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Outdoor Article Restart - Is BSA Training Sufficient?

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Carrying my post over from the closed thread.


To Gern:


Who is the "fenced in suburbanite with no experience or training"? On which trip was there only one leader present? I must have missed something.


Some Troops may only car camp or do very limited hiking, in very moderate climates. What type of training would you mandate for those leaders? We already mandate BALOO for Cubs and Webelos leaders. Certain trainings are required for certain types of activities, in order for a Troop to get a Tour Permit. What else would you mandate? How would that prevent the boy in NC from wandering off?


I think the parents have the ultimate responsibility in deciding if they will let their son go on a trip. They need to be very knowledgeable about the training the leaders have, and their skills. As you know, someone can sit through a training class and pick up a card without learning a thing.

There has been talk of mandating Wilderness First Aid for HA trips. Problem is there aren't nearly enough courses being offered to meet the demand, if it were required.


Sorry to hear training isn't very popular in your area. Here, the Wilderness First Aid classes were all sold out. Climb-on Safely at Summer Camp had to turn Scouters away. BALOO has been sold out for every course for at least the past 4 years.


I seek out training, whether it be First Aid related or other BSA areas. This is my third year serving on the Steering Committee for our Scouters Academy, the Council's largest training event. I have over 30 years of camping experience, and 25 years of hunting experience - here and in Africa. I'm smart enough to know I don't know everything, and that Mother Nature and wild animals plays by their own rules. I read lots of morbid books, like Death in Yellowstone, Bear Attacks of the Century, Death in Silent Places, and Into Thin Air so I can learn from other's mistakes. The day I stop learning is the day they take me to the morgue.


Highlighting an accident where a boy fell in a river is not pointing out lax training. It is taking cheap shots at an organization she despises.

BTW, the leader involved in the Superstition Mountains incident she mentions was a former Navy Seal. What type of training are you going to recommend for him? Fenced in suburbanite?

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Here is the article again for anybody who did not see it in the other one..




The Big Idea

Demerit Badge

Is Boy Scouts of America doing enough to keep kids safe?


By Annette McGivney


MY TEN-YEAR-OLD SON, Austin, likes to hike, camp, and climb. He toddled across the Alaskan tundra at age two, hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon at four, and floated the Green River at six. In other words, he's a perfect candidate for the Boy Scouts of America. In some corners of the country it would be considered unpatriotic not to sign him up. But here's the truth: I'd rather see Austin pierce his tongue than earn a merit badge.


My distrust of the Scouts reached a tipping point in March, when 12-year-old Michael Auberry, from Greensboro, North Carolina's Troop 230, disappeared while on a camping trip in the Blue Ridge Parkway. Fortunately, after a four-day search, Auberry was found alive and well. He'd wandered away from camp, it was later reported, and gotten lost.


I was relieved, of course, that Auberry emerged unhurt. But then I got angry. What irked me wasn't the incident itself but the way Scout leaders reacted. I had followed the Auberry story on the Associated Press news wire, reading regional and national coverage of the search. Instead of apologiesa kid had been lost, after allwhat I saw was a round of collective back-patting by Scout leaders across the country who proudly recounted how the wayward boy had used his Scout-taught survival skills. "Preparing kidsthat's our motto. That's what we do," Ely Brewer, of the Mid-Iowa Council of Boy Scouts, told Des Moines TV station KCCI. Fine. Auberry knew how to make a bed out of leaves. But here's a thought: How about making sure he doesn't wander off in the first place?


Auberry's epic actually had a much brighter ending than at least a dozen incidents over the past decade in which Scouts have died or nearly died. Most infamously, in 2005, two Scouts and five leaders were killed in two separate lightning incidents and one power-line mishap. In unrelated BSA accidents that same summer, Chase Hathenbruck, 15, drowned in New Mexico's Animas River, and Luke Sanburg, 13, drowned in the Yellowstone. The year before, Kristoffer Jones, 14, died when he fell 1,000 feet from a sheer cliff while hiking in Utah's Zion National Park. But even these tragedies wouldn't be so tragic if not for the hubris that still managed to pervade the Boy Scout leadership. In March 2006, nine Scouts and three leaders were backpacking in Arizona's Superstition Mountains when they became stranded by a snowstorm. Unprepared for the conditions, they had to be rescued by helicopter. "The boys proved themselves to be men," leader David Perkins told Phoenix TV stations. Or the leaders proved themselves to be inexperienced: A severe winter storm had been forecast days before. I live in Flagstaff, Arizona, and had planned a trek in the Superstitions that same weekend, but I postponed it after a routine weather check. The typical response from Scout leaders to all of the above? Freak accidents.


