Jump to content


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Posts posted by KF5WT

  1. Like many of you, I was very concerned when I read that BSA was running their background checks through this Choice Point outfit which was hacked. So I contacted our local counsel office in Texas.


    I was told that, yes, BSA and our local counsel run the criminal background checks through Choice Point. However, no BSA information was compromised. Here's why:


    All BSA does is buy a report FROM Choice Point. They don't send any information TO Choice Point. And the only records Choice Point provides to BSA are those available through public sources, such as the courthouse. It's just that Choice Point has access to a vast array of criminal records, when a person walking into one courthouse would not have access to records other places.


    That said, it all serves as a reminder that we should be very protective or our personal information, especially our SS numbers. Why BSA insists on these when a police officer can run a roadside (and nationwide) criminal background check with only a DL number, I don't know.


    Just having these numbers in a computer file somehwere in counsel headquarters is itself a security concern. If a criminal were to hack into the computers inside our counsel office building, or steal a backup tape while pretending to be a member of the cleaning crew, we would all have major problems on our hands. Consider this:


    Exactly what kind of people are BSA volunteers and leaders? We have jobs which pay us enough that we can pay our household living expenses, and can also have enough left over to buy expensive uniforms, larger vehicles for carrying people to activities and pulling trailers, and lots of gear. We can afford to take vacation time to travel to far away Scouting events, and pay for the expensive gas to get there. We have good jobs (income and bank accounts) and vehicles (probably financed) and we probably buy our stuff at the Scout store on our credit cards.


    In short, if a crook were to get what's containted in counsel computers, literally missions of dollars could be stolen in a day. We are VERY prime targets, unlike the average person who buys a pair of shoes at the cheapie-shoe store, which was also hacked. We would only find out what happened when all at once our credit cards maxed out and our bank accounts emptied.


    I believe BSA should abandon the practice of collecting SS numbers from volunteers. There is just too much opportunity for our finances to be harmed, even if BSA does nothing wrong with this information.



  2. I almost hate to post a response since Im not even sure whether some of the ridiculous posts are actually spoofs and pranks. But here goes anyway.


    There is one important point about modern cell phones which has not been brought up. That is, cell phones are actually miniature emergency location beacons.


    In recent years several Scouts have gone missing, and at least two have never been found. With a cell phone, there is a good chance they could have been located, especially if they had known how to properly use the devise during an emergency. More on using a wireless phone during an emergency later.


    When 911 is dialed from a cell phone, a whole chain of events begins happening as the callers location is determined and reported to emergency dispatchers. This location capability if whats called the E-911 system, the E standing for enhanced.


    The first thing that happens is that the nearest cell site gets a directional fix on the phones signal. Then other cell sites in that same general direction also get directional fixes from wherever they are. This direction finding process is called triangulation.


    The system also measures how long the phones signal takes to reach each tower site, and thus determines how far the caller is from each tower site. This process is called trilateration.


    When direction and distance are known from two or three tower sites, a location can be determined to within at least a square mile or so, and often to within 100 yards or less. This all happens within the first few seconds of the emergency call after the caller presses SEND.


    The moment a 911 call comes into a dispatch center from a cell phone, the callers location is lit up on a map on a computer display. During the first several seconds of the voice call, the map display zooms in ever closer as the enhanced 911 system obtains an ever more precise location fix.


    Even this degree of caller location capability can be a lifesaver during an emergency when a caller might not know exactly where he is. A lost Scout on a high hill can have his approximate location known even if he can only get a short and weak call out.


    Better yet, practically all modern wireless phones have the ability to report their own locations even more precisely than that. Todays phones have built in GPS receivers which come on and report the callers lat/long when 911 is dialed. (The GPS receiver remains off nuring normal operation because it draws a good deal of battery power.) So in addition to the rough location fix which the cell system itself can get from any emergency cell call, modern phones sweeten the pot by reporting their location within a stones throw.


    The entire location fix, including the callers lat/long, takes less than 30 seconds. Again, ANY 911 calleven a brief onecan make the callers location known.


    At least three cell phone companies (among them, Wherify Wireless) make phones specifically for kids. Some are very basic in their operation, but all have location capability.


    Some of these kids phones can actually receive a signal from the cell system which activates the internal GPS receiver and silently reports the phones location, even without the kid taking any action at all. (Realistically, any boy old enough to be in Scouting has outgrown a kids phone and can learn how to operate an adult model.) If a kid goes missing on the way home from school, for example, his location can be found if he is carrying one of the newer kid cell phones.


    Now, lets address the matter of wireless phones at Scouting events, such as on a camping or hiking trip.


    When a Scout packs along a cell phone, it takes on a whole new role. It is no longer a mode of idle chit-chat, or his handheld video game. It becomes a bona fide emergency preparedness tool. It should be kept off to save battery power, and an extra battery should be carried also.


