This guest post is from Sandra Wingard, program manager and camp manager/director of Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, Inc.
When many people think of Girl Scouts during the month of March, their minds instantly go to our famous Girl Scout Cookies. While these cookies are a strong identifier of the Girl Scout organization, so is our motto, “be prepared.”
On March 12, 1912, Juliette Gordon Low officially registered the organization’s first 18 girl-member group in Savannah, Georgia, marking this year the Girl Scout’s 103rd anniversary. To this day, preparedness is still a key component throughout the Girl Scout organization. As camp director for Camp Okitayakani and Camp Concharty, which are part of Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, we maintain a strong focus on teaching girls to take preventative steps that will help keep them safe.
As staff members of the Girl Scout programs and camps, we know it is our responsibility to set an example for the girls by having plans in place to help us handle possible emergencies. Prior to the campers’ arrival, all staff members are required to participate in emergency focused training and safety drills to ensure everyone knows the proper safety procedures to use in the event of an emergency. These include evacuation and shelter plans. We also make sure all electronics, such as NOAA Weather Radios and communication tools, are in working order so we can all stay informed and connected during any potential crisis.
Once the campers arrive, we prepare the girls by teaching them how to react in the event of a wide variety of disaster scenarios. They learn how to render first aid assistance, how to reconnect when separated from friends and family, what to do for heat exhaustion and more.
How to be prepared
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to prevent every emergency or disaster, but proper planning makes us better equipped to handle them if they occur. One of the greatest safety measures we take is encouraging the girls to use the buddy system. We also teach the girls how to reconnect with their fellow campers if they find themselves separated from the group.
We make sure the girls understand the importance of having preparedness items such as whistles and first aid kits on them when engaged in high adventure activities. During the summer, we also make sure the girls know the importance of staying hydrated and how to stay safe during extreme heat. We train the staff and the girls on how to identify someone who may have heat exhaustion and how to react properly.
How to react
From dealing with extreme heat to being caught outside during a severe thunderstorm, the key is to remain calm. We teach Girl Scouts to avoid panicking during emergency situations so they can calmly put their training into action.
For example, an 8 year-old Brownie Girl Scout, who had recently completed a first aid class, found herself in an emergency situation when her troop leader fell down steps and broke her elbow and sustained various cuts and bruises. The Brownie remained calm, called 911 and provided as much aid as she could until first responders arrived. She is being considered for a Safety Award which the Girl Scout Guide Book says is given “to a Girl Scout who has shown presence of mind and true Girl Scout Spirit in an emergency.”
In addition to the emergency preparedness lessons our council teaches at our camps, Girl Scouts of the USA has created an Emergency Preparedness Patch to equip Girl Scouts with skills to protect their families, friends and communities when disaster strikes. During the 103rd anniversary of Girl Scouting, we encourage everyone to take a lesson from the Girl Scout Handbook which states, “a Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency.”
To learn more about our camp opportunities in Georgia, visit our camps’ page.