Tell that to the parents who've sued the Scouts in recent years. One case concerns Matthew Tresca, 16, who was killed in August 2002 by lightning at a Pennsylvania Scout camp. Even though a severe thunderstorm warning was in effect for the area and lightning was visible in the sky, Tresca and other boys were sent by Scout leaders from the safety of the dining hall to their tents, where Tresca died after a bolt struck a metal tent spike. In 2004, in testimony for a lawsuit brought by Tresca's parents against the BSA in New Jersey Superior Court, meteorologist Ronald Holle, a lightning expert formerly with the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma, concluded, "The national and local levels of the Boy Scouts of America failed completely to take into account any recent or current information on the impacts of lightning. The management of the risk of lightning was extraordinarily poor and at an extremely low level of understanding compared to similar organizations. If planning had been emphasized at the national level, and local individuals had used this information correctly, the completely preventable death of Matthew Tresca would have been avoided." The BSA reached an undisclosed settlement with the Trescas, part of which prohibited the family from talking to the media.


THEN THERE'S THE BOY Scouts' mission itself, which is "to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices" (read the complete text at scouting.org), making no mention of wilderness skills. "We emphasize outdoor activities, safety, and stewardship, but do not consider ourselves an outdoor or survival training program," says BSA associate director of marketing and communications Eric Moore. That would make more sense if troops spent as much time playing kickball as camping.


"Unfortunately, many Scout leaders do not possess the level of decision-making skills that is required in the outdoors," says Ken Phillips, chief of emergency services for Grand Canyon National Park, who has been involved in numerous backcountry rescues of Scout troops during his 23 years there. "Many of the leaders of these trips are not used to the wilderness environment. The kids don't make bad decisions; the leaders do."


I can hear the protests, so let me answer: Yes, with more than three million Scouts and a million volunteer leaders in the United States, it's inevitable that accidents will happen. And competent, even excellent, Scout leaders with years of experience and training in wilderness first aid do exist. Plus the BSA mobilizes a vast number of volunteer leaders who sincerely want to help kids. But even kindergartners are taught to learn from mistakes. The BSA, meanwhile, won't divulge accident data and declined to share any statistics for this story. And they've let at least one opportunity to learn from other wilderness-education organizations wither on the vine. Drew Leemon, risk-management director for the National Outdoor Leadership School, says the BSA joined the committee for the annual Wilderness Risk Management Conference from 1997 to 2001, but declined to share accident data with the group. "The Boy Scouts expose so many kids to the outdoors, it's phenomenal," says Leemon. "We wanted the Boy Scouts to be more involved. We hoped their participation would rally the troops and lead to Scout leaders attending the conference. But it didn't happen in any great numbers."


Of course, the BSA national office encourages wilderness-safety and first-aid training for Scout leaders. But participation is completely voluntary. According to BSA director of camping and conservation Frank Reigelman, the group's primary means of educating troop leaders is through the Boy Scouts' Fieldbook and other BSA literature. "We provide various publications and planning tools to help volunteers with trip planning. The material is out there if they choose to use it," says Reigelman, who emphasizes that it's hard to enforce requirements in a volunteer organization with 47,000 troops across the country. That argument would be more convincing if they didn't manage to exclude gays and atheists from all BSA chapters.


I may rue the day I wished a tongue-piercing on my only son. The mere thought makes me cringe. But at least I know he won't need to be rescued.



I for one wish that Wilderness First Aid was offered more in my area. It's hard to find it. The American Red Cross offered it for a year or so, but not recently.


