Page images

den made an about-face and voiced their objection to their Congressman who, in turn, recommended the substitute legislation which was passed, bringing about the study to which reference was made earlier this morning.

Now, the PTA can be very, very helpful in assisting this committee in trying to get Federal legislation enacted. I want to make it explicitly clear that the Federal Government does not desire to preempt the field.

All the Federal Government is undertaking to do is to provide the leadership. We recommend that each and every State of the Union pass its own laws. All the Federal Government proposes to do here is to establish minimum Federal standards providing the guidelines and the rules and the regulations with regard to health and safety, but the States are free to enact their own law.

As a matter of fact, the Federal Government, under my legislation cosponsored by Mr. Peyser, will even go as far as making grants up to 80 percent for the implementation of the legislation in their own State.

So the PTA can be very helpful here with regard to your national organization. This committee doesn't need any letters because we are wholeheartedly for the legislation, but the other Members of Congress do, particularly those who failed to support the bill under consideration. So if the PTA members will write to their respective Congressmen it would be greatly appreciated.

Mrs. BALL. Has the National PTA been provided with a list of those who are not supporting? Because they would be happy to let those States know.

Mr. DANIELS. Well, if you will give us the name of the national officer to whom we should address our communication to, we would be happy to do so.

Mrs. BALL. I will see that you get it.

Mr. DANIELS. Thank you.

Mr. PEYSER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Mrs. Ball. Mrs. BALL. Thank you, very much.

Mr. DANIELS. Our next witness is Mr. Howard B. Gates III, P.E., Chief, Camp and Recreation Section, New York State Department of Health.


Mr. GATES. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity of meeting with you to discuss health and safety in children's camps. I am Howard B. Gates III, P.E., Chief, Camp and Recreation Section, New York State Department of Health. My section has direct responsibility for enforcement of part 7 of the New York State Sanitary Code which covers children's overnight and day camps operated in New York State.

New York State has conducted an extensive children's camp inspection and surveillance program since approximately 1930. This program started in the 1930's, was in the past directed at the prob

lem of spread of disease by improper sanitation practices at children's camps. Over the years, trained sanitarians, through continuous work, have succeeded in eliminating problems associated with improper water supply, improper sewage disposal, and poor food handling practices so that outbreak of disease at children's camps or other temporary residences are now a rare occurrence in New York State.

With the major health problems under control, the department has turned its attention to other hazards which may be present at children's camps associated with safety, particularly fire safety, electrical hazards, and potential problems caused by improper supervision of children.

In 1973, the department promulgated rules and regulations through the public health council that specifically outlines duties of children's camp operators in the areas of fire safety, supervisory personnel, lifeguards and safety equipment at aquatic activities as well as basic requirements for minimum housing standards for children. The regulations which went into effect in March of 1973 were prepared after careful consultation with the American Camping Association, the New York State Camp Director's Association, the New York State Camp Director's Association, the Association of Private Camps, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the 4-H, and numerous other organizations who operate camps in New York State. Only after consultation with these organizations and careful study of their recommendations were final standards adopted.

Last year, the New York State Legislature passed a number of measures which directly affect the children's camp program. One of these measures gives the State department of health, for the first time, the power to take rapid action against a children's camp where serious violations of the health code exist and, if necessary, to close this camp to protect the health of the occupants.

The legislature also passed a measure requiring us to look into child supervision and safety standards mentioned above. This same bill establishes a fee for certain children's camps of $100 per year. The fee does not apply to camps operated for religious, philanthropic, or charitable purposes. During 1974, it will be necessary for all camps to provide evidence of their charitable status or other exemption from the provisions of this bill or to pay the $100 fee to the department of health. In all likelihood, this will involve additional paperwork and correspondence between camp operators and their local health units.

An additional measure passed by the legislature in 1973 established a children's camp advisory council which will advise the commissioner of health on matters pertinent to children's camp safety. The members of this council have been appointed by the Governor and the council has met three times so far this year discussing code revisions that will focus on improving the health and safety of camps operated in New York State.

In New York the children's camp program is covered by the New York State Sanitary Code, part 7, which was substantially revised last year. The 1973 camp season was the first season under the new code provisions.

Copies of the code, incidentally, have been provided to the committee, and additional copies are in the back of the room.

Last year New York State licensed approximately 762 overnight camps with a capacity of 175,000 children and 375 day camps having a capacity of 66,000 children 1 day.

The code which will be enforced this year focuses on the problem of fire safety in camps. This is a very important subject which has not received a high enough priority in the past.

All buildings used for the housing of children should be provided with ready exits in case of fire. In most instances there should be two means of exit out of every building remotely located from one another. The main exit doors or fire exit must open in the direction of travel. This is one item that apparently has been overlooked by many camp operators during their review of the revised code last


Also, with regard to fire safety, it is important that the exits be kept clear and the hallways and passages to the exits be clear and unobstructed.

In the case of large hotel-type buildings, it is necessary to have the exit lighted as well as the hallways and stairways so that the building can be properly evacuated rapidly.

The State health department has placed primary emphasis on the evacuation of people from the buildings and this should be the top priority. Extinguishing the fire and saving the building and its contents must be a secondary consideration.

Generally, firefighting should be left to the trained fire department personnel, unless the camp staff has sufficient training and is able to cope with the emergency in the very early stages of a fire.

