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Outdoor Article Restart - Is BSA Training Sufficient?

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In my opinion, BSA training is not sufficient.


There should be a BSA safety course that all direct contact leaders must take and a get refreshed in periodically.


This course should cover the types of risks that scouts typically get exposed to in the program and the ways in which the adult leaders should be minimizing those risks.


As a Scoutmaster, when are my boys facing greater risk? When there is a lightening storm or in a vehicle driving on the road to camp?


What are some examples of bad decisions by direct contact leaders and things they could have done to prevent them?


I am not looking to be an expert in all things outdoors. I just don't want my troop to end up in the news.



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I agree with Avid. Not end up in the news, not hurt a boy, not have any person in my community be able to piont to an incident and say SEEE, look at what they did. Most important not hurt a boy.


I see all these kids getting hurt in the news. I'm sure their leaders were avg. guys trying to work a good program, what is it they have in common?


-they violated something obvious?(Fire, SSD,G2SS,SA,)

-they left the kids alone for a moment or two?

-they knew a kid needed extra attention(the NC kid who was lost for 4 days comes to mind)and let their guard down.


-Maybe the most important, they pressed their unit beyond it's capabilities?


The answer from some bean counter at National would help.


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Quoting AvidSM....."There should be a BSA safety course that all direct contact leaders must take and a get refreshed in periodically."


Let's change "safety" to Risk Management. Safety means free from harm, and in the outdoors, nothing is safe. At NOLS risks are divided into two groups. Objective Risks, they being the things that can be seen and sensed, such as lighting, cold water, altitude, wilderness, wildlife, etc. On the other side of the coin are the Subject Risks, the stuff that gets into trouble very quickly. Some examples; no training, outdated training, no experience for the activity, poor leadership, indecision, under budget, egos, poor planning, no plan b, etc, etc.....


NOLS Risk Management module from their Wilderness Educator course would do everything that you suggested in your post. No need to re-invent the wheel....




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The initial training is sufficient to get started. The biggest issue (imo) is that the training stops with the trained strip - and adults are, as a rule, reluctant to take additional training if they don't have too. Its not easy for an adult male to take instruction from someone younger - our ego's get in the way. It's not easy for an adult who has "attained the highest levels of training" (ie Woodbadge) to admit that s/he has more to learn (I know none of the people in this forum are like that but over the next few months, quietly observe which adults in Scouting you know are more open to additional training - either formal or informal - and which aren't - I have a hunch those that are more open to it have certifications for their jobs that require continuing education to remain certified - your firefighters, police officers, doctors, real estate agents, etc.).


We can't wait around until National or Council decides they should put some kind of formal continuing education component together - and I don't think they should do so anyway. We need to take that responsibility on for ourselves. For some people, that might mean signing up for wilderness education courses other organizations put together. But it doesn't have to be so complicated.


Most districts hold a camporee twice per year - while the Scouts are out and about doing their activities, what are all the leaders doing - some may be working stations but a lot just stay behind in camp. As part of a camporee, why not have a "Commissioner Camp" for the adult leaders with ongoing skills training taking place during those activity hours. It can be more than just a place to drop by for a cup of coffee, a chunk of cobbler and a chat about whats going on in the units, district and council. It can be as informal as learning techniques for teaching knots (and maybe learning a few new knots in the process) or as formal as having a scheduled hour or two to discuss a specific topic. It can be done on the cheap or you could bring in someone from the outside who might charge a nominal fee (how awesome would it be for someone to bring in a mobile climbing wall and then have them teach harnessing and belaying techniques - open to the adults only?). Maybe your camporee is at a place with a wide spot on a river or pond to do some canoe instruction. The possibilities are endless - if we take advatage of the opportunities presented.


Just some thoughts



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  • 4 months later...



As a WFA instructor, and a professional outdoorsman for some 10 years, and with some 30 years outdoor leadership experience, and as one trying hard to promote outdoor skills to BSA and Venture, I have mixed feelings about it.


I read through some of the old posts, especially one comparing safety records between BSA and Outward Bound....an apples vs oranges comparison. By far most of the outings run by BSA involve camping next to cars, in BSA summer camps, fewer backpacks, little rock climbing, very little caving, practically no mountaineering, practically no self supported (ie where the troop/crew did not hire an outfitter like me, and I know this as I think that there are maybe 5 BSA outfits in the West that do this - and I'm helping one of the venture kodiak classes this summer on it). And yes there is little organized training for Scouters. I'm helping teach Powderhorn this April, and they give me what - 20 minutes to cover a subject!!? A subject like WFA!!!! (I teach WFA, first class of the year next month OKC area) This is the merit badge philosophy that an exposure to a subject is all that is needed, like the one that I get from people that say - Naw, WFA is just a long version of the first aid merit badge.


Frankly if you compare the really high adventure outings that BSA does, I think that is where they get into trouble, though a near second is not following the buddy rule.


Saying that, yes, things are improving. From my standpoint though, the Council will charge people a bunch of bucks for say Powderhorn, but whine when I offer WFA to them for a discounted rate of $65, and also whine at the cost of my "learn to raft" course which I don't think is offered anywhere else and for the same price/day. They want it all for free - which to my mind says that they don't value that knowledge.


I just found out, and got on as a helper on the Venture Kodiak whitewater raft trip this summer on the Middle Flathead in MT, where I will also teach WFA. This program really teaches the real stuff, but they are few and far between.


I find that most scouters who came through the scouting without doing outings with adults in the greater world of outdoor adventure are woefully blinded by their narrow experience.


Tell me if I'm wrong.


However, I still try, as I enjoy working with kids.



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I think Powderhorn and WFA are 2 moves in the right direction. Philmont is now requiring at least one person in a crew hold a current WFA card. I am also a WFA Instructor, and I love teaching the course! This past fall, I had a Scouter with over 25 years of service and multiple HA trips take the course, and he said it was the best course he had ever taken. It made him completely change the way he would prepare for first aid on trips, and how they would train and conduct shake-downs. Anyone who thinks it is just a long version of the Merit Badge has no idea what they are talking about.


Our Council conducts 3 or 4 WFA courses a year. We are now having Scouters come in from all over Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee. I have been told we are training more people in WFA than any other group, but don't know that to be true. I have heard the Transylvania County Chapter is working on updating the Student Guide, trying to produce a book that could be used by itself, instead of having to use Mountaineering First Aid as well. That is one of the consistent complaints we receive - too many books, it is hard to remember which text contained which material, and on a rare occasion, the two books will conflict with each other.


$65 is a bargain for the course! We charge $85, which includes meals and the manuals. SOLO also conducts a course in our Council, and they charge $140.


One other thing our Council is doing is offering Scout CPR Saturdays, where we have the capability of certifying up to 750 people in Red Cross CPR/AED training. The Council invested in 100 Aktars, so we are putting them to good use. We charge $20 and set up 4 stages, with classes starting every 45 minutes. We have 75 Aktars in the second stage so, with a class limit of 75, we have one-on-one training for the actual skill session. The other 25 are in the third stage, where they learn AED at a 3-1 ratio. It makes for a long day for the instructors, but it is also very rewarding.

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