I believe this article has a lot of truthful stuff in it, but she loses all credibility when she mentions gays and atheists. Wrong place for it.



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Okay, risk assessment time.

If the above article is authoritative then over the last decade(para.4) and more than a dozen incidents(para.4) 24 persons have been involved in situations requiring rescues(12) or have died(12).

Now from the BSA annual reports in 2002 there were in December: >1,000,000 scouts actively scouting; 2003 997,398; 2004 988,995; 2005 943,426; and in 2006 879,789.

Now with a minimum of 10 camping nights, I think we can agree that the majority of us can say we get a lot more than that but we'll stick with 10 so that we underestimate. We get a total of 4,809,608 scouts over a five year period and with the previously mentioned 10 nights we get 48,096,080 camping nights in the five year period - now to make it a worst case scenario we will assume that all of the incidents mentioned in the article occurred in the five years (1/2 the time they actually occurred in).

So 48,096,080 divided by 24 equals, a ratio of 1 in 2,004,003. So for every 2 million nights one camps out with the BSA; one can expect to be lost and requiring rescue, or die, once. I think Ill take those odds.

See also


From the Outward Bound 2004 report



Outward Bound influenced the lives of more than 70,000 students and teachers - less than 10 % of the 2004 BSA figure for Boy Scouts not counting BSA Leaders. Taking the same 1 in 2 million number they can only have one person requiring a rescue or die every 2.86 years



From: Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming

By Simon Priest, Michael A. Gass




Risk management in outdoor experiences is quite similar to other industries (e.g. airline and automobile industries). Regardless of the field, professionals design experiences and products based on a variety of factors, one of which is the level of actual risk. In fact, adventure experiences are typically less risky than most commonly accepted human activities. For example, Cooley (2000) found wilderness adventure experiences were about 18 times less likely to result in injury than high school football practices or cheerleading and were half as responsible for deaths resulting from motor vehicle accidents for 15-19 year olds. So lets drive to Football practice instead of going Scouting.

Again, I DON"T THINK SO, although I 'm going to be more careful driving the boy to practice tonight.


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First I must also report that training in my council is not received well. Some of the courses are done very well and those that do actually take these trainings have nothing but praise. Basic leadership courses are canceled yearly due to limited or no response from untrained leaders. Some leaders have not taken training in 40 years others have never taken BSA training. In many cases unit program reflects this dramatically. As to hops_scout's feeling that Ms. McGivney loses ALL credibility because she mentions gays and atheists. >>I believe this article has a lot of truthful stuff in it, but she loses all credibility when she mentions gays and atheists. Wrong place for it.

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I personally would love to see the BSA require training for all Scouters. If I were king, I would require it be completed before any Scouter could wear a uniform.


Speaking of the uniform, I would love to see that required, in full, as well. Uniforming and training get the same treatment by some units - it is viewed as optional. This is usually the fault of the SM/CM. They can either rally the troops and be leaders on the issue, or they can follow the pack, which usually sinks to the lowest common denominator.


It is a shame our volunteers don't see value in the training. The most common excuse I hear for not attending training is they don't have the time. If they don't have enough time to attend training, how are they ever going to have enough time to operate a unit? We bought a house in a very good school district. We expect the teachers to be well trained. Why would I send my son to a Troop where the leaders aren't trained? Why would any parent?

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Fellow Scouters,



A few sources report that 8 out of 10 accidents happen at home, and over 50 percent of those happen in the bathroom.


I certainly hope that Ms Annette McGivney is just as cautious at home, were most accidents occur. Certainly, I hope that Austin does not get any infections from piercing his tongue. If she has a swimming pool in the backyard, I hope that she has it fenced and covered. I wonder if Austin rides in the backseat of her car? But if she's a safe driver, she shouldn't have to worry about car seats, seat belts, or the effects of an air bag on the 10 year old.


And now, after looking at the statistics. I am think about installing a KYBO or Latrine in the backyard, for my children to use. Rather than allowing them to use the indoor plumbing bathroom and risk injuring. lol


Now for my bottom line. I am certainly happy with the BSA training. I trust that most unit leaders make their best decision, at the best time, and do not risk our youth's health and welfare.


