September is National Preparedness Month, so naturally our online Roundtable focuses on Feature Emergency PrepEmergency Preparedness. Don’t think this theme is just about badges, though; our BSA motto: Be Prepared, is our message.

Here is the index to planning your program this month:

This topic is fully explained in Program Features for Troops, Teams and Crews, vol. 3 pp 37-1–14, but the Ready/gov topic: “Don’t Wait, ready logoCommunicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today,” rounds out program possibilities for crew, team or troop at

In dealing with emergency situations like a hurricane or winter storm, we have a chance to prepare for a coming disaster. At other times, as with earthquakes and tornadoes, there is very little warning. But by learning and practicing emergency skills, we can be ready whenever disaster strikes.

Making correct decisions under pressure can be difficult for anyone, but if Scouts practice first aid, leadership, and other skills they can be more ready for emergency situations. This theme’s troop activities allow Scouts to practice each of these skills as they work up to a main event that will test what they’ve practiced. Here are the resources and suggestions from Program Features for Troops, Teams and Crews, vol. 3 pp 37-1–14. Use these ideas to plan a month’s worth of challenging, fun activities for your Scouts.

Three Possible Main Events for Troop, Team and Crew Programs

Green circle Essential (Tier I) Tour one or more locations where emergency response teams are housed. This could be a fire department that performs all-risk duties, a helicopter response team for medical emergencies, the area for a search and rescue team’s deployment drill, or the American Red Cross. .
Blue square Challenging (Tier II) Join with several other teams to prepare and run through a variety of scenarios where Scouts can act out the way they would handle a real-life situation. Include use of first-aid skills.
Throw in unexpected changes to some situations to test how Scouts will truly handle themselves, such as not having the right equipment or adding another “victim.” Use props and utilize the entire area of your meeting space to enhance the experience. Consider holding the event at a location that is different from the usual meeting area so Scouts cannot rely on the familiar.
Add a night of camping to round out  the weekend.
Black diamond Advanced (Tier III)
Older youth can participate in a citizen training (CERT) program offered by an emergency management agency; perhaps they’ll discover a vocation or avocation to pursue for decades to come.
Work with a Wilderness First Aid provider to quality your Scouts as Wilderness First Responders.
Participate in an official state or local disaster drill that uses volunteers to serve as victims. Such mass-casualty drills are important for professional rescuers to gain practice in case  of a real emergency.Add a night or two of camping to round out  the weekend.


Emergency Preparedness, First Aid, Safety, Search and Rescue, and Wilderness Survival merit badges

Emergency Preparedness BSA Award

Survival Varsity Scout activity pin

Ranger: Emergency Preparedness  core requirement

This month’s activities should:

    • Provide an understanding of basic first-aid techniques.
    • Give youth a good grasp of the fundamentals for dealing with life-threatening situations.
    • Help youth develop enhanced self-confidence for making decisions in stressful situations.
    • Provide youth a chance to practice emergency skills in a realistic scenario.
    • Encourage the pursuit of future emergency preparedness opportunities.


Assisting with instruction in first aid and emergency preparedness

Helping to plan and lead the main event

Providing transportation for the main event

Helping create emergency kits

Contacting emergency agencies that could help with training  and tours

Leadership Planning

As a leadership team, you may want to discuss the following items when choosing emergency preparedness as your program feature during your planning meetings:

    1. How prepared are we currently for emergencies? Where would we like to be? How do we get there?
    2. What types of emergencies could we encounter in everyday life?
    3. What are some local agencies that regularly respond to emergencies? Which ones could help us prepare?
    4. What will we do for our main event?
    5. What other subtopics would fit well with this feature?
    6. What specific badge, award, or requirements should we focus on fulfilling?
    7. To meet our needs, what should we change in the sample meeting plans?

EDGE for the Month

Decide how to use the EDGE method to get the job done:


Meeting Plans and Ideas for Emergency Preparedness

This month’s activities should:

  • Provide an understanding of basic first-aid techniques.
  • Give youth a good grasp of the fundamentals for dealing with life-threatening situations.
  • Help youth develop enhanced self-confidence for making decisions in stressful situations.
  • Provide youth a chance to practice emergency skills in a realistic scenario.
  • Encourage the pursuit of future emergency preparedness opportunities.

