Guide to Safe Scouting: 
A Unit Leader's Guide for Current Policies and Procedures to Safe Activities

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 prevention.

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 insurance money.

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:

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 policies.

Viewing the online Guide

The Guide to Safe Scouting is available here in two formats:

A bound hard-copy version (BSA Supply #34416) is also available. To obtain a copy, contact your local council or call 1-800-323-0732 to request an Official Boy Scout Catalog.

Table of Contents


  1. Youth Protection & Adult Leadership
    • Youth Protection in Scouting
    • Youth Member Behavior Guidelines
    • Leadership Requirements for Trips and Outings
  2. 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
    • Snorkeling
    • Kayaking
    • Waterskiing
    • Boardsailing
    • American Whitewater Guidelines
  3. Camping
    • Age Guidelines
    • Family Camping
    • Cub Scout Overnight Opportunities
    • Wilderness Camping
    • Trail Safety
    • Beware of Lightning
    • Treated Drinking Water
    • BSA Property Smart
    • Hantavirus
    • Rabies Prevention
  4. Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Use and Abuse
  5. Emergency Preparedness
    • Emergency Preparedness Plan
    • Emergency Preparedness Kit
    • Emergency Contact List
  6. First Aid
    • First-Aid Kits
    • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
    • Protection Considerations for Bloodborne Pathogens
    • Near-Drowning
  7. Fuels and Fire Prevention
    • Chemical Fuels
    • Guidelines for Safely Using Chemical Stoves and Lanterns
    • Flammability Warning
    • Extinguishers
    • Fireworks
  8. Guns and Firearms
    • Cub Scout Standards
    • Boy Scout Standards
    • Venturing Standards
  9. Sports and Activities
    • The Sweet 16 of BSA Safety
    • Caving
    • Judo, Tai Chi, and Aikido
    • Climbing and Rappelling
    • Project COPE Activities
    • Unauthorized and Restricted Activities
    • Carbon Tetrachloride
    • Knives
    • Rope Monkey Bridges
    • Parade Floats and Hayrides
    • Unit Fund-raisers
    • Tractor Safety
    • Bike Safety
    • Skating Guidelines
    • Horsemanship Activities
  10. Inspections
    • Meeting Room
    • Motor Vehicles
    • Unit Camping
    • Boats
  11. Medical Information
    • Immunizations
    • Life-Threatening Communicable Diseases
    • Sun Safety
    • Religious Beliefs and Medical Care
    • Prescriptions
  12. Transportation
    • Automobiles
    • Campers, Trailers, and Trucks
    • Buses
    • Trains
    • Boats
    • Aircraft
    • Tour Permits
    • Commercial Driver's License Compliance
  13. Winter Activities
    • Winter Camping Safety
    • Winter Sports Safety

I. Adult Leadership

Youth Protection in Scouting

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 program.


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 activities.
  • 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.
    Activities with 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 permitted.
  • 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 troop.

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 abused?

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 character.

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 abuse reporters.

What youth protection educational materials does the BSA have for youth members?

"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 Power Pack Pals comic books, available in English and in Spanish, are for Cub Scout­age boys. They include Power Pack Pals (No. 33980)/Los Superamigos del Pack (No. 33979), Power Pack Pals Tackle the Internet (No. 33981)/Power Pack Pals: Seguridad en la Internet (No. 3344646), and Power Pack Pals: Four Rules for Personal Safety (No. 46-34750)/Power Pack Pals: 4 Reglas Para Seguridad Personal (No. 34465). The BSA has bilingual, age-appropriate videos for all youth age groups to address the problems of sexual abuse. It Happened to Me/A Mí Me Pasó (No. AV-09DVD11) should be used annually by Cub Scout 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/Hora de Contarlo (No. AV-09DVD04), introduces the ³three R¹s² of Youth Protection, and should be viewed by troops annually. Personal Safety Awareness/Concientización Sobre la Seguridad Personal (No. AV-09DVD27) is the video for Venturing-age young people.

How can Scout leaders who are not social workers teach children about youth protection?

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 R's" of Youth Protection?

The "three R's" of Youth Protection convey a simple message that the BSA wants its youth members to learn:

Youth Member Behavior Guidelines

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.

Member Responsibilities

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.

Unit Responsibilities

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 the unit.