When I do not attend a campout. I thank the Scoutmaster and other leaders for taking good care of my Scouts.


Scouting Forever and Venture On!

Crew21 Adv

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LongHaul writes "Gunny look at your numbers again para. 4 referrs to events occuring in 2004, 2005, 2006 where do you get 10 years? (My Reply in parentheses(From her use of the word decade in the paragraph mentioned)) And how do the numbers justify lack of training requirements."

(That last statement is just disingenuous. In what way did I advocate for lower standards/ training requirements?)



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Yah, da problem is as we all know, there have been a lot more incidents and accidents in Boy Scouting than the ones listed in da article, eh?


Honestly, there's no way of knowin' how we stack up to other organizations and other risks in life, because the BSA chooses not to have their professional staff participate in professional organizations which share expertise and data, like WRMC.


The article is just anecdotes, with a slant agin' us. Da only fair criticism is that our pros aren't behavin' like other pros. If we shared data, it would be easy to demonstrate how safe we were, eh? And then very difficult for Ms. McGivney to criticize us.




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Its ocurred to me that we're all missing the forest for the trees here. Yes, this article is critical of the BSA, is full of anecdotal evidence, has a specific slant to it (and I see that slant as being critical of the BSA not for the 3 G's or any other "political" reason but for its seemingly lack of concern for safety) - but while folks are focusing in on such issues as the 3 G's and if it's appropriate to the article (I agree with LongHaul - for the point this mention is making, it certainly is in context), or whether it's being unfair to volunteers/scouters, or whether Ms. McGivney has an agenda, or what, if anything, is lacking in BSA training, we're all missing the biggest point. And that is...


Ms. McGivney wrote this opinion piece AS A PARENT of a potential Scout. It's clear to me that her biggest agenda seems to be making sure that the activities her Scout-aged son get involved with are safe. The fact that she readily recognizes that her son might just make a great Scout should have us salivating over a new potential recruit. Instead, she's giving us a rather salient viewpoint on what some parents may very well be thinking about the BSA at this time. She doesn't seem opposed to the BSA because it doesn't let the three G's in (she uses the athiest and gay issues to point out that it's rather hypocritical to claim that it is impossible for the BSA to force 47,000 "chapters" out there to be safety conscious when the BSA is forcing these same 47,000 units to ban athiests and gays). What she's opposed to is the apparent lack of concern for safety in the wilderness.


Here's the biggest picture of all - this is all about PERCEPTION. We can argue until the cows stop giving milk about whether what she is saying is true or not, or contextual or not (hard to argue that it isn't factual, except for that whole "chapter" thing) and it doesn't matter. What matters is her perception, and more than likely many other parents perception (she just has an opportunity to talk about it in a national magazine)of the BSA. I've mentioned it before - it doesn't matter what we think - it matters what potential members think. It matters what PARENTS like Ms. McGivney think. Getting a boy excited about the program is only half the battle - to win the war, we need to win over the parents.


A good example of perception. According to a BSA professional, "We...do not consider ourselves an outdoor or survival training organization". And maybe it isn't - BUT - the perception of most people is that the BSA is an outdoor and camping organization. We see it here when Ms. McGivney says the statement that the BSA isn't a outdoor training organization would make more sense if the BSA were playing more kickball instead of all the camping it does. How many here have the perception that the BSA ISN'T an outdoor training organization? Not many who are teaching their Scouts outdoor skills, I imagine.


There is talk here, and on another spinned off thread about training for the outdoors and what folks are doing to be prepared - we all seem to have a great handle on it - but do our professional staff spokespeople? The BSA Director of Camping states that the PRIMARY training on the outdoors is from the Fieldbook and other BSA Literature?? How many of you would be comfortable letting your child go on a canoe trip with leaders who have never been in a canoe but have read about it in books? Not many, I would suspect. Perception!!!