Another item of concern has been the matter of electrical safety. The primary problems which have been brought up at children's camps are low hanging or improperly installed circuitry that may constitute a shock or fire hazard. It is important that all electrical wiring be inspected on an annual basis by the camp operator. This inspection should include visually reviewing each plug and fixture to be certain that it has not been damaged or made inoperative or hazardous in the past.

In new construction, the insurance underwriters normally require a complete inspection of all the wiring by UL. A copy of a UL certificate can be valuable insurance to be certain that electric mal... functions do not cause injury and possible death.

The code requires the filing of an emergency plan by the operator with the department of health. This fire exiting plan as it is called should include how people are to exit from the buildings in the camp and how they are to be accounted for by their counselors once they assemble outside the building. The plan should also include a program for evacuation of a camp property itself or assemble at a safe point on the property in case of a forest fire, flood, or other unforeseen emergency.

Also with respect to fire safety, the camp operator is responsible for the inspection of all fire extinguishers and other firefighting equipment to be certain that it is in operating condition and will be usable in case of a fire.

It is impossible to discuss all aspects of firefighting equipment at this point; however, fire extinguishers must be serviced each year and a tag should be on each extinguisher with a date and initials of the person who did the servicing. Fire hoses usually have a useful life of 10 to 15 years. The hoses will only last this long if they are refolded annually. The date the hose is manufactured can be found on the linen-type hose. This should also be reviewed by the camp operator on an annual basis.

The matter of overcrowding in children's camps sleeping quarters has been of concern to the department of health for many years. Prior to enactment of the revised code last year, we called for adequate sleeping quarters to be provided and in department guidelines referred to 40 square feet as the minimum acceptable area for sleeping quarters per person.

Last year, after considerable review, it was agreed that we would mandate use of a minimum of 40 square feet per person as the space requirement in children's overnight camps. The 40-square-foot standard was agreed to by the American Camping Association and was recommended by the National Safety Council. It was also agreed to by the Boy Scout National Council.

This standard was less than the recommendations of the U.S. Public Health Service which recommends 50 square feet per person. It was also less than several other references which call for higher square foot areas.

Studies done by the Army prior to adoption of their standard of 68 square feet in barracks buildings showed a relationship between overcrowding and transmission of upper respiratory disease. For this reason, the department is concerned with findings that we have had to date which show serious overcrowding in some children's


Realizing the financial and physical problems of providing additional facilities immediately, the department did, during 1973, grant a considerable number of variances to provide from construction of additional facilities.

The New York State Legislature during the 1974 session passed a bill which will require the department to continue issuing variances for space for 3 years provided at least 30 square feet can be provided and no other hazards exist.

The department recognizes that self-policing by individual organizations such as the ACA or the Boy Scouts is an important part of upgrading facilities at children's camps. Marked improvement has been noted since self-inspection activities have been stepped up.

However, since all children's camps do not belong to organizations which have self-inspection programs, it is vital that specific regulations including inspection be conducted by health agencies on a regular basis.

New York feels that its present program of children's camp surveillance is one of the most advanced and stringent programs in the country. We would recommend that any Federal program adopted as a result of the legislation we are discussing today be patterned after the New York State program, the regulations of the American Camping Association, the recommendations of the National Safety

Council, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and other organizations with extensive experience in the camping field.

An important part of any children's camp surveillance program includes careful inspection by highly trained personnel of the facilities provided by the camp both prior to occupancy by the children and during the actual operating season.

In the past, New York has had some difficulty in providing adequate numbers of trained personnel to conduct this program which in New York State is quite seasonal in nature. The department feels that Federal assistance proposed in the legislation will help to provide full-time competent people to improve conditions in camps throughout the country.

We hope that Federal involvement will be present in the near future in the area of travel camps. These operations consist of a bus or number of buses which transport children to different public or tourist attractions, beaches, or other facilities on a daily basis.

This type of operation may be a day camp facility or even an overnight operation which move from State to State. It is expected that either Federal or State control of the traveling operation will be a reality, at least in New York State, in the near future. We feel that unsupervised interstate movement of children should not continue without careful supervision.

The department was interested in the Federal study which was conducted last summer. Unfortunately the portion of the study conducted in New York State was done without consultation with us and we have not yet seen the specific results of camps within New York State.

It appears that the areas chosen for study were not representative of general camp conditions throughout the State and it is possible that the results of the study could be misleading at least as far as New York is concerned.

With respect to safety of children's camps, there were four fatalities in the State last year and several other accidents which might have been prevented. In at least two cases, inadequate or inept supervision was a possible contributing cause of the accident.

We feel that any unnecessary accident should be prevented if at all possible. At the present time we are studying possible increased surveillance in the area of counselor supervision to try to avoid additional accidents.

Our studies have shown that the camp environment is generally a relatively safe place; however, activities conducted off the camp property, such as canoe trips, hikes, or out-of-camp camping expeditions can, if they are not carefully supervised, lead to problems. We would also feel that boating and swimming activities on camp property require careful supervision.

Mr. DANIELS. On behalf of the committee, Mr. Gates, I want to compliment you for a very, very fine statement. I am, indeed, very pleased to learn the steps that have been taken in the State of New York to protect the health and safety of our children at camp. Now, the law was implemented here in New York last year with regard to the health department. Does your office make a preseason camp inspection 2

« PreviousContinue »