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 America

Leadership Requirements for Trips and Outings

  1. 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.
  2. During transportation to and from planned Scout outings,
    1. Meet for departure at a designated area.
    2. Prearrange a schedule for periodic checkpoint stops as a group.
    3. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Male and female leaders must have separate sleeping facilities. Married couples may share the same quarters if appropriate facilities are available.
  5. Male and female youth participants will not share the same sleeping facility.
  6. 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.
  7. When staying in tents, no youth will stay in the tent of an adult other than his or her parent or guardian.
  8. 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 latches.
    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.
  9. 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 the ground.

II. Aquatics Safety

Instructors for Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat Training

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.

Safe Swim Defense

Safe Swim Defense

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 plan.

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 activity.)
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, an examination by a physician should be required by the adult supervisor.
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, currents, deep holes, rocks, and stumps. Mark off the area for three groups: not more than 3 1/2 feet deep for nonswimmers; from shallow water to just over the head for beginners; deep water not over 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 more than 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 call "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 checkout.
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 favoritism.

Classification of Swimming Ability

Swimmer Test

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 your head in depth. 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 floating.

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 element.

  1. "Jump feetfirst into water over your in depth, ...
    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, and gaining forward momentum by diving do not satisfy this requirement.
  2. "...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 show 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.
  3. "...swim 25 yards using an easy, resting backstroke..."
    The swimmer must perform 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 backstroke may suffice if it clearly allows the swimmer to rest and regain wind.
  4. "...The 100 yards must be swum continuously and include at least one sharp turn..."
    The total distance is to be covered without rest stops. The sharp turn demonstrates the swimmer's ability to reverse direction in deep water without assistance or push-off from side or bottom.
  5. "...After completing the swim, rest by floating."
    This critically important part of the test evaluates the swimmer's ability to maintain himself 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 therefore is 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 resting and likely could continue to do so for a prolonged period. Drownproofing 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

Beginner 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 starting place.

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.

Pool and Surf Swimming

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 lookout.

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.

The surf swimming environment — with its 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 conditions.

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 that is supplied with a rescue tube or torpedo buoy and stationed at the beach area.

Safety Afloat

Safety Afloat

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. 34159, have a commitment card, No. 34242, with them, and be dedicated to full compliance with all nine points of Safety Afloat.

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 five.

2. Physical Fitness

All persons must present evidence of fitness by a complete health history from a physician, parent, or legal guardian. Adjust all supervision, discipline, and protection to anticipate any risks associated with individual health conditions. In the event of any significant health conditions, a medical evaluation by a physician should be required by the adult leader.

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 who is trained 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 your head. 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 floating. 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, kayaking, and surfboarding). Type II and III PFDs are recommended.

5. Buddy System

All activity afloat necessitates using the buddy system. Not only must 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.

For Cub Scouts:Canoeing, kayaking, rowing, and rafting for Cub Scouts (including Webelos Scouts) are to be limited to council/district events on flat water ponds or controlled lake areas free of powerboats and sailboats. Prior to recreational canoeing and kayaking, Cub Scouts are to be instructed in basic handling skills and safety practices.

7. Planning

For Cub Scouts:Cub Scout canoeing, kayaking, rowing, 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 water conditions, and to the individual; must be in good repair; and must satisfy all state and federal requirements. Spare equipment or repair materials must be carried. Appropriate rescue equipment must be 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 greater than 20 feet long) used in adult-supervised unit activities by a chartered Venturing crew/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 sponsorship and control of the National Council, the standards and procedures in the Sea Scout Manual may be substituted for the Safety Afloat standards.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

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.

Water Clarity

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

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 Area

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 and Elevated Entry

"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.

Scuba Policy

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 Service.

Cub Scouts

Youth members in Cub Scouting are not authorized to use scuba in any activity.

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.

Snorkeling BSA

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 requirements.

Snorkeling Safety

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 are taken.
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 personnel.
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
  1. All snorkeling equipment shall be properly fitted and in good repair.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 snorkeling.
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. 33104; the Whitewater merit badge pamphlet, 33405; and Varsity Team Program Features, Volume III, No. 34839.

Kayaking BSA

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 excursions.

Kayaking Safety

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 concerns.
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 function.
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 rivers.
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 Venturers.

