Before joining any outdoor extracurricular activity like Scouts BSA, it’s important to be aware of the risks involved. Having been a scout myself, in this article I’ll be walking you through the most common risks that scouts face (and how Scouts BSA works to prevent them!) to ultimately answer the question: is Scouting dangerous?
Is Scouting Safe? Scouts BSA, formerly known as the Boy Scouts of America, is generally considered to be a safe and supportive environment for young people. Scouts follow strict safety guidelines and are overseen by trained leaders. However, like any outdoor activity, Scouting does involve risks, and accidents can occur.
Is Scouting Dangerous?
Scouts BSA units (aka troops) may participate in activities such as camping, hiking, and water sports, which can involve some physical dangers. In order to minimize risk, Scout troops must follow established safety procedures, and participants are taught lifesaving skills to protect themselves and others.
Additionally, Scouts BSA units are required to have trained adult leaders who are responsible for overseeing the safety of the unit’s activities. These leaders are trained in first aid and emergency procedures, and abide by strict safety guidelines.
Overall, while there are some risks involved in Scouting, Scouts BSA takes steps to minimize these risks and ensure the safety of all participants. As long as participants and leaders follow the Guide to Safe Scouting and Scout Code of Conduct, Scouting can be a safe and rewarding experience for young people!
Common Risks in Scouting
While ScoutsBSA has put extensive work into making Scouting safer year after year, scouts will inevitably still face health and safety risks due to the unpredictable nature of outdoor activities. Some of the most common risks that Scouts may face include:
- Physical injuries: Many troops bring scouts on outdoor adventures involving camping, hiking, and water sports. These outings can involve some physical risks. For example, a Scout may trip and fall while hiking, or may get cut or scraped while setting up a campsite.
- Environmental hazards: Many of the activities that scouts participate in take place in the wilderness. These areas can pose some environmental hazards, such as exposure to extreme temperatures, wildlife, allergens, or natural disasters.
- Social risks: Troops often include young people of different ages, backgrounds, and experiences. While this can provide a diverse and enriching environment, it can also pose some social risks, such as bullying, peer pressure, or conflict. From my experience, Scoutmasters and older scouts were taught to help resolve conflict and boost the comradery of the troop.
- Risk of illness: Some of the activities that scouts participate in, such as camping and hiking, may expose them to germs and bacteria that can cause illness. For example, a Scout may come into contact with contaminated water or food, or may be exposed to another scout who’s sick.
- Risk of infection: Scouts can be exposed to insects or animals that can carry diseases. For example, a scout may be bitten by a tick or a mosquito, or may be stung by a bee or wasp.
- Risk of drowning: Scouting activities such as swimming and boating may expose scouts to the risk of drowning. For example, a scout may fall into a river or lake, or may capsize a boat. However, BSA guidelines state that all aquatic Scouting activities must be supervised by a certified lifeguard.
- Risk of transportation accidents: Most troop outings involve traveling to and from the activity site. Although unlikely, this can expose scouts to the risk of transportation accidents, such as car crashes.
How Scouts BSA and Individual Scouts Mitigate Risk
While there are risks involved in the activities that scouts participate in, there are several ways that scouts and the BSA work to mitigate these risks:
- Following safety guidelines and procedures: Scouts BSA has strict safety guidelines and procedures in place to help minimize the risks that scouts face. For example, Scouts BSA has guidelines for Safe Scouting and requires all Scouts BSA units to follow these guidelines.
- One of the key aspects of these guidelines is the SAFE checklist (Supervision, Assessment, Fitness and Skill, Equipment and Environment)
- Having trained adult leaders: Scouts BSA units are required to have adult leaders who are responsible for overseeing the safety of the unit’s activities. These leaders are trained in responding to emergency situations and administering first aid.
- Communicating openly and honestly: Scouts BSA encourages participants to communicate openly and honestly with each other and with their leaders. This can help to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts, and can also help to identify and address any potential risks.
- Teaching preparedness and self-reliance: Scouts BSA teaches participants the importance of being prepared and self-reliant. For example, scouts earn merit badges around topics like Lifesaving, First Aid, and Emergency Preparedness to be better equipped to take responsibility for each others’ safety and well-being. I first learned CPR as a scout! 🙂
- Seeking help when needed: Scouts BSA encourages participants to seek help when needed, whether it’s from a trained adult leader or from a professional emergency service. This can help to minimize the risks involved in the activities that scouts participate in, and can also help to ensure that participants receive the help they need in case of an emergency.
Personally, over my 5 years of Scouting in a 40+ person troop, we never experienced a scout being badly injured. While accidents do occur, by following the BSA safety procedures and striving to be prepared for emergencies, Scouting can be a very safe and rewarding activity!
Is Scouting Worth the Risks?
There are so many reasons why Scouting can be a valuable and rewarding experience for young people. Some of the unique benefits of Scouting include:
- Opportunities to learn valuable life skills: Through the Scouting program, young people have the opportunity to learn a variety of skills, such as outdoor survival, first aid, and leadership. These skills can be valuable later in life, and help young people to become more confident and self-reliant.
- Opportunities to participate in fun and challenging activities: Scouting provides young people with opportunities to participate in a wide variety of unique activities like archery, camping, fire-building, and more! What scouts learn can be both fun and challenging, and provide them with a sense of achievement in learning a difficult skill.
- Opportunities to make lasting friendships and connections: Through Scouting, young people have the opportunity to make lasting friendships and connections with others. These connections often provide support and encouragement, helping young people to feel more connected in their communities.
- Opportunities to engage in community service and make a positive impact: Scouting encourages young people to engage in community service and to make a positive impact on the world. Through activities such as service projects and fundraising, scouts have the opportunity to make a difference and contribute to their communities.
Don’t just take my word for it though! Check out this article, crowd-sourced from scouts and Scoutmasters, where they share their favorite scouting highlights and benefits. 😀
There are many reasons why Scouting can be a valuable and rewarding experience for any young person. Despite the risks and challenges involved, being a scout provides young people with valuable skills, experiences, and connections that will benefit them throughout their lives.
If safety is your main concern when deciding whether or not to join Scouting, know that, in general, Scouting is a very safe activity. Furthermore, Scouting taught me important health and lifesaving skills, which I strongly believe make me much safer in the world as an adult today!
If you want to learn more about what a journey through Scouting looks like, make sure to check out my article on the typical timeline and must-know info for earning Eagle Scout (Scouting’s highest rank). Knowing this will put you far ahead of the pack if you decide to join Scouting!
Thanks for reading and checking out ScoutSmarts. Here, my goal is to help scouts lead and succeed. If you do become a scout, I hope to see you here again soon! Until next time, I’m wishing you the best of luck on your adventures!