Over the past several weeks my messages have stressed the importance of getting your Scouting-age boys outdoors doing hard things and serving others. It ought to go without saying that all of your Scouting activities should be done in a safe manner. You have an important responsibility to ensure the Lord’s young men are safe in this world—both spiritually and temporally.
Safety is taken seriously by both the Boy Scouts of America and The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sadly, sometimes safety is not taken seriously by adult Scouting leaders. One of my strongest memories of my limited experience in Scouting as a youth is my Scoutmaster pouring white gas from a metal container onto a campfire to make it bigger. The flames from the fire traveled up the pouring liquid, the container exploded, and the Scoutmaster was engulfed in flames. He panicked and ran. Finally he dropped to the ground. We boys put out the flames by kicking dirt on him.
I’m surprised by adult Scouting leaders who view safety as optional. Somehow they think they have the authority to override the rules established by the BSA or the Church. They skirt around Scouting safety requirements, such as those involving climbing or shooting sports, by claiming their activity is a “priesthood” outing. They avoid Church policies by “just getting together” with their boys. They fail to complete a Tour and Activity Plan because they cannot spare the few minutes it takes to fill it out or they think it’s not important.
Two-deep leadership is one of the safety boundaries I see violated quite frequently. When unit staffing is limited it may be hard to find another adult to go along on a campout or to be in attendance at weekly Scouting meetings. Scouting leaders may also unwittingly violate the rule regarding one-on-one contact between adults and boys when conducting Scouting leader conferences, boards of review, or while coaching a boy for a disciplinary problem. It is easy to forget the boundaries unless they are consciously and continually addressed and reinforced in one’s mind. Safety should be a permanent agenda item in your patrol leader councils and meetings of your quorum presidencies, Young Men presidency, and Scouting committee.
The Tour and Activity Plan is a wonderful document to help you plan safe activities. This document must be completed for long-distance or out-of-council trips. It also is mandatory for any aquatic, climbing, rappelling, or shooting activities and any activity that involves motorized vehicles. You do not have the option of not filing a Tour and Activity Plan in these situations. But I would suggest you use this document to plan all of your activities since it queries you to think about The Sweet 16 of BSA Safety.
Safety in Scouting is not optional. You do not have the right or authority to make a decision or take any action that is contrary to the safety requirements of the BSA or the Church. The guidelines for the Boy Scouts of America are outlined clearly and specifically in the Guide to Safe Scouting. In my opinion, online training courses in Safe Swim Defense, Safety Afloat, Climb on Safety, and Weather Hazards ought to be taken by every adult Scouting leader annually so the information is fresh in your mind. You should go over sections of the Guide to Safe Scouting in your leadership meetings and ensure every adult leader in your Scouting program is committed to delivering a safe Scouting experience for your boys.
The Church’s policies on holding safe activities can be found on the “Safe Church Activities” page on the Church’s website. The LDS-BSA Relationships quarterly newsletter, now called The Scouting Bridge, includes a message regarding safety in each issue. I encourage you to become familiar with these resources.
The August 2014 edition of the newsletter recommends you implement a “Safety Moment” before each of your Scouting activities. “The Safety Moment can be a quick two- to five-minute discussion before beginning an activity to specifically discuss the risks and potential safety concerns for that activity, as well as ways to reduce the risks or hazards. The more specific the Safety Moment is to the particular activity, the better. While planning for an activity, include a Safety Moment as part of your plan” (LDS-BSA Relationships Newsletter, August 2014, 6).
I encourage you to put the safety of your young men at the forefront of your consciousness. When Joseph, the son of Israel, required his brothers to bring Benjamin to Egypt to prove they were not spies, Israel was reluctant to let them take his favorite son. Judah stepped forward and said, “I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame forever” (Genesis 43:9). I testify you will forever be blessed because you care so much for the boys under your stewardship that you choose to take safety seriously.
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Do you take seriously the safety of your young men? Is their safety at the forefront of your consciousness?
- Have your read the Guide to Safe Scouting and the Church’s safety policies in Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 13.6.20? Do you faithfully abide by these policies?
- Have you taken the online safety training courses on myscouting.org?
- Is safety a constant topic at your youth and adult leadership meetings?
- Have you implemented “Safety Moments” before each of your Scouting activities?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“And whoso [followeth the safety guidelines], there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).
-Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.