LA Times: For Boy Scouts, trails can lead to danger

1:58 p.m. on December 15, 2010 (EST)
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Here are two interesting articles from the December 5, 2010 Los Angeles Times. Tom D pointed them out to me.

For Boy Scouts, trails can lead to danger

(In the last five years, 32 Scouts and Scout leaders have died in various outdoor activities. Adult leaders, often inexperienced, can miscalculate risks and difficulties.)

The Yosemite Falls Trail leads dramatically to the top of North America's highest waterfall. Park rangers and veteran hikers know it as strenuous and a potentially dangerous hike in the winter.

Its steep switchbacks rising 2,700 vertical feet were a big challenge for Luis Alberto Ramirez Jr., a 12-year-old from Modesto who had joined the Boy Scouts months earlier and was on his first big outing with his troop.

Until that day, Feb. 16, 2008, Luis had never set foot in the mountains.

Read full story>>

 

When things go wrong on the trail

Four cases show how Scout outings can turn deadly.

Read full story>>

Are these sensational and rare examples of poor outdoor leadership pulled selectively from a large national organization?

Or are they signs of a bigger problem caused by a lack of experienced leaders?

4:11 p.m. on December 15, 2010 (EST)
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It is truly tragic any time a person, young or old, dies while pursuing outdoor activities. My sympathy goes out to the families of the victims.

But this article disturbs me much more due to the LA Times publishing it as if it is reliable news reporting. In truth it displays horrible reporting, research, and common sense. It seems the reporter either has an axe to grind or is just plain incompetent.  

Is a total of 32 total deaths, adults and youth, over the past five years supposed to be shocking? There are nearly a million youth in Boy Scouts of America. That doesn't even factor in the adults leaders.

Of those 32 deaths in the past five years, 8 were adults. That means on average only 1 Boy Scout in 187,500 will suffer such a tragedy in any given year during BSA activities.  The National Average for accidental death is 1 in 2,400 in a given year.

The second article ends stating that 4 scouts have died in the past seven years from lightning. The reporter lists this as if it is a shocking fact, but in reality it is laughable. That statistic means that 1 in 1,579,000 scouts in a given year will be killed by lightning. Translated, risk is that 0.57 scouts a year will potentially be fatally struck by lightening. What is the national average? 1 in 500,000 will be struck by lightning. So your average joe is 3 times more likely to get toasted by a bolt from heaven.

This kind of "reporting" is shameful.

5:34 p.m. on December 15, 2010 (EST)
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gonzan broke this down perfectly statistically. This is just another case of Bad shameful reporting to grab headlines. I had the oppertunity this past summer to observe my nephews scout troop. They have One adult to every 5 boys. Then I also agree that not every adult has the same level of skill level. Thats true. But I factor people like " Bill" who train the adults and oversee safety for adults and the boys. What this is is just a giant slant to scouting because this specific troop had an ill advised adult in charge. i do feel for the families though. But it does not make scouting evil . It just points out that the had to change where things were obscured in safety and education.

7:00 p.m. on December 15, 2010 (EST)
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I have hiked the Yosemite Falls trail quite a few times in the winter/spring of 1980 when I was 24. It is indeed a tretcherous trail in the snow and ice. After doing it the first time in January 1980 I returned with an ice axe and crampons as many areas are covered in ice that forms as the snow melts off the upper cliffs making some areas where the trail blasted out of the granite is very hard to ascend and descend.

There was an ice cone at the base of the upper falls 300 feet tall formed from the ice falling from the falls as it freezes as it comes down.

That spring in 1980 a rockfall killed three hikers and knock out 3/4 of the upper trail.


Yosemite-Falls-in-Winter.jpg


Ice-dome-at-the-base-of-upper-Yosemite-F

The ice cone can be seen in this shot below the falls.

Lost Arrow is to the upper right of the falls just left of Yosemite Point. Climbers stretch a rope line from the top cliff and the "Arrow" and do a traverse across like a spider on a web.


