The purpose of the Guide to Safe Scouting is to prepare adult leaders to
conduct Scouting activities in a safe and prudent manner. The policies and
guidelines have been established because of the real need to protect members
from known hazards that have been identified through 90-plus years of
experience. Limitations on certain activities should not be viewed as stumbling
blocks; rather, policies and guidelines are best described as stepping-stones
toward safe and enjoyable adventures.
Unit leaders should be aware of state or local government regulations that
supersede Boy Scouts of America policies and guidelines.
In situations not specifically covered in this guide, activity planners
should evaluate the risk or potential risk of harm, and respond with action
plans based on common sense, community standards, the Boy Scout motto, and
safety policies and practices commonly prescribed for the activity by
experienced providers and practitioners.
Scouting $$$ Pay Liability Claims
The BSA general liability program is not just insurance. In fact, insurance
plays a very small part. Our greatest efforts are spent on safety and injury
BSA self-funds the first million dollars of each liability claim. This means
that almost all money spent on a liability claim is Scouting money, not
Accident and sickness insurance pays regardless of fault as long as the
accident occurred during an official Scouting activity and the unit or council
has purchased the coverage.
The BSA Ready & Prepared Award
The Boy Scouts of America's Ready & Prepared Award encourages and rewards
Boy Scout troops, Varsity Scout teams, and Venturing crews that incorporate safe
practices while enjoying challenging activities. While working to earn the
award, units emphasize risk management as a way to help reduce fatalities and
serious injury. Focus areas include:
- Driver and passenger safety
- Youth Protection
- Aquatic safety
- Premises safety and first-aid readiness
- Personal fitness
Units may apply for this award at the time of unit rechartering.
BSA Rules and Policies
Bold type throughout the Guide to Safe Scouting denotes BSA rules and
Viewing the online Guide
The Guide to Safe Scouting is available here in two formats:
A bound hard-copy version
(BSA Supply #34416E) is also available. To obtain a copy, contact your local
council or call 1-800-323-0732 to request an Official Boy Scout Catalog.
- One for reading on-line — this version is divided into chapters and
includes a search engine.
- Another for reading off-line — the entire publication is presented in a
single interface to facilitate print-out.
- Youth Protection & Adult Leadership
- Youth Protection in Scouting
- Youth Member Behavior Guidelines
- Leadership Requirements for Trips and Outings
- Aquatics Safety
- Instructors for Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat Training
- Safe Swim Defense
- Classification of Swimming Ability
- Pool and Surf Swimming
- Safety Afloat
- Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
- Water Clarity
- BSA Lifeguard
- Swimming Area
- Diving and Elevated Entry
- Scuba BSA
- Scuba Policy
- Whitewater Safety Code
- Age Guidelines
- Family Camping
- Cub Scout Overnight Opportunities
- Wilderness Camping
- Trail Safety
- Beware of Lightning
- Pure Drinking Water
- BSA Property Smart
- Rabies Prevention
- Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Use and Abuse
- Emergency Preparedness
- Emergency Preparedness Plan
- Emergency Preparedness Kit
- Emergency Contact List
- First Aid
- First-Aid Kits
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
- Protection Considerations for Bloodborne Pathogens
- Fuels and Fire Prevention
- Chemical Fuels
- Guidelines for Safely Using Chemical Stoves and Lanterns
- Flammability Warning
- Guns and Firearms
- Cub Scout Standards
- Boy Scout Standards
- Handguns (Venturers only)
- Muzzle Loaders
- Sports and Activities
- The Sweet 16 of BSA Safety
- Judo, Tai Chi, and Aikido
- Climbing and Rappelling
- Project COPE Activities
- Unauthorized and Restricted Activities
- Carbon Tetrachloride
- Rope Monkey Bridges
- Parade Floats and Hayrides
- Unit Fund-raisers
- Tractor Safety
- Bike Safety
- Skating Guidelines
- Horsemanship Activities
- Meeting Room
- Motor Vehicles
- Unit Camping
- Medical Information
- Life-Threatening Communicable Diseases
- Sun Safety
- Religious Beliefs and Medical Care
- Campers, Trailers, and Trucks
- Tour Permits
- Commercial Driver's License Compliance
- Winter Activities
- Winter Camping Safety
- Winter Sports Safety
- Appendix - Age-Appropriate Guidelines for Scouting Activities [PDF]
- Appendix - Forms
- Appendix - Updates
- Appendix - Reporting Deaths or Serious Injury
How does the BSA prevent child abuse in Scouting?
The Boy Scouts of America has adopted a number of policies aimed at
eliminating opportunities for abuse within the Scouting program. These policies
focus on leadership selection and on placing barriers to abuse within the
The Boy Scouts of America takes great pride in the quality of our adult
leadership. Being a leader in the BSA is a privilege, not a right. The quality
of the program and the safety of our youth members call for high-quality adult
leaders. We work closely with our chartered organizations to help recruit the
best possible leaders for their units.
The adult application requests background information that should be checked
by the unit committee or the chartered organization before accepting an
applicant for unit leadership. While no current screening techniques exist that
can identify every potential child molester, we can reduce the risk of accepting
a child molester by learning all we can about an applicant for a leadership
position—his or her experience with children, why he or she wants to be a Scout
leader, and what discipline techniques he or she would use.
Barriers to Abuse Within Scouting
The BSA has adopted the following policies to provide additional security for
our members. These policies are primarily for the protection of our youth
members; however, they also serve to protect our adult leaders from false
accusations of abuse.
Note: Bold type denotes rules and policies.
- Two-deep leadership.
Two registered adult leaders or one registered
leader and a parent of a participant, one of whom must be 21 years of age or
older, are required on all trips and outings. The chartered organization is
responsible for ensuring that sufficient leadership is provided for all
- No one-on-one contact.
One-on-one contact between adults and youth
members is not permitted. In situations that require personal conferences,
such as a Scoutmaster's conference, the meeting is to be conducted in view of
other adults and youths.
- Respect of privacy.
Adult leaders must respect the privacy of youth
members in situations such as changing clothes and taking showers at camp, and
intrude only to the extent that health and safety require. Adults must protect
their own privacy in similar situations.
- Separate accommodations.
When camping, no youth is permitted to sleep
in the tent of an adult other than his own parent or guardian. Councils are
strongly encouraged to have separate shower and latrine facilities for
females. When separate facilities are not available, separate times for male
and female use should be scheduled and posted for showers.
- Proper preparation for high-adventure activities.
elements of risk should never be undertaken without proper preparation,
equipment, clothing, supervision, and safety measures.
- No secret organizations.
The Boy Scouts of America does not recognize
any secret organizations as part of its program. All aspects of the Scouting
program are open to observation by parents and leaders.
- Appropriate attire.
Proper clothing for activities is required. For
example, skinny-dipping is not appropriate as part of Scouting.
- Constructive discipline.
Discipline used in Scouting should be
constructive and reflect Scouting's values. Corporal punishment is never
- Hazing prohibited.
Physical hazing and initiations are prohibited and
may not be included as part of any Scouting activity.
- Junior leader training and supervision.
Adult leaders must monitor and
guide the leadership techniques used by junior leaders and ensure that BSA
policies are followed.
How can parents help protect their children?
Parents participate in the protection of their children in a variety of ways.
BSA recognizes the need for open lines of communication so that children are
encouraged to bring any troubles to their parents for advice and counsel. In
addition, parents need to be involved in their sons' Scouting activities. All
parents receive important information concerning the Scouting program as part of
their sons' membership applications. This information is provided so that
parents can detect any deviations from the BSA's approved program. If any
deviations are noted, parents should call these to the attention of the
chartered organization or the unit committee. If the problems persist, parents
should contact the local council for assistance.
Parents also need to review the booklet, "How to Protect Your Children from
Child Abuse and Drug Abuse: A Parent's Guide," inserted in every Boy Scout and
Cub Scout handbook. The information in this booklet should be the subject of
discussions between Scouts and their parents prior to joining a pack or
Why do most child victims of sexual abuse keep the abuse secret?
A victim of child sexual abuse is under a great deal of pressure to keep the
abuse secret. In many cases of child molestation, the molester has threatened to
harm the child or a member of the child's family. The molester might have told
the child that he would not be believed even if the child did tell. Another
common situation is that the molester will tell the child that if the child
tells about the abuse, he will get into trouble. The clear message is given to
the child that if another person finds out, something bad will happen to the
child. This pressure to maintain silence can often be successfully overcome by
establishing open communication between children and adults through a proper
educational program for children.
What should I do if a child tells me that he has been sexually
How an adult responds to a child when he tries to disclose abuse can
influence the outcome of the child's victimization. By maintaining an apparent
calm, the adult can help reassure the child that everything is going to be okay.
By not criticizing the child, we counteract any statements the molester made to
the victim about the child getting into trouble. Reassure the child that you are
concerned about what happened to him and that you would like to get him some
help. Allegations by a Scout concerning abuse in the program must be reported
to the Scout executive. Since these reports are required, the child should
be told that you have to tell the proper authorities but that you will not tell
anyone else. It is important that you not tell anyone other than the Scout
executive or the child protective services agency about allegations of abuse—if
the allegations cannot be substantiated, you could be sued for defamation of
How do I know what my reporting responsibilities are?
Every state, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories have
different reporting requirements. As part of youth protection training, you will
receive reporting instructions for your area and for your council. People are
often concerned about being sued for reporting child abuse. You are not required
to know for certain that a child has been abused. All that the law requires is
that you have a reasonable suspicion and are reporting in "good faith." When
these requirements are met, all states provide immunity from liability for child
What youth protection educational materials does the BSA have for youth
"How to Protect Your Children from Child Abuse: A Parent's Guide" is a
tear-out booklet bound in with BSA youth books. It is designed for parents or
guardians and young people to use together for youth protection training. The
BSA also has separate age-appropriate videos for Cub Scout-age and Boy Scout-age
boys to address the problems of sexual abuse. The video for Cub Scouts, "It
Happened to Me," should be used annually by packs or dens, but only for Cub
Scouts accompanied by a parent or other adult family member. The video for Boy
Scouts, "A Time to Tell" introduces the "three Rs" of Youth Protection, and
should be viewed by troops annually.
How can Scout leaders who are not social workers teach children about
The BSA recognizes that many of our leaders feel unprepared to talk to
children about preventing sexual abuse. For this reason, the BSA has meeting
guides for both of the videos produced to be viewed by youths. The guides
address everything from scheduling the meeting, contacting the police or social
services for assistance, and notifying parents (a sample letter is provided), to
questions and answers for discussion after the video has been viewed.
What are the "three Rs" of Youth Protection?
The "three Rs" of Youth Protection convey a simple message that the BSA wants
its youth members to learn:
- Recognize situations that place him at risk of being molested, how
child molesters operate, and that anyone could be a molester.
- Resist unwanted and inappropriate attention. Resistance will stop
most attempts at molestation.
- Report attempted or actual molestation to a parent or other trusted
adult. This prevents further abuse of himself and helps to protect other
children. Let the Scout know he will not be blamed for what occurred.
The Boy Scouts of America is a values-based youth development organization
that helps young people learn positive attributes of character, citizenship, and
personal fitness. The BSA has the expectation that all participants in the
Scouting program will relate to each other in accord with the principles
embodied in the Scout Oath and Law.
One of the developmental tasks of childhood is to learn appropriate behavior.
Children are not born with an innate sense of propriety and they need guidance
and direction. The example set by positive adult role models is a powerful tool
for shaping behavior and a tool that is stressed in Scouting.
Misbehavior by a single youth member in a Scouting unit may constitute a
threat to the safety of the individual who misbehaves as well as to the safety
of other unit members. Such misbehavior constitutes an unreasonable burden on a
Scout unit and cannot be ignored.
All members of the Boy Scouts of America are expected to conduct
themselves in accordance with the principles set forth in the Scout Oath and
Law. Physical violence, hazing, bullying, theft, verbal insults, and drugs and
alcohol have no place in the Scouting program and may result in the revocation
of a Scout's membership in the unit.
If confronted by threats of violence or other forms of bullying from other
youth members, Scouts should seek help from their unit leaders or parents.
Adult leaders of Scouting units are responsible for monitoring the behavior
of youth members and interceding when necessary. Parents of youth members who
misbehave should be informed and asked for assistance in dealing with it.
The BSA does not permit the use of corporal punishment by unit leaders when
disciplining youth members.
The unit committee should review repetitive or serious incidents of
misbehavior in consultation with the parents of the child to determine a course
of corrective action including possible revocation of the youth's membership in
If problem behavior persists, units may revoke a Scout's membership in that
unit. When a unit revokes a Scout's membership, it should promptly notify the
council of the action.
The unit should inform the Scout executive about all incidents that result in
a physical injury or involve allegations of sexual misconduct by a youth member
with another youth member.
Each Cub Scout den and Webelos Scout den and each chartered Cub Scout pack,
Boy Scout troop, Varsity Scout team, and Venturing crew shall have one leader,
21 years of age or older, who shall be registered and serve as the unit or den
leader. A unit leader may not serve simultaneously in any other position within
the same unit. The head of the chartered organization or chartered organization
representative and the local council must approve the registration of the unit
or den leader on the appropriate form.
Primary reference: Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of
- Two-deep leadership:
Two registered adult leaders, or one registered
adult and a parent of a participating Scout, one of whom must be at least 21
years of age or older, are required for all trips or outings. There are a few
instances, such as patrol activities, when no adult leadership is required.
Coed overnight activities require male and female adult leaders, both of whom
must be 21 years of age or older, and one of whom must be a registered member
of the BSA.
- During transportation to and from planned Scout outings,
- Meet for departure at a designated area.
- Prearrange a schedule for periodic checkpoint stops as a group.
- Plan a daily destination point.
A common departure site and a daily
destination point are a must. If you cannot provide two adults for each
vehicle, the minimum required is one adult and two or more youth
members—never one on one.
- Safety rule of four: No fewer than four individuals (always with the
minimum of two adults) go on any backcountry expedition or campout. If an
accident occurs, one person stays with the injured, and two go for help.
Additional adult leadership requirements must reflect an awareness of such
factors as size and skill level of the group, anticipated environmental
conditions, and overall degree of challenge.
- Male and female leaders must have separate sleeping facilities. Married
couples may share the same quarters if appropriate facilities are
- Male and female youth participants will not share the same sleeping
- Single-room or dormitory-type accommodations for Scouting units: Adults
and youth of the same gender may occupy dormitory or single-room
accommodations, provided there is a minimum of two adults and four youth. A
minimum of one of the adults is required to be youth-protection trained.
Adults must establish separation barriers or privacy zones such as a temporary
blanket or sheet walls in order to keep their sleeping area and dressing area
separated from the youth area.
- When staying in tents, no youth will stay in the tent of an adult other
than his or her parent or guardian.
- If separate shower and latrine facilities are not available, separate
times for male and female use should be scheduled and posted for showers. The
buddy system should be used for latrines by having one person wait outside the
entrance, or provide Occupied and Unoccupied signs and/or inside door
Adult leaders need to respect the privacy of youth members in
situations where the youth are changing clothes or taking showers, and intrude
only to the extent that health and safety require. Adults also need to protect
their own privacy in similar situations.
- Two-deep adult leadership is required for flying activities. For
basic orientation flights, the adult licensed pilot in control of the aircraft
is sufficient for the flight, while two-deep leadership is maintained on
Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat training can be given by any person
authorized by the council, including a BSA Aquatics resource person, a unit
leader with aquatics skill, or any other person with aquatics knowledge or
experience whom the local council has approved.
Before a BSA group may engage in swimming activities of any kind, a minimum
of one adult leader must complete Safe Swim Defense training, have a commitment
card (No. 34243) with them, and agree to use the eight defenses in this
One of the best opportunities for Safe Swim Defense training is in summer
camp. The eight defenses are:
- 1. Qualified Supervision
- All swimming activity must be supervised by a mature and conscientious
adult age 21 or older who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility for
the well-being and safety of youth members in his or her care, who is
experienced in the water and confident of his or her ability to respond in the
event of an emergency, and who is trained in and committed to compliance with
the eight points of BSA Safe Swim Defense. (It is strongly recommended that
all units have at least one adult or older youth member currently trained as a
BSA Lifeguard to assist in the planning and conduct of all swimming
- 2. Physical Fitness
- Require evidence of fitness for swimming activity with a complete
health history from physician, parent, or legal guardian. The adult
supervisor should adjust all supervision, discipline, and protection to
anticipate any potential risks associated with individual health conditions.
In the event of any significant health conditions, the unit leader should
require proof of an examination by a physician.
- Those with physical disabilities can enjoy and benefit from aquatics if
the disabilities are known and necessary precautions are taken.
- 3. Safe Area
- When swimming in areas not regularly maintained and used for swimming
activity, have lifeguards and swimmers systematically examine the bottom of
the swimming area to determine varying depths, deep holes, rocks, and stumps.
Mark off the area for three groups: not more than 31/2 feet deep for
nonswimmers; from shallow water to just over the head for beginners; deep
water not more than 12 feet for swimmers. A participant should not be
permitted to swim in an area where he cannot readily recover and maintain his
footing, or cannot maintain his position on the water, because of swimming
ability or water flow. When setting up a safe swimming area in natural waters,
use poles stuck in the bottom, or plastic bottles, balloons, or sticks
attached to rock anchors with twine for boundary markers. Enclose nonswimmer
and beginner areas with buoy lines (twine and floats) between markers. Mark
the outer bounds of the swimmer's area with floats. Be sure that clear-water
depth is at least 7 feet before allowing anyone to dive into the water. Diving
is prohibited from any height more than 40 inches above the water surface;
feet-first entry is prohibited from more than 60 inches above the water. For
any entry from more than 18 inches above the water surface, clear-water depth
must be 10 to 12 feet. Only surface swimming is permitted in turbid water.
