- Adult Leadership
- Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Use and Abuse
- Emergency Service
- Fuels and Fire Prevention
- First Aid
- Guns and Firearms
- Sports and Activities
- Medical Information
- Serious or Fatal Injuries or Illnesses
- Trail Safety
- Winter Sports Activities
- Special Precautions
- Youth Protection and Child Abuse
There is magic to camping in winter. It is one of the most advanced and challenging of outdoor adventures. Special considerations for winter camping include the following:
Leadership - In no other camp is the type of leadership as important as in the winter camp. It is vital that a leader be an experienced camper with a strong character.
Equipment - Do not attempt to camp unless completely outfitted. Even if equipment for winter camp is more expensive than for summer camp, Scouts must be adequately clothed, and leaders should ensure that blankets and other equipment are of suitable quality and weight.
Physical Condition - A physician's certificate as to physical ability must be obtained by each Scout before preliminary training begins.
Tips for your next winter camping trip:
Use the buddy system for winter outings. Buddies can check each other for frostbite, make sure no one becomes lost, and boost the morale of the entire group.
Plan to cover no more than 5 miles per day on a winter trek on snowshoes. An experienced group can cover 10 to 12 miles on cross-country skis.
Always allow ample time to make camp in winter, especially if you plan to build snow shelters.
Fatigue encourages accidents. Rest occasionally when building a snow shelter; taking part in crosscountry skiing or snowshoeing; or participating in other active winter sports. Periodic rests also help avoid overheating.
Pulling a load over the snow on a sled or toboggan is generally easier than carrying it in a backpack.
Snow is a terrific insulator. Snow shelters are much warmer than tents because they retain heat and keep out the cold wind. If you have adequate time for building snow shelters, you will spend a much more comfortable night sleeping in them than in a tent.
Snow is the greatest thief in winter, swallowing up small dropped items. Tie or tape a piece of brightly colored cord to small items so they can be seen in snow. Some items, such as mittens, can be tied to larger items, such as a parka, to prevent them from being dropped and lost.
Melting snow in a pot to get water may cause the pot to burn through or may scorch the snow, giving the water a disagreeable taste. Prevent this by adding a cup or two of water in the bottom of the pot before putting in the snow to melt.
Punch a hole in the top of your ice chisel and string a stout cord through it. Before trying to chisel a hole in ice, anchor the cord to something large or too heavy to be pulled through the hole so you will not lose your chisel in freezing water when the ice is penetrated.
Always test the thickness of ice before venturing any distance from the shore. Ice should be at least 3 inches thick for a small group; 4 inches of ice is safe for a crowd. Since ice thickness can vary considerably, it is best to stay near the shoreline of large lakes.
Use alkaline batteries in flashlights. Standard batteries deteriorate quickly in cold weather. Tape the switch of your flashlight in the "off" position until you are ready to use it. This will prevent it from being turned on accidentally while in your pack or on your sled.
Encourage everyone in your group to wear brightly colored outer clothing so that each person will be more visible, especially during severe weather.
Small liquid-fuel stoves are much better for cooking in winter than fires, which are difficult to build with wet wood. Gathering wood that is frozen to the ground also can be difficult, if not impossible. A pressure/ pump-type stove is essential in winter.
Always use a funnel to refuel a stove so you won't frostbite your fingers by accidentally pouring fuel on them. Fuel evaporates at a high rate of speed and quickly removes heat from anything it touches.
Place a stove or fire on a platform of logs or rocks so it will not melt through the snow.
Never light or use a stove inside a tent or snow shelter. A tent may catch fire, and a snow shelter may help lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Neither of these potential mishaps is worth the risk.
A windscreen is essential for using a stove in the winter. Even a slight breeze will direct the heat away from its intended mark.
References: Okpik: Cold Weather Camping, Boy Scout Handbook, Scoutmaster Handbook, and Camping Sparklers.
Beyond camping, a number of cold-weather activities present challenges to the Scout and leader, such as crosscountry skiing, ice skating, sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and snowshoeing. Essential ingredients for fun include skill training and an awareness of the hazards unique to these activities. Snow conditions, hazardous terrain, special clothing needs, and emergency survival are important issues for a safe and successful experience.
