How to keep your Scouts safe in every setting

You don’t need a Spidey sense to know how important safety is in aquatics, climbing and shooting sports. But are you just as vigilant when your Scouts pitch their tents or ride on parade floats? You should be, because accidents can happen in any setting. Here’s how to keep your Scouts — and yourself — safe from some surprising dangers.

What are hazard trees?

A hazard tree is any tree that has significant structural damage due to age, fire or disease. Signs include broken tops; missing bark or in-season foliage; and the presence of ants, termites or woodpecker holes.

How should be avoid hazard trees? Be watchful on trails, especially when it’s windy, and avoid campsites with hazard trees. If you must camp around a hazard tree, place tents, chairs and hammocks outside the tree’s fall radius, which is one to one-and-a-half times the height of the tree (or a tree part that could fall) on level ground. Keep Scouts and adults out of the fall zone.

How can we ensure food safety?

Perishable food should be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so carry plenty of ice and start with chilled or frozen food. Make sure cooks wash their hands before and after handling food and avoid cross-contamination by never allowing raw meat, poultry or their juices to come into contact with fresh or prepared foods. Meat, poultry and fish should be cooked to 145-165 degrees to kill bacteria; use a digital meat thermometer, not appearance, to check for doneness.

How can we stay safe on the road?

The Guide to Safe Scouting includes extensive guidance. Two key points: 1. Drivers must refrain from using hand-held cellphones, and texting while driving is prohibited. 2. Driving time is limited to a maximum of 10 hours for each 24-hour period, regardless of the number of drivers available, and travel should be interrupted by frequent rest, food and/or recreation stops.

How can we stay safe in parades?

If Scouts are marching, allow adequate space between marchers and any vehicles, designate a lookout to watch for hazards, and take head counts before, during and after the parade. Although Scouts are generally prohibited from riding in truck beds and on trailers, the policy may be tempered for parade floats or hayrides. However, these points must be strictly followed:

  1. Transportation to and from the parade or hayride site is not allowed on the truck or trailer.
  2. Riders, 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.

Where can I learn more?

The Guide to Safe Scouting is the official source for the BSA’s safety policies and guidelines. The BSA has also created dozens of Safety Moments, which are training modules on specific topics. You can find them at scouting.org/health-and-safety/safety-moments.

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