Swimming is not permitted in water over 12 feet deep, in turbid water where
poor visibility and depth would interfere with emergency recognition or prompt
rescue, or in whitewater, unless all participants wear appropriate personal
flotation devices and the supervisor determines that swimming with personal
flotation equipment is safe under the circumstances.
- 4. Lifeguards on Duty
- Swim only where there are lifeguards on duty. For unit swims in areas
where lifeguards are not provided by others, the supervisor should designate
two capable swimmers as lifeguards. Station them ashore, equipped with a
lifeline (a 100-foot length of 3/8-inch nylon cord). In an emergency, one
carries out the line; the other feeds it out from shore, then pulls in his
partner and the person being helped. In addition, if a boat is available, have
two people, preferably capable swimmers, take it out—one rowing and the other
equipped with a 10-foot pole or extra oar. Provide one guard for every 10
people in the water, and adjust the number and positioning of guards as needed
to protect the particular area and activity.
- 5. Lookout
- Station a lookout on the shore where it is possible to see and hear
everything in all areas. The lookout may be the adult in charge of the swim
and may give the buddy signals.
- 6. Ability Groups
- Divide into three ability groups: Nonswimmers, beginners, and swimmers.
Keep each group in its own area. Nonswimmers have not passed a swimming test.
Beginners must pass this test: jump feetfirst into water over the head in
depth, level off, swim 25 feet on the surface. Stop, turn sharply, resume
swimming as before and return to the starting place. Swimmers must pass this
test: jump feet first into water over the head in depth. Level off and swim 75
yards in a strong manner using one or more of the following strokes:
sidestroke, breaststroke, trudgen, or crawl; then swim 25 yards using an easy
resting backstroke. The 100 yards must be completed in one swim without stops
and must include at least one sharp turn. After completing the swim, rest by
floating. These classification tests should be renewed annually, preferably at
the beginning of the season.
- 7. Buddy System
- Pair every youth with another in the same ability group. Buddies
check in and out of the swimming area together. Emphasize that each buddy
lifeguards his buddy. Check everyone in the water about every 10 minutes, or
as needed to keep the buddies together. The adult in charge signals for a
buddy check with a single blast of a whistle or ring of a bell and a call of
"Buddies!" The adult counts slowly to 10 while buddies join and raise hands
and remain still and silent. Guards check all areas, count the pairs, and
compare the total with the number known to be in the water. Signal two blasts
or bells to resume swimming. Signal three blasts or bells for
- 8. Discipline
- Be sure everyone understands and agrees that swimming is allowed only
with proper supervision and use of the complete Safe Swim Defense. The
applicable rules should be presented and learned prior to the outing, and
should be reviewed for all participants at the water's edge just before the
swimming activity begins. Scouts should respect and follow all directions and
rules of the adult supervisor. When people know the reason for rules and
procedures they are more likely to follow them. Be strict and fair, showing no
The swimmer test demonstrates the minimum level of swimming ability required
for safe deep-water swimming. The various components of the test evaluate the
several skills essential to this minimum level of swimming ability:
Jump feetfirst into water over the head in depth, level off, and begin
swimming. Swim 75 yards in a strong manner using one or more of the following
strokes: sidestroke, breaststroke, trudgen, or crawl; then swim 25 yards using
an easy, resting backstroke. The 100 yards must be completed in one swim without
stops and must include at least one sharp turn. After completing the swim, rest
The test administrator must objectively evaluate the individual performance
of the test, and in so doing should keep in mind the purpose of each test
- "Jump feetfirst into water over the head in depth, level off, and begin
The swimmer must be able to make an abrupt entry into deep
water and begin swimming without any aids. Walking in from shallow water,
easing in from the edge or down a ladder, pushing off from side or bottom, or
gaining forward momentum by diving do not satisfy this requirement.
- "...Swim 75 yards in a strong manner using one or more of the following
strokes: sidestroke, breaststroke, trudgen, or crawl..."
The swimmer must
be able to cover distance with a strong, confident stroke. The 75 yards must
not be the outer limit of the swimmer's ability; completion of the distance
should give evidence of sufficient stamina to avoid undue risks. Dog-paddling
and strokes repeatedly interrupted and restarted are not sufficient;
underwater swimming is not permitted. The itemized strokes are inclusive. Any
strong side or breaststroke or any strong overarm stroke (including the back
crawl) is acceptable.
- "...swim 25 yards using an easy, resting backstroke..."
must indicate the ability to execute a restful, free-breathing backstroke that
can be used to avoid exhaustion during swimming activity. This element of the
test necessarily follows the more strenuous swimming activity to show that the
swimmer is, in fact, able to use the backstroke as a relief from exertion. The
change of stroke must be accomplished in deep water without any push-off or
other aid. Any variation of the elementary may suffice if it clearly provides
opportunity for the swimmer to rest and regain wind.
- "...The 100 yards must be swum continuously and include at least one sharp
The total distance is to be covered without rest stops. The sharp
turn simply demonstrates the swimmer's ability to reverse direction in deep
water without assistance or push-off from side or bottom.
- "...After completing the swim, rest by floating."
important component of the test evaluates the swimmer's ability to maintain in
the water indefinitely even though exhausted or otherwise unable to continue
swimming. Treading water or swimming in place will further tire the swimmer
and are therefore unacceptable. The duration of the float test is not
significant, except that it must be long enough for the test administrator to
determine that the swimmer is, in fact, resting and could likely continue to
do so for a prolonged time. The drownproofing technique may be sufficient if
clearly restful, but it is not preferred. If the test is completed except for
the floating requirement, the swimmer may be retested on the floating only
(after instruction) provided that the test administrator is confident that the
swimmer can initiate the float when exhausted.
Reference: Swimming and Lifesaving merit badge pamphlets
Jump feetfirst into water over the head in depth, level off, swim 25 feet
on the surface, stop, turn sharply, resume swimming as before, and return to
The entry and turn serve the same purpose as in the swimmer test. The
swimming can be done with any stroke, but no underwater swimming is permitted.
The stop assures that the swimmer can regain a stroke if it is interrupted. The
test demonstrates that the beginning swimmer is ready to learn deepwater skills
and has the minimum ability required for safe swimming in a confined area in
which shallow water, sides, or other support is less than 25 feet from any point
in the water.
The Safe Swim Defense applies to swimming at the beach, private or public
pool, wilderness pond, stream, lake, or anywhere Scouts swim. Here are some
additional points for the pool and the surf.
Pool#151;If the swimming activity is in a public facility where others are
using the pool at the same time, and the pool operator provides guard personnel,
there may be no need for additional designation of Scout lifeguards and
The buddy system is critically important, however, even in a public pool.
Remember, even in a crowd, you are alone without protection if no one is
attentive to your circumstances.
The rule that people swim only in water suited to their ability and with
others of similar ability applies in a pool environment. Most public pools
divide shallow and deep water, and this may be sufficient for defining
appropriate swimming areas. If not, the supervisor should clearly indicate to
the participating Scouts the appropriate areas of the public facility. Although
such procedures add a margin of safety, their use may not always be practical
when the swim activity is conducted at a public facility where non-Scouts are
present. A responsible adult supervisor, who understands his or her
responsibility and the elements of safety, can exercise discretion regarding
certain procedures while maintaining safety.
Surf#151;The surf swimming environment of wave action, currents, tides,
undertow, runouts, and sea pests like stinging jellyfish requires precautions
for safe swimming that aren't necessary in other environments. A swimmer's
physical condition is very important and should enable the swimmer to recover
footing in waves, swim vigorously for at least five minutes without becoming
exhausted, and remain calm and in control when faced with unexpected
Designated swimming areas are marked by flags or pennants that are easily
seen. Beginners and nonswimmers are positioned inshore from the standing
lifeguards equipped with reach poles. Better swimmers are permitted seaward of
the lifeguard but must remain shoreward of anchored marker buoys. The
lifeguard-to-swimmer ratio should always be 1-to-10, with a rescue team
stationed at the beach area and supplied with a rescue tube or torpedo buoy.
Safety Afloat has been developed to promote boating and boating safety and to
set standards for safe unit activity afloat. Before a BSA group may engage in
an excursion, expedition, or trip on the water (canoe, raft, sailboat,
motorboat, rowboat, tube, or other craft), adult leaders for such activity must
complete Safety Afloat Training, No. 34159C, have a commitment card, No. 34242A,
with them, and be dedicated to full compliance with all nine points of Safety
- 1. Qualified Supervision
- All activity afloat must be supervised by a mature and conscientious adult
age 21 or older who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility for the
well-being and safety of the children in his or her care, who is experienced
and qualified in the particular watercraft skills and equipment involved in
the activity, and who is committed to compliance with the nine points of BSA
Safety Afloat. One such supervisor is required for each 10 people, with a
minimum of two adults for any one group. At least one supervisor must be age
21 or older, and the remaining supervisors must be age 18 or older. All
supervisors must complete BSA Safety Afloat and Safe Swim Defense training and
rescue training for the type of watercraft to be used in the activity, and at
least one must be trained in CPR. It is strongly recommended that all units
have at least one adult or older youth member currently trained as a BSA
Lifeguard to assist in the planning and conducting of all activity afloat.
- For Cub Scouts: The ratio of adult supervisors to participants is one to
- 2. Physical Fitness
- All persons must present evidence of fitness assured by a complete
health history from physician, parent, or legal guardian. The adult
supervisor should adjust all supervision, discipline, and protection to
anticipate any potential risks associated with individual health conditions.
In the event of any significant health conditions, the adult leader should
require proof of an examination by a physician.
- Those with physical disabilities can enjoy and benefit from aquatics if
the disabilities are known and necessary precautions taken.
- 3. Swimming Ability
- A person who has not been classified as a "swimmer" may ride as a
passenger in a rowboat or motorboat with an adult "swimmer" or in a canoe,
raft, or sailboat with an adult certified as a lifeguard or a lifesaver by a
recognized agency. In all other circumstances, the person must be a swimmer to
participate in an activity afloat. "Swimmers" must pass this test:
- Jump feetfirst into water over the head in depth, level off, and begin
swimming. Swim 75 yards in a strong manner using one or more of the following
strokes: sidestroke, breaststroke, trudgen, or crawl; then swim 25 yards using
an easy, resting backstroke. The 100 yards must be swum continuously and
include at least one sharp turn. After completing the swim, rest by
- This qualification test should be renewed annually.
- 4. Personal Flotation Equipment
- Properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices
(PFDs) must be worn by all persons engaged in activity on the open water
(rowing, canoeing, sailing, boardsailing, motorboating, waterskiing, rafting,
tubing, and kayaking). Type II and III PFDs are recommended.
- 5. Buddy System
- All activity afloat must adhere to the principles of the buddy
system. The buddy system assures that for every person involved in
aquatics activity, at least one other person is always aware of his or her
situation and prepared to lend assistance immediately when needed. Not only
does every individual have a buddy, but every craft should have a ''buddy
boat'' when on the water.
- 6. Skill Proficiency
- All participants in activity afloat must be trained and experienced in
watercraft handling skills, safety, and emergency procedures. (a) For unit
activity on white water, all participants must complete special training by a
BSA Aquatics Instructor or qualified whitewater specialist. (b) Powerboat
operators must be able to meet requirements for the Motorboating merit
badge or equivalent. (c) Except for whitewater and powerboat operation as
noted above, either a minimum of three hours' training and supervised practice
or meeting requirements for "basic handling tests" is required for all float
trips or open-water excursions using unpowered craft. (d) Motorized personal
watercraft, such as the Jet Ski(R) and SeaDoo(R), are not authorized for use
in Scouting aquatics, and their use should not be permitted in or near BSA
- For Cub Scouts: Canoeing, rowboating, and rafting for Cub Scouts
(including Webelos Scouts) is to be limited to council/district events on flat
water ponds or controlled lake areas free of powerboats and sailboats. Prior
to recreational canoeing, Cub Scouts are to be instructed in basic handling
skills and safety practices.
- 7. Planning
- Float Plan. Know exactly where the unit will put in, where the unit
will pull out, and precisely what course will be followed. Determine all
stopover points in advance. Estimate travel time with ample margins to avoid
traveling under time pressures. Obtain accurate and current maps and
information on the waterway to be traveled, and discuss the course with others
who have made the trip under similar seasonal conditions. (Preferably, an
adult member of the group should run the course before the unit trip.)
- Local Rules. Determine which state and local laws or regulations
are applicable. If private property is to be used or crossed, obtain written
permission from the owners. All such rules must be strictly observed.
- Notification. The float plan must be filed with the parents of
participants and a member of the unit committee. For any activity using canoes
on running water, the float plan must be filed with the local council service
center. Notify appropriate authorities, such as Coast Guard, state police, or
park personnel, when their jurisdiction is involved. When the unit returns
from this activity, persons given the float plan should be so advised.
- Weather. Check the weather forecast just before setting out, know
and understand the seasonal weather pattern for the region, and keep an alert
"weather eye." Imminent rough weather should bring all ashore immediately.
- Contingencies. Planning must anticipate possible emergencies or
other circumstances that could force a change in the original plan. Identify
and consider all such circumstances in advance so that appropriate contingency
plans can be developed.
- For Cub Scouts: Cub Scout canoeing, rowboating, and rafting do
not include "trips" or "expeditions" and are not to be conducted on running
water (i.e., rivers or streams); therefore, some procedures are
inapplicable. Suitable weather requires clear skies, no appreciable wind, and
warm air and water.
- 8. Equipment
- All equipment must be suited to the craft, to the water conditions, and to
the individual; must be in good repair; and must satisfy all state and U.S.
Coast Guard requirements. To the extent possible, carry spare equipment. On
long trips or when spare equipment is not available, carry repair materials.
Have appropriate rescue equipment available for immediate use.
- 9. Discipline
- All participants should know, understand, and respect the rules and
procedures for safe unit activity afloat. The applicable rules should be
presented and learned prior to the outing, and should be reviewed for all
participants at the water's edge just before the activity begins. When Scouts
know and understand the reasons for the rules, they will observe them. When
fairly and impartially applied, rules do not interfere with the fun. Rules for
safety, plus common sense and good judgment, keep the fun from being
interrupted by tragedy.
- Note: For cruising vessels (excluding rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and
rafts, but including sailboats and powerboats longer than 20 feet) used in
adult-supervised unit activities by a chartered Venturing crew or Sea Scout
ship specializing in watercraft operations or used in adult-supervised program
activity in connection with any high-adventure program or other activity under
the direct control of the National Council, the standards and procedures in
the Sea Scout Manual may be substituted for the "Safety Afloat"
Properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices
(PFDs) must be worn by all persons engaged in activity on the open water
(rowing, canoeing, sailing, boardsailing, motorboating, waterskiing, rafting,
tubing, and kayaking).
Only U.S. Coast Guard-approved equipment (types I, II, or III) is
acceptable for use in Scouting aquatics. Ski belts are not acceptable.
Scouts and unit leaders should learn which type is appropriate for each specific
circumstance and how to wear and check for proper fit.
Swimming activity in turbid water should be limited to surface swimming.
Turbid water exists when a 12-inch white disk at the depth of 3 feet is not
visible from above the surface of the water. Underwater swimming, headfirst
entry (except for racing dives), and board diving are not permitted in turbid
water. Supervised instruction in lifesaving skills and surface diving may be
conducted in confined areas of turbid water not exceeding 8 feet in depth and
free of bottom hazards.
Snorkeling and scuba skills are taught and practiced only in clear water.
Clear water exists when a 12-inch disk at a depth of 8 feet is visible from
above the surface of the water.
BSA Lifeguard training has been established to provide units (packs, troops,
teams, crews, and ships) with qualified individuals within their own membership
to give knowledgeable supervision for activities on or in the water. The first
standard in the Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat guidelines establishes a
need for qualified supervision. An adult currently trained as a BSA Lifeguard or
an adult leader assisted by a Scout holding BSA Lifeguard training meets this
requirement. To enroll in the BSA Lifeguard course, you must be at least 14
years of age or have completed the eighth grade. The latest requirements for BSA
Lifeguard training are included on the application form, No. 34435A. Every unit
leader is encouraged to become trained or to be certain that at least one youth
or adult member of the unit has such training.
Swimming areas should be large enough to avoid crowding (minimum of 40 square
feet per swimmer). Note the following in accordance with Safe Swim Defense
rules. Mark off the area for three groups: not more than 3.5 feet deep for
nonswimmers; from shallow water to just over the head for beginners; deep water
not more than 12 feet for swimmers.
"Diving" refers to any water entry where the feet are not making first
contact with the water. "Elevated entry" refers to any water entry from a height
more than 18 inches above the water. According to BSA Safe Swim Defense
standards, no diving or swimming activity of any kind is done in water with a
depth greater than 12 feet.
All water entry must be feetfirst where the water has less than 7 feet of
unobstructed depth. A leaping entry is recommended where water is at or above
head level; a step-down or jump-down entry from a sitting position is
recommended for shallower water.
No diving is permitted in water with less than 7 feet of unobstructed
depth. Diving is permitted in clear water over 7 feet deep from a dock, pier, or
platform that is no more than 18 inches above the water surface. For elevated
entry from 18 inches high but less than 40 inches above the water surface, clear
and unobstructed water depth must be at least 9 feet. The water must be clear
enough to enable supervisory and guard personnel to see the diver at the deepest
part of the plunge.