Trooop Meeting Plan
Click above for fillable troop meeting planning form


 Preopening Ideas on Troop Program Resources

    • As Scouts arrive, have them demonstrate techniques necessary for getting out of a building that is on fire. Practice hurry cases for first aid. Do this activity without much instruction to get Scouts attuned to their genuine immediate reactions.
    • As Scouts arrive, have them show the floor plans of their homes and discuss their plans in case of a home emergency, including escape route, method of alerting first responders, safe places for the family to meet away from the home, etc.
    • Have merit badge counselors on hand to promote such badges as Emergency Preparedness, Search and Rescue, and First Aid. Have them highlight requirements Scouts could complete during this month’s meetings and main event.


Opening Ideas can be found at Troop Program Resources



  • Preparing for emergencies is all about being able to identify threats from natural and other disasters. Have an older Scout or knowledgeable adult leader discuss the definition of emergency preparedness, how the unit currently plans for such events, and where Scouts can learn more (Emergency Preparedness merit badge pamphlet, Guide to Safe Scouting, etc.).


  • Responding to emergencies properly is by far the most important area to focus on. The response can be the most dangerous aspect but also can make a huge difference if done right. Concentrate instruction on the importance of responding quickly and with a focused mindset. Consider having a guest speaker for this meeting whose job involves responding to emergencies.


  • Have a guest from an agency such as the American Red Cross discuss how disaster relief groups aid and restore communities after natural disasters. (Members of your chartered organization may work or volunteer for one of these groups.)
  • Discuss the impact that Scouting units can have in helping people recover from natural disasters.


  • Today’s instruction should be focused on preventing and lessening the impact of future emergencies both in the home and in the unit. This could also be a great opportunity to introduce Scouts to a variety of occupations that serve the community through emergency mitigation work. Use guest presenters if possible.


three program tiers


  • EssentialReview techniques necessary for getting out of a building that is on fire, and practice hurry cases for first aid. Discuss how putting forethought into the situations can increase effectiveness and personal safety. Have Scouts draw up plans and try again.

  • ChallengingReview above information.
  • Work on troop mobilization techniques.
  • Write a detailed plan for moving a large number of people in an emergency situation and practice.

  • AdvancedReview above information.
  • Work on discovering how emergency preparedness is done every day at a local community level, with emphasis on preparation and planning.


  • EssentialRole-play calling 911 for an emergency. (Don’t actually call 911, of course.)
  • Discuss personal scene safety and what to do when first discovering an emergency.
  • Review CPR and identifying and treating shock.

  • ChallengingReview above information.
  • Work on crowd and traffic control and keeping others safe.
  • Discuss taking a leadership role at an accident scene.

  • AdvancedReview above information.
  • Work on lost-person techniques and simple search-andrescue patterns.
  • Discuss what to do when help is delayed, as well as how to transport an injured person from the backcountry, keeping in mind the safety of the rescuer and the injured person.


  • EssentialLearn about what to do upon returning home after a disaster, including proper safety techniques for identifying structural damage and for searching through debris.

  • ChallengingReview the above information.
  • Discuss the search and rescue X-Code system and INSARAG marking system. Consider using chalk and scenarios for Scouts to practice.

  • AdvancedReview the above information.
  • Discuss coping with the emotional trauma related to emergencies.


  • EssentialLearn how to inspect a home for potentially dangerous situations such as toxic cleaners in reach of small children or exposed wires. Use the Emergency Preparedness merit badge pamphlet as a reference.

  • ChallengingReview above information.
  • Put together emergency packs and kits for use in unit and family emergencies. Use the Emergency Preparedness merit badge pamphlet as a reference.


  • AdvancedConsider having a person from a local emergency response team give a presentation on ways for older Scouts to get involved in the community.



  • Demonstrate understanding of emergency preparedness by putting together simple written plans for a number of household emergencies (for younger Scouts) and unit event emergencies (for Varsity Scouts and Venturers).