Be sure your winter outdoor activity always follows these guidelines:
All winter activities must be supervised by mature and conscientious adults (at least one of whom must be age 21 or older) who understand and knowingly accept responsibility for the well-being and safety of the youth in their care, who are experienced and qualified in the particular skills and equipment involved in the activity, and who are committed to compliance with the seven points of BSA Winter Sports Safety. Direct supervision should be maintained at all times by two or more adults when Scouts are "in the field." The appropriate number of supervisors will increase depending on the number of participants, the type of activity, and environmental conditions.
Winter sports activities embody intrinsic hazards that vary from sport to sport. Participants should be aware of the potential hazards of any winter sport before engaging in it. Leaders should emphasize preventing accidents through adherence to safety measures and proper technique.
Suitable clothing for the activity and environment should be worn at all times, and equipment should include gloves and helmets when appropriate.
Winter sports activities often place greater demands on a participant's cardiopulmonary system, and people with underlying medical conditions (especially if the heart or lungs are involved) should not participate without medical consultation and direction. For participants without underlying medical conditions, the annual health history and physical examination by a licensed health-care practitioner every three years are sufficient. The adult leader should be familiar with the physical circumstances of each youth participant and make appropriate adjustments in the activity or protection as warranted by individual health or physical conditions. Adults participating in strenuous outdoor winter activity should have an annual physical examination. It is recommended that the medical assessment be performed by a licensed health-care practitioner knowledgeable of the sport and the particular physical demands the activity will place on the individual.
For winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, etc. that utilize specialized equipment, it is essential that all equipment fit and function properly.
When youth are engaging in downhill activities such as sledding, tobogganing, or snow tubing, minimize the likelihood of collision with immobile obstacles. Use only designated areas where rocks, tree stumps, and other potential obstacles have been identified and marked, cleared away, shielded, or buffered in some way.
All participants should know, understand, and respect the rules and procedures for safe winter activity. The applicable rules should be presented and learned before the outing, and all participants should review them just before the activity begins. When Scouts know and understand the reasons for the rules, they will observe them. When fairly and impartially applied, rules do not interfere with fun. Rules for safety, plus common sense and good judgment, keep the fun from being interrupted by tragedy.
Carbon tetrachloride must never be used in any way in the Scouting program. Even in small quantities, this poison has proved to be so deadly it must be ruled out as a cleaning fluid, a fire extinguisher, a poison for insect killing, and a water-mark detector for stamp collecting.
It is important to be alert to the possibility of flash floods and take steps to avoid a dangerous encounter with one; they can kill. Pitch your tents on higher ground. During and after periods of heavy rain, stay away from natural streambeds, arroyos, and narrow channels. Always know where you are and how to get to higher ground. Watch for indicators of flash flooding such as an increase in the speed of stream flow or rapid rise in stream level. Experience demonstrates that thread-like streams can become raging rivers in a few minutes or even seconds. Stay out of flooded areas.
Hantavirus is a deadly virus that was first recognized as a unique health hazard in 1993. There are four different strains of hantavirus, and cases have been reported in 30 different states. The virus is most active when the temperature is between 45°F and 72°F
Hantavirus is spread through the urine and feces of infected rodents. It is an airborne virus. A person is infected by breathing in particles released into the air when infected rodents, their nests, or their droppings are disturbed. This can happen when a person is handling rodents, disturbing rodent nests or burrows, cleaning buildings where rodents have made a home, or working outdoors. The virus will die quickly when exposed to sunlight.
Symptoms of hantavirus include fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and a dry, nonproductive cough. If you suspect that someone has been infected, consult a physician immediately.
A sharp pocketknife with a can opener on it is an invaluable backcountry tool. Keep it clean, sharp, and handy. Avoid large sheath knives. They are heavy, awkward to carry, and unnecessary for most camp chores except for cleaning fish. Boy Scouting has relied heavily on an outdoor program to achieve its objectives. This program meets more of the purposes of Scouting than any other single feature. We believe we have a duty to instill in our members, youth and adult, the knowledge of how to use, handle, and store legally owned knives with the highest concern for safety and responsibility.