Board diving is permitted only from boards, mounted on a fixed (not
floating) platform or deck, no more than 40 inches (approximately 1 meter) above
the water surface. Clear water depth below the board should be 9 to 12 feet. A
guard or supervisor should be positioned where the diver can be seen at all
times beneath the surface. There should be no other surface or underwater
activity or obstruction for at least 15 feet on either side of the board and 25
feet in front of the board. Diving should always be done straight ahead from the
board, never to the sides.
Any elevated entry from a height greater than 40 inches must be feetfirst
and only from a fixed platform or solid footing no more than 60 inches above the
water surface. Clear water depth should be 10 to 12 feet. Other protective
measures and distances are the same as for board diving.
Any person possessing, displaying, or using scuba (self-contained
underwater breathing apparatus) in connection with any Scouting-related activity
must either be currently certified by, or enrolled in a training course
authorized by the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), the
Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), or Scuba Schools
International (SSI). These agencies are recognized by the Boy Scouts of America
for scuba training and instruction. Alternatively, if PADI, NAUI, or SSI
training and instruction is not available, certification may be accepted from
other agencies that comply with Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC)
guidelines, provided that such acceptance has been expressly approved by the BSA
local council in consultation with the BSA national Health and Safety
Youth members in Cub Scouting are not authorized to use scuba in any
Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts
The use of scuba is not authorized for a BSA unit, except so that
registered Boy Scout youth and leaders may participate in the Scuba BSA program
conducted by a certified dive instructor in compliance with this policy. Scuba
BSA is not a diver certification program.
Scuba training programs may be a part of troop/team activities for
participants who are 14 years of age or older. Members who meet the age
requirement and are properly certified may participate in group dives under the
supervision of a responsible adult who is currently certified as a dive master,
assistant instructor, or any higher rating from NAUI, PADI, or SSI. Student
divers must be under the supervision of a currently certified NAUI, PADI, or SSI
instructor. No exceptions to the BSA age requirement are permitted. Scouts with
a junior diver certification may dive only when accompanied by a buddy who is a
certified open-water diver at least 18 years old.
Scuba programs may be a part of Venturing activities for participants who
are 14 years of age or older. Members who meet the age requirement and are
properly certified may participate in group dives under the supervision of a
responsible adult who is currently certified as a dive master, assistant
instructor, or any higher rating from NAUI, PADI, or SSI. Student divers must be
under the supervision of a currently certified NAUI, PADI, or SSI instructor. No
exceptions to the BSA age requirement are permitted.
The Snorkeling BSA requirements introduce Scout-age children and adult
leaders to the special skills, equipment, and safety precautions associated with
snorkeling; encourage the development of aquatics skills that promote fitness
and recreation; and provide a foundation for those who later will participate in
more advanced underwater activity.
Snorkeling Safety is the recommended procedure for conducting BSA swimming
activities using masks, fins, and snorkels. Since snorkeling is a swimming
activity, Safe Swim Defense guidelines are applicable. Snorkeling Safety
clarifies and extends Safe Swim Defense concepts to situations encountered
during training and open water snorkeling.
Counselors. Any adult trained and assigned by a currently certified
Aquatics Instructor BSA may serve as a counselor for the Snorkeling BSA award. A
person certified to conduct snorkeling instruction by the Professional
Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), or the National Association of
Underwater Instructors (NAUI), or other BSA recognized agency, also qualifies as
a Snorkeling BSA counselor.
Programming. Instruction must be conducted in clear, confined water
with a maximum depth of 12 feet. A swimming pool is recommended. Snorkeling BSA
is ideally suited to winter programs using indoor pools. Three 45-minute
sessions are recommended for instruction, practice, and completion of
- 1. Qualified Supervision
- All swimming activity, including snorkeling, must be supervised by a
mature and conscientious adult age 21 or older who understands and knowingly
accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety of the youth members in
his or her care; who is experienced in the water and is confident of his or
her ability to respond in the event of an emergency; and who is trained in and
committed to compliance with the eight points of BSA Safe Swim Defense.
- An experienced snorkeler must supervise snorkeling instruction and open
water snorkeling activities. At a minimum, the supervisor must possess skills
and knowledge matching the Snorkeling BSA award, and have experience with
environments similar to those of the planned activity. The supervisor is
responsible for compliance with each point of BSA Snorkeling Safety.
- Unit leaders may rely on the expertise of other adults to supplement their
knowledge and training. They may delegate the task of supervision, for
example, when the unit is participating in a snorkeling activity conducted by
a tour operator, provided they are satisfied that the operator's training and
experience will provide a safe activity with appropriate safeguards.
- 2. Physical Fitness
- All persons must present evidence of fitness for snorkeling activity with
a complete health history from physician, parent, or legal guardian. The adult
supervisor should adjust all supervision, discipline, and protection to
anticipate any potential risks associated with individual health conditions.
Recent sinus or ear infections may temporarily preclude surface dives while
snorkeling. Those with known adverse reactions to stings from marine life, or
with chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma, may need special
medications at hand. Adults with known risk factors for cardiovascular disease
should not undertake strenuous activities without the advice of their
physician. In the event of any significant health conditions, a medical
evaluation by a physician should be required by the adult leader. Those with
chronic disease or physical disabilities may still be able to enjoy and
benefit from aquatics if the conditions are known and necessary precautions
- 3. Safe Area
- Training in the use of snorkeling equipment shall be performed in clear
water in a confined area that conforms to Safe Swim Defense guidelines. 'Clear
water' implies pool-like visibility. At a minimum, an 8-inch disk with white
and black quadrants at a depth of eight feet should be recognizable from above
the surface. 'Confined area' denotes either a pool or an established summer
camp swimming area with direct access from the shore or a dock.
- Safe conditions for open water swimming and snorkeling depend on water
clarity, area definition, depth, access, and other environmental factors.
Snorkeling is limited to clear water. 'Open water' denotes a temporary
swimming area of flexible extent in a natural body of water that may not be
close to shore.
- An open water snorkeling area need not have physical boundary markers, but
the activity should be restricted within a specified distance of a point on
shore, an anchored vessel, a moving guard boat, or a float with a dive flag
attached. Generally, a 50-foot radius is recommended, and may be dictated by
local regulations concerning the use of a dive flag. The area covered by the
snorkeling group should be small enough to allow rapid assistance from rescue
- Emergency response places limitations on safe water depth as well as water
clarity and area. Guards should be able to quickly and easily reach the
bottom, locate, recover, and transport a submerged victim to shore or vessel.
At the start of the activity, and periodically if the group moves along a reef
or other feature, the guards should check their ability both to see and to
reach the bottom. The group should be directed towards shallower water
whenever the guards experience any difficulty. (Twelve feet is designated as a
reasonable maximum depth in Safe Swim Defense. In practice, slightly shallower
or deeper depths may be appropriate. Different guard personnel will be able to
easily recover objects from different depths, particularly if wearing fins.
The practical way to confirm a safe depth is to test that the bottom is within
comfortable reach of all designated rescue personnel.)
- Limited or distant access to the snorkeling area may require additional
consideration. Underwater features close to a sloping beach or near an
anchored vessel are ideal. If the snorkeling site is a considerable distance
from a beach or permitted anchoring location, the ability to rest becomes
important and may restrict the activity close to shallow water or dictate the
use of inflatable vests and/or small guard craft. Tide tables should be
consulted in areas with large tidal changes, especially when beach access is
at the base of a cliff. Snorkeling in a river may require an exit point
downstream of the entry.
- Snorkeling should not be done if water depth, clarity, or temperature,
boat traffic, waves, current, weather, marine life, or bottom conditions,
including vegetation, are deemed unsafe by the qualified supervisor. Time in
the water should be adjusted based on water temperature and sun exposure.
Snorkeling at night is limited to lighted pools unless the activity is
conducted at a BSA nationally accredited high-adventure base.
- 4. Proper Equipment
- All snorkeling equipment shall be properly fitted and in good repair.
- The use of inflatable snorkeling vests and personal flotation devices is
at the discretion of the qualified supervisor based on local conditions and
the abilities of the participants and guards. Use of individual flotation
devices is required in open water whenever there is a noticeable current or
swells, when the bottom is not visible from the surface (due to vegetation
or limited visibility beyond 8 feet), or when the activity is an extended
distance (> 50 yards) from shore or craft.
- A dive flag should be used at all open water sites. It may be displayed
from a dive boat or attached to a float and towed with the snorkeling party.
Local rules and regulations may specify the type of flag and how close
snorkelers must stay to it.
- Protective clothing may be worn. Gloves are appropriate in areas with
sharp rocks or encrusted structures. A shirt or a diver's body suit will
provide limited protection from sun, abrasion, or coral burns and minor
insulation in warm water. In temperate water, a partial or full wet suit may
be worn. Weight belts may not be used.
- Lifesaving equipment in good repair shall be ready for immediate use by
guard personnel. A flotation device is recommended, such as a rescue tube,
bodyboard, or PFD, supplemented, as appropriate, by reaching and throwing
devices, and small craft. Dive boats should be equipped with radios and
first aid kits, and should deploy a safety line.
- 5. Lifeguards/Lookout
- It is the responsibility of the qualified supervisor to designate
personnel for emergency response whenever lifeguards are not provided by a
facility or tour operator. The snorkeling party should be divided into groups
of 2 to 8 swimmers with two guards, paired as buddies, assigned to each group.
(Units may be divided by patrols or crews.) The guards should be competent
swimmers with basic water rescue skills. Emergency procedures, including
entries, exits, and the role of everyone in the group, should be reviewed and
practiced prior to the activity using rescue aids at the site. The guards
should be stationed either afloat or ashore where they can see and hear all
those in their group. To improve visibility, the guards and the swimmers
should be positioned so that they do not face into the sun. Snorkelers in a
group should remain off the same side of a vessel. Inflatable or rigid
dinghies with oars are appropriate guard craft. The guards and snorkelers
should remain close enough for rapid rescue response, generally within 50 feet
of one another. In some situations, the qualified supervisor may deem it
appropriate for the guards to tow rescue aids while accompanying their group
in the water.
- Guards are responsible for surveillance as well as rescue. If there is
more than one group, then a separate lookout, who may be the qualified
supervisor, should coordinate the entire activity and monitor changing
conditions. The lookout should have audible or visible means, such as an air
horn or flag, to recall all groups. If a boat is used to transport snorkelers
to the site, then at least one person should remain aboard who knows how to
drive the boat and use the radio. At least one person in the party must be
trained in CPR.
- It is the combined responsibility of the adult supervisor, the lookout,
and the guards to know the number of people in the water at all times and to
make frequent visible confirmations of that number. Buddy boards and tags, or
their equivalent, must be used to account for everyone in the water.
- 6. Ability
- Scouts classified as beginners or nonswimmers may use snorkeling equipment
in clear, confined water of appropriate depth, as specified in Safe Swim
Defense (points 3 and 6), during instructional swims or during
closely-supervised recreational activity. Training for the Snorkeling BSA
award is limited to Scouts and adults classified as swimmers. Only those who
have completed the Snorkeling BSA requirements may participate in open water
- 7. Buddy System
- All participants in snorkeling activities are paired as buddies. Buddies
should check each other's equipment prior to the activity and review hand
signals. During the activity, they should remain close enough that they are
constantly aware of their buddy location and condition. Generally, buddies
should take turns making breath-holding dives. That is, one buddy remains at
the surface, floating with his mask in the water while breathing through the
snorkel, and keeps an eye on the buddy who is down. When the diver surfaces,
both buddies check their position relative to the group before moving on or
letting the other buddy dive.
- The adult supervisor, lookout, or guards may call buddy checks as needed
to keep the buddies together. Buddy checks may also be called to aid
communication. Buddy pairs should be instructed to routinely watch for
pre-determined audible and visual signals of a buddy check.
- 8. Discipline
- Be sure everyone understands and agrees that snorkeling is allowed only
with proper supervision and use of the complete Safe Swim Defense and BSA
Snorkeling Safety standards. The applicable rules should be presented and
learned prior to the outing, and should be reviewed for all participants at
the beginning of the snorkeling activity. Scouts should respect and follow all
directions and rules of the adult supervisor. When people know the reasons for
rules and procedures they are more likely to follow them. Treatment should be
strict and fair, with no favoritism.
Kayaking activities are limited to Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturers.
Additional kayaking information may be found in the Kayaking BSA
pamphlet, No. 19-510, the Fieldbook, No. 33200; the Whitewater
merit badge pamphlet, 33405A; and Varsity Team Program Features, Volume
III, No. 34839.
Kayaking BSA provides an introduction to kayaking skills and safety
procedures and serves as a program opportunity for Boy Scout, Varsity, and
Venturing units in camp or out. Mastery of Kayaking BSA skills is a first
critical step towards satisfying Safety Afloat guidelines for safe kayak
- 1. Qualified supervision.
- All kayaking activities must be supervised by a mature and conscientious
adult who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being
and safety of the youth and who is experienced with the type of kayaks and
activity under consideration. One adult supervisor is required for every 10
participants, with a minimum of two for any one group. All supervisors must
complete Safety Afloat and Safe Swim Defense training, and at least one must
be trained in cardiopulmonary resusitation (CPR).
- 2. Physical fitness.
- Evidence of fitness for swimming activity is required in the form of a
complete health history from a physician, parent, or guardian. The supervisor
must know the physical condition of all participants and must adjust
activities to avoid any potential risks associated with individual health
- 3. Swimming ability.
- Every participant must be classified as a "swimmer" to participate in
training for Kayaking BSA or to paddle a solo kayak at a Scouting
- 4. Personal flotation equipment.
- Properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices
(PFDs) must be worn by all persons engaged in kayaking.
- 5. Buddy system.
- Scouts never go on the water alone. Every person must have a buddy, and
every craft on the water must have a "buddy boat."
- 6. Skill proficiency.
- All persons participating in activity afloat must be trained and practiced
in craft-handling skills, safety, and emergency procedures. Kayaking BSA
prepares Scouts and unit leaders for kayaking on flat water of a limited
extent, such as that at a camp waterfront. Kayak trips require additional
training in emergency equipment and communication. Ocean and river trips
require additional kayaking skills for dealing with waves and moving water and
the ability to "read" the environment. Units should not undertake excursions
on class II whitewater before mastering the necessary skills on class I
- 7. Planning.
- Before Scouts go afloat, they develop a float plan detailing their route,
time schedule, and contingency plans. The float plan considers all possible
water and weather conditions and all applicable rules or regulations, and is
shared with all who have an interest.
- 8. Equipment.
- All equipment must be suited to the craft, to the water conditions, and to
the individual. Equipment must be in good repair and meet all applicable
standards. Appropriate rescue equipment must be available. Whitewater kayaking
requires the use of safety helmets. During treks, safety gear such as
navigation aids, weather radios, individual signal devices, throw bags, first
aid kits, spare paddles, and spare clothing should be carried in the kayaks or
in support craft.
- 9. Discipline.
- Scouts must know and respect the rules, and always follow directions from
the adults supervising the activity afloat. Rules and safety procedures should
be reviewed before each group launch.
Safe waterskiing starts with safe equipment; a thorough knowledge of
techniques; competent instruction; an efficient, careful towboat operator; and a
conscientious observer. A life jacket is a must for all water-skiers. Skis
should be in good shape and free from sharp or protruding edges. The boat
operator should be driving solely for the benefit, satisfaction, and safety of
the skier. The boat and skier should stay away from docks, swimmers, boaters,
people who are fishing, and other objects.
The Water-Skier's Safety Code and Boat Driver's Safety Code are found in the
Waterskiing merit badge pamphlet. These are guidelines to be followed by
all those involved in the sport of waterskiing.
Waterskiing activities are limited to Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and
Reference: Waterskiing merit badge pamphlet, No. 33348A
The BSA boardsailing program has been developed to introduce Scout-age
children to basic boardsailing skills, equipment, and safety precautions, to
encourage development of skills that promote fitness and safe aquatics
recreation, and to lay a skill and knowledge foundation for those who will later
participate in more advanced and demanding activities on the water.
Any person recognized and certified as an instructor by Windsurfer
International or the U.S. Board Sailing Association may serve as a counselor for
the Boardsailing Award with the approval of the local council service center.
Any person trained and experienced in boardsailing skills and safety may serve
as a counselor for this award in a Scout summer camp program under the direction
and supervision of a currently trained BSA Aquatics Instructor.
Instruction in recreational activity must be conducted according to the BSA
guidelines for boardsailing. The Boardsailing Award is now available for
inclusion in Scouting programs.
Reference: Boardsailing BSA Award Application, No. 19-935
The American Whitewater Affiliation (AWA) Safety Code includes 10
recommendations for river safety:
- Be a competent swimmer.
- Wear a PFD.
- Keep your canoe or raft under control, always!
- Be aware of river hazards and avoid them.
- Boating alone is not recommended; preferred minimum is three to a craft.
- Be suitably equipped.
- Wear shoes (tennis shoes or special canoeing shoes are best).
- Tie your glasses on.
- Carry a knife and waterproof matches (also compass and map).
- Don't wear bulky clothing that will waterlog.
- Wear a crash helmet where upsets are likely.
- Carry an extra paddle and canoe-repair tape.
- Open canoes should have bow and stern lines (painters) securely
attached. Use at least 15 feet of 1/4 or 3/8-inch rope. Secure them to the
canoe so that they are readily available but will not entangle feet and legs
in case of a spill.