Upper-and-Lower-Yosemite-Falls-in-the-su

The upper and lower falls in summer


The-Yosemite-Falls-withe-the-canyon-to-t

The hanging canyon to the left of the falls is where the trail goes up.



7:43 p.m. on December 15, 2010 (EST)
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Nice photos, Gary, I haven't been up on that side in winter, but I can see from the photos that the trail could be dangerous under the right conditions.

I understand the math, but for a parent, if it's their kid, the accident rate is 100%.  I know that doesn't make a lot of sense in the big picture, but that's how people think. The goal should be zero accidents and many are preventable with some planning and training.

Read enough accident reports and many sound familiar, no matter where they happen. My favorite had a happy ending-hiker abandoned by her friends found alive-

An inexperienced female tramper "abandoned" by her tramping companions in the Harper River became lost in the Long Creek area. Her companions reported her lost to Arthur's Pass Police late Monday(28-02) evening. A team consisting of Arthur's Pass Rescue and Arthur's Pass Police commenced a foot search of the Lagoon Saddle track at first light discovering the lost tramper in Lagoon Saddle hut. Her condition was that of dehydration because her companions had told her that ALL NZ water needed boiling before consumption, and they had been carrying all the cooking equipment when they abandoned her. We recommended she find new friends!

Having hiked in that area, that story about the water is totally untrue. Above the sheep, it's all drinkable. I never boiled a drop except for cooking and didn't have a filter or chemicals. Had she known that simple fact, she probably would have been fine. The hut system there prevents a lot of exposure cases. If you can find one, there are often blankets and a cooker like a Primus kerosene stove and maybe a pot or two. That's what helped keep this story one with a good outcome.

8:18 p.m. on December 15, 2010 (EST)
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This story is quite disappointing to me.  The BSA is the premier organization for teaching youth about outdoor skills, citizenship and leadership.  As gonzan's  post above says, the risk is infinitesimally small for a scout to encounter danger on an outing.

We are trained in LNT, First Aid and other forms of preparedness.  The reality is that as in any organization, some will take unreasonable risks to push the limit. We are often prodded by pesky parents who believe the organization is too conservative and unreasonably strict, or who believe their boys are more advanced in their skills than they are. 

An organization is only as good as it's members and the members are only as good as the training they attend.  A well-trained BSA leader would not have put himself or his boys in that situation.  In the case of Luis, several rules of Safe Scouting were violated here (2-Deep Leadership, "buddy system")and probably others (knowing the limits of your boys, appropriate hiking attire, etc.) 

Honestly, if Scout policy had been followed in most of these cases, the results would have been different.

9:25 p.m. on December 15, 2010 (EST)
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This story is quite disappointing to me.  The BSA is the premier organization for teaching youth about outdoor skills, citizenship and leadership.  As gonzan's  post above says, the risk is infinitesimally small for a scout to encounter danger on an outing.

We are trained in LNT, First Aid and other forms of preparedness.  The reality is that as in any organization, some will take unreasonable risks to push the limit. We are often prodded by pesky parents who believe the organization is too conservative and unreasonably strict, or who believe their boys are more advanced in their skills than they are. 

An organization is only as good as it's members and the members are only as good as the training they attend.  A well-trained BSA leader would not have put himself or his boys in that situation.  In the case of Luis, several rules of Safe Scouting were violated here (2-Deep Leadership, "buddy system")and probably others (knowing the limits of your boys, appropriate hiking attire, etc.) 

Honestly, if Scout policy had been followed in most of these cases, the results would have been different.

BSA Jeff I would agree with you about the parents believeing the boys are more Advanced in their skills than they are. Do you have any system of safety.Such as when you know a child is not safe or adult when you call off an outing or activity? I was wondering. I just would like to know for personal knowledge.thank you

9:53 p.m. on December 15, 2010 (EST)
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For a year I drove 2 hours each Friday (even when it was not my weekend to have him) to the town my child lives in so I could be his Cub Scout leader. Not because I am a super dad or a hero, but because no local men would step up and take the responsibility. I think that is a big problem with alot of Scouting troops. It is no wonder that some leaders (by no means all or even a majority of them) are not equipped to know how to handle the outdoors for themselves much less for the kids. It is a problem of many men to think we are better equipped to handle every situation than what we really are. The BSA is not to blame. It is the lack of parental involvement that is a problem.

