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Yet another Jamboree incident

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You make many valid points. However, as one of those who participated in the "death march", let me give you a different perspective. Information was changing on the fly and it is difficult to distribute that info to 50,000+ people on the move. We were first told to bring two water bottle that must be empty by the time we got to the metal detectors. Then we were told they did not have to be empty, but might be randomly emptied when we got there. We were not allowed any means to carry the bottles except pockets or hands. No backpacks or caribeners. Then we were told two adults could carry backpacks with snacks. Then we were told that no fruit would be allowed as snacks. As we were nearing the metal detectors, Army personel told us to get our class A shirt on, buttoned and tucked before entering the arena. They wanted us to keep moving while dressing which was hard to do with two water bottles in your hands. Once inside the arena, boys started pulling their class A shirts off because "someone" said the could. Many SM's told them to put them back on. While there may have been "clear" instructions, they were coming fast and furious and changing by the minute and there was a great deal of confusion on the part of those marching. While the old, overweight and young should not have mobilized.....the bottom line is that no one should have mobilized period. I kept waiting for the message that the show was cancelled hours before we mobilized and thought it was one of the most foolish things I'd ever seen in my life when the word did not come down.

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Since that first Jamboree arena, I have gleaned additional information that suggests to me that BSA officials should have reconsidered the first arena show.


1. All Subcamp medical staffs advised HQ not to hold the arena show or the march due to temperature and their inability (lack of facilities) to handle the expected heat-related problems.

2. Ft AP Hill was in "black" condition two hours before the Scouts were lined up to march to the arena show. For the military, this condition meant "Stop all activity, get out of the sun, stay indoors."

3. The weather forecast showed thunderstorms were probably during the arena show.

4. BSA HQ had not made the appropriate arrangements for extra water within the arena to accommodate 40,000+ personnel.


The security restrictions were "standard procedure" for the Secret Service. There was nothing new or extraordinary. BSA did not have a emergency prep plan for this situation.


As a Jamboree Scoutmaster, I did everything I could to pump water into my Scouts before the arena show. Unfortunately, we could not pump water in our Scouts fast enough. I even permitted some of my Scouts to remain in camp because of their personal concern for dehydration. When I arrived at the arena show, there were NO water bottles being distributed; there was ONE water buffalo inside the arena. I saw a stack of water bottles down by the arena platform but not where most of the Scouts were sitting.


As the evening progressed, our troop maintained a "med station" for 12 - 14 Scouts (rotating) experiencing heat-related problems as the medical staff at the arena was overburdened with other Scouts. While I commend my Scouts for this action, I was also able to predict hours before the magnitude of the disaster we all experienced.


Be prepared means "Don't cause a situation that can be avoided." Be prepared means making the right decision given the circumstances. Much of what I saw and experienced could have been avoided if BSA HQ had considered the safety of the Scouts and not the political nature of the event. The press BSA received will be forever damaging. Rumors (from reliable sources) at the Jamboree were the Army was not pleased with BSA and threatened to send us all home early!


Blame does not belong with the Scouts or Scoutmasters. Blame does not belong with the Secret Service or the military. Blame belongs to BSA HQ and those officials who made the decision to continue the "death march." Everything pointed to rescheduling the President's visit and the march very early in the day. At least, the President made the right decision.


I hope the BSA HQ folks step up to their responsibility. They were in charge of the Jamboree. They were responsible for the decisions made.


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Well said "positive-beaver"! Are you hearing anything from your sources on "who" actually finally cancelled the show? I had one father of a scout working high up in security telling us everything you mentioned above PLUS - it was NOT the BSA people that cancelled the show that afternoon. The military finally reached the point where they had to step in and DEMAND that the scouts be sent back to their camps. Despite the impending storm the BSA people wanted to go on with the show (specifically the very expensive skit). But I have only heard that from 2 sources. Have you heard that from any of your sources?

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I know a number have put their two cents worth in, but I must add mine. As the mother of a young man who made the "death march" and was one of the boys who was treated locally by cooling down and putting in AC bus, I feel the HQ people should have taken the fact that the base was flying a black heat flag into consideration. We live in SW Ga where the heat and humidity are similar every summer, but know we do that you don't push it with the heat either. Our boys were some of the ones that were told to dump their water, but they could carry in empty bottles but not their camelbaks (which almost all our boys have). My son said the march (from Subcamp 20 - who I think were first in) in the heat, with too many people too close together did not allow any one to get any fresh air (even if it was hot). I am also amazed that the program wasn't cancelled earlier, because of the storm. I heard on the weather channel several hours earlier, that the storm heading towards them had large hail and lots of lightening. Doesn't that mean don't stand in a field with a huge electronic lightening rod in center? Anyhow, I feel like their were some bad decisions made that day. Do I blame our contingent SM or any of the ASM's? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Did my son have a great time overall? ABSOLUTELY! Does he want to go again in 2010? YES YES AND YES AGAIN. Do I want to go in 2010? You bet, even though it will mean working a lot harder than I normally do at work and taking my vacation time to do it.

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The following is the clearest and best informed statement from a true insider that I have found:


Boy Scouts of America, Jamboree: Somebody in a position of authority put appearances ahead of safety. A message from one who was there.