- Swim on your back in fast water, keeping your feet and legs downstream and
high. Keep watching ahead.
- When you start to spill, keep the upstream gunwale high.
- If you do spill, hang on to your canoe and get to the upstream end. (Note:
If you are heading into rough rapids and quick rescue is not expected, or if
water is numbing cold, then swim for shore or a rock where you can climb out
of the water.)
- When you are with a group:
- Organize the group to even out canoeing ability.
- Keep the group compact for mutual support.
- Don't crowd rapids! Let each canoe complete the run before the next
- Each canoe is responsible for the canoe immediately behind it.
The Boy Scouts of America has established the following guidelines for its
members' participation in camping activities:
- Overnight camping by Tiger, Wolf, and Bear Cub Scout dens as dens is not
approved and certificates of liability insurance will not be provided by the
Boy Scouts of America.
- Tiger Cubs may participate in boy-parent excursions, day camps, pack
overnighters, or council-organized family camping.
- Wolf and Bear Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts may participate in a resident
overnight camping program operating under BSA National Camp School-trained
leadership and managed by the council.
- A Webelos Scout may participate in overnight den camping when supervised
by an adult. In most cases, the Webelos Scout will be under the supervision of
his parent or guardian. It is essential that each Webelos Scout be under the
supervision of a parent-approved adult. Joint Webelos den-troop campouts
including the parents of the Webelos Scouts are encouraged to strengthen ties
between the pack and troop. Den leaders, pack leaders, and parents are
expected to accompany the boys on approved trips.
- All Scouts registered in Boy Scout troops are eligible to participate in
troop or patrol overnight campouts, camporees, and resident camps.
- Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts 12 through 17 are eligible to participate in
national jamborees. Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts 13 through 17 are also
eligible to participate in world jamborees and high-adventure programs.
- All youth registered in Venturing are eligible to participate in crew,
district, council, and national Venturing activities as well as national
high-adventure programs and world jamborees. Venturers are eligible to
participate in Boy Scout resident camp, but they must be multiple-registered
with a Boy Scout troop and attending with the troop.
If a well-meaning leader brings along a child who does not meet these age
guidelines, disservice is done to the unit because of distractions often caused
by younger children. A disservice is also done to the child, who is not trained
to participate in such an activity and who, as a nonmember of the group, may be
ignored by the older campers.
Family camping: an outdoor camping experience, other than resident
camping, that involves Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, or Venturing program elements
in overnight settings with two or more family members, including at least one
BSA member of that family. Parents are responsible for the supervision of their
children, and Youth Protection guidelines apply.
Recreational family camping
Recreational family camping: when Scouting families camp as a family unit
outside of an organized program. It is a nonstructured camping experience, but
is conducted within a Scouting framework on local council-owned or -managed
property. Local councils may have family camping grounds available for
rental at reasonable rates. Other resources may include equipment, information,
Cub Scouts may experience overnight activities in venues other than
accredited resident camping. There are two categories of Cub Scout
Council-Organized Family Camp
Council-organized family camps are overnight events involving more than
one pack. The local council provides all of the elements of the outdoor
experience, such as staffing, food service, housing, and program. These are
often referred to as Parent/Pal or Adventure weekends. Council-organized family
camps should be conducted by trained leaders at sites approved by the local
council. In most cases, the youth member will be under the supervision of a
parent or guardian. In all cases, each youth participant is responsible to a
Overnight activities involving more than one pack must be approved by the
council. Council-organized family camps must be conducted in accordance with
established standards as given in National Standards for Council-Organized
Family Camping, No. 13-408.
These are pack-organized overnight events involving more than one family
from a single pack, focused on age-appropriate Cub Scout activities and
conducted at council-approved locations (councils use Site Approval Standards,
No. 13-508). If nonmembers (siblings) participate, the event must be structured
accordingly to accommodate them. BSA health and safety and youth protection
guidelines apply. In most cases, each youth member will be under the
supervision of a parent or guardian. In all cases, each youth participant is
responsible to a specific adult.
At least one adult on a pack overnighter must have completed Basic Adult
Leader Outdoor Orientation (BALOO, No. 34162A) to properly understand the
importance of program intent, youth protection guidelines, health and safety,
site selection, age-appropriate activities, and sufficient adult participation.
Permits for campouts shall be issued locally. Packs use Local Tour Permit
Application, No. 34426B.
Anything can happen in the wild outdoors, and you should take measures
designed to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring. Ask the question:
"What would happen if ________ occurred?" Once you have identified possible
problems, devise a plan to minimize the risks and to manage a crisis if one
occurs. Involve the entire crew in this process so that everyone becomes aware
of potential dangers and how to avoid them.
Obviously, the best way to stay safe in the wilderness is to not get into
trouble in the first place. This requires planning, leadership, and good
judgment. To help be prepared for the challenges of a wilderness trek and
camping experience, read Passport to High Adventure, No. 4310.
Alertness and care in all that is done on the trail and performing within the
group's known capabilities are among the best preventive measures against
accidents. Most common outdoor injuries are blisters, cuts, sprains, strains,
bruises, and fractures. Hikers also may become lost or get caught in storms, and
they often panic as a result. Avoidable tragedies may occur if campers and
leaders lack the skills and knowledge to deal with the problems encountered.
Leaders must alert youth members to the dangers of an unusual environment with
proper instructions on fire safety, orienteering, and safe travel.
Leaders must instruct those in their groups to stay together on
well-established trails, avoid loose rocks (especially on descent), and avoid
dangerous ledges, cliffs, and areas where a fall might occur. Accidents can
occur when hikers kick and roll boulders down steep hills. Wilderness trails
have no caution signs for loose rocks, nor do they have guardrails on
It is strongly recommended that at least one person in the group be currently
certified in first aid through the American Red Cross or any recognized
Trail safety is a matter of common sense. The response of individual members
of a group in doing the right thing is important. When they understand the
reason for rules of safety, they obey them more willingly.
The Boy Scouts of America has an abundance of literature related to proper
procedures and guidelines for a group on a trail.
References: Boy Scout Handbook; Backpacking, Camping, and Hiking
merit badge pamphlets; Cub Scout Leader Book; Scoutmaster Handbook;
Each of the following elements plays an important role in the overall Trek
Safely procedure. Fun and safe overnight trekking activities require compliance
with Trek Safely by both adult and youth leaders.
- 1. Qualified Supervision
- All backcountry treks must be supervised by a mature, conscientious adult
at least 21 years of age who understands the potential risks associated with
the trek. This person knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being and
safety of the youth in his or her care. This adult supervisor is trained in
and committed to compliance with the seven points of the BSA's Trek Safely
procedure. One additional adult who is at least 18 years of age must also
accompany the unit.
- The lead adult is responsible for ensuring that someone in the group is
currently trained in first aid appropriate to the type of trek and the
environment. American Red Cross Wilderness First Aid Basic (a 16-hour course)
and CPR are recommended. A signed parental informed consent form for each
participant under 18 years of age may be used for adventurous activities such
as whitewater, climbing, and horse packing treks.
- 2. Keep Fit
- Require evidence of fitness with a current BSA Personal Health and Medical
Record—Class III form, No. 34412A. A regular fitness regimen is recommended
for trek participants. They are urged to start slowly, gradually increasing
the duration and intensity of their exercise. The adult leader should adjust
supervision, protection, and planning to anticipate potential risks associated
with individual health conditions. Neither youth nor adults should participate
in a trek or activity for which they are not physically prepared. See Passport
to High Adventure, No. 4310.
- 3. Plan Ahead
- Planning a trek includes filing a tour permit application with the local
council service center at least a month before the departure date. If travel
of more than 500 miles is planned, submit the National Tour Permit
Application, No. 4419B. For activities off the local council property and
within 500 miles of home base, submit the Local Tour Permit Application, No.
- The trek should match the maturity, skill level, and fitness of unit
members. A youth or adult leader must secure land-use permits to use public
land or written permission from the owner to cross or use private land. It is
also crucial to learn about any requirements and recommendations from the
local land manager. Find out about the terrain, elevation ranges, trails,
wildlife, campsites, typical weather conditions, and environmental issues for
the period of the trek.
- Training in Leave No Trace using the Principles of Leave No Trace, No.
21-105, and the Leave No Trace Training Outline, No. 20-113, is crucial. Units
should anticipate a range of weather conditions and temperatures and develop
an alternate itinerary in the event that adverse conditions develop.
- 4. Gear Up
- Procure topographic maps, as well as current trail maps, for the area of
the trek. Take equipment and clothing that is appropriate for the weather and
unit skill level, is in good condition, and is properly sized for each
participant. A qualified youth or adult leader ensures that participants are
trained in the proper use of specialized equipment, particularly items with
which they are not familiar, such as climbing ropes, ice axes, crampons,
watercraft, bridles, saddles, and cross-country skis and poles. A shakedown
must be conducted to be sure each person has the right equipment without
taking too much.
- Crew equipment includes a first-aid kit stocked with current medications
and supplies. The leader reminds youth and adults to bring and take prescribed
medications. Every crew must have the means to treat water for drinking by
boiling it, treating it with chemicals, or using an approved water filter.
When ultraviolet light (sunlight) is prevalent, it is critical that
participants have adequate sun protection, including broad-brimmed hats,
sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- 5. Communicate Clearly and Completely
- Communication is one of the keys to a safe outdoor adventure, and staying
in touch with home base is the first step. A youth or adult leader should
complete a trip plan and share these details of the trek—including time of
departure, overnight stops, the time of expected return, the trailhead (where
vehicles will be parked) and the itinerary and alternate itinerary—with a
contact person in the home area. At any time the itinerary changes, one of the
leaders relays the changes to the contact person, who in turn relays them to
the Scouts' parents. A plan for communicating with each parent is developed
before the trek.
- A means of electronic communication—with backup power—may be helpful
should an emergency occur. The leader should carry the telephone numbers or
contact information of medical and emergency services in the area of the trek.
Before calling for emergency assistance, the exact location and nature of the
patient's injury or illness should be determined.
- Youth and adult leaders are responsible for making sure that everyone
knows what to expect and what is expected of them. Leaders should communicate
with each other, as well as with the entire crew, to avoid unpleasant
- 6. Monitor Conditions
- The leaders are responsible for making good decisions during the trek,
conservatively estimating the capabilities and stamina of the group. If
adverse conditions develop, the group is prepared to stop or turn back. The
unit is responsible for monitoring weather conditions and forecasts before and
during the trek—a small National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) radio is helpful for learning current weather forecasts. Leaders
continually assess conditions, including weather, terrain, group morale, food
and water supplies, group physical condition, and other factors to determine
the difference between what is difficult and what is dangerous. Dangerous
conditions are avoided.
- 7. Discipline
- Each participant knows, understands, and respects the rules and procedures
for safe trekking and has been oriented in Trek Safely. Applicable rules
should be presented and learned prior to the outing and should be reviewed
with participants before the trek begins. When participants know the reasons
for rules and procedures, they are more likely to follow them. Adult and youth
leaders must be strict and fair, showing no favoritism.
The summits of mountains, crests of ridges, slopes above timberline, and
large meadows are extremely hazardous places to be during lightning storms. If
you are caught in such an exposed place, quickly descend to a lower elevation,
away from the direction of the approaching storm, and squat down, keeping your
head low. A dense forest located in a depression provides the best protection.
Avoid taking shelter under isolated trees or trees much taller than adjacent
trees. Stay away from water, metal objects, and other substances that will
conduct electricity long distances.
By squatting with your feet close together, you have minimal contact with the
ground, thus reducing danger from ground currents. If the threat of lightning
strikes is great, your group should not huddle together but spread out at least
15 feet apart. If one member of your group is jolted, the rest of you can tend
to him. Whenever lightning is nearby, take off backpacks with either external or
internal metal frames. In tents, stay at least a few inches from metal tent
Lightning Safety Rules
- Stay away from open doors and windows, fireplaces, radiators, stoves,
metal pipes, sinks, and plug-in electrical appliances.
- Don't use hair dryers, electric toothbrushes, or electric razors.
- Don't use the telephone; lightning may strike telephone wires outside.
- Don't take laundry off the clothesline.
- Don't work on fences, telephone lines, power lines, pipelines, or
structural steel fabrications.
- Don't handle flammable materials in open containers.
- Don't use metal objects, such as fishing rods and golf clubs. Golfers
wearing cleated shoes are particularly good lightning rods.
- Stop tractor work, especially when the tractor is pulling metal equipment,
and dismount. Tractors and other implements in metallic contact with the
ground are often struck by lightning.
- Get out of the water and off small boats.
- Stay in the car if you are traveling. Automobiles offer excellent
- When no shelter is available, avoid the highest object in the area. If
only isolated trees are nearby, the best protection is to crouch in the open,
keeping twice as far away from isolated trees as the trees are high.
- Avoid hilltops, open spaces, wire fences, metal clotheslines, exposed
sheds, and any electrically conducted elevated objects.
A constant supply of pure drinking water is essential. Serious illness can
result from drinking unpurified water. Protect your health. Don't take a chance
on using water that you are not sure of. Thermos jugs, plastic water containers,
and canteens are all satisfactory for carrying water. Be sure water is dispensed
into each person's own drinking cup.
Treatment of Questionable Water
In addition to having a bad odor or taste, water from questionable sources
may be contaminated by microorganisms, such as Giardia, that can cause a
variety of diseases. All water of uncertain purity should be purified before
use. Don't take a chance on using water that you are not sure of. To purify
water, follow these steps:
- Filter the water to remove as many solids as possible.
- Bring it to a rolling boil and boil it for a full minute.
- Let it cool at least 30 minutes.
- Add eight drops of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of cool water. (Use
common household bleach; 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite should be the only
active ingredient; there should not be any added soap or fragrances). Water
must be cool or chlorine will dissipate and be rendered useless.
- Let the water stand 30 minutes.
- If it smells of chlorine, you can use it. If it does not smell of
chlorine, add eight more drops of bleach and let it stand another 30 minutes.
Smell it again. You can use it if it smells of chlorine. If it doesn't,
discard it and find another water source.
- The only accepted measurement of chlorine (or water treatment agents) is
the drop. A drop is specifically measurable. Other measures such as "capful"
or "scant teaspoon" are not uniformly measurable and should not be used.
In addition to common household bleach, several other types of chemical means
to disinfect water are available, such as iodine tables, iodide crystals, and
halazone tablets. All of these are acceptable, but some people have an allergic
reaction to iodine products. Follow the instructions on the package for proper
To treat cold water you must lengthen the contact (sitting) time depending on
the water temperature to destroy Giardia that may be present. Very cold
water may take as long as four times the normal contact time.
Several types of water purification filters are available at camp stores. The
Boy Scouts of America recommends that if you use a water filter, you also
chemically treat and/or boil the water and carry extra filter cartridges and
spare parts. Among the best water filters are PUR, MSR, Katadyn, First Need, and
Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers are often privileged to use the land
and property of others for hiking, camping, and other activities. This privilege
carries important responsibilities regarding care, courtesy and cleanliness.
Carelessness is regrettable and must be avoided at all times. On the other
hand, deliberate vandalism is a criminal act and is forbidden. Every Scout and
Scouter has an obligation to do his or her best to care for and protect every
property that he or she visits.
All youth and leaders should follow these guidelines:
- Every group that plans to use a site must obtain permission from the owner
before entering the land. The best plan is for one or two of the leaders to
visit the owner several weeks before the trip to get permission; if this is
not possible, the owner should be contacted by letter or telephone.
there is any uncertainty about permission (for instance, permission has been
granted in the past, but you received no response to your recent request),
check in when you arrive for the trip. In this case, one or two members of the
group should find the owner while other members wait. Don't assume that
permission is automatic and begin unloading equipment. If you find that the
owner is not available and you don't have prior permission, you must go
- Many camp and activity sites, such as those found in state parks, national
forests, and national parks, are owned by government entities or
municipalities. Many of these have strict access policies and/or permits that
need to be secured in advance. Be sure to follow the rules, which can be
explained by a property official or ranger.
- Ask where it will be convenient to park cars. Don't block traffic lanes
- Never write, mark, or paint on walls, ceilings, rocks, or structures.
Occasionally, it may be necessary to mark a confusing trail or road. For this
purpose, carry small signs with arrows drawn on them. Place the markers in
suitable locations as the group enters, and collect them on the way out. Don't
cut live branches or trees.
- You might need to cross someone's property to reach a campsite or activity
area. Obtain permission to do so, and remember that a landowner's income might
depend on his or her crops and livestock. Don't climb fences that might break
under your weight. Always leave gates exactly as you found them. Open gates
can result in extensive loss to the owner.
- Don't tease or chase livestock. Take special care not to startle flocks of
poultry. Disregard for the owner's animals can result in injury to you and/or
- Be conscious of any actions that will disturb or inconvenience the owner.
Keep noise to a minimum, especially late at night. Pick up trash, even that
left by previous visitors. Don't build a fire except in cleared fire sites and
with the owner's permission. It's best to use a backpacking stove. Fires must
be completely out before you leave the area.
- Don't leave behind any trace of your visit. Leave every natural thing and
manmade structure exactly as it was before you entered, and remove everything
you brought to the site. Put trash in suitable containers, such as plastic
bags, and then take all trash home; never dump it on the ground.
