KieveWavus Name

Safety and Risk Management at Kieve-Wavus


The Role and Value of Risk

Kieve-Wavus has always been and will continue to be committed to the health, well-being, and personal growth of participants and staff in all KW programs. Kieve-Wavus acknowledges, understands, and respects the inherent risks associated with our programming, including ropes courses, climbing walls, wilderness tripping and the many activities that are a part our KW programs. Risk management is a priority at KW and we work diligently to identify, assess and manage these risks. However, no matter how many systems an organization employs, and no matter how stringently those systems are followed, incidents can and will happen. KW cannot - nor can anyone - reduce that possibility to zero and make our programming, including our wilderness trips and our on-campus activities, completely without risk, or what some may call "safe." Nor is this our ultimate goal. Risk and uncertainty, both perceived and real, are central to our experiential educational philosophy. We do not seek risk for the sake of risk, but rather it is our belief that when we embrace adversity and take positive, intentional and well managed risks in the face of significant, real-time challenges and in appropriate environments, we grow as individuals and as a community.

Expand the sections below to read more about each topic.

Staff and Staff Training

Kieve-Wavus recruits much of our staff from within, and in many cases we have known the men and women that work with our participants since they were participants themselves. Our veteran campers and staff who refer their friends from home or college to apply tell us that they are highly selective and wouldn't endeavor to bring in ‘just anyone’ to their most magical place on earth. We also recruit from nationally recognized college Outing Clubs and Outdoor or Experiential Education and Leadership Programs.

Kieve-Wavus hosts a training and orientation session that is one of the longest and most extensive in the our industry. Topics include transportation safety and regulations, health and wellness, abuse prevention and mandatory reporting, social and emotional well-being, youth development, wilderness travel skills and camp craft, camp policy that regulates staff behavior and the ongoing development of a cohesive team of staff who are prepared to respond to the varied needs of participants. We partner with organizations that often set the standard for safety and professionalism in their industry such as Wilderness Medical Associates (WMA), Acadia Insurance, Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine (SASSMM), our local YMCA, the American Canoe Association (ACA), the New England Outdoor Center (NEOC), Northeast Whitewater and Guide Service, and others.

Kieve-Wavus supports the professional development of our staff with regular opportunities for growth and enrichment through guest speakers, participation in conferences and workshops, and training both to enhance existing skills and to acquire new skills.

Kieve-Wavus completes thorough reference, driving record, and background checks on all staff, going above and beyond the minimum requirements by employing the highest level of background checks possible.  Additionally, staff involved in our Leadership School program are required by the Department of Education to be fingerprinted as a part of their background check process.

Campuses and Facilities

Whether it is our Kieve campus in Nobleboro, our Wavus campus in Jefferson, or our ocean front property in Bremen where the Snowgoose III is docked, Kieve-Wavus maintains top-notch modern facilities with highly talented maintenance and facilities crews to keep them operating smoothly. Our campuses, kitchens, vehicles, and operations are inspected regularly, and unannounced, by various state agencies to ensure compliance with all state requirements and by various private agencies to ensure that we are maintaining our facilities, vehicles, and equipment, including the ropes course and climbing wall equipment, at high quality standards.

Wilderness Trips

All of our summer camp trips are comprehensively planned for skill development as well as fun and adventure, and of course an appropriate amount of carefully managed risk.  At times, Kieve and Wavus campers journey in wilderness settings that are often hours from advanced medical care. We spend time on unpredictable, fast-flowing rivers and pass through temperamental mountain ranges. In order to manage any potential hazards associated with our programming, Kieve-Wavus employs a competent and experienced staff including Wilderness First Responders, registered Maine Guides, American Canoe Association instructors and Swiftwater Rescue specialists.

Each trip is led by a counselor who holds a Trip Leader Permit from the State of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which requires a minimum of Wilderness First Aid certification and documented experience leading trips in wilderness environments.  Kieve-Wavus trains above and beyond this Wilderness First Aid requirement, providing Wilderness Advanced First Aid to all staff, not just the Trip Leaders.  Additionally, Kieve-Wavus provides veteran staff and Trip Leaders with Swiftwater Rescue and Lifeguard training.  Where appropriate, Kieve-Wavus carefully contracts local, third-party guides who offer advanced instruction, training in specific trip activities, and thorough knowledge of the environments through which our participants travel.

