Field Trip Protocols
Field trips are vital to your programs and exciting for the kids who participate. However, without proper planning and procedures to address the unique risks that exist when you leave your facility, they can instead become dangerous, even tragic.
The following steps should be part of all field trip planning.
- Notify the parents or guardians well in advance of the field trip details including the location, activities, date, time of day, duration, and any special provisions needed (e.g., swimming suit, sunscreen, change of clothes, etc.). Including pictures or a brochure may provide parents with a clearer idea of the venue and help to prepare the children for a fun, safe adventure.
- Obtain emergency notification numbers and a signed permission slip from each participant for every field trip. Don’t use the shortcut of trying to obtain this information during the registration process – circumstances and conditions change and you are flirting with trouble.
- Require prior notification of any child’s special needs or restrictions such as food sensitivities, required medications, allergies, restricted or prohibited activities, etc. Create an individual plan with the parents/guardians that will address all of these issues when the child is off-site.
- Designate multiple staff members or counselors who are familiar with assisting children in administering medications such as inhalers, epi-pens, and possibly blood-sugar monitoring in accordance with your state’s laws. If so directed by the parent/guardian, the child should be given the option to carry their emergency medications.
- Staff should have the information from the previous three bullet points for each child in their group
- Either don’t allow off-site pick-up of children or check carefully the ID of anyone who picks up a child off-site against the approved pick-up list and closely follow sign-out documentation protocols.
- At least two staff members should know the exact location of the nearest medical facility.
- All staff should carry first aid packs on their person.
- All staff should have cell phones or another way of communicating with one another or summoning assistance. Don’t forget to share phone numbers.
- Provide distinctive identification for your kids such as bright tee shirts or caps. Leaders also should be easily identifiable. Staff name tags are permissible, but the children should not wear name tags because of the potential of sexual predators in public locations.
- Program leadership should renew familiarity with the layout, the restroom facilities, and any potential dangers by revisiting the location just before the trip. If the venue involves swimming, include an aquatic leadership staff person or lifeguard to help evaluate the site’s lifeguarding vigilance and aquatic safety.
- Clearly discuss appropriate behavior with both the children and parents/guardians – cover physical and behavioral boundaries and the consequences of disregarding them.
- If volunteers are accompanying the trip, be sure to clearly communicate with them their roles and responsibilities.
The need for constant supervision of every child is especially important when away from your facility.
- Increase vigilance and establish staff-to-child ratios at a level appropriate for the activity and location. Public restrooms and water activities demand increased levels of supervision.
- Count faces not just heads. Regularly determine that you have the right children, not just the right number of children.
- Use a buddy system with periodic checks to supplement staff supervision.
- Establish an easily locatable, highly visible meeting spot where children who become separated from the group should go and wait – take everyone there at the beginning of the day so it can be found if necessary.
Excited kids in unfamiliar environments are harder to control than kids in their normal day-to-day surroundings. Only by adequately preparing the parents/guardians, children, and staff can you minimize the risks to participants when in the unfamiliar settings of a field trip.