The Scout troop sponsored by my ward has a simple safety philosophy. Before each activity, the leaders remind the boys, “Let’s not do anything today that might get us on the news.” While this light-hearted approach may not cover everything, it’s certainly a good place to start.
One important way to keep your troop out of the headlines is to prepare for weather hazards. These risks will vary depending on your location and the time of year. Some severe weather hazards may include heavy rainfall, hail, wind, snow, tornadoes, extreme heat or cold, and lightning. You may feel comfortable dealing with a particular type of storm while at home or in your neighborhood. However, think for a minute how a lightning storm might affect you differently in an office building than it would if you were camping in a remote open area. Or how a windstorm could impact your group while you’re hiking through a canyon. As you are organizing any Scouting activity, it’s critical to “be prepared,” and that includes preparing for potential severe weather hazards. If you are going on an activity that requires a Tour and Activity Plan, at least one of the leaders in the group must have completed the online “Weather Hazards” training before going on the activity. The leader(s) can take this course by going to the Training Center at my.scouting.org.
Awareness is the first step in preparation. Be attentive to the different types of weather conditions you may encounter in a specific location. When you are planning an activity, take time in advance to research the area. Ask yourself what weather hazards you might experience and which would pose the greatest risk to you. Become knowledgeable about weather events that have impacted the area in the past, particularly during a specific time of year. Pay close attention to the current weather forecast. It also helps to identify what signs you should be watching for to indicate changes are coming and have an evacuation plan to quickly leave or take cover, depending on the situation.
As you are making preparations, it is also important to involve the Scouts in conversations about safety. In the initial planning stage, encourage the Scouts to learn about the weather conditions common to the area you’ll be visiting. At the beginning of an activity, you could lead the group in a “Safety Moment,” where you talk about what you’ll be doing, what conditions you could encounter, and what could potentially go wrong. Work through different scenarios and discuss how the group could safely respond. Plan ahead to keep your Scout troop away from dangerous weather conditions—and out of the news.
There are many resources available to help you learn more about severe weather hazards. To get started, visit these websites:
- The Department of Homeland Security’s Severe Weather website
- NOAA’s Weather website
- BSA’s Weather merit badge requirements
Contributed by: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Risk Management Division