realize they should give just as much, or more, attention to camper and staff safety than to developing cutting edge programs.

"Camps may be unaware there are safety risks in their programs and facilities beyond what they typically recognize," says Colin Liberatore, Senior Underwriter for Camp Product at Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY). "Controls and proper training are crucial to running a safe camp for everyone and containing costs."

Risk prevention must be a camp operator's top priority. PHLY can help.


The Top Five Risks Camps Face and How to Manage Them

1. Water Safety

Water play is one of the most popular camp activities. But all that splashing around has a dark side. The National Safe Kids Campaign estimates 5,000 children ages fourteen and under are hospitalized annually as a result of drowning incidents. Risk management for aquatic safety is imperative.

Camp operators should have programs in place for:

  • Lifeguard training, staff certification, and water safety training
  • Recognizing causes of drowning
  • Using rescue equipment and emergency procedures

Additional water safety risk management should include:

  • Upkeep and maintenance of equipment
  • Installation and testing of communications equipment
  • Safety-oriented facility design
  • Good relationships with local emergency forces

"Camp operators may not realize there are many intricacies to water safety and risk exposure," says Rob Wilder, Underwriting Product Manager at PHLY. "For instance, who is responsible or liable when there is a visiting group? How is liability covered if equipment is not in warranty, has a manufacturer's defect, or hasn't been serviced by licensed professionals?"

These questions have as much to do with aquatic safety as lifeguard training. Fortunately, an onsite visit by a PHLY Risk Management specialist can identify vulnerabilities and help camp operators build plans and controls for better aquatic risk protection.


2. Fire Safety

S'mores, songs, and ghost stories around a campfire are treasured experiences as well as an obvious fire safety lesson. But for camp operators, there's more to fire safety than campfires.

Camps should have appropriate training, policies, and procedures to protect both the camp and people. Fire drills, evacuation procedures, and routes should be developed and taught, especially in areas prone to brush fires.

"Just as important to fire safety is understanding locations of water sources and having a close relationship with the local fire department," says Liberatore. "Many rural locations aren't within easy access of the departments or a convenient water source. Establishing solutions beforehand is critical to fire safety."

Facility maintenance and groundskeeping are also part of fire safety:

  • Identifying frayed or improperly placed electrical wires and overuse of extension cords
  • Removing collections of combustible materials
  • Properly storing flammable liquids
  • Clearing surroundings of debris

Fortunately, PHLY can help camp operators discover potential fire risks and develop ongoing maintenance procedures, including supplemental coverage for their fireworks.


3. Building Upkeep and Groundskeeping

Whether it's the rustic cabins, meandering forest paths, stone dining hall, or scenic lake view, a camp's appearance plays a big part in attracting campers.

Consequently, it's no surprise when camps that aren't neat and clean find it harder to attract campers. Upkeep for buildings and grounds is a must for reputation, safety, and protection from liability.

However, while camps may believe their general liability insurance covers property damage, many find surprising holes around building upkeep and groundskeeping. Failure to stay on top of, and invest in, upkeep can lead to significant damage and safety concerns.

"A common problem with camp structures is that they were built many years ago," says Wilder. "Camps may not have records of maintenance or updates. And chances are, buildings may not comply with current building codes."

PHLY's Risk Management team can help camp operators understand and control essential infrastructure updates and maintenance needs, such as:

  • Keeping roofs watertight
  • Painting to protect surfaces and keep clean
  • Establishing proper drainage
  • Maintaining septic systems
  • Avoiding dry rot
  • Practicing winter weatherization
  • Ensuring electrical safety

In terms of groundskeeping, "Camps should stay on top of clearing trails to keep them free from obstructions," says Liberatore. "This helps eliminate trips, falls, and injury."

It's also critical to stay on top of tree health. Consult with an arborist or tree service to identify problems early on. Camp operators should also:

  • Remove dead or diseased trees and overhanging limbs to keep them from falling and injuring campers and staff or damaging buildings
  • Keep grounds clean of debris to help control the threat of brush fires
  • Use licensed professionals who have their own liability coverage

A risk assessment of groundskeeping practices and the development of an action plan with a PHLY Risk Manager can help ensure safety and protection from liability and reduce maintenance costs.


4. Auto Safety

Whether a bus picks up campers from home, vans take campers on field trips, or other service vehicles are in use, transportation is vital to a camp's daily practices and another top risk.

For instance, "It may be hard to concentrate when driving with a large group of passengers or with modern-day distractions such as mobile phones and radios," says Wilder. "Distracted driver training is essential for safe transportation."

Fleet maintenance is also essential. Keeping vehicles repaired and serviced helps assure safety, maintains warranties, and protects liability.

A risk management program from PHLY can:

  • Help ensure fleets are maintained and within warranty
  • Install a vehicle telematics tool to track a driver's location, speed, hard braking, and more
  • Enhance or implement distracted and defensive driver training programs
  • Handle bus emergencies safely and effectively

Additionally, PHLY's training sessions on providing and vetting driver qualifications can help keep everyone safe on the road.


5. Camper Safety

Friendships with cabin mates, connections with counselors, days full of activities - all make a memorable camp experience.

Unfortunately, today numerous risks affect both camper and personnel safety, from bullying to violent intruder issues.

Liberatore says having the proper controls, policies, and training in place is imperative to a successful camp experience. "Appropriate measures can identify and protect children and staff from emotional and physical risk exposure that may be under the radar."

Safety measures should include:

  • New hire orientation and training, including harassment and discrimination prevention
  • Camper behavior codes
  • Grooming prevention guidelines
  • Social media and privacy controls
  • Strategies and training addressing armed intruders
  • Liability and coverage for medical professionals and care
  • AED/CPR training
  • And much more

PHLY's Risk Management Services team can provide tools and training to ensure a successful camp experience for all.


Camps can get back to delighting campers without safety worries with a little help from PHLY.

Dealing with these top five camp safety risks may overwhelm your camp operator clients. A risk assessment from PHLY can help! Not only do we offer a camp insurance package customized to their needs, but we can also help their operations run smoothly, too.

Our specialized risk management consulting services for policyholders dive deep into each individual camp to analyze what may cause losses or pose risks. This includes:

  • Visiting sites to identify and evaluate risks
  • Reviewing and improving existing risk management programs
  • Offering training for defensive drivers, accident investigation, and more
  • Providing extensive education and communications on pertinent risk topics
  • Providing leading risk reduction services and products

Camp operators can also access SmarterNow, PHLY's no-cost Learning Management System for online training to complement existing risk management efforts.

Because we've been providing commercial property and casualty insurance products and services to over 120 niche markets for more than 55 years, PHLY has proven experience that's unmatched in the industry. And, unlike many other carriers who use MGAs or MGUs, we can make claims and underwriting decisions ourselves. We're there for your clients whenever they need us.

Ready to provide your camp clients with the next critical level of risk management? Contact your PHLY Rep to learn more.

Share to Facebook Share to Linkedin Share to Twitter More...
Please Wait...

Please Wait