"The Jamboree had the necessary procedures and personnel in place to deal with such an emergency. Prevention was the key. Besides the frequent warnings, adequate supplies of water were available to everyone. Activities were limited or closed as the temperatures rose.


Had the BSA not been prepared, this number could have easily been in the thousands. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other medical staff are on hand throughout the Jamboree and are backed up by military and local health care systems. That is why of the 300 or so treated, only several dozen had to receive further care in a hospital."

Greg Shields - BSA National Spokesperson


Actually, there were **many** more than 300 treated, helicopters to Richmond, Fredricksberg, and DC for the most seriously affected, every ambulance for 150 miles were in use, and the Civil Defense folks in VA have gone on record as calling this the greatest civil disaster in VA since the Civil War.


Activities were shut down by the military, but not until they took over the responsibility after the "death march," noting correctly that the BSA was derelict in its duty to be prepared and protect youth and adults. I had occasion to speak personally to the military commander for Jambo and he was not too darn happy with the decision to march those kids and adults to the arena show without adequate water (whatever they told you, the water buffalos up and down Thomas Road and around Southern region/Mahone were empty during that time) and who was perfectly prepared to shut donw the whole thing if things didn't improve in a big hurry. At the time the units were mandated to begin the march to the arena show the red flag had been up for several hours, meaning no outdoor activity, seek shelter, and lots of extra fluids-- and the BSA hierarchy overrode the medical staff on whether or not to cancel. They cancelled later, at 6pm, after kids had been seated in the open arena for hours and were keeling over and being airlifted outta there in helicopters, saying it was because the President couldn't come due to thunderstorms in the forecast-- but not because it was a heat exhaustion/prostration epidemic. I know that Greg Shields is just a mouthpiece, but the words he was given were disgraceful and clearly chosen to avoid the appearance of liability on the BSA's part.




This was a totally preventable situation. Those of us who were very hard at work in H&S will be stunned if at least someone's head doesn't roll for it. Politics and appearance put our kids at real risk of renal and cerebral damage, and some weren't out of the woods for days-- the newpaper accounts of "most were not serious and treated with hosing down" minimizes it to an egregious degree. This disaster was totally foreseeable (based

upon the well-established criteria for evaluating heat index and the BSA's own protocols for same). What if some of those mere "dozens" had died?


NONE of that had to happen at ALL. The MD daily meeting was told that they would cancel based on medical opinion if heat was an issue-- the military was at condition BLACK, meaning THEY couldn't even go out for more than 15 minutes at a time. The MDs unanimously demanded that they cancel based on the conditions...and guess what? The BSA hierarchy said "The president is coming, the show must go on" regardless. This was a disgrace. Those who said lamely that it was the SMs' decision whether to go or not weren't in the subcamps when they were ordered to move out. Yes, a few SMs defied that, and looked like heroes later, but most could not resist the considerable pressure from the BSA to put on those class I's and go look good for the arena show.


We did NOT have adequate supplies-- we got emergency supplies airlifted in from remote areas after the magnitude of the disaster declared itself, and no thanks to the hierarchy for that, either. Our "backups" were a large factor in canceling the replacement show originally scheduled for the next day-- we used up so many community resources that they weren't willing to be backups again on short notice. Nurses were told when they applied for Jambo jobs that they weren't needed in the medical areas and assigned to parking, merit badge midway, bikeathon, etc-- and at least one ER nurse left her parking job at Archer and spent the night at Jambo General sticking IVs in kids and adults, who were lined up BY THE HUNDREDS in chairs, on the floors, and on every available surface in "the Annex," a barracks near the hospital at Wilcox. Last time I looked at my nurse

practice act, IVs were not considered trivial first aid level of treatment. BTW, the Annex was supervised by....a old guy who ran a Scout museum and had exactly zero medical experience.


We ran short-staffed the whole Jambo at our area; the military hospital was 25% of capacity of the ones of previous Jambos, too, since most of their capacity is deployed in sandy places. For the death march day, kids

were allowed to carry only one water bottle, and they had to empty it (prefereably by drinking) at entrance; there were supposed to be adequate water stations inside but there were not. There were supposed to be three

med aid stations inside-- there were two, and the one earmarked for asthma care with manifolds for inhalers was forbidden. Our staff were supposed to attend as a free-roving team, but we were forbidden to carry anything more than the most inadeqate of supplies, and no extra fluids.


Now that kids and adults are home I expect the email lists to be buzzing with particulars-- but I would caution everyone not to believe everything you hear from the BSA proper. CYA is a big deal with them; they never

discuss their own failings (a basic no-no in risk management, where sharing errors helps prevent others from making the same mistakes) and I will be astounded if they even hint that someone screwed up hugely on

this. For my money, had I been Frank Rubino, MD, the head doc, and they had overridden me on my recommendation to cancel, I would have immediately tendered my resignation rather than look complicit. I like Frank, we've had other dealings at a previous Jambo, he's a good fella, but perhaps that would have gotten some attention. But someone put appearances ahead of safety. Read that again: Somebody in a position of authority put appearances ahead of safety. Who will take responsibility for that?




Auntie Beans

Cape Cod and Island Council MA

National H&S service NSJ 97, 01, 05

I useta be an Eagle, NEI-188

And a good old staffer too, NEI-209, 234, 244



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