Thanks to the BSA’s array of safety programs, Scouting boasts an impressive safety record. Although the program includes many potentially risky activities — rock climbing, whitewater rafting, archery, etc. — Scouts are typically safer at camp than driving to camp. However, while rare, incidents do occur. And so do what the BSA calls “near misses.” The BSA’s incident reporting strategy ensures that the right people are notified, an appropriate and timely response occurs, and that everyone can learn from what happened.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED AN INCIDENT? Loosely defined, a health and safety incident is any unplanned event that results in harm to an individual, property or the environment. Examples include injuries (ranging from minor to life-threatening), outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, vehicle accidents, property damage, the closure of a program area because of safety concerns, and the death of a Scout or volunteer. Any incident that requires the intervention of medical personnel, involves emergency responders or results in a response beyond Scout-rendered first aid must be reported. Youth Protection incidents are defined as any occurrence of abusive or inappropriate behavior in which a report to, or action by, authorities, the council, unit or parents is indicated. Allegations of child abuse or victimization of a Scout have specific reporting requirements, as described later.
WHAT’S A NEAR MISS? An unplanned event that doesn’t result in injury, illness or damage but had the potential to do so. If injuries occurred, the incident was not a near miss. An example of a near miss is a Scout getting lost at camp and your calling for emergency response. Near-miss reporting has been used for decades as a means of knowing risks and preventing future incidents.
WHY SHOULD WE REPORT INCIDENTS? To ensure that the organization can respond in an appropriate manner and be prepared to handle any ensuing allegations or claims. Incident reports also help the BSA develop policies to prevent future occurrences.
WHAT ARE THE BSA’S REPORTING REQUIREMENTS? It’s as simple as gathering the facts: who, what, where, when, why and how of the incident. Then inform your council Scout executive or Enterprise Risk Management Committee staff adviser. The Incident Information Report (No. 680-016) is a tool to help you ask the right questions; it can be found on the Scouting Safely website (scouting.org/scoutingsafely) and in the appendix of the Guide to Safe Scouting. For a catastrophic incident, after getting help for injured parties, notify your Scout executive immediately. The Guide to Safe Scouting details the reporting instructions for other types of incidents.
WHAT IF THE INCIDENT INVOLVES ALLEGATIONS OF CHILD ABUSE OR INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR? Use the Youth Protection/Membership Incident Information Form (No. 680-676) to gather data. Note that this form contains confidential information and must be forwarded directly to the Scout executive as soon as possible.
IF I REPORT ALLEGED CHILD ABUSE TO THE BSA, DO I STILL NEED TO REPORT IT TO THE AUTHORITIES? Yes. You must still follow your state’s mandatory reporting requirements.