- If it is not too late at night, stop as you leave to tell the owner that
you are leaving. If it is late, write a note. Remember that the owner's
schedule might not be the same as yours. If the home is dark, regardless of
the hour, don't disturb the owner. In either case, thank the owner when you
leave. Send a follow-up letter that includes, if possible, pictures taken in
- When obtaining permission to enter a property, never underestimate the
length of time you might spend there. If you specify an exit time to the
owner, leave at that time. You can plan longer trips for the future. Missing
an exit time could cause unnecessary concern or inconvenience for the owner.
- When planning camps and activities, don't frequent the same well-known
sites. Heavy traffic causes damage and puts a strain on owner relations
(commercial or public sites excepted). In the backcountry, limit camping at
one location to no more than three days to help preserve the natural
- All Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers, and leaders should demonstrate
their interest in the property of others and their appreciation by
participating in or organizing an occasional cleanup to remove trash and
repair damage left by thoughtless visitors, as well as to remove writing on
walls and rocks. With the owner's permission, you might even carry out
conservation projects such as erosion control or wildlife habitat improvement.
This makes an excellent group project and teaches conservation of and respect
for the natural environment and property of others.
Often, people forget that camps, trails, and activity sites belong to the
landowner and that they must depend on his or her goodwill. In recent years, use
of natural areas has increased tremendously. Owners of popular sites are
besieged by people seeking entrance, and the result has been that many owners
are becoming alienated. The rudeness and thoughtlessness of a few people can
cause property owners to exclude everyone from a site.
The above rules boil down to a simple statement: Use common sense and treat
the owner as you would like to be treated. If outdoor activity is to continue in
this country, everyone must do all they can to make themselves welcome at each
site they visit.
Hantavirus is a deadly virus that was first recognized as a unique health
hazard in 1993. Outbreaks have been principally limited to the Four Corners
region of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. There are four different
strains of hantavirus, and cases have been reported in 26 different states. The
virus is most active when the temperature is between 45 and 72 degrees (F).
Hantavirus is spread through the urine and feces of infected rodents. It is
an airborne virus. A person is infected by breathing in particles released into
the air when infected rodents, their nests, or their droppings are disturbed.
This can happen when a person is handling rodents, disturbing rodent nests or
burrows, cleaning buildings where rodents have made a home, or working outdoors.
The virus will die quickly when exposed to sunlight.
Symptoms of hantavirus include fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting,
diarrhea, abdominal pain, and a dry, nonproductive cough. If you suspect that
someone has been infected, consult a physician immediately.
Rabies has become increasingly prevalent in the United States in recent
years, with more than 7,000 animals, most of which are wild, found to have the
disease each year, according to statistics released by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC). This viral infection is often found in bats,
foxes, raccoons, and skunks. Rabies can be transmitted by warm-blooded animals,
including domestic dogs and cats.
Although rabies in humans is rare in the United States, the CDC reports that
more than 22,000 people in this country require vaccination each year after
being exposed to rabid or potentially rabid animals. States with the highest
number of reported cases include New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Mexico,
Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Maryland, and
parts of northern California.
Scout leaders can help prevent exposures by reminding Scouts to steer clear
of wild animals and domestic animals that they don't know. If someone is
scratched or bitten by a potentially rabid animal, Scout leaders should
- Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
- Call a doctor or a hospital emergency room.
- Get a description of the animal.
Notify local animal control office, police department, or board of
The Boy Scouts of America prohibits the use of alcoholic beverages and
controlled substances at encampments or activities on property owned and/or
operated by the Boy Scouts of America, or at any activity involving
participation of youth members.
Adult leaders should support the attitude that young adults are better off
without tobacco and may not allow the use of tobacco products at any BSA
activity involving youth participants.
All Scouting functions, meetings, and activities should be conducted on a
smoke-free basis, with smoking areas located away from all participants.
Perhaps the most critical test of your preparedness will be in time of
emergency. Developing and rehearsing an emergency action plan will add precious
time needed for response to a crisis. This is true on a day hike, overnight or
longer troop camp, and all other activities.
Emergency Preparedness Plan
- Planning ahead is the first step to a calmer and more assured disaster
response. Determine what kinds of natural and man-made disasters and
emergencies could occur in your community. Make a list of them, then discuss
each one and what you should do as a group in each situation. For each type of
emergency, establish responsibilities for each member of your household and
plan to work together as a team. Because some family members might not be at
home at the time of an emergency, designate alternates in case someone is
- Be sure everyone in the family can recognize the different sounds made by
smoke, heat, and motion detectors, burglar alarms, fire alarms, and community
sirens and warning signals, and know what to do when they hear them.
- Discuss what to do if evacuation from your house is necessary. Be sure
everyone in the family knows that in that case, they must not hesitate, but
must get out as soon as possible and after they are outside someone should
call for help. Agree on an outdoor meeting place for the family, such as a
particular neighbor's front porch.
- Be sure everyone in the family knows how to call 911 (if your community
has that service) and other local emergency numbers; and how to call on
different kinds of phones, such as cell phones. Gather and post other
emergency numbers, such as poison control, the family doctor, a neighbor and
an out-of-town person who are your family's emergency contacts, a parent's
work number and cell number, etc. Post all emergency numbers near every
telephone in the house and make copies for everyone to carry with them.
- Because emergency responders will need an address or directions on where
to send help, be sure all family members know how to describe where they can
be found. Post your address near each telephone in the house. When dealing
with the stress of an emergency, even adult family members could fail to
recall details correctly.
- Plan an out-of-town evacuation route and an out-of-town meeting point, in
the event all family members aren't together at the same time to evacuate. The
meeting point might be the home of a family member in another city or a hotel
or landmark known to all family members.
- Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Drive your planned evacuation
route and plot alternate routes on a map in case the chosen roads are
impassable or grid-locked.
- Practice earthquake, tornado, and fire drills at home, work, and school
- Be sure all family adults and older children know that in case of
emergency, it is their responsibility to keep the family together, to remain
calm, and explain to younger family members what has happened and what is
likely to happen next.
Emergency Preparedness Kit
What you have on hand when a disaster happens could make a big difference.
Plan to store enough supplies for everyone in your household for at least three
Have at least one gallon per person per day.
Pack non-perishable, high-protein items, including energy bars, ready-to-eat
soup, peanut butter, etc. Select foods that require no refrigeration,
preparation or cooking, and little or no water.
Include extra batteries.
First aid kit
Include a reference guide.
Don't forget both prescription and non-prescription items.
Include extra batteries.
Gather a wrench to turn off gas if necessary, a manual can opener,
screwdriver, hammer, pliers, knife, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and garbage
bags and ties.
Provide a change of clothes for everyone, including sturdy shoes and
Remember eyeglasses or contact lenses and solution; copies of important
papers, including identification cards, insurance policies, birth certificates,
passports, etc.; and comfort items such as toys and books.
You'll want toilet paper, towelettes, feminine supplies, personal hygiene
items, bleach, etc.
Have cash. (ATMs and credit cards won't work if the power is out.)
Include a current list of family phone numbers and e-mail addresses,
including someone out of the area who may be easier to reach by e-mail if local
phone lines are overloaded. A blank Emergency Contact List form is included in
this section for your use.
Include food, water, leash, litter box or plastic bags, tags, medications,
and vaccination information.
Consider marking an evacuation route on it from your local area.
Emergency preparedness includes being prepared for all kinds of
emergencies, able to respond in time of crisis to save lives and property, and
to help a community—or even a nation—return to normal life after a disaster
occurs. It is a challenge to be prepared for emergencies in our world of
man-made and natural phenomena. The Emergency Preparedness BSA program is
planned to inspire the desire and foster the skills to meet this challenge in
our youth and adult members so that they can participate effectively in this
crucial service to their families, communities, and nation.
When an emergency occurs, it affects every youth and adult member of BSA in
the immediate area, creating the responsibility to respond: first, as an
individual; second, as a member of a family; and third, as a member of a
Scouting unit serving the neighborhood and community. To meet these varied
responsibilities, the Emergency Preparedness BSA plan includes preparedness
training for individuals, families, and units.
Download an Emergency Contact List to use. (PDF)
First aid is the first help or immediate care given someone who has suddenly
sickened or been hurt in an accident. First-aid training continues through the
program of the Boy Scouts of America as concrete evidence that we are prepared
to help others in need.
It is important that one person in each touring group be trained in the
principles of first aid, know how and when to put this knowledge to the best
use, and thoroughly understand the limitations of this knowledge.
It is strongly recommended that adult leaders in Scouting avail themselves of
CPR and first-aid training by the American Red Cross or any recognized agency to
be aware of the latest techniques and procedures. However, some of the first-aid
techniques found in BSA literature are not the same as those professed by the
American Red Cross. Frequently, modifications depend on the Scout's age—this
could be a factor in the Scout's judgment and physical dexterity.
A first-aid kit well stocked with the basic essentials is indispensable.
Choose one sturdy and lightweight, yet large enough to hold the contents so that
they are readily visible and so that any one item may be taken out without
unpacking the whole kit. Keep a list of contents readily available for easy
refilling. Keep the kit in a convenient location. Make one person responsible
for keeping the kit filled and available when needed. Quantities of suggested
items for your first-aid kit depend on the size of your group and local
Suggested First-Aid Kit Contents
- Bar of soap
- 2-inch roller bandage
- 1-inch roller bandage
- 1-inch adhesive
- 3-by-3-inch sterile pads
- Triangular bandage
- Assorted gauze pads
- Adhesive strips
- Clinical oral thermometer
- Sunburn lotion
- Lip salve
- Poison-ivy lotion
- Small flashlight (with extra batteries and bulb)
- Absorbent cotton
- Water purification tablets (iodine)
- Safety pins
- Paper cups
- Foot powder
- Instant ice packs
Because of the possibility of exposure to communicable diseases, first-aid
kits should include latex or vinyl gloves, plastic goggles or other eye
protection, and antiseptic to be used when giving first aid to
bleeding victims, as protection against possible exposure. Mouth barrier
devices should be available for use with CPR.
This specialized skill to endeavor to revive victims of cardiac arrest (no
breathing, no pulse) may be taught to Boy Scouts and Venturers by an instructor
currently trained by the American Red Cross or American Heart Association.
Teaching this skill to Cub Scouts is not recommended.
Preliminary skills related to CPR are found in the Boy Scout Handbook
and the First Aid merit badge pamphlet (rescue breathing, choking, and
steps to take for CPR).
Many people are concerned about the rapid spread of HIV (the AIDS virus) and
try to avoid exposing themselves to this hazard. Health professionals and
amateur first-aiders like those of us in Scouting may find ourselves faced with
special concerns in this regard. Therefore, we must know how to act and how to
instruct the youth we lead. Try to maintain the BSA's tradition of rendering
first aid to those in need. Recognize that often the victims we treat with first
aid are friends and family members whose health we are familiar with. Therefore,
in such cases, except when we know they have infectious diseases, we should not
hesitate to treat them.
The Boy Scouts of America Recommends
Treat all blood as if it were contaminated with bloodborne viruses. Do not
use bare hands to stop bleeding; always use a protective barrier. Always wash
exposed skin area with hot water and soap immediately after treating the victim.
The following equipment is to be included in all first-aid kits and used when
rendering first aid to those in need:
- Latex or vinyl gloves, to be used when stopping bleeding or dressing
- A mouth-barrier device for rendering rescue breathing or CPR
- Plastic goggles or other eye protection to prevent a victim's blood from
getting into the rescuer's eyes in the event of serious arterial bleeding
- Antiseptic, for sterilizing or cleaning exposed skin area, particularly if
there is no soap or water available.
Individuals (medicine, fire rescue, and law enforcement Venturing crew
members; volunteer first-aiders at camporees, Scouting shows, and similar
events) who might have been exposed to another's blood and body fluids should
know the following:
- The chartered organization and its leaders should always explain and make
clear the possible degree of exposure to blood or body fluids as a result of
- As a precaution, adult volunteers or youth members should consider a
hepatitis B vaccination. The cost of the shots will not be borne by BSA, nor
is the chartered organization required to underwrite the cost.
- The chartered organization may arrange to have shots given at a reduced
rate or free of charge.
- If vaccination is recommended, any adult volunteers and youth members who
decline the shots, either at full cost to them or at a reduced rate, or free,
should sign a refusal waiver that should be retained by the council for five
Near-drowning is a term used to describe a fatality that occurs several hours
after resuscitation or revival of a drowning victim. Near-drowning accidents are
usually witnessed and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is delivered at the
scene. Lung rupture can occur during the submersion or consequent to the
resuscitation efforts. Pneumonia is a later complication in the injured lung. To
ensure that water-accident victims do not become near-drownings, they need to be
admitted to a hospital with a respiratory intensive care unit and monitored for
at least 24 hours to watch for complications. The hypothermic victim requires
Knowledgeable adult supervision must be provided when Scouts are involved in
the storage of chemical fuels, the handling of chemical fuels in the filling of
stoves or lanterns, or the lighting of chemical fuels. The use of liquid
fuels for starting any type of fire is prohibited.
- Use compressed- or liquid-gas stoves or lanterns only with knowledgeable
adult supervision and in Scout facilities only where and when permitted.
- Operate and maintain according to manufacturer¹s instructions included
with the stove or lantern.
- Both gasoline and kerosene shall be kept in well-marked, approved
containers (never in a glass container) and stored in a ventilated, locked box
at a safe distance (a minimum of 20 feet) from buildings and tents. Keep all
chemical fuel containers away from hot stoves and campfires, and store below
100 degrees (F).
- Let hot stoves and lanterns cool before changing cylinders of compressed
gases or refilling from containers of liquid gas.
- Refill liquid-gas stoves and lanterns a safe distance from any flames,
including other stoves, campfires, and personal smoking substances. A
commercial camp stove fuel should be used for safety and performance. Pour
through a filter funnel. Recap both the device and the fuel container before
- Never fuel a stove, heater, or lantern inside a cabin; always do this
outdoors. Do not operate a stove, lantern, or charcoal grill in an
unventilated structure. Provide at least two ventilation openings, one high
and one low, to provide oxygen and exhaust for lethal gases. Never fuel
(example: all liquid fuels, charcoal. etc.), ignite, or operate a stove,
heater, or lantern in a tent.
- Place the stove on a level, secure surface before operating. On snow,
place insulated support under the stove to prevent melting and tipping.
- Periodically check fittings on compressed-gas stoves and on pressurized
liquid-gas stoves for leakage, using soap solution before lighting.
- To avoid possible fires, locate gas tanks, stoves, etc., below any tents
since heavy leakage of gas will flow downhill the same as water.
- When lighting a stove, keep fuel containers and extra cannisters well
away. Do not hover over the stove when lighting it. Keep your head and body to
one side. Open the stove valve quickly for two full turns and light carefully,
with head, fingers, and hands to the side of the burner. Then adjust down.
- Do not leave a lighted stove or lantern unattended.
- Do not overload the stovetop with heavy pots or large frying pans. If pots
over 2 quarts are necessary, set up a separate grill with legs to hold the
pot, and place the stove under the grill.
- Bring empty fuel containers home for disposal. Do not place in or near
fires. Empty fuel containers will explode if heated and should never be put in
fireplaces or with burnable trash.
No tent material is completely fireproof. It can burn when exposed to
continued, intense heat or fire. The most important safeguard is to keep flames
away from canvas materials. For this reason, the following safety precautions
- Only flashlights and electric lanterns are permitted in tents. No
flames in tents is a rule that must be enforced.
- Never use liquid-fuel stoves, heaters, lanterns, lighted candles,
matches, and other flame sources in or near tents.
- Do not pitch tents near an open fire.
- Do not use flammable chemicals near tents‹charcoal lighter or spray cans
of paint, bug killer, or repellent.
- Be careful when using electricity and lighting in tents.
- Always extinguish cooking campfires promptly.
- Obey all fire laws, ordinances, and regulations.
If fire breaks out, it must be quickly and properly suppressed. To do this,
you must know the three classes of fires and how to combat them:
- Class A
- Fires that involve normally combustible materials such as paper, wood,
fabrics, rubber, and many plastics. These fires can be quenched with water or
insulated with tri-class (ABC) chemical or foam extinguishers.
- Class B
- Fires that involve gasoline, oil, grease, tars, paints, lacquers, or
flammable gases. The oxygen that supports this type of fire must be cut off by
tri-class (ABC), regular dry chemical, foam, or carbon dioxide (CO2)
extinguishers. Water is dangerous, as it spreads the fire.
- Class C
- Electrical fires involving heated wire and arcing. These fires must be
suppressed with tri-class (ABC) dry chemicals or CO2‹never water, which is a
Fires in any one class may involve materials of other classes, so more than
one type of extinguisher should be available. Because of the danger of lethal
fumes, carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) extinguishers must not be used. Dispose of
these extinguishers as recommended by fire officials.
Extinguishers should normally be mounted near a doorway and approximately at
In a camp setting, the unit leader is responsible for training Scouts in fire
prevention, fire detection and reporting, and fire fighting. All youth members
and adult leaders should have unit fireguard plan training.
Reference: Unit Fireguard, No. 33691A
The Boy Scouts of America prohibits the securing, use, and display of
fireworks in conjunction with programs and activities except where the fireworks
display is conducted under the auspices of a certified or licensed fireworks
Local councils may not authorize any group or chartered unit activity for
or on behalf of its members, units, or district to sell fireworks as a
fund-raising or money-earning activity.
The Boy Scouts of America adheres to its longstanding policy of teaching its
youth and adult members the safe, responsible, intelligent handling, care, and
use of firearms, airguns, and BB guns in planned, carefully managed, and
Except for law enforcement officers required to carry firearms within
their jurisdiction, firearms shall not be brought on camping, hiking,
backpacking, or other Scouting activities except those specifically planned for
target shooting under the supervision of a currently certified BSA or National
Rifle Association firearms instructor.