Also, I am more disturbed by the fact that the boys were "exhausted" after having hiked a mere mile. The LA Times should be up in arms that our youth are in such bad shape that they cant handle hiking a mile without giving up. That is alot more detrimental to our future than the few (in relative numbers to the amount of Scouts that never have a problem on these outings) accidents that happen.

10:19 p.m. on December 15, 2010 (EST)
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I understand the math, but for a parent, if it's their kid, the accident rate is 100%.  I know that doesn't make a lot of sense in the big picture, but that's how people think. The goal should be zero accidents and many are preventable with some planning and training.

Read enough accident reports and many sound familiar, no matter where they happen.

I can't imagine losing a child or a sibling, and hate that these parents have lost their children.

I do not mean at all to make light of their loss.

My thoughts above are about that larger picture, and that it is the responsibility of a news reporter to put things in perspective and context, rather than mislead and sensationalize.

Both of the scout leaders definitely bear responsibility, not just the one that continued on.

 

Read enough accident reports and many sound familiar, no matter where they happen.

I have been reading a lot of SAR and mountaineering accident reports lately, and I find myself cringing constantly, "seeing it coming" as it were. Some of the accounts leave me baffled at how those involved could be so foolish.

I am certain that the goal of BSA is Zero accidents. The reality is that ensuring a single scout is never injured can only be achieved by not introducing a single youth to the outdoors.  That would truly be a tragedy as well.

11:32 p.m. on December 15, 2010 (EST)
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Actually, we have 4.5 million Boy Scouts in the Boy Scouts of America, in about 300 Councils throughout the Nation. Great amounts of effort are made to train everyone who assumes any leadership position, whether the boys or the adults. Many of our adults have limited outdoor experience and our Councils focus in providing a very careful and well-supervised program for kids, and offer training throughout the year. We do have parents who use Scouting as a day-care opportunity and do not help in leading the Troops or in working with their own children, even, to sustain the programs.  We have done admirably our roles of character development, lifetime outdoor skill instruction, community service project involvement, and leadership training and growth.  Most of our offerings work very well; 70% of our adult leadership is volunteers and pays for very many things 'out-of-pocket' and does not keep track or deduct anything for tax purposes. We work for free because we believe in the Scouting program and in our duty to lead young people onto moral, higher ground.  If the kids grow and learn, and are rewarded with enthusiasm and discovery and excitement in becoming active citizens and stewards of our National Heritage, we have all been adequately rewarded.  I sorrow for any loss, for any mistake; we treasure the lives of our young people. May GOD grant us all the courage and strength to provide and lead them well and honorably.  Thanks for reading.  A Commissioner in two Councils...606 and 609, in Western Washington.

4:19 a.m. on December 16, 2010 (EST)
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"I have been reading a lot of SAR and mountaineering accident reports lately, and I find myself cringing constantly, "seeing it coming" as it were. Some of the accounts leave me baffled at how those involved could be so foolish."

Gonzan, the answer is simple. As I have mentioned before, Donald Rumsfeld said, somewhat famously (paraphrasing here) there are the known knowns, the things we know, the known unknowns, the things we know we don't know and the unknown unknowns, the things we don't know we don't know.

What may seem obvious to us is easily something others are totally unaware of or vice versa. When I was teaching scuba diving, while it was pretty obvious that if you ran out of air, you could drown, other dangers, like currents, weren't always so obvious. The same with hiking. People often go out into changing weather without realizing how bad it may get, or push themselves too far into sketchy territory without adequate gear because they simply don't know they aren't equipped for it.