Reference: Waterskiing merit badge pamphlet, No. 33348


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

American Whitewater Guidelines

The following guidelines, adapted from the American Whitewater Safety Code, are geared especially for Scouting-related whitewater activities and are an excellent supplement to the SAfety Afloat guidelines.

  1. Be a competent swimmer
    Being a safe whitewater boater does not require Olympian swimming skills, but you should be comfortable and competent in the water and be able to handle yourself underwater.
  2. Wear a personal flotation device (PFD)
    A properly fitted vest-type PFD offers back and shoulder protection as well as the flotation needed to swim safely in whitewater.
  3. Wear a solid, correctly fitted helmet
    A helmet is essential in kayaks or covered canoes and is recommended for open canoeists using thigh straps and rafters running steep drops.
  4. Keep your boat under control
    Your skills should be sufficiently developed to enable you to stop or get to shore before reaching danger. Do not enter a rapid unless you are reasonably sure that you can run it safely or swim it without injury.
  5. Be aware of river hazards
    Whitewater rivers present many hazards, such as high water of very cold water, strainers (brush or trees in the water), dams, ledges, holes, undercut rocks, or places where broaching (hitting an obstacle broadside) is likely. If you do not think you can boat around a hazard, get out and walk.
  6. Avoid Boating Alone
    The recommended minimum party is three people in at least two craft.
  7. Know the limits of your boating ability
    Do not attempt rivers or rapids that require paddling skills more advanced than those you possess
  8. Know how to self-rescue
    Learn and practice self-rescue techniques such as recovering from a capsize.
  9. Be trained in rescue skills
    Be able to perform CPR and first aid, including being able to recognize and treat hypothermia.
  10. Be suitable equipped and prepared for emergencies
    • Wear shoes that protect your feet.
    • Carry a throw rope, knife, whistle, and waterproof matches.
    • Tie your glasses on.
    • Bring duct tape on short runs and a full repair kit on isolated rivers.
    • Do not wear bulky clothing that could get waterlogged and hinder your ability to swim.

  11. Be responsible for your own safety
    • Make thoughtful and responsible decisions about whether to participate in a trip.
    • Choose appropriate equipment.
    • Scout all rapids first and use your best judgment to decide whether to run or portage.
    • Evaluate your own and your group's safety on an ongoing basis. Speak with anyone whose actions on the water are dangerous, whether the person is a part of your group or not.

For more information about whitewater safety and to view the complete American Whitewater Safety Code, visit

III. Camping

Age Guidelines

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 Camping 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.

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

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, and training.

Cub Scout Overnight Opportunities

Cub Scouts may experience overnight activities in venues other than accredited resident camping. There are two categories of Cub Scout overnighters:

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 specific adult.

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.

Pack Overnighters

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 Pack Overnighter Site Approval Form, 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. 34162) 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. 34426.

Wilderness Camping

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.

Trail Safety

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 cliffs.

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 agency.

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; Fieldbook

Trek Safely

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. 34412. 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. 34426B.
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 surprises.
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.

Beware of Lightning

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 poles.

Lightning Safety Rules

Treated Drinking Water

A constant supply of treated drinking water is essential. Serious illness can result from drinking untreated 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 treatment should be treated before use. Don't take a chance on using water that you are not sure of. To treat water, follow these steps:

  1. Filter the water to remove as many solids as possible.
  2. Bring it to a rolling boil and boil it for a full minute.
  3. Let it cool at least 30 minutes.
  4. 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.
  5. Let the water stand 30 minutes.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 use.

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 treatment 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 Sweet Water.

BSA Property Smart

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:

  1. 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.
    If 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 elsewhere.
  2. 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.
  3. Ask where it will be convenient to park cars. Don't block traffic lanes and driveways.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 the animals.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 the area.
  10. 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.
  11. 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 environment.
  12. 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. There are four different strains of hantavirus, and cases have been reported in 30 different states. The virus is most active when the temperature is between 45° and 72° (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 Prevention

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

IV. Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Use and Abuse

Drugs: A Deadly Game! Order Form

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.

V. Emergency Preparedness

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

  1. 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 absent.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Practice earthquake, tornado, and fire drills at home, work, and school periodically.
  9. 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 days.


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.

Battery-operated radio

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 gloves.

Personal Items

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.

Sanitary supplies

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.)

Contact information

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.

Pet supplies

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)

VI. First Aid

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.

First-Aid Kits

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 conditions.

