Assessing Disaster Preparedness Among Select Children’s Summer Camps in the United States and Canada

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Abstract

Objective

Children’s summer camps are at risk for multiple pediatric casualties during a disaster. The degree to which summer camps have instituted disaster preparedness is unknown. We assessed disaster preparedness among selected camps nationally for a range of disasters.

Methods

We partnered with a national, web-based electronic health records system to send camp leadership of 315 camp organizations a 14-question online survey of disaster preparedness. One response from each camp was selected in the following order of importance: owner, director, physician, nurse, medical technician, office staff, and other. The results were analyzed using descriptive statistics.

Results

A total of 181 camps responses were received, 169 of which were complete. Camp types were overnight (60%), day (21%), special/medical needs (14%), and other (5%). Survey respondents were directors (52%), nurses (14%), office staff (10%), physicians (5%), owners (5%), emergency medical technicians (2%), and other (12%). Almost 18% of camps were located >20 mi from a major medical center, and 36% were >5 mi from police/fire departments. Many camps were missing emergency supplies: car/booster seats for evacuation (68%), shelter (35%), vehicles for evacuation (26%), quarantine isolation areas (21%), or emergency supplies of extra water (20%) or food (17%). Plans were unavailable for the following: power outages (23%); lockdowns (15%); illness outbreaks (15%); tornadoes (11%); evacuation for fire, flood, or chemical spill (9%); and other severe weather (8%). Many camps did not have online emergency plans (53%), plans for children with special/medical needs (38%), methods to rapidly communicate information to parents (25%), or methods to identify children for evacuation/reunification with parents (40%). Respondents reported that staff participation in disaster drills varied for weather (58%), evacuations (46%), and lockdowns (36%). The majority (75%) of respondents had not collaborated with medical organizations for planning.

Conclusions

A substantial proportion of camps were missing critical components of disaster planning. Future interventions must focus on developing summer camp-specific disaster plans, increasing partnerships, and reassessing national disaster plans to include summer camp settings.

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