By James Gelsey, Associate Director of URJ Eisner Camp – From The Clipboard – News from our Camps and Israel Programs
“How’s your purple?”
Huh? That was pretty much what the six of us sitting across from security expert Shauli Lev were thinking. We were gathered at Camp Harlam for the URJ’s Camp Safety and Security Officers Training Seminar in April. Before we had left, our colleagues tossed us bits and pieces of what to expect: “Just wait until you have to drag someone out of a ‘burning’ building!” and “Oooh, you’ll get to walk through fire!” As intriguing as those things sounded, no one really could have prepared me for what became an eye-opening, thought-provoking, and unforgettable journey. Sure, we learned how to rescue an unconscious person, and it was pretty cool to walk (and drive) through fire. But those moments were really such a small part of what we learned.
First some background: Shauli Lev is the one of the founders of Position Purple, an Israeli security and training consultancy. Shauli and his team have been working with the URJ camps since 2001, helping us identify ways to strengthen our safety and security protocols and training our camp, Israel, and youth program professionals. This year, Shauli redesigned the training program, and my co-trainees (from west coast to east: Joe Glass from Newman; Solly Kane from OSRUI; Alex Glass from Coleman; Brian Goren from Harlam; Ben Tungland from Kutz; and a special guest appearance by Bobby Harris, Coleman’s Director) and I were the first class to experience it. Which brings me back to Shauli’s opening question: “How’s your purple?”
By “purple,” Shauli meant the way you assess and react to various events that move you (and camp) out of your routine and into a heightened state of awareness, alertness, and even emergency. But the training seminar provided more than just a way to look at camp security. It provided a way to process information and approach decision-making that truly changed the way I think. Some of the key concepts we explored:
- recognizing the stages of moving from routine to alertness to emergency and forward to a new routine
- weighing decisions about whether to prevent, confront, or evacuate from a particular danger
- understanding how shock and panic hamper our decision-making ability
- the need to slow down and consider all options before deciding, acting, and reviewing the effectiveness of the action
- embracing the notion that there are always options, no matter the situation.
We also learned the value of being part of a team, that even though the decision may rest with a single individual, there are people and resources around us who are there to provide assistance, suggestions, and support. We practiced various scenarios as a “response team,” and even today my heart pounds each time I recall these “top table” exercises that brought into clear perspective our roles as the true “first responders” at camp. These activities called upon us to implement the concepts we had learned and required us to act in real-time and make decisions based on an ever-evolving stream of information.
I think that more than anything though, the entire experience taught me that it’s unrealistic to make the best decision possible in a given moment of crisis. Rather, the goal of the training was to give me the confidence to make the best decisions I am able. And it is this realization that has had the greatest impact on me, both as a camp professional and, more importantly, as a parent.
So my “purple” is doing quite well, thank you very much. How’s yours?