    The BSA Field Book states on page 78 that a wireless phone is a basic emergency preparedness tool. Its important to remember that the Field Book is specifically written to SCOUTS. Just because the Scoutmaster has a wireless phone doesnt mean the Scout is prepared. Not one of the Scouts who have recently gone missing has gotten lost in the company of his Scoutmaster. Note that on page 79 its the SCOUTnot the Scoutmasterwho is pictured using the wireless phone to get emergency help.


    On page 191, the Field Book also lists the GPS receiver as a useful navigation tool. But just as with the cell phone, it also states that we should not neglect to learn orienteering and other preparedness skills. Its also important to note that our best emergency preparedness tool is always our MIND.


    Now, lets consider the matter of liability. I find it hard to believe that responsible leaders would actually take it upon themselves to unilaterally ban a bona fide safety device (wireless phone) which is recommended in several national BSA publications. This is the height of irresponsibility. Thats why I suspect some of these posts may actually be fake.


    If a Scout gets lost and is injured or dies at one of these artificially-created cell phone blackout zones we will absolutely be sued, and we will lose.


    The leaders responsible for willfully violation national emergency preparedness recommendations may also be prosecuted criminally for negligent homicide. Its just like taking life jackets from rafters, or eye protectors from metalworking students, in violation of known safety recommendations. The person responsible will certainly be sent to the poor house, and possibly the big house.


    If the boys family does not sue, some non-sympathetic and gold-digging relative will. And they will win. All it will take will be for that lawyer to hold up page 78 of the Field Book, and were sunk. That lawyer might even hold up print-outs from Scouter.com to show that a certain person knew the ins and outs of the issue and still chose to recklessly and negligently take it upon themselves to ban even the mere possession of a known and BSA recommended safety deviceone that contained an emergency location beacon, no less.


    (Other BSA publications, especially the various hiking manuals, mention using cell phones as preparedness tools. Just look up cell phone or wireless phone in the index.)


    I must emphasize again that Scouts should be properly educated in the use of cell phones in the wilderness. First, the phones must stay off to preserve battery life. If an emergency call must be made from a remote location, the weak signal reception will cause the cell phone to automatically crank its output power way up in an attempt to get the call through. This will really suck batter power. Battery life is a precious resource.


    Additionally, Scouts must be taught that when they get lost and begin to find a place to make themselves comfortable for a while, perhaps they might want to pick a higher place rather than a lower place, if such an option is available. This high location will give them a better chance of getting that one important call out. With cell phone radio waves, height is everything.


    As for protecting the serenity of the wilderness from the beeps and boops of modern electronic gadgets, that is certainly a valid point. Toys have no place on a Scout camping trip because they eat up space and contribute to weight. These things also teach nothing related to Scouting and arent useful in an emergency.


    However, wireless communications tools, such as cell phones, FRS radios, amateur radios, and so on, are far from useless. Its important that Scouts learn to use these devices. If a Scout eventually becomes a smoke jumper, game warden, or enlists in the service, the tools he uses in the wilderness will be much more advanced. Scouting can help teach some basic communication skills which will pay off later in life.


    I hope my post has presented some important points to ponder.


  3. A few points:


    First, we aren't talking about toys, action figures, porn magazines, or illegal switchboade knives. We are only talking about bona fide, BSA recommended emergency preparedness tools--the things National says the well prepared Scout SHOULD have, not items that National says he SHOULD NOT have.


    Second, Let's assume you go against BSA preparedness recommendations and ban individual Scouts from possessing cell phones, and you seize one from a Scout. Is it theft? Very likely, because you don't have the authority to take what BSA says the well prepared Scout should have, be it the cell phone, whistle, first aid kit, signal mirror, or whatever.


    This action would go against YOUR bosses (National) and the Scout's bosses (his parents) who are ultimately repsonsible for his upbringing and who chose to equip him with one additional emergency preparedness tool.


    Also, if you take possession of something that isn't yours, you are then financially liafle for it because it's in your custody. If the phone is stolen or lost, or if the finder runs up $1000 worth of calls to Nigeria, you are liable because you wrongfully took it from its legitimate owner in the first place, and then you didn't exercise care to protect it.


    Now if you seize something that BSA prohibits, that's another matter.


    Third, note that the Field Manual shows a picture of a SCOUT using a cell phone--not the adult leader. These are recommendations for individual Scouts, not just leaders.


    Fourth, consider what will happen if you ban cell phones and something goes wrong, such as a Scout getting lost? Since you went against National and sent your boys out LESS PREPARED that they should have been, do you think we will be sued? Absolutely, and we will lose.


    A lawyer would hold up that page from the Field Manual, and pages from other BSA books where cell phones are mentioned as preparedness tools, and our case would be sunk.


