SAFETY OFFICER (IN-DEPTH)
The adult who keeps the safety perspective foremost in everyone’s mind is the encampment safety officer.
The safety officer reports to the encampment commander and advises that individual on all aspects of safety and mishap prevention. Safety is inherently a command responsibility; while commanders ought to delegate authority to safety officers to lead an encampment’s safety efforts, and in a very real way safety is everyone’s concern, the responsibility of keeping participants safe cannot be delegated; the commander or the ranking on-scene adult is responsible for participant safety.
The safety officer’s duties generally fall into one of five roles as outlined below, and those duties will make obvious the need for the safety officer to be appointed several months prior to the encampment.
a. Administrative Readiness for Safety. As the encampment staff prepares to conduct the encampment program, the safety officer ensures that the encampment is administratively prepared to meet or surpass CAP safety requirements. This duty includes:
• Reviewing all participants’ personnel records to ensure each is current in their safety training;
• Reviewing adult participants’ (cadet and senior) personnel records to ensure each has completed the Cadet Protection Basic Course and that the senior members are in “approved” status (i.e.: have satisfied CAP fingerprint and background checks);
• Reviewing participants’ medical data via the encampment application and noting what special accommodations or limitations are needed due to pre-existing conditions, and communicating that information to leaders on a need-to-know basis; (Note: if available, a health services officer should lead this task);
• Reviewing prior year encampment reports, mishap reports, and mishap trends.
b. Planning for Safety. The safety officer is the focal point and lead in preparing local rules and plans for protecting the safety of all participants. This duty includes:
• Conducting operational risk management analyses for encampment activities, especially the most physically demanding activities;
• Coordinating with host agencies / guest instructors prior to cadet tours and hands-on activities so that encampment attendees can arrive at each activity prepared to participate safely; (Example: a day or two prior to the cadets’ running an obstacle course, the safety officer should meet with the host agency to discuss the obstacle course’s safety requirements in detail);
• Learning of local emergency responder resources –how to call an ambulance, where hospitals are located, etc. – and developing a plan of action in the event that a participant requires medical attention or support from the Fire Department or Police;
• Identifying a rally point and headcount procedure in case the encampment area must be evacuated due to fire or other emergency;
• Identifying and obtaining the equipment necessary to conduct the encampment curriculum safely.
(Example: If cadets will fly, obtaining hearing protection; in warm weather, obtaining water, etc.)
c. Vigilance. CAP senior members supervise cadets in loco parentis – in the place of the parent. The law requires that they exercise the same level of care, supervision, and protection that a reasonably prudent mom or dad would for their own child. It is not sufficient for an encampment to merely establish local safety rules; the adult leaders must ensure that the (mostly) teenaged cadet participants are consistently abiding by those safe practices, and if not, to intervene in protection of the cadet’s safety. This duty includes:
• Being physically present at the encampment and observing participants’ conduct in regards to safety throughout the various activities – sometimes known as MBWA or “management by walking around”;
• Directing participants to cease unsafe behaviors, as necessary, and motivating other leaders to be equally pro-active;
• Monitoring the encampment’s compliance with the host installation’s local safety policies;
• Monitoring the encampment’s compliance with CAP policies on high adventure activities and weapons training (see CAPR 60-1, §§2-10 and 2-11);
• Monitoring the encampment’s compliance with the work load / rest guidelines during hot weather (see CAPR 62-1, Attachment 3);
• Monitoring the encampment’s compliance with CAP cadet protection policies and fraternization rules (see CAPR 60-2 and CAPR 60-1, §2-3);
• Monitoring the encampment’s compliance with CAP vehicle operation policies (see CAPR 77-1);
• Participating in daily staff meetings to maintain an understanding of upcoming events;
• Cooperating with training officers to provide for the overall health and well-being of the cadets.
d. Education of participants. The safety officer is the encampment’s #1 resource for learning how to operate safely. This duty includes:
• Developing, conducting and/or supervising daily safety briefings;
• Educating participants of the “all stop” or “knock it off” principle whereby any participant, regardless of rank, may demand all halt their activity if an unsafe condition is noticed (see §2.5c);
• Educating participants on procedures in case of fire or emergency evacuation;
• Educating senior staff on procedures to follow in case of a medical emergency;
• Educating participants on the warning signs that precede heat injuries, exhaustion, dehydration, and similar medical conditions;
• Educating drivers on CAP safety policies regarding vehicle operations (see CAPR 77-1);
• Conducting (or facilitating with the help of a subject-matter expert) activity specific safety briefings immediately prior to the start of physically demanding or potentially hazardous activities such as obstacle courses, flight line operations, rappelling, etc.;
• Educating encampment leaders on how they might modify their operations in the event of hot or inclement weather;
• Educating the executive staff on the encampment’s overall safety performance and recommending steps for improving overall safety.
e. Reporting and investigating mishaps. If a safety mishap does occur, the safety officer takes the lead in reporting and investigating it. This duty includes:
• Reporting safety mishaps to CAP officials via eServices, per CAPR 62-2;
• Carefully considering the event to figure out what happened, why, and how the encampment might mitigate that risk in the future.