Disaster Control

Yesterday CSMSG went for our long-rescheduled family float trip on the Meramec River. The forecast in the previous few days had called for a chance of scattered thunderstorms, but it had been really pleasant so we weren't worried. It did rain on both Friday and Saturday, so we figured the clouds were out of the system.

Halfway down I-44 to the outfitter's (it's a 90-mile trip from STL) it started to rain, heavily. Huge drops and wind and probably a bit of thunder that I couldn't hear. At the river site, it was only drizzling, so dampening spirits a little but not doing much more than that.

But twenty minutes or so down the river we started to see lightning and hurried everyone off the river (and out of their metal canoes) onto a gravel bar to wait out the storm. We were there for an hour and a half, then finished the trip when the sky cleared.

As camp staff for five years, I'd been on trips like that before and followed the basic crisis/danger plan we'd used there. That part was well in hand. But I learned a few things and made a few notes that would have made the trip a little easier on everyone.

1. A good crisis plan starts with a lot of info going out to people before the trip starts. Adult leaders needed a huddle to go over what might happen and what to do if it did They needed to be informed of their responsibilities as leaders, not just parents/trip participants.

2. While on the river it's hard to keep the group entirely together (with differing skill levels, currents, time stuck on rocks, etc.) a traveling group like this needs a designated leader and rearguard. And those two canoes need some form of communication (turns out we had two radios with us, but I didn't know it.) No one goes in front of the lead canoe or behind the last.

3. During a crisis, the attitude of the adult leaders is key. If they're courageous and able to deal positively with the situation, their outlook will spread to the students too. Adults need to know they're deputized for the whole trip-- they are youth ministers with you and they are "on" the whole time.

4. We made this a family trip, not a youth group trip, so parents were responsible for their own children and each family unit had a certain amount of autonomy. Still, the trip wasn't just a casual float down the river, but a beautifuly journey with God's people, and time needed to be made to bless the group in prayer before leaving, and devotions at lunch, as per the original plan. I'm saying this to myself a lot lately-- plan your work, then work your plan-- if you say something's going to happen, make it happen.

Any other useful notes out there for handling sudden situations?

1 comment:

Esther said...

I think that adults should always understand about keeping a positive attitude on trips where things could go wrong. Perhaps designate someone to come up with some simple games -- like word games or campfire games -- that can be played without accessories. That often helps keep kids' minds off the things that go wrong.