Suggested First-Aid Kit Contents

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.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (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).

Protection Considerations for Bloodborne Pathogens

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:

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:

  1. 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 Scouting activities.
  2. 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.
  3. The chartered organization may arrange to have shots given at a reduced rate or free of charge.
  4. 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 years.


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 special attention.

VII. Fuels and Fire Prevention

Chemical Fuels

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.

Guidelines for Safely Using Chemical Stoves and Lanterns

  1. Use compressed- or liquid-gas stoves or lanterns only with knowledgeable adult supervision and in Scout facilities only where and when permitted.
  2. Operate and maintain according to manufacturer¹s instructions included with the stove or lantern.
  3. 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).
  4. Let hot stoves and lanterns cool before changing cylinders of compressed gases or refilling from containers of liquid gas.
  5. 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 igniting.
  6. 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.
  7. Place the stove on a level, secure surface before operating. On snow, place insulated support under the stove to prevent melting and tipping.
  8. Periodically check fittings on compressed-gas stoves and on pressurized liquid-gas stoves for leakage, using soap solution before lighting.
  9. To avoid possible fires, locate gas tanks, stoves, etc., below any tents since heavy leakage of gas will flow downhill the same as water.
  10. 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.
  11. Do not leave a lighted stove or lantern unattended.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.

Flammability Warning

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 are emphasized:

  1. Only flashlights and electric lanterns are permitted in tents. No flames in tents is a rule that must be enforced.
  2. Never use liquid-fuel stoves, heaters, lanterns, lighted candles, matches, and other flame sources in or near tents.
  3. Do not pitch tents near an open fire.
  4. Do not use flammable chemicals near tents‹charcoal lighter or spray cans of paint, bug killer, or repellent.
  5. Be careful when using electricity and lighting in tents.
  6. Always extinguish cooking campfires promptly.
  7. 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 conductor.

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 shoulder level.

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 control expert.

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.

VIII. Guns and Firearms

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 supervised programs.

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.

Cub Scouting Standards

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 firearm.

Boy Scouting Standards

Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts are permitted to participate in shooting activities outlined in the Cub Scout standards and in the standards listed here.

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.


  1. It is recommended that either 20-, 16-, or 12-gauge semiautomatic shotguns be used. Gas operated shotguns are recommended.
  2. 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 be used.
  3. Shooting safety glasses and ear protectors must be worn on shotgun ranges.
  4. 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 VI)


  1. 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.
  2. Semiautomatic rifles will not be permitted.
  3. Repeating rifles having a tubular magazine will not be permitted.
  4. Repeating rifles having a removable clip-type magazine will be permitted but must be used as single-loaders.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Muzzle Loaders

The following standards are for muzzle-loading long guns.

  1. 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.
  2. Recommended loads of .FFFg blackpowder are not to exceed 1 grain per caliber. One-half of this amount is frequently sufficient for target shooting.
  3. Shooting safety glasses and ear protectors must be worn.
  4. All training and shooting activities must be supervised by a currently certified NRA/NMLRA muzzle-loading rifle instructor who is at least 21 years of age.
  5. 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 VI)


  1. Handgun use is limited to the Venturing program only.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Shooting safety glasses and ear protection must be worn on pistol ranges.
  6. Care must be taken to comply with federal, state, and local laws.

Venturing Standards

The following guidelines relate to use of firearms within the Venturing program only. Safety should be the primary consideration when firearms are used as part of the Venturing program.

Venturers may do all activities listed as approved in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout sections and must follow guidelines in those sections. In addition to those activities, Venturers may do the following:


Venturers may use center-fire rifles (large caliber rifles).


  1. Handgun use is limited to the Venturing program.
  2. All pistol shooting activities must be supervised by a currently NRA-certified pistol instructor and when on the range, must be supervised by a currently NRA-certified range safety officer.
  3. When on the range, there must be a ratio of no more than three shooters per adult coach or instructor. the adult coaches or instructors must be close to the shooters for close supervision. The adult coaches/instructors must be supervised by the range safety officer.
  4. All participants must complete an NRA basic pistol marksmanship course prior to range firing.
  5. With the approval of the local council, handgun shooting may be conducted on BSA camp ranges, provided the shooting is done under the supervision of a currently NRA-certified range safety officer.
  6. Shooting safety glasses and ear protection must be worn on pistol ranges.
  7. Compliance with federal, state, and local laws is required.