    Worse yet, there is such a thing as "criminally negligent homicide" which means that your wrongful or negligent actions resulted in somebody's death. And THAT carries prison time.


    (By the way, I have seen the subject covered in several other BSA publicaions, most notably the backpacking manuals. Just look up "cell phones" in the index.)


    I might remind everyone of the Scout who vanished in Utah during the fall of 2004. As far as I know, his body has never been found. With a cell phone it's possible that the boy could have summoned help. Fortunately, most modern cell phones contain imbedded GPS receivers which report the caller's lat/long to 911 operators.


    It is important to educate boys on the proper use of cell phones, just like they should be familiar with their other tools. If they are in a weak signal area, they must get up higher, even if they have to climb a tree. And of course, phones should remain off until needed to avoid wasting battery power.


    To sum it all up, the key is to educate boys on the proper use of cell phones and other technologies (like the GPS and PLT). Misuse of any tools makes them less useful during a real emergency. Banning them entirely can be dangerous or deadly, and get us sued for sure, and possibly arrested. It's absolutely out of the question.



  4. First, we aren't talking about video games, action figures, toys, etc. These aren't in the same league with BSA-recommended safety and emergency preparedness devices, which Naional specifically says a cell phone is. And note that the Field Guide is written to SCOUTS, not to LEADERS ONLY.


    If there are procedural issues, such as homesick boys leaving camp without notice, or heartsick Scouts calling their girlfriends at all hours of the morning, these can be solved with rules and procedures. A total possession ban is out of the question.


    You can't ban tiolet tissue because a couple of boys TP'd the Scoutmaster's tent.


    You can't ban antibacterial soap because a couple of 12-year-olds can't behave themselves at the sink.


    You can't ban sunscreen because one boy smeared it all over his bunkmate in the middle of the night.


    If we don't agree with something that comes down from National, there is a procedure for redress. We can get parents and volunteers to write letters and take their objections to committees. We can't just take it upon ourselves to UN-EQUIP our boys contraty to National recommendations.



  5. To Troop 251 Scout, PLEASE answer a question for us all. You said in your previous post:


    "In our no-electronics policy it clearly states NO CELL PHONES, PAGERS or anything of the sort..."


    Please explain to us all why you willfully violate the Field Book, which comes from our National level.


    National says that cell phones are recommended part of every Scout's emergency risk management plan. But not only do you violate National, you force all those under you to do so as well.


    And I hope your "anything of the sort" doesn't include GPS and Amateur Radio units because those two items are specifically recommened as well--the latter is even a MERIT BADGE.


    There is a way to keep order and insure that the outdoor experience remains rugged and pristine, free from undue distractions. The manual specifically says that wirelsss phones should be used only during emergencies to preserve pattery life. That's the way it's supposed to be done. Then if an emregency arises, you have the means to summon help--by the book.


    However, banning emergency preparedness tools which National recommends will not only get your unit in heap big trouble when an emergency arises, it will also get BSA sued--a suit which we will positively lose.


    PLEASE explain to us why you are doing this.



  6. The 2004 BSA Field Book (page 78) lists a cell phone as a basic emergency preparedness tool. Ban them at your own peril and risk of lawsuit. You can't BAN a safety device that BSA RECOMMENDS and expect to be held harmless when some emergency comes up. The guide also warns that frivolous use of cell phones can exhaust battery power which might be needed in a real emregency.


    (The Department of Homeland Security also lists a cell phone as a basic emergency preparedness tool.)


    Better yet, the guide mentions on page 436 that FRS radios and the Amateur Radio Service should be utilized during emregency operations. I recommend the latter because Amateur Radio can get through when nothing else will.


    James Alderman, KF5WT

  7. Our local Amateur Radio club (www.qsl.net/k5eph) is working on a project to build a medium power Amateur Radio repeater at a BSA camp in Texas.


    This repeater will serve as an additional courtesy and convenience to the thousands of people who use the camp each year, many of whom are ham radio operators.


    Further, it will be a great teaching tool. Our club teaches the Radio and Weather Merit Badges at the camp and it will be wonderful to actually DEMONSTRATE what a repeater is rather than just TELL the students that these repeater thing-ma-jigs exist out there in the world somewhere.


    Of course, we hope that the repeater will generate more interest in Amateur Radio when Scouts see their ham buddies communicating over much greater distances than are possible with ordinary FRS radios.


    Here is my question...I have not heard of any other camp having its own ham repeater. Perhaps if we hurry up with the project we will be the first camp in the nation with such.


    Does anybody know of other camps in the USA with their own ham repeaters inside the camp?


    Finally, we expect to have our Radio Merit Badge curriculum and student workbooks posted on our club web site soon. Please feel free to make use of the information and let us know how it works out for you.




    James Alderman, KF5WT

    Dallas, TX


    Email address: my ham call sign @ verizon.net




  • Create New...