By Community Submission
Oct 17, 2013

S.A.F.E Approach to Scouting

It is often stated that we must get the “outing” back in Scouting. Further within the LDS Church in Handbook 2, activities are encouraged to “bring Church members together ‘as fellow citizens with the saints’ (Ephesians2:19), to strengthen members, to develop talents, to improve physical fitness, to develop leadership skills and self reliance (Handbook 2, 13.1).”

The question is can these objectives be achieved in the absence of risk? Risk is everywhere. We have learned that life in general consists of managing a series of risks, without doing so we probably would not last long or at a minimum our quality of life would diminish. In fact, Dr. Marvin Zuckerman claims that we humans are predisposed to risk taking. That only our ancestors who were not risk averse survived, since these were the folks who were most willing to take the risks necessary to survive and flourish. (Zuckerman, M, Are You a Risk Taker? Psychology Today).

This may explain the behavior of our youth, especially our male youth, but it also may explain one reason for the value of high adventure activities. However what causes even a greater challenge is the fact that most of our early understanding of risk management tends to originate from the concept of “gambling” rather than in risk management through the implementation of appropriate controls (See Wilderness Risk Management Conference, November 2009). For example, a zip line can be an exciting and fun activity that challenges the individual. However, risk management concepts would suggest that, to reduce risk of injury while maximizing the benefit of a thrilling and challenging activity, “controls should be implemented.” These controls would consist of a helmet, a harness, breaking system and use of a properly licensed and approved course (PRCA, ANSI, ASD etc.). The “gambling” approach to risk management for a zip line might be a steel cable wrapped around a tree and car bumper. Would anyone doubt which of the two approaches would reduce the risk to acceptable levels without reducing the excitement of the activity?

Summer is upon us; the “outing” part of Scouting will be in full swing. Here are a couple of thoughts as you take your young men into the wilderness and high adventure. In addition to following the

Guide to Safe Scouting and the Sweet Sixteen of BSA Safety, think of the S.A.F.E. approach to your activities this summer.

1. Is the activity Sensible and Suitable for your youth? What gospel purpose does the activity

fulfill? Does the activity bring young men closer to Christ? Does the activity further the mission of the

Boy Scouts of America? Is the activity appropriate for all participants, including both youth and

advisors? Is the activity appropriate given the age and skill level of the youth and leaders? Are the

leaders adequately trained for the activity? Does the activity comply with the Guide to Safe Scouting?

2. Approvals—After prayerfully considering the activity, do you feel that the Lord confirms that this activity is appropriate? Have you obtained appropriate approvals from your bishop, parents/guardian, young men? Did you file a tour plan? Did you obtain approvals from any government agencies?

3. Formulate—Did you plan effectively? Planning on Tuesday for a campout on Friday may not be the best plan. When you conducted your planning session, did you use the boy leaders? Did you consider the risks and what safety controls could be implemented to make the activity safer? Did you consider the buddy system? Did you plan for enough adult leaders? What contingency plans have you made?

4. Ensure/Evaluate—Did you ensure that the safety guidelines you established were understood, committed to and then followed by all participants and leaders? As the activity was underway, did you ask yourself what you would do if there were changing circumstances? After the activity was concluded, did you conduct a reflection to determine whether your goals and objectives were met and what you can do next time to make the activity even better?

By following the S.A.F.E. guidelines as well as the Guide to Safe Scouting and the promptings of the spirit, not only will your boys reap all the rewards from the “outing” but you will increase the likelihood they will return with only fond memories and strengthened testimonies. For more ideas on safety, go to or call LDS Church Risk Management at 801-240-5534.

S.A.F.E Article submitted by Steven Hoskins, Manager, Enterprise Risk & Affiliate Relations for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the May 2012 LDS-BSA Relationships Newsletter.

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