5:37 a.m. on December 19, 2010 (EST)
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Denis:  In response to your question, I'll provide a link to the Guide to Safe Scouting which details the safety measures we must take in our Troops.

http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/HealthandSafety/GSS/toc.aspx

I'll add in addition that some troops have specific requirements for outdoor adventure activities.  Because of it's size (60 scouts) our troop requires boys to be 14 years old minimum and First Class Rank to participate in strenuous hiking, wilderness activities involving water (canoeing, kayaking) or backpacking.  This is because boys of this rank have shown commitment, consistent trustworthy behavior and have learned more about the skills necessary for strenuous outdoor activity.  We still have to keep an eye out as leaders for the condition of our boys and take the necessary precautions to be sure that the trips we take are within the physical and emotional capabilities of all involved. That's a judgment call sometimes, and from experience it pays to be conservative.  There is just no substitute for good informed judgment.

 

 

 

6:34 p.m. on December 20, 2010 (EST)
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I agree the numbers don't appear to support the notion that this is a national problem with the Scouts, as opposed to a few troop leaders who exercised poor judgment.  any troop leader who takes kids into waist-deep snow with inadequate footwear and no snowshoes was clearly in over his head.  He didn't have enough experience to recognize the dangers.  The same goes for troop leaders who lead hikes in 90+ degree heat and push onward when children are laboring or worse.  not enough experience with hyperthermia or dehydration.  Lightning? i think adults who take children on camping trips have a responsibility to learn that putting kids under a tree or tent, or god forbid get caught above treeline when there is a lightning storm, should have educated themselves about safe practices. 

adults find themselves in these situations from time to time.  it is regrettable, and irresponsible because it puts fellow hikers and SAR personnel at risk, but ultimately, adults are supposed to be competent (if not experienced) and can make their own decisions.

IMO, and as someone who formerly guided children on canoe, hiking and cycling trips, i think adults who guide children have a different and special responsibility to exercise a more conservative and protective level of judgment - to protect the kid who is struggling or over his head, not to think in terms of finishing a hike or getting to the top.  most kids lack the experience to exercise sound judgment in these situations. 

7:29 p.m. on December 20, 2010 (EST)
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Leadbelly- have to agree there were alot of mistakes made, but I believe this one reporter went above and beyond on sensationalism. Like we dont already have an issue with youths not wanting to participate in the outdoors. My issue is I have been around experianced individuals in many aspects of life from building design to the Military. There isn't one organization that I have not been with that hasn't had safety issue's period. Were talking about experianced learned and qualified indiviuals who if they sat in a room together and all agreed on a safety plan would still change that plan do to personal ego's. I'v seen iit from the Military with Cadre to present. Yes childrens safety is the number one priority period. But whi hasn;t made mistakes. Prime examle Everest! Should I go on. I think thats enough to emphasis that evven if your a professional you can make a bad call. It's happened let's just limit it to never again and move forward.

BSA Jeff- thank you! read that  it helps with my issue with my nephew and his abilities and parents.

9:34 p.m. on December 20, 2010 (EST)
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Jeff:  thanks for supplying the BSA guidelines.  they show BSA has given a lot of thought to safety.  it's also plainly clear that the troop leaders in some of the situations highlighted in the article ignored some of BSA's basic principles.   principles are only as good as the mechanisms for enforcing them; i would be interesting in hearing how BSA does that.

i don't think it's sensationalistic to report on these kinds of cases, any more than it is to compile and analyze climbing accidents every year.    think about the issue of head injuries due to participation in youth sports.  until recently, our methods for identifying and trying to prevent or address these injuries were inadequate, and it's still a work in progress with more to learn.  not sure it's productive to assign blame, and the vast majority of youth athletes do not end up with concussions, but articles like this about youth sports head injuries probably influenced our society to get a better understanding of the issues and find better ways to address them.

perhaps the focus on the boy scouts isn't fair, but if scouting troop leaders experience these kinds of errors in judgment, and if this many scouts die over this period of time, despite BSA's sensible standards, don't you think it is fair to question whether there might be ways to better educate troop leaders and improve the ways that those sensible standards are reinforced? very few drivers died in Ford Explorer rollover accidents (my Explorer never rolled), despite millions of miles of road time, but it sure got our attention.

example: there are 3.3 million girl scouts in the USA.  they have a robust safety program, it's constantly updated.  not sure how GSA reinforces the standards, but one wonders - has GSA experienced this many accidents and fatalities?  if there is a meaningful difference, is it possible to figure out why? i don't know the answers, but i think the questions are worth asking. 