Reference: Boy Scout Handbook, Fieldbook, Bear Cub Scout Book, and Wolf Cub Scout Book
The summits of mountains, crests of ridges, slopes above timberline, and large meadows are extremely hazardous places to be during lightning storms. If you are caught in such an exposed place, quickly descend to a lower elevation, away from the direction of the approaching storm, and squat down, keeping your head low. A dense forest located in a depression provides the best protection. Avoid taking shelter under isolated trees or trees much taller than adjacent trees. Stay away from water, metal objects, and other substances that will conduct electricity long distances.
By squatting with your feet close together, you have minimal contact with the ground, thus reducing danger from ground currents. If the threat of lightning strikes is great, your group should not huddle together but spread out at least 15 feet apart. If one member of your group is jolted, the rest of you can tend to him. Whenever lightning is nearby, take off backpacks with either external or internal metal frames. In tents, stay at least a few inches from metal tent poles.
Lightning Safety Rules
- Stay away from open doors and windows, fireplaces, radiators, stoves, metal pipes, sinks, and plug-in electrical appliances.
- Don't use hair dryers, electric toothbrushes, or electric razors.
- Don't use the telephone; lightning may strike telephone wires outside.
- Don't take laundry off the clothesline.
- Don't work on fences, telephone lines, power lines, pipelines, or structural steel fabrications.
- Don't handle flammable materials in open containers.
- Don't use metal objects, such as fishing rods and golf clubs. Golfers wearing cleated shoes are particularly good lightning rods.
- Stop tractor work, especially when the tractor is pulling metal equipment, and dismount. Tractors and other implements in metallic contact with the ground are often struck by lightning.
- Get out of the water and off small boats.
- Stay in the car if you are traveling. Automobiles offer excellent lightning protection.
- When no shelter is available, avoid the highest object in the area. If only isolated trees are nearby, the best protection is to crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from isolated trees as the trees are high.
- Avoid hilltops, open spaces, wire fences, metal clotheslines, exposed sheds, and any electrically conducted elevated objects.
Rabies has become increasingly prevalent in the United States in recent years, with more than 7,000 animals, most of which are wild, found to have the disease each year, according to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This viral infection is often found in bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. Rabies can be transmitted by warm-blooded animals, including domestic dogs and cats.
Although rabies in humans is rare in the United States, the CDC reports that more than 22,000 people in this country require vaccination each year after being exposed to rabid or potentially rabid animals. States with the highest number of reported cases include New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Mexico, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Maryland, and parts of northern California.
Scout leaders can help prevent exposures by reminding Scouts to steer clear of wild animals and domestic animals that they don't know. If someone is scratched or bitten by a potentially rabid animal, Scout leaders should
- Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water
- Call a doctor or a hospital emergency room
- Get a description of the animal
- Notify local animal control office, police department, or board of health
When constructing monkey bridges, observe the following safety rules:
- Always follow the steps for constructing monkey bridges as outlined in the Pioneering merit badge pamphlet.
- Before beginning the project, inspect your rope, looking at both the inside fibers and inner strands. Know the size and strength of the type of rope you are using, and its safe working load.
- Monkey bridges should not be constructed higher than 5 feet above flat-surfaced ground nor should they be longer than 40 feet. Initially, beginners should not span more than 25 feet.
- Know the effect the knots will have in reducing rope strength and the proper care that rope requires.
- Rope, especially rope carrying a load, should be checked each day before using. Rope carrying a load and left in place tends to become slack from fatigue and will break under stress. Tighten rope as necessary to maintain the integrity of the original construction.
- Exercise special care when members of the public are allowed to use these monkey bridges. Establish controls when monkey bridges are constructed outside the camp environment. Station Scouts at each end to control access to the bridge. Never allow unaccompanied children on the bridge. Shut down the bridge when any repairs are being made and do not reopen until the adult leader has approved the repairs.
- Any activity on rope swings, monkey bridges, slide-for-life, or similar devices that are located over water must comply with Safe Swim Defense.
Reference: Pioneering merit badge pamphlet.
It is best to be out of the sun between 10 A.M. and 4 P.m. when the sun's rays are the strongest. Be sure and protect yourself and your children by following the tips below:
- Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors, even on cloudy days.
