An injury that doesn’t happen needs no treatment. An emergency that doesn’t occur requires noresponse. An illness that doesn’t develop demands no remedy. The best way to stay safe in the outdoors is planning, training, leadership, good judgment, and accepting responsibility—in short, risk management.
Risk management is so much a part of outdoor adventures that often we hardly notice we are doing it. When we fill bottles with water from streams and lakes, we deal with the risk of parasites by treating the water with a filter or chemicals, or by boiling it. When we share the outdoors with bears, we protect them and ourselves by hanging our food out of their reach, eliminating odors from our sleeping areas, and keeping campsites spotless. When foul weather blows in, routes become uncomfortably exposed, streams swell, or snow loads make avalanches a possibility, we consider all the available information and then make decisions that keep risks at acceptable levels.
Perceived risk can energize outdoor activities by bringing to them an immediacy that is sharper than what we normally experience. The actual risk on a well-managed ropes course, for example, is relatively low, but participants experiencing the events of the course might perceive that the risk is much higher than it actually is. That heightened awareness can take them beyond their usual comfort levels and encourage them grow; doing hard things and accepting challenges stretch their abilities while building their confidence.
Planning for Activity Safety
The best way to stay safe in the outdoors is to avoid getting into trouble in the first place. That requires planning, training, leadership, good judgment, and accepting responsibility. BSA has developed a five step “Safety Pause.”
- Pause before you start. Make a plan using Safety Checklists and The Sweet 16 of BSA Safety found in the Guide to Safe Scouting and the Enterprise Risk Management Guidebook.
- Assess possible hazards. The best tool to help with this is the Guide to Safe Scouting. As part of Guide, BSA has developed safety check lists that you can find in the appendix.These include:
- Annual Motor Vehicle Checklist
- Meeting Place Checklist
- Campout Safety Checklist
- Event Safety Checklist
If you are District leader or planning to run a multiple unit event, use Program Hazard Analysis to help you assess risk.
- Annual Motor Vehicle Checklist
- Understand how to proceed safely. Knowing and using The Sweet 16 of BSA Safety will help prepare you to conduct Scouting activities in a safe and prudent manner. 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.
- Share your plan with others. Use Tour and Activity Plan so that the unit committee can synergize for safety as you plan and to support you once underway.
- Execute the activity safely. The planning is over, now it up to you. Scouting safety requires firm support for safety procedures and precautions. This foundation is discipline. Safety alsorequires responsibility and conscientious supervision that apply appropriate precautions and procedures. Qualified supervisors hold safety elements in place, but can only do so if they can control the activity and the participants through discipline based on respect, understanding, and leadership.