Long before the horror of 9/11, camp directors have been addressing issues of security since the inception of organized camping.
The tragedy of 9/11 simply shook us into reviewing, updating and improving upon those plans and procedures which had been in effect for generations.
Every year, following the guidelines established by the American Camping Association (ACA) and implementing details unique to each facility, camp directors review and train staff in the areas of security, emergency planning, emergency prevention and response, and so on.
At Pocono Ridge, we train staff each year in the areas of lifesaving, CPR, and basic First Aid. We certify people for our high/low ropes courses, our archery/riflery programs and our waterfront/water-ski teams.
We hire security guards to patrol our facilities and safeguard our children, even if sometimes that means safeguarding children from themselves and other children.
In recent years we have joined many camps by installing security gates. All this to prevent accidents and to be prepared in the event an emergency does arise.
Every four years, camps who choose to be accredited by the ACA allow their colleagues (who are, in a sense, their competitors) to perform an elaborate series of checks and balances, tests as it were, covering all aspects of their camp program as related to security, emergency planning and preparation, safety for their children, their facility and the communities it serves, the list goes on…
And as technology grows and adapts itself to the camping industry, we, as well as our campers and parents, benefit.
Well, at Pocono Ridge we're very excited about a new security system we're implementing this season called Campcast.
Though Campcast is specific to SmartPants Media, one of our vendor partners, the concept -- however you choose to pursue it and with whomever you choose to use -- is the key.
We feel it will provide Pocono Ridge the opportunity for all of those involved with our program to satisfy their security needs, physically, mentally and emotionally. We are so thrilled to incorporate this type of technology into our facility because it not only addresses the concerns of security, but it also helps with marketing.
Campcast is a program which allows us (camp directors/owners) to view specific areas of camp via an Internet TV station. It allows us access to remote areas of camp, entry points and property lines, from the comfort of our desk chairs, even if that chair is located at our winter office location. How? By broadcasting from various cameras to a receiving box which then stores the camera footage for up to 30 days, we can then view it in real time or at our leisure.
This same footage is downloaded and stored on SmartPants' main server for use at a later time or to archive; say for use on our camp video yearbook.
During the winter months, the video system allows us the ability to check our camp facility, reporting back to us just as if it were a staff employee, only one that has a digital movie memory.
And what really was a selling factor for us was that this same technology can allow our parents to peek into Pocono Ridge, at our will, during the summer months.
Now I know what you must be thinking, "Big Brother," right? Well my answer to that is that it all depends on your perspective and how you choose to utilize this security.
This type of system allows you -- the camp director or your assignee -- the convenience of watching your borders, and securing your facility both during the summer and winter seasons, and it is also capable of allowing your parents, through an independently-registered and password-protected Web site, opportunity to view camp via strategically placed cameras.
Imagine the nervous first-time parent or the former camper turned parent who wishes they could still attend camp… Now, picture the satisfaction that same parent feels when they see their child eat breakfast in the camp dining room or win a soccer game during color war.
Truth is that an Internet-integrated video system brings no more problems with it than technology of yesterday. Remember when we saw the telephone come to camp, or today's current form of necessary communication, e-mail? How about my favorite, the asked not to bring, which always stays hidden until arrival at the camp's first amusement park outing cell phone?
Today's campers and parents have become accustomed to a certain amount of dependence upon technology, so why shouldn't we utilize it to best serve our camp program and those whom we serve?
My friend/colleague/mentor, Peter Surgenor, once shared with me the story of "Who moved my cheese?" (Johnson, 1998), which taught me that we must accept that we need to move it or lose it and with the right attitude and perspective, we can not only move it, but keep it and benefit from it.
Our installations are TBC (to be completed) for the upcoming season. Cameras can be set at stationary locations, like the main gate, property perimeter, pool, lake, and other program areas, to ensure security at these locations.
Cameras may be monitoring, recording and/or transmitting -- you choose. They may be viewed minute to minute, hourly, daily, weekly or as needed, for internal use only.
At the same time, additional cameras may be placed in specific and intentional locations, such as in your main dining room or at a place where campers gather each day. Flag lineup, would be a place to start so that parents can peek into camp first thing, check in on their children and ease their minds.
Imagine still that you could choose to time-delay broadcasts to ensure that the final product aired best represents your intended image.
Furthermore, the images are broadcast via the Internet through a protected site so parents can even take their laptops with them on vacation and find security in knowing their child is in great hands. No more 3 a.m. telephone calls from parents in Europe!
My favorite is the typical homesick camper. We all know the one who writes home each day during the first week, begging to be taken home because life here, as they know it, is just so horrible!
They're "bored and there is nothing to do!" Now, imagine that child's parent, who on the very same day of receiving a third plea via snail-mail, and who had already decided to give in if one more letter arrives, is now given the opportunity to view that same "miserable" child eat breakfast, make faces with his morning cereal and then play basketball with two new friends.
You know the two -- those campers who never made it into the letters home? How different would that telephone call be?
Instead of you trying to convince mom and dad that the child really is adjusting normally and will in two more days see this period become a distant memory, can see first hand that you are right. (We always have been, but it is their security in knowing it to be true).
This type of system also allows you to remove the need for that "competitive parent" to physically be present at their camper's intercamp sport competition because you can now send your camp photographer to videotape the game.
You can then choose to either broadcast the game in real time (via remote transmitter) or time-delay the competition playing back the video tape later that evening.
Additionally, plans are available that enable the camp to pay for all the accessibility or defer those costs to only those parents who opt to utilize the technology.
It is our belief at Pocono Ridge that camp security is intended to protect our children, our property and those who share our vision.
By broadening our perspectives, positively receiving and intentionally utilizing technology, security becomes more satisfying to our entire camp family.
As a camp director and parent, who believes and lives in the idea and ACA motto that "Camp gives kids and world of good," I am one who would without question entrust my colleagues to create a safe and nurturing environment for my own child.
But, you better believe, given the opportunity, I'd opt in on a televised, Internet-enabled security/marketing system to give me that added peace of mind and personal security we intend to provide to our Pocono Ridge parents.
As a side note, we thought this idea of Internet security cameras so interesting in that this same service is available for use in our own homes, you know… the one where we cleanout the refrigerators, set the alarm codes and leave it each spring to go to camp? That one! Wouldn't it be nice to have the convenience of checking in at the house when you retire for the night, and still stay in camp? If that idea interests you, give a vendor who specializes in this a call, and tell 'em Shellie sent you!
Shellie Santay Visinski is the director of Pocono Ridge in South Sterling, Pa.