Over many years of development, each trip has been outlined in a packet of detailed Trip Notes that includes daily routes and stops, areas of interest, as well as access to emergency care or evacuation. Each cabin group that heads off campus on a trip receives an extensive briefing with one of our Trip Managers. Campers are able to ask questions, share concerns, and learn about how they can prepare themselves for a wilderness trip.

Health Care and First Aid

Prior to the beginning of any program, Kieve-Wavus’ Health Care Manager reviews all participant information collected and briefs the appropriate staff on any needs and requirements, including pertinent health histories, allergies, dietary restrictions, and any other participant needs of which to be aware. All direct service employees are trained in First Aid and CPR, most to the level of Wilderness Advanced First Aid or higher. Kieve-Wavus provides fully stocked first aid kits to our staff and has additional kits available at various locations around our campuses. During the summer camp season, our Infirmaries are staffed 24/7 by a Wilderness First Responder or higher. Our Standing Orders for care are reviewed and approved annually by our consulting physician.

Emotional Health and Well-being

In addition to their physical health and well-being, Kieve-Wavus is committed to the emotional health and well-being of all of our participants and staff. Positive, healthy relationships between staff and participants are formed and maintained by a firm belief in the power of mentoring and a commitment to the values of kindness and respect. Our staff constantly works one-on-one with each participant to make sure he or she feels supported, cared for and capable of taking on whatever challenge lay ahead.

Kieve-Wavus participants, youth participants in particular, interact with multiple staff members on a regular basis in their cabins and daily activities, affording them multiple opportunities to connect with caring, supportive, and accessible adults to whom they can turn for help in challenging situations. It is our deepest desire that everyone is treated with kindness and respect and our staff and directors keep their eyes and ears open for any signs of deviation from this standard, either physical or emotional, between participants or otherwise and work quickly to address concerns as they are uncovered. In the event that a youth participant discloses information that leads a staff member to suspect past or likely abuse or neglect, Kieve-Wavus staff are Mandatory Reporters under Maine State Law and required to file a report with the Department of Health and Human Services.


Gone are the days of heading off into the woods without the ability to contact the outside world until you return to civilization several days or even weeks later. The advent of technology allows us to communicate with all of our groups on a daily basis, even beyond the reach of cellular phone service. Using their inReach device, a satellite text message device from Garmin, our Trip Leaders are in touch with camp daily to check in once they arrive and settle in at their campsite safely. Every message sent from the device includes the exact GPS location of the device so we know exactly where they are each night. The devices are two-way messengers, so Trip Leaders can also ask questions and convey needs and concerns back to camp where the Tripping Staff and/or Infirmary Staff are able to respond to questions and requests. While it still may be several hours before we can physically reach a trip in the field, these devices put those trips in communication with us and with any emergency needs within a matter of minutes. Kieve-Wavus was an early and large user of these inReach devices and was therefore the feature of an article in Garmin's Newsletter.

In addition to receiving these daily text messages, and even on our longest and most remote trips, we have regularly scheduled face to face contact with each trip, typically every 5-7 days, giving us a chance to check in more thoroughly with the group as well as delivering the next several days’ worth of food and supplies, including mail and other treats.

On site, our directors carry cell phones and two-way radios, allowing us to quickly and efficiently spread messages around campus in the event of an emergency. At all times during programming, each campus has one designated Director on Duty (DOD) who carries the DOD backpack and cell phone, and who can be reached by dialing the main office number and following the voicemail system prompt to reach a director 24/7 in the event of an emergency.

Kieve-Wavus Risk Management Team

To ensure our continued track record of effectively managing risk and offering the highest quality programming and experiences possible, the Kieve-Wavus Risk Management Team regularly reviews organizational policies and protocols as well as any incidents and near-misses, and makes recommendations based on these reviews and based on participant and staff feedback. Additionally, the team maintains an ongoing dialogue about risk management with industry leaders in the field of adventure based education, including annual participation in the NOLS Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC), the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) Conference, the High 5 Adventure Practitioners’ Symposium, the Maine Summer Camps (MSC) gatherings, and our Consortium of non-profit summer camps.