Camps take no chances with severe weather

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Two of the three children injured in a lightning strike at a central Indiana camp Saturday remain hospitalized.

The children, two boys and a girl, were hurt when lightning struck Goldman Union Camp Institute near West 96th Street. The camp is back up and running, but the injuries have put a spotlight on safety policies and procedures during severe weather at Indiana camps.

"I could not be prouder of how our staff reacted yesterday, nor more appreciative of the outstanding response from the Zionsville paramedics," Rabbi Mark Covitz of Goldman Union Camp Institute said in a statement.

It can be a leap of faith sending your children to camp. In some cases, camp is their first real trip away from home and it can be more unnerving for parents than the kids.

The first step from nearly three stories may be the safest steps campers at the Flat Rock camp in St. Paul take all year. Before anyone takes one step off the zip line, camp counselors have gone over safety procedures dozens of times. They all know CPR and basic first aid and before camp starts, the counselors have been through a week of intensive safety training.

"Statistic-wise, it is proven that kids are safer here at camp, because there are so many people watching them consistently, 24/7. We have lots of eyes on our kids," said counselor Natalie Walker.

Safety procedures have developed right along with summer camp. Air-conditioned cabins make the summer nights tolerable, like radar makes camp safer.

The YMCA of Central Indiana has been running the 240-acre Flat Rock camp for decades. Over the years they, like all camps, have had campers break an arm or a leg, along with the usual cuts and bruises.

But when it comes to weather, they leave nothing to chance.

"If we see lightning, we automatically bring kids inside, even if it is 30 miles away, it does not matter, that still is dangerous. We want to make sure all of our kids are safe. Their safety is our priority, so at the hear of thunder or the sight of lightning, we made sure everyone is inside and safe and 15 minutes after the last lightning strike or thunder, you hear that, then we can go back outside," said Walker.

The rules and procedures have been developed by the American Camping Association, the governing body for all accredited camps like Flat Rock. To keep the coveted ACA seal of approval, camps must "have and rehearse a plan to respond appropriately to natural disasters and other reasonably foreseeable emergencies."

"The kids and the counselors know to do the same thing. They are trained on where to come and if it is a daytime emergency we do this, if it is a nighttime emergency we do that," said camp director Steve Heiny.