10:36 p.m. on December 20, 2010 (EST)
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Leadbelly your quit right and I personally beleave they are trying to do that at this time. I look at the Talent and expertise (Bill S) brings to the table in safety and standards. I am for following a precedure and following up on reports of inproper safety practice's.I also like Bill's 3 step rule that he use's when instructing BSA adult volunteers and children. It was in another post. But it was excellant. Yes the standards can be set but how do you enforce them. I personally don't know. But from personal experiance from another career. I wouldn't want to be that adult who ask's why did it happen. The family lost a child and the adult leader is just as grieved as well. They can't change what happened but they are changing how it affects the future of their program and I believe they are trying to do that. No one can perdict the outcome to any given event and if we had that insight I believe we all would be millionare's. Thats IMO. but you made great points,

11:06 p.m. on December 20, 2010 (EST)
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Good points leadbelly. I wasn't intending to mean that the accidents shouldn't be reported, it was the manner in which they were that I took exception to.

It certainly seems that in most of the cases, one or more of the leaders did not follow the BSA safety guidelines, or use good judgment. It is likely that the implementation of the safety protocols and leader training can be improved. Iif reporting accidents leads to better training, implementation, reasoning, and balance, that is definitely positive.

I just find it reproachable when news reporters don't include proper context or balanced reporting, but sensationalize. This reporter only told one side of the situation, and slanted all of the reported facts and research to demonize the Boy Scouts. I just don't think that is honorable.

1:15 a.m. on December 21, 2010 (EST)
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As a current boy scout leader, I have very mixed emotions on this issue.  Obviously, any death is one too many. 

I also believe that BSA has higher safety policies in place than most youth organizations.  We are actually so strict on safety that it is at times frustrating as a leader.  Many of the activities that boys join scouts for are no longer 'legal' on the troop or pack level. Just one example is shooting sports.  My troop has 5 leaders who are shooting sports certified through BSA.  We can run Archery and BB gun program areas at district and council camps but can not set up an archery range for our own pack or troop.  Canoeing is another area.  To paddle a canoe, the scout must be a blue swimmer (all scouts must take a swim test to participate in water sports with blue being the highest level, red the middle and white is pretty much a non-swimmer).  Red swimmers can only be passengers in a boat with blue swimmers.  Of couse, ALL boaters must wear life preservers. 

Don't get me wrong, I am all for safety but I agree that the only way to prevent every accident is to never take the kids out for activities.  You can not, with or without regulation, remove all risk from life.

I have attended many leader trainings over my years in Scouts.  I do not, however, ever remember having the opportunity to attend a training geared to leading the boys on high-adventure activities.  I have had Leave No Trace, and of course have heard many times that you must make sure the boys use proper equipment, safety procedures, etc.  but I don't know of any real training offered in my area on back-country hiking/camping.  Perhaps this is a regional issue?  We are at least a 5 hour drive from any mountains.  Maybe councils located where these activities are more readily available do a better job of preparing their leaders? 

Sorry to be so wordy,  it is a subject near and dear to me!  Now that I am thinking about it, I believe I will contact my council office and suggest that they provide some high-adventure training.  I know local units besides mine are participating in these activities.  I definitely think leader training is better for preventing accidents than just implementing more regulations.

As for why all news coverage,  I think BSA is (and should be) held to a higher standard.  It is the same situation when a high-profile criminal is found to be or have at one time been a scout leader.  When this is the case, it is one of the first things the media will point out.

3:50 p.m. on December 21, 2010 (EST)
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While not related to Scouting, here is an example of bad judgment-California is experiencing the worst winter storms in about 10 years, yet two groups of hikers had to be rescued yesterday in Orange County-one group by helo since the weather was so bad, ground rescue was impossible.

What were these people thinking? They endangered themselves and the SAR teams that went after them.