This article tells me we've lost Young McGivney because we've lost Ms. McGivney. How many other, silent, Ms. McGivneys are out there? How many other boys out there won't be joining the BSA because their parents have the same concerns that Ms. McGivney has? The more I read the article, the more I get a sense that she has laid out a blueprint for the BSA on how to re-establish that confidence in the BSA that she (and likely many others) may have once had. We need to stop being so defensive every time we see a "negative" article about the BSA and start paying closer attention - both to what folks like Ms. McGivney are telling us, and what our professional staff are saying about the BSA.



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There are three threads running concerning this topic. I'll focus my energy on one of those threads and hone my spear catching skills.

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Or maybe, Calico, McGivney had no intention of ever letting her son join the BSA, due to politics, and just wanted to disparage the organization. And maybe she wants to scare as many other parents as she can, hoping they won't let their sons join as well.


She obviously knows nothing about the BSA - the Aims or Methods.


I would think a rationale person would look at the good and bad, and see if one outweighs the other significantly. How many lives have been saved by Boy Scouts, trained in First Aid? Does she really see no positives, only danger?

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My take is that BSA outdoor training is generally not sufficient to prepare new leaders for the risks of high adventure type camping. There is, however, a considerable knowledge base within the BSA that offsets the lack of quality formal training for those willing to tap into it. This is one case where the bereaucratization required for formalizing the training would probably make the training worthless.

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Yes, McGivney stated that over the past decade there have been at least a dozen incidents, she goes on to list numbers for 3 of the twelve. If you want to do the math then get all the numbers from all 12. As Beavah says we actually dont know how many incidents there were because National wont disclose that information. I do agree with you on principal though that Scouting in general is a lot safer than contact or semi-contact sports for the ages we target. As a National program I think we do a good job over all statistically. The problem is we dont deal in statistics we deal with young people. Many feel that BSA has taken the fun out of scouting in an effort to minimize Risk. I know I did a lot of things when I was a Scout that cant even be considered today even though the Risk factor is the same now as it was then. As to my question of how the numbers you generated justify the lack of mandatory training I point to your statement of >>I think Ill take those odds

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So according to National a person with no other outdoor experience can take a 1 day course and be considered trained to take his/her troop out in any weather or terrain.


Yah, but we can stay in a Holiday Inn Express the night before, eh? :)

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Is BSA Training Sufficient?


I don't think it ever will be or could be.

However, at least in our area the program offered is very tame and really doesn't require a lot of skill or training.

I'm happy that Austin McGivney is so gifted.

Still in my book any parent who would allow a two year old to toddle across the Alaskan tundra might want to check and see if there are any screws loose.

I'm not a novice hiker and have done a fair amount of hiking, still I'm not sure if I'm ready to take a group of young Boy Scouts from PA off to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, I am sure that taking a four year old would be my worst nightmare.

In fact a lot of what Mother McGivney has written seems to me to point to an accident waiting to happen.

We in the BSA do have our fair share of idiots, some are trained idiots and some are untrained.

Some leaders do at times seem to get a little carried away and forget the age and the ability level of the Scouts we serve.

What happened to young Michael Auberry,could have just as easily happened if the Troop had been in downtown Washington DC.

The Lad wandered away.

All the outdoor training in the world isn't going to stop a Lad who has made up his mind to wander away, from doing so.

Maybe some other sort of training might help leaders recognize signs that might foretell it is going to happen?

Over the years I have taught scouts basic sort "Stuff".

Some had a hard time even with the most basic.

Some were happy to take what I offered and leave it at that.

Some wanted more. Far more that I was and am able to provide.

When this happens I'm more than happy to provide information and help them find the resources they need.

Right now we are putting together a Scuba course for the ship.

I know nothing about Scuba, I'm going to take the course with the Scouts, but I have no deep burning desire to become really good at it and I know before I start I will never ever be able to instruct it.

On the other hand I am interested in Leave No Trace.

I was willing to pay my hard earned cash, drive 250 miles each way, give up a weekend and take the LNT Instructor Course. Maybe one day I'll go back and take the Master Course? Of course this wasn't a BSA Training, but I will use what I have learned to train BSA members.If they want to go into it big time I'll help and support them.


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