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I think you will see that there is a very strong attitude in this committee to pass meaningful legislation with Federal standards, or minimum standards this year, and the legislative process is sometimes very frustrating, as well you know. Hopefully, the best tribute that we could pay to you would not be in words but in a meaningful legislation to be signed by the President this year and I am hopeful that we can bring that about.
Mr. KURMAN. I want to thank you and as far as I am concerned this is not a case of my own boy. I realize the camping industry, some people in the camping industries, not all, I will not paint the entire group with the same brush, some would like to call it a oneman crusade and that sort of thing, most people who have lost children have contacted me, and most people who have had children blinded, crippled, sexually molested or something of that nature contacted me but they are in no position to follow up and do things. They don't even know where to begin.
I am fortunate, very fortunate in that from the nature of my work as a salesman, I travel all over the eastern part of the country, I was able to pursue this and I felt if I don't do it who in the world is going to do it and I want to thank you very much, I sincerely mean that for your support. I appreciate it.
I Mr. Esch. I want to emphasize, have you emphasize, too, for us that you recognize that there are a lot of other individuals that support your endeavors, including many individuals who operate legitimate camps who have tried to develop safe standards within the camping industry and you in no way are condemning all camps indiscriminately but what you really want to do is reach out to the situations which can be corrected, is that right?
Mr. KURMAN. That is right. As far as I am concerned I feel and I want it on record, I feel that camping experience is a wonderful experience, that every child is entitled to it, that every child would benefit from it. And I say that sincerely; I really feel that way; they will benefit from it.
But it has to be a camping experience that will take into consideration what has to be done to give the child a happy memory rather than a horrible nightmare, even if the child survives.
I want proper personnel. I want proper equipment and I want meaningful legislation to simply protect kids. That is all I have in mind.
Mr. Esch. One of the variables I think if we are going to work effectively together, that I was interested in in your survey, and you have done more than anyone else to survey those unfortunate accidents that have occurred, has been not only equipment but that human error?
Mr. KURMAN. Yes.
Mr. Esch. And what you are really talking about there are our trained personnel, is that right, that is the answer to that?
Mr. KURMAN. Trained personnel and another factor that comes into this thing and I think it ought to be considered one way or another, is this: I feel that there has to be some sort of central reporting and I don't feel that the camp or the camp organizations should investigate itself alone. They should be part of the investigation but I don't feel they should investigate themselves alone.
I feel that the most dangerous areas are known, they are known by the camp people and known to anybody that has looked into this thing and it is nothing that will hurt them to take care of it.
In fact they will benefit from it. The swimming areas certainly are extremely dangerous and you have to have swimming areas roped off so that the child knows that, well, beyond that area it is too deep
Also somebody in a speedboat will notice he cannot go into that a rea; it is a swimming area. I have plenty of cases of speed boats going into areas where there was no roping off of the situation.
Mr. Esch. The other question I have, because our time is short, I want to ask what you felt about your work with the State legislatures? We have an effective law in Michigan and we have been getting some others.
Mr. KURMAN. Michigan law is wonderful.
Mr. Esch. What about other experiences you have had with other States?
Mr. KURMAN. Other experiences I had in other States are theseand let's face it, I am only one individual. I can't go all over the United States I did succeed in bringing this to the attention of the President and the State of Connecticut and we got a camp safety bill passed there.
After we got the camp safety bill passed there we found that the camps were regulated by camp safety advisory board made up of half institutional camps and half private camps to regulate the camping industry. I feel they belong on any advisory board and I feel the ACA belongs and the Boy Scouts belong and any other groups belonging, but they should not dominate it and not be the only ones there, but there should be people to protect the public interests as well and then the State of Connecticut changed that law. In the State of New York, where I was successful in getting a simple life preserver law passed, two separate drownings less than 10 miles apart, less than 10 days apart occurred where children didn't have life preservers and I went to the police and demanded they do something. They tell me they can't do anything. I said “Why?" When they wrote the law, they put a provision in there that applies to private lakes and private ponds, not navigable waters.
You know as well as I do most camps are on private ponds or lakes. I started to raise cain, in fact out ot Waterbury, Conn., and a few other places after we brought this out into the open then they changed the interpretation, “Unless it is your own lake you have to have life preservers.
" I don't say they have to wear them, ideally they should, but at least they should have them. You can't go out in the summer market and buy it. You have to have it.
Mr. Esch. It is my understanding in Michigan all small boats are licensed and parts of the provision in Michigan is you must wear a life preserver in a small boat and that may or may not be correct, I will check on that.
Mr. KURMAN. I will say this.
Mr. Esch. It could be possible we could function in that way. That is, if you are in a licensed boat, you would have to have a life preserver there.
you very much,
Mr. KURMAN. If the States in the United States had the legislation that the State of Michigan has, the chances are very, very, very remote that I would ever even have to appear here. I feel if that, the vast bulk of tragedies that have happened, it has been cut down appreciably and Michigan deserves the utmost respect and I feel they should get it and I wish other States would adopt their code which actually is protecting everybody.
Mr. Esch. We hoped that in the week ahead we can work cooperatively with the chairman meaning to bring out meaningful legislation and in Michigan we are going to continue to have tragedies certainly but we want to minimize the tragedies and the incidents involved and I, for one, won't thank you today for coming here, I will rather thank you if and when that bill is signed this year.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
İ Mr. DANIELS. The gentleman from Connecticut, Mr. Sarasin-any questions to ask?