Back to Scouting. I remember as a kid going to Scout camp at Echo Lake near Tahoe in Northern Cal. We had to pass a swimming test before canoeing. I was a very good swimmer and passed but the water was extremely cold. We all had to wear lifejackets, which was a good safety precaution if for no other reason than the water temperature.

I agree that with some stats, the story could have been more balanced, but it helps to realize that the reason these stories are in the news is because these accidents are so rare.

If all you read are the Yosemite accident reports, it sounds like the park is a dangerous place, but once you realize that Yosemite gets around 4 Million visitors a year, the number of accidents is miniscule.

1:24 p.m. on December 22, 2010 (EST)
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Jeff:  thanks for supplying the BSA guidelines.  they show BSA has given a lot of thought to safety.  it's also plainly clear that the troop leaders in some of the situations highlighted in the article ignored some of BSA's basic principles.   principles are only as good as the mechanisms for enforcing them; i would be interesting in hearing how BSA does that.

i don't think it's sensationalistic to report on these kinds of cases, any more than it is to compile and analyze climbing accidents every year.    think about the issue of head injuries due to participation in youth sports.  until recently, our methods for identifying and trying to prevent or address these injuries were inadequate, and it's still a work in progress with more to learn.  not sure it's productive to assign blame, and the vast majority of youth athletes do not end up with concussions, but articles like this about youth sports head injuries probably influenced our society to get a better understanding of the issues and find better ways to address them.

perhaps the focus on the boy scouts isn't fair, but if scouting troop leaders experience these kinds of errors in judgment, and if this many scouts die over this period of time, despite BSA's sensible standards, don't you think it is fair to question whether there might be ways to better educate troop leaders and improve the ways that those sensible standards are reinforced? very few drivers died in Ford Explorer rollover accidents (my Explorer never rolled), despite millions of miles of road time, but it sure got our attention.

example: there are 3.3 million girl scouts in the USA.  they have a robust safety program, it's constantly updated.  not sure how GSA reinforces the standards, but one wonders - has GSA experienced this many accidents and fatalities?  if there is a meaningful difference, is it possible to figure out why? i don't know the answers, but i think the questions are worth asking. 

Leadbelly:  There are consequences for scout leaders not following the safety policies put in place for the BSA if an incident results in injury, death or property damage.  My understanding is that as a leader, I am covered at $1,000,000 in liability insurance per incident through the organization as long as their policies are followed to the letter.  If the policies are not followed, then I am personally liable.  When attending someone else's children, that liability insurance is critical.  That's enough for me, at least, to be sure I know and follow the rules.

10:14 a.m. on December 23, 2010 (EST)
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That is my understanding as well.  If an accident happens and all rules/regulations were not followed or paperwork not complete, the adult leader is liable.  This is rather scary as accidents do happen.  As said, it should be enough to encourage leaders to do all they can to prevent them.  Unfortunately, I think a lot of times the participants abilities are just over-estimated which leads to trouble.   We have several boys who are not physically fit and really can't do some activities.  When we took them back-packing, this group was accompanied by 4 adults in case some weren't doing well and needed to get off the trail.  This did happen and 2 leaders and half the boys went back to base camp and the middle skill level group waited while the others caught up to them. 

I think there always needs to be a 'bail-out' plan as well as the mind set that this is not only okay but the best thing to do under some circumstances.

1:47 p.m. on December 23, 2010 (EST)
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thanks BSAJeff that explains there are consequence's if an adult leader doesn't follow the guide lines. Thanks for explaining that.. I see with good leadership these young men have  an oppertunity to excel. thanks

11:16 p.m. on January 4, 2011 (EST)
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I believe it is now a requirement that in order to do a high adventure you have leaders (and scouts) that have taken the wilderness first aid course.

Also every fall our council puts on a "university of scouting" where classes like winter camping, packing for hiking, etc are taught. No clue if other councils do this, but they should

7:20 p.m. on January 6, 2011 (EST)
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Brief comment between trips here (back in town from Antarctica, leaving shortly for the southern end of the state on a family affair).