To locate an NRA-certified range safety officer or instructor in your area, contact the NRA Training Department at 703-267-1430 or at

Primary reference: Venturing Leader Manual, No. 34655D

IX. Sports and Activities

The Sweet 16 of BSA Safety

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 activity.
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 hazards.
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 directions.


General Policy

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Cave Safety

  8. 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 accident.
    • The leaders must keep their group together at all times.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Running, jumping, horseplay, and solo exploration must be prohibited—such foolhardy actions jeopardize not only the individual but also the entire group.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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

Judo, Tai Chi, and Aikido

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.

Climbing and Rappelling

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. 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 service center.
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 medical conditions.
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), CE (European Community Norm), or meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards. 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 the event of severe weather or other problems, share the climbing/rappelling plan and an alternate with parents and the unit committee.
  • Secure the necessary permits or written permission for using private or public lands.
  • 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. See the Principles of Leave No Trace, No. 21-105.
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 Activities

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 Project COPE National Standards, No. 20-172. Units may participate in age-appropriate initiative games, but under no circumstances should attempt to construct low- or high-course elements.

Unauthorized and Restricted Activities

The following activities have been declared unauthorized and restricted by the Boy Scouts of America:

Carbon Tetrachloride

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

Rope Monkey Bridges

When constructing monkey bridges, observe the following safety rules:

  1. Always follow the steps for constructing monkey bridges outlined in the Pioneering merit badge pamphlet.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Know the effect the knots will have in reducing rope strength and the proper care that rope requires.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 repairs.
  7. Any activity on rope swings, monkey bridges, slide-for-life, or similar devices that are located over water must comply with Safe Swim Defense.
  8. Reference: Pioneering merit badge pamphlet

Parade Floats and Hayrides

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:

  1. Transportation to and from the parade or hayride site is not allowed on the truck or trailer.
  2. Those persons riding, whether seated or standing, must be able to hold on to something stationary.
  3. Legs should not hang over the side.
  4. Flashing lights must illuminate a vehicle used for a hayride after dark, or the vehicle must be followed by a vehicle with flashing lights.

Unit Fund-raisers

Include these safety considerations when planning a unit fund-raiser:

  1. Money-earning projects should be suited to the ages and abilities of youth participants.
  2. Proper adult supervision should be provided.
  3. Youth should engage in money-earning projects only in neighborhoods that are safe and familiar and should use the buddy system.
  4. Leaders must train youth members to never enter the home of a stranger and to know whom to contact in case of an emergency.
  5. Youth participants should be familiar with safe pedestrian practices and participate during daylight hours only.
  6. Compliance requirements:
    1. Check local statutes regarding solicitation rules and permits.
    2. A Unit Fund-raising Permit must be obtained from the local council service center.

Tractor Safety

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Bike Safety

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 guidelines.
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 days.
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 recommended.
10. Maintenance
Keep your bike clean and well-maintained—especially the brakes and drive chain.
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.

Skating Guidelines

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 activities.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Skaters must NEVER "hitch a ride" on any vehicle.
  7. Parents or legal guardians must be informed and must consent to youth participation in a BSA skating activity.
  8. 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

Horsemanship activities in Scouting include merit badge activities, arena rides, multi-day trips (including treks and cavalcades), and Cub Scouting familiarization rides.

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 program.

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 members.

X. Inspections

Meeting Room

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

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.

Unit Camping

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 regulations.

References: Handbook for Skippers and Safe Boating Instructor's Guide

XI. Medical Information

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 information.

* 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:

  1. Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid within the past 10 years
  2. Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) since first birthday
  3. Trivalent oral polio vaccine (TOPV); four doses since birth

Life-Threatening Communicable Diseases

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.

Sun Safety

The American Academy of Dermatology advises the following protection tips against damaging rays:

Religious Beliefs and Medical Care

The following is the policy of the Boy Scouts of America regarding medical requirements:

  • 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 followed.

XII. Transportation

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 safety procedures.