- Wear protective, tightly woven clothing, such as a long sleeved shirt and pants.
- Wear a 4-inch wide broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses, even when walking short distances.
- Stay in the shade whenever possible.
- Avoid reflective surfaces, that can reflect up to 85 percent of the sun's damaging rays.
- Protect children by keeping them out of the sun, minimizing sun exposure and applying sunscreens beginning at six months of age.
Reference: American Academy of Dermatology
A constant supply of pure drinking water is essential. Serious illness can result from drinking unpurified water. Protect your health. Don't take a chance on using water that you are not sure of. Thermos jugs, plastic water containers, and canteens are all satisfactory for carrying water. Be sure water is dispensed into each person's own drinking cup.
In addition to having a bad odor or taste, water from questionable sources may be contaminated by microorganisms, such as Giardia, that can cause a variety of diseases. All water of uncertain purity should be purified before use. Don't take a chance on using water that you are not sure of. To purify water, follow these steps:
- Filter the water to remove as many solids as possible.
- Bring it to a rolling boil and boil it for a full minute.
- Let it cool at least 30 minutes.
- Add eight drops of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of cool water. (Use common household bleach; 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite should be the only active ingredient; there should not be any added soap or fragrances). Water must be cool or chlorine will dissipate and be rendered useless.
- Let the water stand 30 minutes.
- If it smells of chlorine, you can use it. If it does not smell of chlorine, add eight more drops of bleach and let it stand another 30 minutes. Smell it again. You can use it if it smells of chlorine. If it doesn't, discard it and find another water source.
- The only accepted measurement of chlorine (or water treatment agents) is the drop. A drop is specifically measurable. Other measures such as "capful" or "scant teaspoon" are not uniformly measurable and should not be used.
In addition to common household bleach, several other types of chemical means to disinfect water are available, such as iodine tables, iodide crystals, and halazone tablets. All of these are acceptable, but some people have an allergic reaction to iodine products. the instructions on the package for proper use.
To treat cold water you must lengthen the contact (sitting) time depending on the water temperature to destroy Giardia that may be present. Very cold water may take as long as four times the normal contact time.
Several types of water purification filters are available at camp stores. The Boy Scouts of America recommends that if you use a water filter, you also chemically treat and/or boil the water and carry extra filter cartridges and spare parts. Among the best water filters are PUR, MSR, Katadyn, First Need, and Sweet Water.
Child abuse is a tragedy that affects 2-3 percent of American children each year. It has been increasing, and now more than 2.4 million reports of child abuse are received each year.
By definition, child abuse is harm to a child that occurs immediately or through accumulated effects over a period of time. When the harm is caused by withholding life's necessities from a child, it is classified as neglect. The ability to provide such necessities as food, clothing, education, and medical care but failing to do so is the factor separating neglect from the effects of poverty.
Three additional kinds of child abuse are caused by commission of acts against the child-emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.
Emotional abuse occurs when the child is consistently being told that he is no good and never will be. Denigrating name calling is a form of emotional abuse.
Physical abuse is the bodily injury of a child by the child's parent or caretaker.
Sexual abuse is any sexual activity between a child and an adult or between children when there is an unequal distribution of power, such as when one is significantly older or larger.
Child abuse occurs in every segment of our society. Child neglect, physical abuse, and emotional abuse occur more frequently in undereducated, poorer families, while child sexual abuse is more evenly distributed throughout society.
Because of the great concern the Boy Scouts of America has for the problem of child abuse in our society, the Youth Protection program has been developed to help safeguard both our youth and adult members. Published and videotaped materials have been prepared to give professionals and volunteers information on the resources available for educating our membership about child abuse-how to avoid it, how to identify it, and how to deal with it. These materials and local council training programs are designed to give parents and their children basic information that will increase their awareness and sense of personal power to assist in their own self-protection.
All persons responsible for youth safety must understand and appreciate Scouting's position of zero tolerance for child abuse or victimization in any form.
All forms of hazing, initiations, ridicule, or inappropriate teasing are prohibited and should not be allowed.
Source: BSA Health and Safety Guide #33415B - 2000 Printing