According to the book, all registered Boy Scout Leaders are required to take the following training (National rules and syllabus for each) -

Fast Start (intro)

Basic Leader Training (general overview)

Position-Specific training (Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster, for example, or Troop Committee Member)

Basic Outdoor (intro to outdoor activities)

Trek Safely (safety for basic outdoor activities like hiking and overnights) - on line

Youth Protection (has to do with child abuse in its multitudinous forms, not just sexual abuse) - on line

Red Cross Basic First Aid and CPR (for all Scout activities, at least one adult on the activity for a given ratio to participants)

Safe Swim Defense (if the activity will involve swimming, whether in pool or a lake) - on line

Safety Afloat (watercraft activities) - on line

Climb On Safely (procedures and protocols for climbing and rappelling, no training in climbing skills - that's the Climbing Instructor Course) - on line

Wilderness First Aid (at least one adult leader on any "wilderness" activity - day hike, overnight, "high adventure" meaning multi-day activity away from an established camp) - hands on

BSA Climbing Instructor (a professional guide service may be hired to provide this service, providing they meet certain requirements, such as AMGA certification for the guide service).

There are more. In addition, many Councils provide High Adventure Training (there is no National Syllabus for this at present, though here in the SFBay Area, the 9 councils have devised a coordinated syllabus - which needs revision).

One problem is "you can lead a horse to water". That is, individual units (such as troops and Venture Crews) are owned by their chartering organization, not BSA National (this differs from GSUSA, where the national organization owns the individual units, hence more and more rigid control). Too many units include well-meaning adults who believe they are experienced, maybe because they went through Scouts themselves, or were in the military. In some Troops, the chartering organization "calls" the adult leaders from the community represented by the organization as a duty to the community, regardless of background and training.  BSA has been making a big effort to have "fully trained" units, and does offer the on-line and hands-on courses either during the year or in University of Scouting settings. A number of the volunteering adults object (rightly) that this is a huge amount of "required" training, and that they cannot squeeze in the time and still spend time with their families. I could point out that the "Basic" courses can be done in a weekend, and that the on-line courses are about a half-hour at your computer. The High Adventure and WFA courses are weekend or a couple weekends. If you spend the typical 5 or 6 years your son is active in Scouts as a volunteer leader, then the time spent is amortized over a long period. Then there are the parents who see BSA as meaning Baby Sitters of America, a way to drop their son off and disappear for a weekend or week of adult activities (I have had parents drop the boy at the carpool for the weekend backpack and head for Las Vegas, completely unavailable when the kid twisted an ankle and needed to be taken home and to their doctor - can't reach them on the phone and the hospital won't take the kid without release forms and the original of the insurance card).

Sorry parents, we are VOLUNTEER leaders, not paid professionals. You want real safety, then you need to provide actual physical (and financial) support. The majority of volunteer adults are sincere and make a big effort, paying for serious training out of their own time and money. But ya gotta be a volunteer yourself, with your own time and effort and getting and applying training.

 

12:37 a.m. on January 7, 2011 (EST)
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I agree that one death is one too many, but my personal experience is that BSA does an excellent job at training and preparing adult leaders to lead safe adventures for the boys. 

That said, at the moment of truce, all are dependent on the judgement of the leaders.  My troop never lets fewer than two, highly experienced in a particular activity, adults lead any outing.  Example is a Grand Canyon backpacking trip 2 years ago.  The two senior adults, me and another, have combined 75 years backpacking experience.  We were hiking over President's Day weekend and about halfway down the Boucher Trail judged it too hazardous to continue and aborted the hike.  Who knows, with less experience we might have attempted to push through, and then what?

Bill S has it right, we are volunteers and we are doing our best.  We are trained, but not all have decades of outdoor experience.  None of us would ever consciously put our boys at risk, but experience counts.  And parents, the best way to safeguard your boys is to put yourself out there and volunteer.  If a situation exceeds your limits you can call it. 

And if this is not possible you need to know the adult leaders.  Do not under any circumstances allow your child to go on a high adventure outing with someone you do not personally know and trust, who you are not confident has the skills and experience, and who hasn't the same concern for the boys wellbeing as you.  You are the first line of defense.

September 18, 2014
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