Mr. SARASIN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Kurman, I would like to thank you for coming here today. That is not only for your testimony today, but what you have provided to this committee during your many years of dedication to this effort. I think that you and perhaps you alone, have been the one leading light in this situation to wake the public up and make them aware of the very serious problems of which they had no prior knowledge unless they had some personal involvement.
I would like to ask a question with specific reference to the legislation. I know you feel very strongly that we need the legislation, and I fully agree with you as I cosponsored it, but do you have any problem with the specific bill that we have before us?
Mr. KURMAN. No. As far as I am concerned, I am not a lawyer; I don't pretend to be. I have looked at the Senate bill and I want to give credit to Senator Ribicoff for at least picking this thing up and going with it at a time when nobody would even touch it, but I feel that the House bill right now, as it stands, the Daniels bill, the Peyser bill, which is a bipartisan bill, and I am not interested in the politics of this thing, is the bill that will do the trick. I feel it is the ideal bill. That is what I would like to see happen.
Mr. Esch. Thank you very much, Mr. Kurman.
I wish we had more time, but we are now under a bell for a quorum call on the floor of the House.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DANIELS. Again, Mr. Kurman, thank you very much for your testimony and for coming here today.
The committee is through with today's hearing and we will convene tomorrow morning in this room at 10 a.m.
[Whereupon, the committee recessed at 12:30 p.m., to reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 16, 1974.]
YOUTH CAMP SAFETY ACT
THURSDAY, MAY 16, 1974
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SELECT SUBCOMMITTEE ON LABOR
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10 a.m., in room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Dominick V. Daniels, chairman of the subcommittee, presiding.
Present: Representatives Daniels and Sarasin.
Staff members: Daniel H. Krivit, counsel; Joe Alviani, assistant counsel; Alexandra Kisla, clerk; Denny Medlin, legislative assistant, and Yvonne Franklin, minority legislative associate.
Mr. DANIELS. The Select Subcommittee on Labor will come to order.
We continue with the hearing this morning on youth camp safety. Our first witness is Mr. James Feehery, Michigan State Department of Social Service, Director of Camping Service.
STATEMENT OF JAMES FEEHERY, DIRECTOR OF CAMPING SERVICES, MICHIGAN STATE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES Mr. FEEHERY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I, frankly, will stick probably fairly close to my written statement. However, I was appalled at some of the things I heard yesterday that are happening in some of the camps in States even where there is licensing.
In Michigan today, a camp operating 5 or more days servicing five or more school-age children apart from their parents, relatives, or legal guardian is required to be regulated as a children's camp. If a camp has pre-school-aged children, it must have a separate program for those children and obtain a child care center license.
Additionally, in March of this year a new child care licensing act, Act No. 116, Public Acts of 1973, became law. This act includes the regulation of governmental as well as privately administered camps. In other words, prior to the passage of this act, governmental camps were not regulated, although we did give many of them courtesy inspections or evaluations; however, they were not regulated. Therefore, all children attending camps in the State of Michigan are afforded protection by law.
Children's camp licensing dates back to 1939. Actually, there were some licensed in our registration list about then; however, it was not until 1944 by the enactment of Act No. 47—Public Act 1944-when the department of social services was charged with the responsibility for regulating nongovernmental camps that the law was enforced. At that time the administrative rules for camps was vague and, although they included general child care concerns, they were geared primarily to the area of sanitation.
From 1944 until 1960 there were few changes in the rules. In 1960, because of an increase in serious accidents, some fatal, the rules were rewritten to place greater emphasis on safety in the areas of hazardous program activities as well as general child care and sanitation, and incidentally, there was also a part in the law that did say that the camps should have a fire inspection, but funds were not available for that and unless it was a serious matter, unless our consultants felt it was something serious, the camps did not get a routine fire inspection. This resulted in a noticeable decrease in accidents and fatalities, especially on the waterfront.
Some additional rules were updated between 1960 and 1971. For instance, the rule may say there shall be a water safety instructor in charge of swimming activities at a camp. Well, many camps did not interpret this as the water safety instructor had to be on the waterfront, so we had to have at all times be on the waterfront" and things like that. They were not, however, specific and did not include enforceable areas in fire safety and sanitation by the licensing agency.
In other words, there were guidelines in these areas. But not really the licensing agency itself I think would have a very difficult time if we were challenging on some of those rules in those areas.
In 1973 the rules for chldren's camps were completely rewritten and divided into three sections: General provisions, fire safety provisions, and sanitation provisions. The general provision section covers administration; supervision; staffing; site, facilities, and equipment; care of children; health supervision; nutrition and food service; waterfront supervision; records and reports; and transportation.
The other two sections I think are reasonably self-explanatory. All resident camps in Mihcigan now have or will be getting a fire inspection. At this time we have not scheduled day camps and we will as soon as we are able to get all of the resident camps.
The department of social services administers the licensing program with assistance from the department of State police, fire marshal division; and State and county health departments. Evaulations are performed while the camp is in operation by licensing consultants from the department of social services and inspections of site and facilities are conducted annaully by the fire marshal and the county health department. A report of evaluation and inspection is then sent to the department of social services where a final decision is made on the licensure by the supervisor of camping services. The camp operator is informed of this decision and receives a copy of all reports.
With over 200,000 children attending some 900 camps in Michigan, the competency of the licensing staff performing the actual onsite evaluation is very important. By having experienced consultants, the quality of child care in camps is being constantly upgraded and continuity is maintained in the overall licensing program.