References: Cub Scout Leader Book, Scoutmaster Handbook, Troop Committee Guidebook, Exploring Reference Book, and Tours and Expeditions


The Risk Zone

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:

  1. Seat belts are required for all occupants.
  2. 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 (CDL).
  3. An adult leader (at least 21 years of age) must be in charge and accompany the group.
  4. 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:
    1. Six months' driving experience as a licensed driver (time on a learner's permit or equivalent is not to be counted)
    2. No record of accidents or moving violations
    3. Parental permission granted to the leader, driver, and riders
  5. Passenger cars or station wagons may be used for transporting passengers, but passengers should not ride on the rear deck of station wagons.
  6. Trucks may not be used for transporting passengers except in the cab.
  7. All driving, except short trips, should be done in daylight.
  8. 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.
  9. Do not exceed the speed limit.
  10. Do not travel in convoy (see "Leadership Requirements for Trips and Outings," No. 2).
  11. 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.

Campers, Trailers, and Trucks

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:

  1. Get the correct trailer for the car and the correct hitch for the trailer. Distribute and anchor the load.
  2. Allow extra time to brake. Changing lanes while braking can jackknife the trailer.
  3. Add safety equipment as dictated by common sense and state laws (mirrors, lights, safety chains, brakes for heavy trailers, etc.).
  4. 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:

  1. Regular and thorough maintenance program
  2. No more passengers than there are seating locations
  3. Luggage and equipment fastened securely to prevent being thrown around in case of sudden stop
  4. Emergency exits clear of people or things
  5. 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:

  1. Don't lean out of windows or doors.
  2. When changing trains, don't cross railroad tracks without permission.
  3. Stay out of vestibules. Keep the railroad car door closed.
  4. In case of illness or accident, see a train official who can arrange for medical help.
  5. 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:

  1. All tour leaders must have current training in the BSA Safety Afloat program (see Chapter II, "Aquatics Safety").
  2. 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.
  3. Rowboats or canoes carrying passengers should not be towed behind motorboats or sailboats.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 10-cubic-foot law.)
  6. 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 aboard.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
    For regulations that govern cruises by private powerboat or sailboat, refer to Motorboat Regulations, published by the U.S. Coast Guard.


Air travel is subject to the following rules:

  1. On any flight scheduled by a commercial airline.
  2. The BSA Flying Permit, (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 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.
  3. 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 activities.
  4. 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.

Tour Permits

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 parents.

Commercial Driver's License Compliance

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:

  1. 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.

  2. What are some examples of usage of a private motor carrier of passengers in Scouting?
    • 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.
    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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. How do Scouting officials obtain the Department of Transportation identification number required for all vehicles that are subject to the CDL rule?
    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ³strongly encourages² that registration for a DOT number be completed online at, the agency¹s Web site. The agency also has a printable form available there, with instructions for submitting it. When the DOT number is assigned, it, as well as name, city, and state, should be displayed on the side of the vehicle. See for information about their Education and Technical Assistance program.

XIII. Winter Activities

Winter Camping Safety

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 character.
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:

  1. 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 group.
  2. 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 skis.
  3. Always allow ample time to make camp in winter, especially if you plan to build snow shelters.
  4. 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.
  5. Pulling a load over the snow on a sled or toboggan is generally easier than carrying it in a backpack.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Encourage everyone in your group to wear brightly colored outer clothing so that each person will be more visible, especially during severe weather.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Place a stove or fire on a platform of logs or rocks so it will not melt through the snow.
  16. 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.
  17. 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

Winter Sports Safety

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 experience.

Be sure your winter outdoor activity always follows these guidelines:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Suitable clothing for the activity and environment should be worn at all times, and equipment should include gloves and helmets when appropriate.
  4. 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.
  5. For winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, etc. that utilize specialized equipment, it is essential that all equipment fit and function properly.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 was originally identical to the printed version of the publication of the same name (BSA Supply #34416). Changes made to the online version to update policy information since the printing of that item are documented here.

