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Camp Safety Tips

Camp Safety

Nobody thinks of camp safety until someone gets hurt. If you stop and think, there are numerous things in the woods and at camp that are potentially harmful. It is not just making sure no one is close by or in line with the ax you are swinging when splitting fire wood. It is the little things that can be dangerous because no one thinks of them.

Dead branches on trees can cause injury. Did you ever look at the trees in the woods surrounding your campsite ? If they are pine trees they may have spikes that are ready to impale you. What would happen if you were running and tripped ?

Most injuries in a campsite are caused while running and involve branches, stakes and ropes. This does not include burns from fires, candles and hot utensils. Many injuries from hot utensils happen because a child is in a new environment. The child is not familiar with the new stove or a hot pan sitting on the picnic table. At home the pan would be on a higher countertop out of reach. Would you put a stool in front of a stove so a toddler can reach the top ?

It is easy to overlook the normal precautions practiced at home so I listed many safety tips that should be practiced in the woods and at a campsite.

Fires and Fireplaces

  • Do not pour liquid fuel directly from a large container into a fireplace. There may be an ember that will catch the container on fire burning you and someone in the way when you throw it.
  • Do not let liquid fuel soak into wood. The vapors are heavier than air and will spread across the ground. The longer you wait the more area the flare up will cover.
  • Even if a fire is not lit, keep children away. This will engrave it in their minds that a fireplace is not a toy or a place to play. Besides, the coals could still be hot.
  • Keep toys and other items from in front of or near a fireplace. This reduces trip factors.
  • Remove items from on top of a fireplace and allow them to cool out of reach.
  • If you allow children to add firewood with your supervision they will do it when you are not watching. Do not allow children to play with fire.
  • While sitting at a fireplace do not allow children to walk between you and a fire. If they stumble and you are not between them and the fire you have a slimmer chance of catching them. Make them walk around you not in front of you.

Stoves, Picnic Tables and Lanterns

  • Do not allow children to play at the table while you prepare meals. You are doing a lot of moving around and children can snatch up a knife, grab a hot pan or food that just came off the burner or fireplace in the blink of an eye.
  • When you are done with the stove close the lid. The lid will be warm but not as hot as one of the burners or the grate
  • Do not put items on the picnic table seat even if the table top is full. For a child, they are easier to find and pick up
  • Many people place lanterns and candles on their picnic table when it gets dark. Lanterns that use fuel and candles in glass or metal containers generate a lot of heat and can easily burn. Keep them out of reach at all times.

Tent Stakes, Ropes and Clotheslines

  • If you use stakes and ropes on your tent or tarp place items such as a small pile of firewood or a chair under the rope or between the stake and tent. They are easier to see and people will automatically walk around them, especially children when they are running.
  • Place clotheslines higher than the tallest person or always have something on the clothesline. When there is nothing on the clothes line it is easy to not see the rope because most people are watching the ground so they do not trip on a root or stone.
  • When driving in a tent stake treat the hammer as it were an ax. If the hammer slips out of your grip it will fly in the direction of the swing. Make sure no one is in line with your swing.

Walking in the Woods

  • When you plan on going for a walk in the woods, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. If something happens to you someone will know you are overdue and where to look for you if needed.
  • If you are going to be gone for an extended amount of time leave an itinerary with someone and check in whenever possible. If you plan on being gone for a few weeks people will know you are safe and where to start looking for you if you do not show up when expected.
  • It is easy to walk in the woods when someone holds the low branches out of the way. However you should not walk close behind someone in case a branch slips or the front person forgets. Being whipped by a branch hurts and can cause injury to an eye.
  • When you come across a log crossing a trail, to go over the log, step on the log then step as far from the log as possible. If there is a snake or animal with teeth you may surprise it. If you step directly over the log, you leg will be right next to the snake or animal.
  • If the log is rotten, go around it. A rotten log will crumble under your weight causing you to fall or place your leg in range of an animal. The rotten log could also house a bee's nest.
  • If a large branch is over a trail leaving enough room to go under it but you have to bend over, make sure a snake or dangerous spider is not on the branch. You could surprise it and cause it to react in self defense.
  • Do not walk through thickets where you cannot see the ground and a few feet in front of you. You don't know what you are stepping on or walking into.
  • When walking over rocks and boulders test the stability of the rock or bolder before placing your full weight on it and lifting your other leg. It could rock throwing you off balance and causing you to fall. If you have a trekking pole or walking stick use it as a third leg to aid in keeping your balance.
  • When walking in loose gravel or stones make sure there is not anyone below you that could get hurt if you cause something to slide or roll downhill
  • Don't run in the woods. There are many branches to get cut or impaled by and roots to trip over.
  • When in the woods, wear insect repelent to ward off ticks and mosquitoes

Crossing Rivers and Streams

  • Look for a spot to forge a river or strean where it is shallowest and slowest moving. While the river may be the widest at this point it will be safer where the water is easier to walk in
  • Rocks can become covered in moss and be very slippery. Test each step for foot placement and stability before putting weight on it.
  • Cracked rocks and sticks can be sharp. Wear protective footwear to keep from getting cut.
  • If you are crossing glacier runoff the water will be extremely cold ( 1 deg C or 33 deg F ). Wear footwear to keep your feet warm. Your feet will get so cold you will loose feeling and not know what you are stepping on.
  • If you have a trekking pole, use it to keep your balance.
  • If you are in a group link arms and cross as a chain. The chain should go up and down stream so the person upstream breaks the current for the people downstream. A chain also helps with balance.

As there are a lot of camp safety tips to remember, most of them are common sense and are helpful. If you are using dangerous equipment such as a chainsaw or liquid fuel lantern or stove, make sure you read the precautions in the operating manual. The manuals are for your safety and to protect the manufacturer from claims because of a person's carelessness. Remember, if something looks dangerous, it probably is.

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