Youth members of Cub Scouting are permitted to participate in the shooting
activities named in here only.
Archery and BB gun shooting are restricted to day camps, Cub Scout/Webelos
Scout resident camps, council-managed family camping programs, or to council
activities where there are properly trained supervisors and all standards for
BSA shooting sports are enforced. Archery and BB gun shooting are not to be done
at the pack level.
Cub Scouts are not permitted to use any other type of handgun or
Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts are permitted to participate in shooting
activities outlined in the Cub Scout standards and in the standards listed
Boy Scouts are permitted to fire bows and arrows, BB guns, .22-caliber
bolt-action, single-shot rifles, air rifles, shotguns, and muzzle-loading long
guns under the direction of a certified instructor, 21 years of age or older,
within the standards outlined in current Scouting literature and bulletins. BSA
policy does not permit the use of handguns in the Boy Scouting program.
- It is recommended that either 20-, 16-, or 12-gauge semiautomatic shotguns
be used. Gas operated shotguns are recommended.
- Ammunition containing No. 8 shot or smaller is recommended on ranges with
a protected down range of 600 feet. Additional down range distance of 150 feet
(total 750) is required for No. 6 shot size. Shot larger than No. 6 is not to
- Shooting safety glasses and ear protectors must be worn on shotgun ranges.
- All training and shooting activities must be supervised by a currently
NRA-certified shotgun instructor or coach who is 21 years of age or older.
Primary reference: Camp Program and Property Management (Shooting
Sports, Section V)
- Breech-loading rifles will be single-shot, bolt-action of the
.22-caliber rim-fire type only. They may be chambered for the .22-short or
.22-long rifle, but not for the .22-WMR rifle (which uses a more powerful
cartridge). Air rifles are also permitted.
- Semiautomatic rifles will not be permitted.
- Repeating rifles having a tubular magazine will not be permitted.
- Repeating rifles having a removable clip-type magazine will be
permitted but must be used as single-loaders.
- All rifles used in BSA shooting sports shall have a trigger pull in
excess of 3 pounds, and shall be tested with a 3-pound weight or scale at
least once a week while in use. If the trigger mechanism is activated by the
3-pound pull, the rifle should be immediately removed from service.
- Shooting safety glasses and ear protectors must be worn on the range.
All training and shooting activities must be supervised by a currently
NRA-certified rifle instructor or coach who is 21 years of age or older.
The following standards are for muzzle-loading long guns.
- Muzzle-loading rifles must be recently manufactured, percussion only. BSA
recommends those that are .45- or .50-caliber. Rifles made from kits must be
checked by an expert gunsmith.
- Recommended loads of .FFFg blackpowder are not to exceed 1 grain per
caliber. One-half of this amount is frequently sufficient for target shooting.
- Shooting safety glasses and ear protectors must be worn.
- All training and shooting activities must be supervised by a currently
certified NRA/NMLRA muzzle-loading rifle instructor who is at least 21 years
- Each pupil must have one instructor or adult coach under instructor
supervision when loading and firing.
Primary reference: Camp Program and Property Management (Shooting
Sports, Section V)
Venturers are permitted to participate in all shooting activities named under
"Boy Scout Standards" and the standards here.
- Handgun use is limited to the Venturing program only.
- All training and shooting activities must be under the supervision of a
currently NRA-certified pistol instructor or a pistol instructor of a local,
state, or federal agency who is 21 years of age or older.
- All participants must complete a basic pistol marksmanship course prior
to range firing. The NRA basic pistol marksmanship course (or equivalent
training course) conducted by a law enforcement agency, a civilian gun club,
or a U.S. military department is acceptable.
- With the approval of the local council, handgun shooting may be
conducted on BSA camp ranges, provided the shooting is done under the auspices
of an NRA-certified pistol instructor or pistol instructor of a local, state,
or federal agency.
- Shooting safety glasses and ear protection must be worn on pistol ranges.
- Care must be taken to comply with federal, state, and local laws.
These 16 safety points, which embody good judgment and common sense, are
applicable to all activities:
- 1. Qualified Supervision.
- Every BSA activity should be supervised by a conscientious adult who
understands and knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety
of the children and youth in his or her care. The supervisor should be
sufficiently trained, experienced, and skilled in the activity to be confident
of his or her ability to lead and teach the necessary skills and to respond
effectively in the event of an emergency. Field knowledge of all applicable
BSA standards and a commitment to implement and follow BSA policy and
procedures are essential parts of the supervisor's qualifications.
- 2. Physical Fitness.
- For youth participants in any potentially strenuous activity, the
supervisor should receive a complete health history from a health-care
professional, parent, or guardian. Adult participants and youth involved in
higher-risk activities (e.g., scuba diving) may have to undergo professional
evaluation in addition to completing the health history. The supervisor should
adjust all supervision, discipline, and protection to anticipate potential
risks associated with individual health conditions. Neither youth nor adults
should participate in activities for which they are unfit. To do so would
place both the individual and others at risk.
- 3. Buddy System.
- The long history of the "buddy system" in Scouting has shown that it is
always best to have at least one other person with you and aware at all times
of your circumstances and what you are doing in any outdoor or strenuous
- 4. Safe Area or Course.
- A key part of the supervisors' responsibility is to know the area or
course for the activity and to determine that it is well-suited and free of
- 5. Equipment Selection and Maintenance.
- Most activity requires some specialized equipment. The equipment should be
selected to suit the participants and the activity and to include appropriate
safety and program features. The supervisor should also check equipment to
determine whether it is in good condition for the activity and make sure it is
kept properly maintained while in use.
- 6. Personal Safety Equipment.
- The supervisor must assure that every participant has and uses the
appropriate personal safety equipment. For example, activity afloat requires
that each participant properly wear a personal flotation device (PFD); bikers,
horseback riders, and whitewater kayakers need helmets for certain activities;
skaters need protective gear; and all need to be dressed for warmth and
utility as the circumstances require.
- 7. Safety Procedures and Policies.
- For most activities, common-sense procedures and standards can greatly
reduce any risk. These should be known and appreciated by all participants,
and the supervisor must assure compliance.
- 8. Skill Level Limits.
- Every activity has a minimum skill level, and the supervisor must identify
and recognize this level and be sure that participants are not put at risk by
attempting any activity beyond their abilities. A good example of skill levels
in Scouting is the swim test, which defines conditions for safe swimming on
the basis of individual ability.
- 9. Weather Check.
- The risks of many outdoor activities vary substantially with weather
conditions. Potential weather hazards and the appropriate responses should be
understood and anticipated.
- 10. Planning.
- Safe activity follows a plan that has been conscientiously developed by
the experienced supervisor or other competent source. Good planning minimizes
risks and also anticipates contingencies that may require an emergency
response or a change of plan.
- 11. Communications.
- The supervisor needs to be able to communicate effectively with
participants as needed during the activity. Emergency communications also need
to be considered in advance for any foreseeable contingencies.
- 12. Permits and Notices.
- BSA tour permits, council office registration, government or landowner
authorization, and any similar formalities are the supervisor's responsibility
when such are required. Appropriate notification should be directed to
parents, enforcement authorities, landowners, and others as needed, before and
after the activity.
- 13. First-Aid Resources.
- The supervisor should determine what first-aid supplies to include among
the activity equipment. The level of first-aid training and skill appropriate
for the activity should also be considered. An extended trek over remote
terrain obviously may require more first-aid resources and capabilities than
an afternoon activity in a local community. Whatever is determined to be
needed should be available.
- 14. Applicable Laws.
- BSA safety policies generally parallel or go beyond legal mandates, but
the supervisor should confirm and assure compliance with all applicable
regulations or statutes.
- 15. CPR Resource.
- Any strenuous activity or remote trek could present a cardiac emergency.
Aquatic programs may involve cardiopulmonary emergencies. BSA strongly
recommends that a person (preferably an adult) trained in cardiopulmonary
resuscitation (CPR) be part of the leadership for any BSA program. This person
should be available for strenuous outdoor activity.
- 16. Discipline.
- No supervisor is effective if he or she cannot control the activity and
individual participants. Youth must respect their leaders and follow their
Caving can be a hazardous activity when the proper equipment, skills, and
judgment are not used. Trips that are led by adults inexperienced in caving and
trips containing large numbers of persons compound the hazards already inherent
in the activity and create a potentially dangerous situation.
- All caving, other than simple novice activities, should be limited to
adults and young people 14 and older—members of Venturing crews and older
Scouts in troops, and teams. "Simple novice activities" means commercially
operated cave excursions and easy caves.
- Units (teams, troops, crews) that include cave visits in their program,
whether for one trip or many, must adhere to the two-deep leadership policy of
the Boy Scouts of America (two registered adult leaders, or one adult and a
parent of a youth member, one of whom must be 21 or older). These leaders must
be responsible, mature adults who are constantly present with the group. One
cave trip leader must be highly qualified through caving experience and must
be thoroughly versed in all established safety practices, conservation
measures, and courtesy to cave owners.
- In conformity with the BSA policy on the use of wilderness areas, all
caving groups should be limited to 8 to 10 persons and two-deep leadership as
required by the Boy Scouts of America for all trips or outings. Caving
activities for larger groups should not be conducted. Each group should be
organized to function independently, i.e., plan its own trips on different
dates, provide its own transportation and food, and function as a separate and
distinct group. The only exception to these rules may be trips to certain
commercial caves where special provisions are made to furnish proper
supervision by professional guides.
Note: Caving trips have been
incorporated in the BSA "Policy on Use of Wilderness Areas by Personnel of the
BSA," with a cross reference to these guidelines. Copies of the wilderness
area policy statement are available from High Adventure Programs, Boy Scouts
of America, 1325 West Walnut Hill Lane, Irving, Texas 75015-2079.
- Any Venturing crew wishing to learn about cave rescue work or pursue that
activity as a specialty must do so under the sponsorship and supervision of an
adult cave rescue group affiliated with the National Speleological Society.
- All Scout groups are required to have an approved tour permit for trips of
all kinds. Cave activities are included under that plan. National tour permits
are required for a trip of 500 miles or more; local permits are issued to
cover shorter trips.
- The leaders and the individual members of the group must understand these
basic practices and policies of caving, which are approved by the Boy Scouts
of America and the National Speleological Society. In addition to
understanding these tenets, every participant in a caving trip must agree,
without reservation, to follow all of the specific guidelines contained in
BSA's Caving publication, No. 19-102A.
- Any cave trip must include a fully qualified leader or adult assistants
qualified to handle all problems that might arise. These leaders should have
had experience as active participants in a competent caving group. They must
realistically evaluate their own knowledge and experience and must never
attempt to lead their group into a situation that is beyond their capability
or the capability of any member of the group. The overall capability and pace
of a caving group is always that of the least able member of that group, and
no member of the group should ever be encouraged or permitted to attempt a
potentially dangerous act that is beyond their ability solely because the
remainder of the group has the necessary ability.
- The leaders must thoroughly comprehend that overwhelming difficulties
may easily result from the problems of fatigue, improper or faulty
equipment, emotional problems, physical limitations, or excessive eagerness
or exuberance in members of the group. Additionally, they must realize that
all of these individual problems are often interrelated and that the
occurrence of any one of them can easily create a situation that will lead
to or accentuate any or all of the others.
- The leaders must constantly remember that any obstacle overcome on the
way into the cave will also have to be overcome on the way out, when the
group is tired, when the initial enthusiasm of some of the group may have
decreased, and when their alertness and physical abilities, as well of those
of their group, is at the lowest.
- The leaders must have adequate first aid training and ability, and a
comprehensive knowledge of the practices to follow in the event of an
- The leaders must keep their group together at all times.
- All basic equipment such as clothing, shoes, lights, and spare parts for
the lights, hard hats, and food should be appropriate for the cave being
explored. It is the responsibility of the leader to ensure that all equipment
is adequate and in good condition.
- The equipment and spares must never be makeshift or of questionable
dependability. The highest standards developed by experienced cavers are to
be met in all categories of equipment.
- The use and repair of each item must be understood and demonstrated by
all of the party before entering the cave.
- Under no conditions should any member of the group be permitted to enter
the cave if they do not have all of the required equipment in their
possession. The sharing of any equipment, such as lights, between
individuals must be prohibited.
- Except for groups composed entirely of experienced cavers, the cave to be
explored must not require the use of ropes, ladders, or other climbing
devices. The safe use of these aids requires extensive initial training and
practice under controlled conditions above ground, never in a cave.
- Natural and fabricated hazards such as mud slopes, loose rocks, pits, deep
water, complex routes, old ropes, wooden ladders, and the possibility of
flooding are all dangers to some degree and must be approached with care and
judgment. If it appears that an accident may still occur in spite of
preventive measures, that area must be avoided entirely.
- The strength, endurance, and specific abilities of every member of the
group must be evaluated in advance and nothing attempted that exceeds anyone's
limitations. Climbing, crawling, and route finding are not necessarily inborn
skills, and should be taught and tested before a cave trip is undertaken.
- Not only the leaders, but every person on a cave trip should be aware of
the necessity to constantly observe the whereabouts and potential problems of
other members of the group and be ready to provide any assistance necessary.
- Running, jumping, horseplay, and solo exploration must be prohibited—such
foolhardy actions jeopardize not only the individual but also the entire
- Caves are often cold and damp, and hypothermia is a danger, especially on
long trips or trips requiring wading or crawling in water. Try to dress for
conditions to be met, stay as dry as possible. Leave the cave immediately if
any member of the group shows signs of hypothermia such as uncontrollable
shivering, slurred speech, or loss of coordination.
- Specific information about the caving trip must be left with a responsible
person back home at time of departure. This should include location and length
of time of trip, expected time of return, list of participants, and whom to
contact for each trip member in case of emergency.
- A record of every cave trip will provide valuable assistance to new
leaders and cavers alike. Full records of all caving accidents will provide
the basis for a guide to the development of a safe caving program. A complete
report of any accident, regardless of severity, should be sent to the Safety
Committee of the National Speleological Society, Cave Avenue, Huntsville, AL
35810. Serious accidents should also be reported to the director of Health and
Safety Service of the Boy Scouts of America.
Resource: Caving, No. 19-102A
If Scouts and Venturers practice defensive judo, Tai Chi, or aikido, it
should be done with proper mats and with qualified instructors related to YMCAs,
colleges, or athletic clubs whose objectives and coaching methods are compatible
with the principles of the Boy Scouts of America.
- 1. Qualified Supervision
- All climbing and rappelling must be supervised by a mature, conscientious
adult at least 21 years of age who understands the risks inherent to these
activities. This person knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being
and safety of the youth in his or her care. This adult supervisor is trained
in and committed to compliance with the eight points of the Boy Scouts of
America's Climb On Safely procedure. One additional adult who is at least 18
years of age must also accompany the unit. Units with more than 10 youths in
the same climbing/rappelling session must have an additional adult leader at
least 18 years of age for each 10 additional youth participants. In other
words, a group of 11 to 20 youths requires at least three adult leaders; a
group of 21 to 30 youths would require four adult leaders, and so on.
- The adult supervisor is responsible for ensuring that someone in the group
is currently trained in American Red Cross Standard First Aid and CPR (a
61/2-hour course). In addition, the two-hour module "First Aid—When Help Is
Delayed" is recommended. A course of equivalent length and content from
another nationally recognized organization can be substituted. A higher level
of certification such as emergency medical technician (EMT), licensed
practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), and licensed health-care
practitioner is also acceptable. The ARC's Emergency Response, a 431/2-hour
course that includes CPR, is highly recommended.
- 2. Qualified Instructors
- A qualified rock climbing instructor who is at least 21 years of age must
supervise all BSA climbing/rappelling activities. A currently trained BSA
climbing director or instructor is highly recommended. Contact your local
council or regional service center to locate a qualified individual. The
climbing instructor has successfully completed a minimum of 10 hours of
instructor training for climbing/rappelling from a nationally or regionally
recognized organization, a climbing school, a college-level
climbing/rappelling course, or is a qualified BSA climbing instructor.
- The BSA offers a section of National Camping School for climbing directors
who in turn can train climbing instructors. (A Project COPE director or
instructor fulfills this requirement until January 1, 2002.) Every instructor
must have prior experiences in teaching climbing/rappelling to youth and must
agree to adhere to Climb On Safely and the guidelines set in Topping Out.
- Note: Any adult Scouter who successfully completes training in
Climb On Safely is entitled to wear the temporary patch, No. 8631. A Climb On
Safely Training Outline, No. 20-101, is available from your local council
- 3. Physical Fitness
- Require evidence of fitness for the climbing/rappelling activity with at
least a current BSA Personal Health and Medical Record—Class 1, No. 34414A.
The adult supervisor should adapt all supervision, discipline, and precautions
to anticipate any potential risks associated with individual health
conditions. If a significant health condition is present, an examination by a
licensed health-care practitioner should be required by the adult supervisor
before permitting participation in climbing or rappelling. The adult
supervisor should inform the climbing instructor about each participant's
- 4. Safe Area
- All BSA climbing/rappelling activities must be conducted using an
established climbing/rappelling site or facility, including a portable or
commercial facility. A qualified climbing instructor should survey the site in
advance of the activity to identify and evaluate possible hazards and to
determine whether the site is suitable for the age, maturity, and skill level
of the participants. The instructor should also verify that the site is
sufficient to safely and comfortably accommodate the number of participants in
the activity within the available time. An emergency evacuation route must be
identified in advance.
