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Community Partnerships Can Be Risky Business.

As camps reach out to their communities to provide facilities and services for various programs, the principles of risk management can provide structure and help you avoid problems. Let's consider some risk management and liability issues facing camp community partnerships with schools, alternatives to incarceration for juvenile offenders, and elder hostel programs.

Camp and School Partnerships

Camp and school relationships have been built around the camp's facilities as an extension of the classroom. Science teachers, in particular, have taken advantage of the wonderful earth science and environmental education opportunities that abound at camp. Some camps have found this to be a fulfilling way to help their local communities, educate children, and improve their bottom line. Opportunities always present some risks. School and camp partnerships are no exception.

Directors should recognize and be prepared to manage the risks involved with these relationships.

Create a community-service contract

The scope of risk depends to some degree on the size of the group and the activities planned. Often an entire class participates in a field trip to camp. Whether you plan one program a year or one hundred, the relationship, responsibilities, and services to be provided should be concisely spelled out in a contract.

For example, some camps lease their premises for use as an environmental classroom and only provide cabins, snacks, and meals. None of the camp's recreational facilities are available to the students. No operations are conducted by camp staff. Teacher(s), volunteer chaperones (parents), and other school staff provide the supervision and instruction. This is one of the more basic arrangements. In spite of its simplicity, the details of this relationship and the services provided should be outlined in a contract.

Enlist an attorney

You should hire an attorney to put the relationship and responsibilities shared between your camp and the school into concise legal language. Always use an attorney to write a contract so it can comply with your state's laws and reflect your operation. Consider sharing samples of your contract with directors in other states. This is a great way to generate ideas. However, keep in mind that laws differ from state to state. Writing contracts is definitely a situation where one size does not fit all.

Identify risks and responsibilities

The contract should indicate that each party is responsible for its own negligence. The school should be responsible for the acts and omissions of its staff (failure to properly supervise, etc.). The camp should be responsible for injuries that occur on the premises, which arise out of the premises (buildings and other improvements) and risks inherent to the premises (roots in paths, uneven ground, etc.).

Be specific about insurance requirements

All organizations who wish to contract with you for use of your premises, or to jointly conduct programs, such as challenge courses, should have their own insurance. Your contract should require proof of their insurance in the form of a Certificate of Insurance. Furthermore, the contract should stipulate that their General Liability Insurance provides coverage for injury to participants. The limits of liability carried by the contracting organization should be at least $1 million for General Liability.

The Certificate of Insurance

The Certificate of Insurance should also indicate that the organization carries Workers' Compensation and Employers' liability Insurance in accordance with the laws of your state. Employers' liability Limits should be at least $500,000. If no Workers' Compensation Insurance is carried by the organization, an injury to one of its employees could wind up being paid by one of your insurance policies. All independent contractors and organizations who lease your premises to conduct any activity either independently or jointly with you should have Workers' Compensation for their staff.

Upon receipt of the Certificate of Insurance, send a copy to your Insurance Broker, or Agent. Ask your broker to review the information for anything unusual and to check the A. M. Best rating of the other organization's insurer to determine whether the insurance company is admitted to do business in your state. Ask your agent to report back on these issues and identify any concerns based upon the information obtained. This process may present other risks, which you may have to address before the group arrives. It is recommended that all contractual requirements be met before you permit the group to conduct any operations on your premises.

Why bother to have a contract, if you don't enforce it?

Insuring Volunteers

Some camps go so far as to insist that volunteers (chaperones, parents, etc.), who accompany the group, be covered by accident medical insurance, since these people may not be considered employees and not covered under Workers' Compensation if they are injured.

If any joint transportation is provided, for example, when your staff or volunteers ride on another organization's bus, request evidence of Automobile Insurance on the Certificate of Insurance.

Working with the Juvenile Justice System

Establishing relationships with community juvenile justice programs can present much bigger challenges. You should be able to identify and analyze potential liabilities and risks involved with juvenile justice programs when the camp staff interacts with the juvenile justice system's program staff or independent contractor or jointly shares operational and supervisory duties. Loosely establishing these relationships can give nightmares to directors, officials, and their respective insurance company claims staff. In this scenario, there are premises risks, as well as operational risks for you to identify and manage.

Establishing the other organization's staff credentials, competencies, and practices presents an additional set of risks. Good risk-management practice dictates that you should establish the duties and responsibilities in advance before someone gets injured. A joint training session would reduce some of this uncertainty. Operational roles and responsibilities should be thought through completely before attempting to create a contract in this situation.

Beware of governmental immunity

Some programs affiliated with local government and judicial systems, may not have traditional insurance arrangements. Some may be operating under the auspices of municipal government; others may be independent, nonprofit organizations. If you establish a partnership with an arm of the local judicial system, the same risk-management principles and practices should be followed. One of the objectives of the risk-management process is to avoid becoming the "deep pocket" in the event some participant is injured. Be aware that the laws vary from state to state, and that governmental immunity, if it still exists in your state, could work against you and result in an unexpected legal liability. That is why it is important to talk about risk management and legal liability from the beginning of any community outreach activity.

Contracts will help reduce the risk of claims nightmares and increase the chances that your staff and your organization will only be held responsible for your own acts of negligence. Contracts may also help ensure the success of your community outreach activities, not to mention the continued success of your own business.

Risk Planning with Elder Hostels and Other Groups

Many camps have opened their facilities to church groups, local businesses, elder hostel programs, and similar adult groups. There is a significant difference in the risk involved with serving children versus adults when considering the use of liability waivers as a risk management tool.

Liability waivers

Children continue to have a protected status in the courts, although there are some signs the courts are recognizing the accelerated maturity of children today. Children cannot legally waive their rights to sue you. Adults, on the other hand, can waive their right to sue in some jurisdictions. Many states still recognize the "assumption of risk doctrine" and will uphold a liability waiver when it is legally drawn. Consult with your attorney to determine if the legal environment in your state supports a liability waiver. If it does, you may want to consider using such a risk-management technique with your adult participants.

Get Advice from Legal Counsel

Be wary of requests for "Additional Insured" status. This risk-management technique has been abused. It is entirely inappropriate for some of the complex relationships that may be developed with community outreach programs where duties and responsibilities are shared. Discuss the relevancy of such requests with your insurance and legal advisors before agreeing to provide any request for "Additional Insured" status on your policy.

"Hold Harmless and Indemnity" clauses in contracts are often unnecessary. In many cases, the courts simply ignore them, because they are too broad or poorly constructed. "Hold Harmless and Indemnity" provisions definitely have a place in contractual relationships but should be carefully considered. If you see this language in any contract you are being asked to sign, stop and take the time to get advice in the context of the contract from legal counsel and from your insurance advisor.

Remember, as the director of your camp, the last thing you want to do is blindly assume risk. Take the time to consider the risks and opportunities in the relationships with other organizations in your community. Focus on the risk-management principles and practices that serve you well in camp. If you do, you will expand horizons, enrich experiences, and help make a difference in your community.

Ed Schirick is president of Schirick and Associates Insurance Brokers in Rock Hill, New York, where he specializes in providing risk management advice and in arranging insurance coverage for camps. Ed is a chartered property casualty underwriter and a certified insurance counselor.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:determining risks and responsibilities associated with camps' involvement in community development programs
Author:Schirick, Ed
Publication:Camping Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2001
Words:1550
Previous Article:OBITUARIES.
Next Article:Learning Through Community Service.
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