Camping: Age Guidelines
Deleted the phrase "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." According to Venturing divison, this is incorrect (i.e., Venturers need not be multiple-registered to participate in Boy Scout resident Camp, nor must they attend as part of a troop).
Updated: 9 Jan 2006
Aquatics Safety: Safety Afloat
The content of this entire section was replaced with new copy from item 34368B (2006 printing).
Updated: 1 Mar 2006
Guns and Firearms: Venturing Standards
This content of this section was completely replaced.
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Youth Protection & Adult Leadership: Youth Protection in Scouting
(1) "Junior Leaders" was changed to "Youth Leaders" in the last paragraph of "Barriers to Abuse Within Scouting."
(2) "What youth protection educational materials does the BSA have for youth members" was updated to reflect our current publications list.
(3) An apostrophe was added to the "Three Rs" (now the "Three R's")
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Aquatics Safety: Safe Swim Defense
(1) Under "Qualified Supervision," the phrase "confident of his or her ability" was changed to "confident of being able"
(2) Under "Physical Fitness," the phrase "the unit leader should require proof of an examination by a physician" was changed to "an examination by a physician should be required by the adult supervisor"
(3) Under "Safe Area," "currents" was added to the list of items for which lifeguards and swimmers should systematically examine the bottom of the swimming area.
(4) Under "Safe Area," the phrase "deep water not more than 12 feet" was changed to "deep water not over 12 feet"
(5) Under "Safe Area," the phrase "Swimming is not permitted in water over 12 feet deep" was changed to "Swimming is not permitted in water more than 12 feet deep"
(6) Under "Buddy System," the phrase 'a call of "Buddies!"' was changed to 'call "Buddies!"'
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Aquatics Safety: Classification of Swimming Ability
The "Swimmer test" was completely reworded. (Only the wording, not the requirements themselves, was altered.)
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Aquatics Safety: Pool and Surf Swimming
(1) The word "of" was changed to "with its" in first sentence of the fourth paragraph and the phrase was set off with em dashes
(2) In the last sentence of the fifth paragraph, the phrase "a rescue team stationed at the beach area and supplied with a rescue tube or torpedo buoy" was changed to "a rescue team that is supplied with a rescue tube or torpedo buoy and stationed at the beach area"
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Aquatics Safety: Safety Afloat
(1) Under "Swimming Ability", the phrase "Jump feetfirst into water over the head in depth, level off, and begin swimming." was changed to "Jump feetfirst into water over your head"
(2) "Surfboarding" was added to the list of activities for which PFDs are required.
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Aquatics Safety: Kayaking
Item numbers were updated in the first paragraph.
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Aquatics Safety: Waterskiing
The item number for the Waterskiing merit badge pamphlet was updated.
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Aquatics Safety: Whitewater Safety Code
This section was renamed "American Whitewater Guidelines" and its content was completely replaced.
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Camping: Age Guidelines
In the third bullet item, "BSA National Camp School" was changed to "BSA National Camping School"
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Camping: Cub Scout Overnight Opportunities
Under "Pack Overnighters," "Site Approval Standards" was changed to " Pack Overnighter Site Approval Form"
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Camping: Pure Drinking Water
Was changed to "Treated Drinking Water" and similar changes ("treated" for "purified," "treatment" for "purification," etc.) changes were made throughout this section.
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Camping: Hantavirus
The phrase "Outbreaks have been principally limited to the Four Corners region of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado." was removed
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Camping: Rabies Prevention
"Notify local animal control office, police department, or board of health" was added to the list (it was previously a separate paragraph).
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
First Aid: First-Aid Kits
In the suggested first-aid kit contents, "Water purification tablets" was changed to "Water treatment tablets"
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Age-Appropriate Guidelines for Scouting Activities
The table was updated to exclude pocket knives for use by Tiger Cubs
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Guns and Firearms
References to Camp Program and Property Management were updated to indicate the section on shooting sports is now section 6 (rather than 5).
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Sports and Activities: Climbing and Rappelling
(1) Under "Qualified Instructors," the phrase "A Project COPE director or instructor fulfills this requirement until January 1, 2002." was removed.
(2) Under "Equipment," the acronym for the European Community Norm was corrected
(3) Under "Equipment," "or ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)" was changed to "or meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards"
(4) Under "Planning," "In case severe weather or other problems might occur" was changed to "In the event of severe weather or other problems"
(5) Under "Environmental Conditions," the phrase "See the Principles of Leave No Trace, No. 21-105." was added
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Sports and Activities: Project COPE Activities
(1) "National Standards for Project COPE" was changed to "Project COPE National Standards"
(2) "should not attempt" was changed to "under no circumstances should attempt"
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Transportation: Aircraft
"permitted as follows" was changed to "subject to the following rules"
Updated: 5 Apr 2006
Transportation: Commercial Driver's License Compliance
The last paragraph was completely replaced.
Updated: 5 Apr 2006


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