- 5. Equipment
- The climbing instructor should verify that the proper equipment is
available for the size and ability level of participants. Helmets, rope, and
climbing hardware must be approved by the UIAA (Union Internationale des
Associations d'Alpinisme), CEN (European Community Norm), or ASTM (American
Society for Testing and Materials). All equipment must be acquired new or
furnished by the instructor.
- An approved climbing helmet must be worn during all BSA
climbing/rappelling activities when the participant's feet are more than
shoulder height above ground level. When using a commercial climbing gym, the
climbing facility's procedures apply.
- 6. Planning
- When planning, remember the following:
- Obtain written parental consent to participate in climbing/rappelling
activities for each participant.
- In case severe weather or other problems might occur, share the
climbing/rappelling plan and an alternate plan with parents and the unit
- Secure the necessary permits or written permission for using private or
- Enlist the help of a qualified climbing instructor.
- Be sure the instructor has a map for the area being used and obtains a
current weather report for the area before the group's departure.
- It is suggested that at least one of the adult leaders has an electronic
means of communication in case of an emergency.
- Before any activity, an adult leader should develop and share an emergency
plan that includes the location of a nearby medical facility and the means of
communicating with parents during the outing.
- 7. Environmental Conditions
- The instructor, each adult leader, and each participant assumes
responsibility for monitoring potentially dangerous environmental conditions
that may include loose, crumbly rock; poisonous plants; wildlife; and
inclement weather. Use the buddy system to monitor concerns such as
dehydration, hypothermia, and an unusually high degree of fear or
apprehension. The adult supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the group
leaves no trace of its presence at the site.
- 8. Discipline
- Each participant knows, understands, and respects the rules and procedures
for safely climbing and rappelling and has been oriented in Climb On Safely
and Leave No Trace. All BSA members should respect and follow all instructions
and rules of the climbing instructor. The applicable rules should be presented
and learned prior to the outing and should be reviewed for all participants
before climbing or rappelling begins. When participants know the reasons for
rules and procedures, they are more likely to follow them. The climbing
instructor must be strict and fair, showing no favoritism.
Project COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) low and high course
elements are intended to be used in conjunction with a council activity that
meets the current National Standards for Project COPE, No. 20-172C. Units may
participate in age-appropriate initiative games, but should not attempt to
construct low- or high-course elements.
The following activities have been declared unauthorized and restricted by
the Boy Scouts of America:
Carbon tetrachloride must never be used in any way in the Scouting
program. Even in small quantities, this poison has proved to be so deadly
that it must be ruled out as a cleaning fluid, a fire extinguisher, a poison for
insect killing, and a watermark detector for stamp collecting.
A sharp pocketknife with a can opener on it is an invaluable backcountry
tool. Keep it clean, sharp, and handy. Avoid large sheath knives. They are heavy
and awkward to carry, and unnecessary for most camp chores except for cleaning
fish. Since its inception, Boy Scouting has relied heavily on an outdoor program
to achieve its objectives. This program meets more of the purposes of Scouting
than any other single feature. We believe we have a duty to instill in our
members, youth and adult, the knowledge of how to use, handle, and store legally
owned knives with the highest concern for safety and responsibility.
Remember—knives are not allowed on school premises, nor can they be taken
aboard commercial aircraft.
References: Boy Scout Handbook, Fieldbook, Bear Cub Scout Book,
and Wolf Cub Scout Book
When constructing monkey bridges, observe the following safety rules:
- Always follow the steps for constructing monkey bridges outlined in the
Pioneering merit badge pamphlet.
- Before beginning the project, inspect your rope, looking at both the
inside fibers and inner strands. Know the size and strength of the type of
rope you are using, and its safe working load.
- Monkey bridges should not be constructed higher than 5 feet above
flat-surfaced ground nor longer than 40 feet. Initially, beginners should not
span more than 25 feet.
- Know the effect the knots will have in reducing rope strength and the
proper care that rope requires.
- Rope, especially rope carrying a load, should be checked each day before
using. Rope carrying a load and left in place tends to become slack from
fatigue and will break under stress. Tighten rope as necessary to maintain the
integrity of the original construction.
- Exercise special care when members of the public are allowed to use these
monkey bridges. Establish controls when monkey bridges are constructed outside
the camp environment. Station Scouts at each end to control access to the
bridge. Allow only one adult at a time on the bridge. Never allow
unaccompanied children on the bridge. Shut down the bridge when any repairs
are being made and do not reopen until the adult leader has approved the
- Any activity on rope swings, monkey bridges, slide-for-life, or similar
devices that are located over water must comply with Safe Swim Defense.
Reference: Pioneering merit badge pamphlet
The BSA rule prohibiting the transportation of passengers in the backs of
trucks or on trailers may be tempered for parade floats or hayrides, provided
that the following points are strictly followed to prevent injuries:
- Transportation to and from the parade or hayride site is not allowed on
the truck or trailer.
- Those persons riding, whether seated or standing, must be able to hold on
to something stationary.
- Legs should not hang over the side.
- Flashing lights must illuminate a vehicle used for a hayride after dark,
or the vehicle must be followed by a vehicle with flashing lights.
Include these safety considerations when planning a unit fund-raiser:
- Money-earning projects should be suited to the ages and abilities of youth
- Proper adult supervision should be provided.
- Youth should engage in money-earning projects only in neighborhoods that
are safe and familiar and should use the buddy system.
- Leaders must train youth members to never enter the home of a stranger and
to know whom to contact in case of an emergency.
- Youth participants should be familiar with safe pedestrian practices and
participate during daylight hours only.
- Compliance requirements:
- Check local statutes regarding solicitation rules and permits.
- A Unit Fund-raising Permit must be obtained from the local council
- All farm-class tractors used by BSA members or employees in conjunction
with any BSA activity or on BSA property must be equipped with seat belts and
rollover protection (rollbars, reinforced cab, or equivalent protection). If
the tractor does not have this equipment, refer to Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA) regulations for interim compliance requirements.
As of January 1, 1993, the use of any farm-class tractor not equipped with
seat belts and rollover protection is unauthorized.
- No BSA member or employee may operate a farm-class tractor in conjunction
with any BSA activity or on BSA property unless such member or employee is at
least 18 years of age and has completed BSA National Camping School ranger
certification, or has been specifically trained in operations and safety
procedures for tractors and their attached implements by a currently certified
ranger, and is directly supervised by a currently certified ranger.
The following guidelines and procedures apply to all BSA units, councils, and
national program activities involving bicycling.
- 1. Qualified Supervision
- All unit, district, council, and national event activities must be
supervised by a mature and conscientious adult at least age 21 who understands
and knowingly accepts responsibility for the safety of children in his or her
care, who is experienced with the skills and equipment involved in the
activity, and who is committed to compliance with these BSA safety
- 2. Physical Fitness
- Biking is strenuous. Long treks and hill climbing should not be attempted
without training and preparation. For Scouting activities, all participants
must present evidence of fitness assured by a complete health history from a
physician, parent, or legal guardian. The adult supervisor should adjust all
supervision, discipline, and protection to anticipate any potential risks
associated with individual health conditions. In the event of any significant
health conditions, proof of an examination by a physician should be required
by the adult leader.
- 3. Helmets and Clothing
- All cyclists must wear a properly sized and fitted helmet approved by
either the Snell Memorial Foundation or the American National Standards
Institute (ANSI) standards. Layer your clothing for warmth on cool days so you
can avoid chilling or overheating. Cover up for sun protection on clear
- 4. Buddy-Up
- When the program activity is a bicycle expedition or trek, the buddy
system must be used. When there is program activity emphasizing individual
performance skills, one buddy observes while the other takes his turn. In
competitive activity where the buddy concept cannot be practically applied,
all activity must be directly observed by the adult supervisor. (Youth members
should be taught that biking with a buddy is best. When biking alone, apart
from Scouting activities, youth members should be encouraged to tell someone
their route, schedule, and destination before departing.)
- 5. Keep Right
- Ride with the traffic flow, as far to the right as possible. Avoid curbs,
storm drains, soft or loose gravel on shoulders, and other hazards.
- 6. Be Smart
- Obey all traffic laws, signs, signals, and street markings. Watch for
changes in road conditions. Ride only one to a bike. Do not ride after dark.
No stunts—trick riding is only for professionals who use special equipment.
Yield to motor vehicles even if you think you have the right-of-way. Never
hitch a ride on another vehicle. Keep your head and ears open and do not wear
headphones while riding.
- 7. Turns and Intersections
- Look left, right, back, and ahead before turning. Stop and search all
directions when entering a street from a driveway, parking area, sidewalk, or
an alley. Signal all turns using universal hand signals. Walk your bike
through or across busy intersections.
- 8. Right Bike
- Ride only a bike that fits you. Select a bike that permits you to put both
feet on the ground while sitting on the seat. The handgrips should be no
higher than your shoulder or lower than your seat.
- 9. Accessories
- Every bike needs a horn or bell and reflectors (front, back, and sides).
Items should be carried only in baskets, saddlebags, or on a rear carrier
rack. If you must ride in traffic, a bike- or helmet-mounted mirror is
recommended. For long trips, a bike-mounted container for drinking water is
- 10. Maintenance
- Keep your bike clean and well-maintained—especially the brakes and drive
- 11. Race Right
- Open street racing is dangerous. Race only with supervision on marked
courses that have been set up to exclude other vehicle or pedestrian traffic,
to eliminate fall hazards and minimize collision risks, and to define clearly
"start" and "finish" points.
- 12. Planning
- Plan both the route and timing of bike trips to avoid heavy traffic and
hazardous conditions. Biking is unsafe on wet pavement and on windy days. Plan
for at least hourly rest stops and a maximum of approximately six hours on the
bike per day.
- 13. Discipline
- All participants should know, understand, and follow the rules and
procedures for safe biking, and all participants should conscientiously and
carefully follow all directions from the adult supervisor.
Skateboarding and roller-skating (including in-line skating) present safety
concerns, primarily risks of falls and collisions. Recent data show that
injuries are largely the results of collisions—especially with moving vehicles.
These guidelines emphasize prevention, and are meant to cover all BSA skating
programs. Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers should always practice safety
and courtesy and obey all local or rink rules.
- BSA skating at any level shall be supervised by an adult at least 21 years
of age, experienced in the use of skates and skateboards, willing to
conscientiously accept responsibility for the safety of all participants, and
committed to compliance with BSA safety guidelines and local laws.
- In-line skating, hockey, racing, or similar activities are to be held only
in areas free of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and hazardous fixed
objects. No skating activity is authorized on streets that have not been
blocked off to traffic.
- Pathways and skating surfaces must be free of defects or features unsuited
to skating. Evaluation of the area by the supervisor should precede any BSA
- Before permitting equipment to be used in a BSA activity, the supervisor
should determine that all skates and skateboards are well maintained and in
good repair consistent with the manufacturer's recommendations. Actual
maintenance and repair are the responsibility of the owner.
- For all street or pavement skating activities, participants should wear
properly fitted helmets that meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
standards; padded gloves; wrist supports; and elbow and knee pads. No street
or pavement skating is authorized without helmets.
- Skaters must NEVER "hitch a ride" on any vehicle.
- Parents or legal guardians must be informed and must consent to youth
participation in a BSA skating activity.
- The adult supervisor must be sure that all participants understand and
agree that skating is allowed only with proper supervision and in compliance
with the safety guidelines. Youth members should respect and follow all
directions and rules of the adult supervisor. When people know the reasons for
rules and procedures, they are more likely to follow them. Supervisors should
be strict and fair, showing no favoritism.
Horsemanship activities in Scouting include merit badge activities, arena
rides, multi-day trips (including treks and cavalcades), and Cub Scouting
Each sponsoring council should take care to design age- and
activity-appropriate procedures and guidelines for each particular equine
activity. It is not possible or appropriate to dictate each aspect of every
Requirements must also be met if the horseback riding program is provided by
or at an off-site facility. The council must enter a contractual agreement as
outlined in the resident camp standards.
Horseback riding activities are limited to Wolf Cub Scouts and older
Periodically, once or twice a year, the unit meeting place should be
inspected for health and safety hazards. The Meeting Place Inspection
checklist is included in the appendix.
Motor vehicles transporting passengers or carrying equipment should meet
state inspection standards, if applicable, or use the vehicle checklist included
in the appendix as a guide.
Essentially, three occasions in unit camping require inspection: (1) after
camp is set up, (2) after camp is taken down, and (3) periodically between. Your
main interest in these inspections is to ensure a safe, livable camp and an
unblemished site after you leave.
Upon request, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will conduct a Courtesy Marine
Examination of any craft over 16 feet in length. The officer will analyze the
vessel and advise you of any deficiencies within state or federal
References: Handbook for Skippers and Safe Boating
It is recommended that all members of the Boy Scouts of America have periodic
medical evaluations by a licensed health-care practitioner. *In recent years, in
an effort to provide better care to those who may become ill or injured and to
provide youth members and adult leaders a better understanding of their physical
capabilities, the Boy Scouts of America established minimum standards for
providing medical information prior to participating in various activities. They
are classified as follows:
- Class 1:
- Includes any event that does not exceed 72 consecutive hours, where
the level of activity is similar to that normally expended at home or at
school, and where medical care is readily available. Examples: day camp, day
hike, swimming party, or an overnight camp. Medical information required is a
current health history signed by parents or guardian. The health
history form currently found on the back of the BSA individual applications or
the Class I Personal Health and Medical History found on form No. 34414A
(Personal Health and Medical Record) meets this requirement. Den leaders,
Scoutmasters, team coaches, and crew Advisors should review these and become
knowledgeable about the medical needs of the youth members in their unit.
Forms must be updated annually. They are filled out by participants and kept
on file for easy reference.
- Class 2:
- Includes any event that exceeds 72 consecutive hours, where the
level of activity is similar to that normally expended at home or at school,
and where medical care is readily available. Examples: resident camping, tour
camping, and hiking in relatively populated areas. Medical data required is
an annual health history signed by parents or guardian supported by a medical
evaluation completed within the past 36 months by a licensed health-care
practitioner. The Personal Health and Medical Record--Class 2, on No.
34414A, is designed primarily for resident Cub Scout and Boy Scout summer camp
but could be used for any Class 2 activity. Youth members and adult
participants under 40 years of age use this form. (See Camp Health and Safety
for additional information on Class 2 application.)
- Class 3:
- Includes any event involving strenuous activity such as backpacking, high
altitude, extreme weather conditions, cold water, exposure, fatigue, athletic
competition, adventure challenge, or remote conditions where readily available
medical care cannot be assured. Examples: high-adventure activities,
jamborees, Wood Badge, and extended backpacking trips in remote areas. Medical
information required includes current health history supported by a medical
evaluation within the past 12 months performed by a licensed health-care
practitioner. Form 34412A is to be used by youth for Class 3 activities.
Adults age 40 or older will use this form for Class 2 and Class 3 activities.
See form No. 34414A, Personal Health and Medical Record, for more
* Examinations conducted by licensed health-care practitioners, other than
physicians, will be recognized for BSA purposes in those states where such
practitioners may perform physical examinations within their legally prescribed
scope of practice.
High-Adventure Medical Forms. Philmont Scout Ranch and Florida Sea
Base require the use of their special medical form by all youth and adults
because of the strenuous nature of the activities taking place there.
It is recommended that unit leaders have a complete medical history and
permission slip for every participant attending each Scouting activity. The
medical history form and permission slip, in most cases, will allow emergency
medical treatment to a youth member in case of injury or illness when a parent
or guardian cannot be contacted.
Verification of the following protections is strongly recommended before
participation in activities conducted by the Boy Scouts of America:
- Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid within the past 10 years
- Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) since first birthday
- Trivalent oral polio vaccine (TOPV); four doses since birth
Local Scouting units and their chartered organizations traditionally
determine their own membership, absent any legal constraints. Accordingly, units
and sponsoring institutions should determine the feasibility or desirability of
allowing youth or adult members who have or are suspected of having a
life-threatening communicable disease to participate in Scouting activities. A
youth member who is unable to attend meetings may continue to pursue Scouting
through the Lone Scout program.
The American Academy of Dermatology advises the following protection tips
against damaging rays:
- Limit exposure to sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun's rays are
- Generously apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least
15 and reapply every two hours when outdoors, even on cloudy days.
- Wear protective, tightly woven clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt and
- Wear a 4-inch-wide broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protective
- Stay in the shade whenever possible.
- Avoid reflective surfaces, which can reflect up to 85 percent of the sun's
The following is the policy of the Boy Scouts of America regarding medical
- Medical examinations for camp attendance are required of all campers for
the protection of the entire camp group. The immunization requirement is
waived for persons with religious beliefs against immunization.
- All Scouts and Scout leaders need to learn first aid, not for their own
use, but for service to others who may require it. A Scout or leader may ask
to be excused from first-aid instruction, but no advancement requirement will
be waived except as indicated.
- Requirements 1 and 5 for the Personal Fitness merit badge call for
examinations by a physician and a dentist with appropriate follow-up
recommendations. This may be set aside on presentation of a certificate by the
Scout's parents and a proper church official that a definite violation of
religious conviction is involved.
