Mac’s Message #26: The Importance of Safety

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

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.

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  1. BW Watson says:

    Thank you for this post. Too many times I’ve heard: “we will just do [insert non-approved activity] as a Young Mens activity, then we won’t have to follow Scout Rules.”
    I was talking to a Scouter I know, who is also an attorney, and his perspective is this… if there’s an accident, the first thing an attorney putting together a liability case would do is look to see if all rules and regulations were followed. The second thing an attorney would do is look to see if all leaders involved had received proper training. If a leader had the opportunity to be trained and didn’t get trained, that would be negligence.
    It’s sad that we have to look at Scout Leader training that way, but our society demands it.
    Takeaway from this… Get properly trained and follow the rules!

    1. Mac says:

      Great additional advice and caveats. Thanks BW!

      1. Marla Thomas says:

        Most people do not realize that the “Two Deep Leadership”, “Youth Protection” and all of the “Guide to Safe Scouting Guidelines” have been created to protect both the youth and the leaders in the church. Following the safety guidelines are a way to prevent the possibility of accidents and problems and to protect ourselves. These policies are the first line of defense in protecting and sustaining ourselves, our family and our church leaders. These are especially ways to sustain our bishops who are responsible for all that happens with their congregation of their ward boundaries.

  2. Stanley Stolpe says:

    Mac, what a timely article. I like having three deep leadership on an outing as a technique just in case we do need to take someone to the hospital or home, we do not have to abort because we do not have sufficient personnel.

    The rules of safety are there to reduce risk and to ensure that every outing returns a boy home to his family well and unharmed . . . better for the journey. Risky activities really are not necessary. Boys have fun and we accomplish the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood without risky activities. The wonderful activities contained in the Program Features are sufficient for marvelous programs that boys enjoy. No need to get too fancy. Doing the simple things well is a lofty goal to achieve in itself.

    1. Marla Thomas says:

      Three deep leadership is a great idea! For many unforeseeable reasons.

  3. Ross Young says:

    great points. I hope they add first aid and cpr to the online training to my scouting so that could be taken by all especially given the requirements

    1. Marla Thomas says:

      For certification purposes the First Aid and CPR courses will probably forever be in-classroom training because the teacher/presenter needs to be able to observe the student’s understanding and see skills demonstrated. But, it would be great to have some sort of presentation on-line reviewing the points taught in those courses. I fully support on-line courses for most training; but, there are a few that need to actually be experienced with the presenter face-to-face. The actual experience of attendance is part of the learning process.

  4. Janet Stoker says:

    Last night we were at a training and showed some safety videos. One was a man dressed as a cloud talking about lightning. I cannot find it anywhere! Any clue where these videos are?

    1. LDS-BSA says:

      As soon at the Church is ready to release this video it will be located at http://www.safety.lds.org.

      1. Marla Thomas says:

        LOL!

      2. Marla Thomas says:

        Please do tell us all when that is available! Sounds like it would be an effective learning tool and fun!

  5. David Parker says:

    Mac,

    As usual, a very appropriate article. One of my other Scouting “hats” is approving Eagle Projects and then conducting the Boards of Review in my area. I always have a discussion with the Scout about the Guide to Safe Scouting and the tool usage chart at the end of it. Yet, invariably I’ll have Scouts get to their Boards of review and they have pictures in their project binders of this same policy blatantly being ignored and broken. I have to wonder why the leaders didn’t intervene and training and knowledge are typically the reasons. I will say it is not an LDS-only problem though as I do both traditional and LDS units. We had the case in our stake where the safety rules weren’t followed by a leader and he personally was found liable and had to pay out of his pocket for an accident that occurred. The Guide to Safe Scouting now also comes in a pocket-sized version that easily fits into the leader pants side pockets. Let’s be safe!

    1. Marla Thomas says:

      Really? How did I miss the pocket version of “Guide to Safe Scouting”? Off I go to learn how to acquire that! Thanks!

  6. Mac says:

    I hope everyone will take notice of the additional sections regarding safety added to the Scouting Handbook for Church Units, Revised May 2015. You can download the handbook here: http://www.ldsbsa.org/leader-resources/handbooks/.

    The added sections are:

    8.9 Safety (the last paragraph)
    8:10 Emergencies
    8:11 Accident Response and Reporting
    8:14 Travel (the last two paragraphs)
    8:21 Liability Insurance
    8:22 Church Activity Medical Assistance

    This added information highlights how fervently the Church wishes to reinforce that all Scouting activities should be done in a safe manner. Please do not disregard these policies!

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