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Summer Camp Walkie Talkies

10th Jan 2019

Two Way Radios & Summer Camps recently had the opportunity to interview Jerry Welty. Jerry served as the Camp Ranger of Baden Powell Scout Reservation in Melrose, FL for 20 years about his experience using walkie talkies at Camp Shands.  The Baden Powell Scout Reservation, called Camp Shands is one of the Southeast’s largest and most popular summer camps. The property’s activity and camping areas were mapped out over 1000 acres, within a remote area where even the most popular cell phones failed to get a signal. When the camp administration acquired two-way radios, it was a game changer.

Camp Shands is a busy place year round, but especially so during the Summer. Roughly 300-500 kids populate Camp Shands and participate in activities in a rural area including swimming in a 66-acre lake, lessons at rifle, shotgun & archery ranges, Ropes Courses, BMX Tracks, Horseback Riding, Hiking, Pioneering and many others, all spread out across 1000 acres. Toss in a few regional snakes, biting spiders, kids learning how to use knives, build campfires, and the ever-popular poison ivy… someone is going to need medical attention within their 5 day stay. Let's not forget the occasional heart attack or heat stroke of an adult and you have your hands full.

Ranger Jerry noted how quickly the staff welcomed the two-way radios. Staff quickly learned how to use walkie talkies and embraced 2 way radio technology! Camp Shands used 2 channel walkie talkies for each of the program areas. Area Directors could easily talk to each of the other program areas (publicly - with all areas able to hear) or in case of an emergency, contact the Program Director on his private channel. Camp Shands also purchased 6 channel 2 way radios for the administrative staff to be able to communicate privately (between themselves) without publicly broadcasting to every program area. The Camp and Program Directors, Business Manager, Medic and Camp Ranger each had their own channel, with the last channel reserved for the program areas.

Ranger Jerry, also a First Responder with the local fire department and familiar with this type of radio use, was still amazed at the increased efficiency the two-way radios wielded. Key uses included:

  • When there was a “lost bather” alert, valuable search time was saved when the Waterfront Director only had to get on his two-way radio and notify all areas of the situation, and a camp wide search was initiated. No time was lost having to use ‘runners’ to notify everyone – ALL AREAS KNEW IMMEDIATELY! Seach and Rescue operations started more promptly and were completed faster.
  • On the occasion when local EMS was required, two-way radios enabled staffers to divide and conquer. An injury could occur far from a landline phone in a program area. Walkie talkies enabled emergency procedures to be shared and enacted by several people simultaneously. Still another person would immediately head to the front gate to meet the responding vehicle and direct them to the injured party’s location. Valuable treatment time was saved.
  • On occasion an emergency would arise for a camper’s family. A parent would appear, wanting their child immediately. Staff would check the roster of activities to find his scheduled location, call that area’s director, and have the child escorted to the office.
  • The most life-saving example was of an adult bitten by a black widow spider. The frequency of the camp’s two-way radios had been given to the county’s 911 EMS. Given the rural location of the summer camp, it was deemed prudent to ‘life flight’ the woman off camp. Ranger Jerry, via his camp walkie talkie, spoke directly to the ‘life flight’ pilot to set up a landing zone on the property. Without those radios, a landline phone call would have summoned an ambulance which instead would have transported her to the locally utilized “LZ”. This direct communication saved transport time and got antitoxin to her at least 30 minutes sooner. 

The ranger’s use of his two-way radio to speak directly with the ‘life flight’ crew eventually led to the camp property becoming an official landing zone. The surrounding community was better served repeatedly as it saved countless, valuable minutes of transport and treatment time.

While SAFETY and SECURITY are the first and foremost priorities for children at summer camp, two way radios offer many benefits for your Summer Camp's operations. Give a call today and learn more about 2 way radios and how two way radios can benefit your camp operations.