The taking of prescription medication is the responsibility of the individual
taking the medication and/or that individual's parent or guardian. A Scout
leader, after obtaining all the necessary information, can agree to accept the
responsibility of making sure a Scout takes the necessary medication at the
appropriate time, but BSA policy does not mandate nor necessarily encourage the
Scout leader to do so. Also, if your state laws are more limiting, they must be
Established public carriers—trains, buses, and commercial airlines—are the
safest and most comfortable way for groups to travel. Chartered buses usually
are the most economical transportation for groups of 20 or more. It may be
necessary for small groups to travel in private automobiles; however, the use of
chartered equipment from established rail, bus, and airline companies is
strongly recommended. The advantages are many. These companies have excellent
safety records because of their periodic inspections and approved health and
References: Cub Scout Leader Book, Scoutmaster Handbook, Troop
Committee Guidebook, Exploring Reference Book, and Tours and
DON'T ENTER THE RISK ZONE
BE AWARE OF KILLER FATIGUE.
It is essential that adequate, safe, and responsible transportation be used
for all Scouting activities. Because most accidents occur within a short
distance from home, safety precautions are necessary, even on short trips.
General guidelines are as follows:
- Seat belts are required for all occupants.
- All drivers must have a valid driver's license that has not been suspended
or revoked for any reason. If the vehicle to be used is designed to carry more
than 15 persons, including the driver (more than 10 persons, including the
driver, in California), the driver must have a commercial driver's license
- An adult leader (at least 21 years of age) must be in charge and accompany
- The driver must be currently licensed and at least 18 years of age. Youth
member exception: When traveling to and from an area, regional, or national
Boy Scout activity or any Venturing event under the leadership of an adult (at
least 21 years of age) tour leader, a youth member at least 16 years of age
may be a driver, subject to the following conditions:
- Six months' driving experience as a licensed driver (time on a learner's
permit or equivalent is not to be counted)
- No record of accidents or moving violations
- Parental permission granted to the leader, driver, and riders
- Passenger cars or station wagons may be used for transporting passengers,
but passengers should not ride on the rear deck of station wagons.
- Trucks may not be used for transporting passengers except in the cab.
- All driving, except short trips, should be done in daylight.
- All vehicles must be covered by automobile liability insurance with limits
that meet or exceed requirements of the state in which the vehicle is
licensed. It is recommended that coverage limits are at least
$50,000/$100,000/$50,000. Any vehicle designed to carry 10 or more passengers
is required to have limits of $100,000/$500,000/$100,000.
- Do not exceed the speed limit.
- Do not travel in convoy (see "Leadership Requirements for Trips and
Outings," No. 2).
- Driving time is limited to a maximum of 10 hours and must be interrupted
by frequent rest, food, and recreation stops. If there is only one driver, the
driving time should be reduced and stops should be made more frequently.
Don't drive drowsy. Stop for rest and stretch breaks as needed. Fatigue is
a major cause of highway accident fatalities.
Trucks are designed and constructed to transport materials and equipment, not
people. The beds of trucks or trailers must never be used for carrying
passengers. Tour permits will not be issued for any trip that involves
carrying passengers in a truck except in the cab. This includes vehicles
converted for that use unless they are licensed as buses and meet all
requirements for buses.
Use caution in towing trailers or campers, as a vehicle's performance,
steering, and braking abilities will be altered. Consider these safety tips:
- Get the correct trailer for the car and the correct hitch for the trailer.
Distribute and anchor the load.
- Allow extra time to brake. Changing lanes while braking can jackknife the
- Add safety equipment as dictated by common sense and state laws (mirrors,
lights, safety chains, brakes for heavy trailers, etc.).
- Park in designated areas.
A driver of a bus or any vehicle designed to carry more than 15 persons
(including driver) is required to have a commercial driver's license.
Possession of a license, however, does not mean that a person is capable of
driving a bus safely. It is essential that unit leaders and volunteers be
thoroughly familiar with the bus they will be driving, including knowing the
location of emergency exits and fire extinguishers and how to operate them. A
driver must be prepared to handle and brake a full bus, which weighs
significantly more than an empty bus. Other safety tips are:
- Regular and thorough maintenance program
- No more passengers than there are seating locations
- Luggage and equipment fastened securely to prevent being thrown around in
case of sudden stop
- Emergency exits clear of people or things
- Pretrip inspection of critical systems (signals, fuel, tires, windshield
wipers, horn, etc.)
The safety rules for automobiles apply to bus travel, with the exception of
seat belts. In special cases, chartered buses may travel more than nine hours a
day. On certain occasions, night travel by public carrier bus is appropriate—it
should be considered permissible when conditions are such that rest and sleep
for passengers are possible with a reasonable degree of comfort. However, night
travel on buses should not be planned for two successive nights.
Observe these safety guidelines for train travel:
- Don't lean out of windows or doors.
- When changing trains, don't cross railroad tracks without permission.
- Stay out of vestibules. Keep the railroad car door closed.
- In case of illness or accident, see a train official who can arrange for
- On overnight trips, one leader should be on watch duty at all times.
In national parks and some other areas of the country, special boat and canoe
regulations are in force, and special boat permits are required for cruising or
recreation. Follow these safety precautions:
- All tour leaders must have current training in the BSA Safety Afloat
program (see Chapter II, "Aquatics Safety").
- U.S. Coast Guard recommends and BSA regulations require that an
approved USCG personal flotation device (PFD) be worn by each participant
using watercraft in an aquatics activity. Types II and III are recommended for
Scout activity afloat.
A capsized boat is never anticipated, so always
be prepared. Be sure each individual wears a PFD.
- Rowboats or canoes carrying passengers should not be towed behind
motorboats or sailboats.
- Use of canoes should be restricted to swimmers who have satisfactorily
demonstrated their ability in launching, landing, and paddling a canoe and in
handling a swamped canoe. Canoeists should be taught the proper procedure for
staying afloat if the canoe capsizes or is swamped.
- Small boats, whether under sail or power, used for pleasure or ferry
purposes, must have a minimum capacity of 10 cubic feet per person. Boats
propelled by hand power—such as rowboats—and used for pleasure purposes only
must provide a minimum of 7 cubic feet per person. (Lifeboats on
passenger-carrying vessels propelled by power must comply with the
- Provision also should be made by all boats under sail or power for a
sufficient quantity or supply of oars and rowlocks or paddles to be used in
case of emergency. Fire-fighting equipment and lights must also be carried
- Bilges of gasoline-powered boats should be kept free from gasoline and
oil at all times. Thorough ventilation, either natural or by blower, is
necessary to dispel gasoline vapor.
- Motorized personal watercraft, such as Jet-Skis(R), are not authorized
for use in Scouting activities, and their use should not be permitted in or
near BSA program areas.
- To prevent ignition by static electricity during refueling, establish
complete metallic contact between the nozzle of the filling hose and the tank
opening or filling pipe, and maintain contact until gasoline has ceased to
flow. If a funnel is used, establish contact with the funnel and the opening
in the tank. All passengers should be ashore during refueling.
regulations that govern cruises by private powerboat or sailboat, refer to
Motorboat Regulations, published by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Air travel is permitted as follows:
- On any flight scheduled by a commercial airline.
- The BSA Flying Permit, No. 19-672 (see sample in appendix), is required
for all BSA flying activities except for commercial flights. The local
council reviews and approves the flight permit just as it would a tour
permit. The Parent/Guardian Consent Form, No. 19-673, is also
required. Units should attach the signed consent forms to the BSA Flying
Permit Application and keep a copy of the signed consent forms in their files.
- Flying in hang gliders, ultralights, experimental class aircraft, and
hot-air balloons (whether or not they are tethered); parachuting, and flying
in aircraft as part of a search and rescue mission are unauthorized
- Airplane travelers are cautioned about what they pack in their luggage.
In flight, variations in temperature and air pressure can cause some hazardous
materials to leak or ignite. Included in the category of hazardous materials
that should not be packed in luggage are matches or lighters; flammable
liquids and gases; signal flares and other explosives; bleaches, aerosols,
mercury, and solvents containing dangerous chemicals that can cause toxic
fumes and corrosion.
If a unit plans a trip within 500 miles of the home base, it is important
that the unit obtain a local tour permit. A national tour permit is required for
trips in excess of 500 miles from home or outside the continental United States.
(See samples of both in the appendix.)
Tour permits have become recognized by national parks, military institutions,
and other organizations as proof that a unit activity has been well planned and
organized and is under capable and qualified leadership. These organizations may
require the tour permit for entry.
Most short, in-town den trips of a few hours do not require a tour permit;
however, it is recommended that dens obtain permission slips from
The following questions and answers may help you understand how Scouting
drivers fall into a category of private motor carriers that are subject to the
commercial driver's license (CDL) rules:
- What is a "private motor carrier of passengers"?
A private motor
carrier of passengers does not offer transportation services for hire but (a)
transports passengers in interstate (some state regulations apply to
intrastate) commerce, and (b) uses a vehicle designed to carry more than 15
passengers, which includes the driver, or a vehicle that has a gross vehicular
weight greater than 10,000 pounds.
- What are some examples of usage of a private motor carrier of
passengers in Scouting?
Neither of these examples would be
considered a private motor carrier of passengers if the transportation were
extended beyond Scouting participants to the general public, because in that
case it is considered transportation for hire and is subject to federal motor
carrier safety regulations.
- Scouting units that use vehicles designed to carry more than 15
passengers, such as buses, is one example. The driver in this case is often
a volunteer driver of a "Scout bus" that is owned or leased. This category
is referred to as nonbusiness private motor carrier of passengers and
is probably the most frequent Scouting usage subject to the rule.
- Councils that operate camps and include transportation fees in their
program are subject to the rule when using buses or other vehicles designed
to carry more than 15 passengers or that have a gross vehicular weight of
more than 10,000 pounds.
- What about Scouting use of school buses?
In most states,
Scouting units or councils that contract with schools to use buses fall into
the for-hire category, and the school is subject to the federal safety
regulations. Since public school transportation vehicles are not subject to
CDL rules when transporting students, the school may not realize that the
for-hire regulations apply. The consequence could have a ruinous effect on a
planned Scouting activity.
- How will the rule be enforced?
The primary enforcement activity
of both categories, business and nonbusiness, is the driver/vehicle
inspection. Inspections can be performed anywhere on the road or at
destination points such as parks, sporting complexes, etc. Only the business
category is subject to compliance reviews and record keeping, but if serious
safety problems are identified in either category of vehicle usage, the
operation of the vehicle is subject to being discontinued.
- Are Scouting operations subject to the drug and alcohol testing portion
of the rule?
As of January 1, 1996, all operators of vehicles who are
required to have a commercial driver's license are subject to drug and alcohol
testing. There are no exemptions for the nonbusiness private motor carrier
of passengers category, which includes Scouting volunteer drivers. Local
councils should establish guidelines for volunteer drivers based on the
requirements of the state where located.
- How do Scouting officials obtain the Department of Transportation
identification number required for all vehicles that are subject to the CDL
Form MCS-150 should be requested from the Federal Highway
Administration (FHWA), Office of Motor Carriers, in the council's state. The
completed form would be sent to the FHWA's office in Washington, D.C., where a
DOT number will be assigned. This number, as well as name, city, and state,
should be displayed on the side of the vehicle. An education and technical
assistance (ETA) package can be obtained from the local FHWA
There is magic to camping in winter. It is one of the most advanced and
challenging of outdoor adventures. Special considerations for winter camping
include the following:
- 1. Leadership.
- In no other camp is the type of leadership as important as in the winter
camp. It is vital that a leader be an experienced camper with a strong
- 2. Equipment.
- Do not attempt to camp unless completely outfitted. Even if equipment for
winter camp is more expensive than for summer camp, Scouts must be adequately
clothed, and leaders should ensure that blankets and other equipment are of
suitable quality and weight.
- 3. Physical Condition.
- A physician's certificate as to physical ability must be obtained by each
Scout before preliminary training begins.
Tips for your next winter camping trip:
- Use the buddy system for winter outings. Buddies can check each other for
frostbite, make sure no one becomes lost, and boost the morale of the entire
- Plan to cover no more than five miles per day on a winter trek on
snowshoes. An experienced group can cover 10 to 12 miles on cross-country
- Always allow ample time to make camp in winter, especially if you plan to
build snow shelters.
- Fatigue encourages accidents. Rest occasionally when building a snow
shelter; taking part in cross-country skiing or snowshoeing; or participating
in other active winter sports. Periodic rests also help avoid overheating.
- Pulling a load over the snow on a sled or toboggan is generally easier
than carrying it in a backpack.
- Snow is a terrific insulator. Snow shelters are much warmer than tents
because they retain heat and keep out the cold wind. If you have adequate time
for building snow shelters, you will spend a much more comfortable night
sleeping in them than in a tent.
- Snow is the greatest thief in winter, swallowing up small dropped items.
Tie or tape a piece of brightly colored cord to small items so they can be
seen in snow. Some items, such as mittens, can be tied to larger items, such
as a parka, to prevent them from being dropped and lost.
- Melting snow in a pot to get water may cause the pot to burn through or
may scorch the snow, giving the water a disagreeable taste. Prevent this by
adding a cup or two of water in the bottom of the pot before putting in the
snow to melt.
- Punch a hole in the top of your ice chisel and string a stout cord through
it. Before trying to chisel a hole in ice, anchor the cord to something large
or too heavy to be pulled through the hole so you will not lose your chisel in
freezing water when the ice is penetrated.
- Always test the thickness of ice before venturing any distance from the
shore. Ice should be at least 3 inches thick for a small group; 4 inches of
ice is safe for a crowd. Since ice thickness can vary considerably, it is best
to stay near the shoreline of large lakes.
- Use alkaline batteries in flashlights. Standard batteries deteriorate
quickly in cold weather. Tape the switch of your flashlight in the "off"
position until you are ready to use it. This will prevent it from being turned
on accidentally while in your pack or on your sled.
- Encourage everyone in your group to wear brightly colored outer clothing
so that each person will be more visible, especially during severe weather.
- Small liquid-fuel stoves are much better for cooking in winter than fires,
which are difficult to build with wet wood. Gathering wood that is frozen to
the ground also can be difficult, if not impossible. A pressure/pump-type
stove is essential in winter.
- Always use a funnel to refuel a stove so you won't frostbite your fingers
by accidentally pouring fuel on them. Fuel evaporates at a high rate of speed
and quickly removes heat from anything it touches.
- Place a stove or fire on a platform of logs or rocks so it will not melt
through the snow.
- Never light or use a stove inside a tent or snow shelter. A tent may catch
fire, and vapors in a snow shelter may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Neither of these potential mishaps is worth the risk.
- A windscreen is essential for using a stove in the winter. Even a slight
breeze will direct the heat away from its intended mark.
References: Okpik: Cold Weather Camping, Boy Scout Handbook,
Scoutmaster Handbook, and Camping Sparklers
Beyond camping, a number of cold-weather activities present challenges to the
Scout and leader, such as cross-country skiing, ice skating, sledding,
snowmobiling, ice fishing, and snowshoeing. Essential ingredients for fun
include skill training and an awareness of the hazards unique to these
activities. Snow conditions, hazardous terrain, special clothing needs, and
emergency survival are important issues for a safe and successful
Be sure your winter outdoor activity always follows these guidelines:
- All winter activities must be supervised by mature and conscientious
adults (at least one of whom must be age 21 or older) who understand and
knowingly accept responsibility for the well-being and safety of the youth in
their care, who are experienced and qualified in the particular skills and
equipment involved in the activity, and who are committed to compliance with
the seven points of BSA Winter Sports Safety. Direct supervision should be
maintained at all times by two or more adults when Scouts are "in the field."
The appropriate number of supervisors will increase depending on the number of
participants, the type of activity, and environmental conditions.
- Winter sports activities embody intrinsic hazards that vary from sport to
sport. Participants should be aware of the potential hazards of any winter
sport before engaging in it. Leaders should emphasize preventing accidents
through adherence to safety measures and proper technique.
- Suitable clothing for the activity and environment should be worn at all
times, and equipment should include gloves and helmets when appropriate.
- Winter sports activities often place greater demands on a participant's
cardiopulmonary system, and people with underlying medical conditions
(especially if the heart or lungs are involved) should not participate without
medical consultation and direction. For participants without underlying
medical conditions, the annual health history and physical examination by a
licensed health-care practitioner every three years are sufficient. The adult
leader should be familiar with the physical circumstances of each youth
participant and make appropriate adjustments in the activity or protection as
warranted by individual health or physical conditions. Adults participating in
strenuous outdoor winter activity should have an annual physical examination.
It is recommended that the medical assessment be performed by a licensed
health-care practitioner knowledgeable of the sport and the particular
physical demands the activity will place on the individual.
- For winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, etc. that
utilize specialized equipment, it is essential that all equipment fit and
- When youth are engaging in downhill activities such as sledding,
tobogganing, or snow tubing, minimize the likelihood of collision with
immobile obstacles. Use only designated areas where rocks, tree stumps, and
other potential obstacles have been identified and marked, cleared away,
shielded, or buffered in some way.
- All participants should know, understand, and respect the rules and
procedures for safe winter activity. The applicable rules should be presented
and learned before the outing, and all participants should review them just
before the activity begins. When Scouts know and understand the reasons for
the rules, they will observe them. When fairly and impartially applied, rules
do not interfere with fun. Rules for safety, plus common sense and good
judgment, keep the fun from being interrupted by tragedy.
The online version of Guide to Safe Scouting is now identical to the
printed version of the publication of the same name (BSA Supply #34416E).
Changes made to the online version to update policy information since the
printing of that item are documented here.
The following forms are available to download:
You will need Acrobat® Reader to download and print these forms.
This free software may be downloaded from Adobe.