Getting Ready for the Main Event

    • Menu Planning
    • Duty Roster Planning


  • Equipment check

Preparation for the meeting’s game or challenge


 Library of Games and Challenges on Troop Program Resources

  • Bandage Relay
  • First Aid Carry Relay
  • Stretcher Relay
  • Lost-Person Search
    – Materials: Objects representing lost persons (such as dolls or action figures), at least one per patrol
    – Method: Set up a search area outside the meeting place with clear boundaries. Scatter
    objects throughout the area. Patrols perform a lost-person search, as described
    earlier. Continue playing until time is called or all objects are found.
    – Scoring: The patrol finding the most lost objects wins.

When you are searching for a lost person, it’s important to work methodically so you cover the entire search area without missing sections or going over sections multiple times. The diagrams here show a good approach.

In the above two diagrams, three teams are searching an area between a road and a trail. Team 1 lays ribbon lines (dotted lines) at the edges of its search lanes. Teams 2 and 3 pick up the ribbons and move them to the edges of their search lanes as they begin searching. The area behind the teams is therefore clearly identified as having been searched, and the area outside the ribbons is identified for the “pivot” and continuing search pattern.

When teams pivot to continue the search, they move to the sides (shown by the dotted arrows) to the outside of the ribbons. Teams move the ribbons again to the outside of the search pattern. As they continue “sweeping” in this way, the searched area will expand farther to the left and right.Search

  • Tarp Turnover
    • Equipment: A tarp (about 5 feet by 5 feet) per 10 players
    • Method: This game promotes effective communication and team coordination as participants challenge themselves to flip a tarp while standing on top of it. Place a tarp on the ground and have all participants plant both feet on it. After all participants are on the tarp, have them work together to flip the tarp upside down, while still standing on the tarp. To later increase the challenge, fold the tarp in half.
    • Scoring: Units will be scored on a pass/fail system. If at least one participant steps off the tarp during the game and touches the ground, the whole group has to start again.
    • Notes: If all participants cannot fit on the tarp, use a second one. There should be some amount of excess tarp.
  • Signal Tag
    • Equipment: Flags, flashlights, or other devices for sending messages to the other team, depending on the signal language (Morse code can be sent using drums or hitting two dowels together.)
    • Method: Split participants into an even number of teams. Teams go to opposite ends of a field or large room where they cannot hear each other. Teams take turn sending and receiving messages through any one of many code systems, such as semaphore flags, Morse code, etc.
    • Scoring: Give points based on teams transmitting messages the fastest and translating messages the best.
  • Arm Sling Relay
      • NeckerchiefsEquipment: Large neckerchief or triangular bandage for each participant
      • Method: The teams line up in relay formation, with one member of each team acting as a patient and standing across from his or her team on the opposite side of the room. There is a judge for each team. On signal, the first player from each team runs to the patient and applies an arm sling. At the instant the judge can see that the sling is correct, he shouts, “Off!” and the player removes the sling and runs back to tag the next team member. This continues until all members of the team, except the patient, have tied a sling.
      • Scoring: The first team to finish wins.


    • Note: Slings must be correctly applied and adequate to serve the purpose


Emergency Preparedness Information

What is an emergency? Usually, it is something unforeseen or unexpected—something that requires immediate action. It can be related to weather, such as a hurricane, a tornado, a snowstorm, or a flood. An emergency can be an accident, such as an explosion, a fire, or a car accident. Immediate action is often required to avoid, correct, or mitigate the incident from spreading and becoming a greater problem.

Every community has trained rescuers and first responders, including firefighters, EMTs, police officers, and others who swing into action when emergencies happen. These professionals and volunteers go through extensive training and often have serious equipment and technology backing their actions. On the state and national level, agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency provide support in large-scale disasters.

Other professionals and volunteers work to help people in the aftermath of disasters. Even before a disaster ends, groups like the American Red Cross and other members of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster network begin making plans to rescue, shelter, feed, and heal those who have been affected.Despite the work of all these highly trained adults, there is plenty of room for youth to get involved. Scouts are often called on to help because they know first aid and they know about the discipline and planning needed to support a situation that requires leadership. Scouting gives you the opportunity to understand and respond to your community’s emergency preparedness plan.

