Reflections on My H1N1 Presentation

The American Camp Association’s National Conference has become a regular speaking engagement for me, and I was in Denver on Feb. 17 for the 2010 conference to present “Swine in ’09 – Lessons Learned That Will Help in 2010. Children’s camps, schools, travel programs and other who serve children were, in some cases, severely affected by the H1N1 virus during the summer 2009.

Last summer, working with a top infectious disease physician and infection control nurse, I provided crisis management consulting services for many of these programs. Recently, my client for which I provide these services, AMSkier Insurance, conducted a survey of camp experiences with the virus. Based on those results and my experience during the 2009 season, I gave a 75-minute talk.

As an aside and pat on my back, at last year’s conference in Orlando, I presented my usual topic of “Crisis Planning and Response,” and listed about eight possible “emergencies” camp directors could face in 2009. On the list was “influenza pandemic.” How about that!

Back to the point. During my session in Denver, which drew camp directors from Turkey and Russia, as well as the U.S. and Canada, I discussed seven lessons learned from the 2009 season. Some were obvious, like better disinfection and hand washing, and some technical, like identifying symptoms, quick isolation, treatment and working with  the Department of Health.

But the top issue that many camps cited in being able to effectively control an infectious disease like H1N1 was communications. Those who communicated proactively and effectively with their camp families, communities, health officials and, in some cases, the media, were not only able to better control the spread of the virus, but they built good will in the process.

In a crisis, communication is king. You hear that Tiger and Toyota?

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