Fire truckThe Five Aspects of Emergency Preparedness

Emergency personnel, such as Red Cross and FEMA workers, use many of the same terms when talking about emergency management. That is just one reason it is a good idea to become familiar with such terms; if you find yourself working with emergency personnel, you will understand what your actions are helping to accomplish.

  1. Preparedness: When you take actions to prepare for emergencies, you recognize the possible threats from natural and other disasters. Making a plan and practicing it, assembling an emergency or disaster supplies kit, and installing warning devices are all actions you can take to prepare for an emergency.
  2. Response: In this phase of emergency management, you may be called upon to help with shelter, first aid, and other activities. On a personal level, your response to an emergency can take many forms, such as evacuating an area. Your response can help reduce the occurrence of secondary damage.
  3. Recovery: After a disaster or other emergency, the goal is to try to get things back to “normal.” In addition to rebuilding and repairing property, there is also work to be done to try to bring physical and emotional health back to a stable condition.
  4. Mitigation: The word “mitigate” means “to lessen in force or intensity” and “to make less severe.” You can help reduce the loss of life and property by managing risk, becoming aware of responding to risks and hazards, and lessening the impact of future disasters. That means taking action before the next disaster.
  5. Prevention: By planning ahead and taking prevention seriously, you can help prevent accidents from happening. Prevention can make the difference between inconvenience and tragedy.


EmergencyPrepScoutsBeing Prepared For Disaster

Being prepared for an emergency means knowing how to identify a situation when it is happening or about to happen, knowing how to act in such a way to avoid further injury to oneself and others, and being able to stay calm and make informed choices to correct or lessen the effect of the situation. These tips may also be helpful:

  • When an emergency arises, first take a deep breath.
  • Assess the situation and plan how to proceed.
  • Focus on your task.

The most difficult part of responding to an emergency is knowing how to identify a situation where no action is possible or should even be taken. The safety of the rescuer and rescue team always comes first.

Emergencies need not be sensational to be urgent. Checking in on an elderly person during a winter power outage can be just as important as knowing how to escape a burning building.


Resources & References

Emergency Preparedness, First Aid, Safety, Search and Rescue, and Wilderness Survival merit badge pamphlets

American Red Cross.

  • A Family Guide to First Aid and Emergency Preparedness. American Red Cross, 2012.
  • First Aid/CPR/AED (participant’s manual). American Red Cross, 2014.
  • Swimming and Water Safety Manual. American Red Cross, 2014.

Forgey, William W. Basic Essentials: Wilderness First Aid, 3rd ed. Falcon Guides, 2007.

Kelly, Kate. Living Safe in an Unsafe World: The Complete Guide to Family Preparedness. New American Library Trade, 2000.

Meyer-Crissey, Pamela, and Brian L. Crissey, Ph.D. Common Sense in Uncommon Times, 2nd ed. Granite Publishing, 2012.

NASAR. Introduction to Search and Rescue. National Association for Search and Rescue, 2008.

Setnicka, Tim J. Wilderness Search and Rescue. Appalachian Mountain Club, 1981.

U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. First There First Care: Bystander Care for the Injured. U.S. Department of Transportation, 2005.

Wilderness First Aid, Emergency Care in Remote Locations, Emergency Care and Safety Institute, 4th ed. 

Organizations and Websites
American Red Cross
Community Emergency Response Teams
Federal Emergency Management Agency
INSARAG marking system
National Association for Search and Rescue
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
Search and Rescue X-Codes

Related Program Features
First Aid, Safety, Wilderness Survival

Photo and Illustration Credits
(, courtesy: emergency sign, ©Nils Versemann; fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, and hazard sign, ©Tatiana Popova; antiseptic wipe, bandage, and scissors, ©Pamela Au; flashlight, ©Brittny)
(Scouts helping sort supplies, Scouts at fire station, BSA file)
(Lost-Person Search diagram, BSA/John McDearmon)
(neckerchief, BSA file)

BSA is grateful to Matthew McGroarty, Las Vegas, Nevada, for his help with creating the Emergency Preparedness program feature. Matthew served as the Western Region Venturing president, 2009–2010.


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