Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Report Website Issues   |   Sign In   |   Register
Risk Management
Group HomeGroup HomeGroup PagesDirectory & Features Join Group
Share |
​​Risk Management

Jim Hellwege, Vice Chair for Risk Management

Risk Management topics and issues as well as updates from the council on risk management topics and changes.

Here's a recent article from Backpacker magazine about a lightning incident encountered by a Scout group in the mountains of Colorado, where "summit fever" almost resulted in serious consequences.


Also, NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) recently published a new handbook on Lightning safety by John Gookin, an acknowledged expert in the field.


Canoeing in High Adventure

On Thursday, June 12, 2014, a crew of eight originating from BSA's Northern Tier base encountered 30 mph winds and heavy waves while canoeing in the Boundary Waters. Two of their three canoes swamped in the waves, putting five of the eight crew members in the water. The crew members in the third canoe were able to seek shelter on a nearby island after having been driven there by the winds. Assistance was requested by satellite phone, and all crew members were ultimately rescued. The crew was able to pinpoint its position with a strobe light, which rescuers said was instrumental in being able to locate the crew along the heavily-forested shoreline (helpful hint there). The air temperature was reported to be in the 40s. One commentator stated that the water temperature "may have been warmer than the air temperature", which probably means the water was fairly cold given the early June timing for the trek. In response to my inquiry, Northern Tier base had no idea what the water temperature was, which might be a good thing to know in the event your crew members end up in the water for any length of time. The local Sheriff's Office stated "Weather conditions were less than favorable for being out on big water, and the high winds and big waves and big open water were not good conditions for boats, let alone canoes". This story has a favorable ending, but that may be small consolation to those crew members who spent time in the cold water under tough conditions trying to survive, not to mention being stranded on land under hypothermic conditions awaiting rescue. A reminder to future Northern Tier participants that: (1) Northern Tier requires all crew members to wear boots while canoeing, (2) Northern Tier requires participants to be pre-cleared for swim ability prior to arrival, and (3) Northern Tier apparently does not spend time teaching in-water swamping or canoe rescue skills prior to departure. If you have a crew attending Northern Tier for a canoe trek, would your crew be comfortable swimming in boots if dumped into the water, would their swim skills in a cold lake match the pre-clearance form (particularly for adult advisors), and would your crew have the ability to self-rescue if one or more canoes swamps in heavy waves, or would that be the first time a crew member was in a swamped canoe while suffering the shock of suddenly being in cold water? The story seems to suggest that once your crew swamps you may require and have available to your crew immediate rescue assistance, but there will be circumstances when self-rescue is necessary. If the crew had not had a satellite phone, what would they have done? Was that part of the planning process? And, more importantly, would your crew be able to make those decisions that would enable the crew to avoid being in canoes on a large lake under 30 mph winds and temperatures in the 40s (particularly if the margin for error is that small)? Things to think about.

Exercising Good Judgement

The exercise of good judgment by an adult leader in a youth-based outdoor activity is a crucial aspect of risk management. Indeed, it is the foundation of BSA safety in the outdoors. In the end, the exercise of good judgment may be the only factor protecting
participants from a bad outcome.  Factors that can inhibit good decision-making include
carelessness, complacency, denial, improper assumptions, effects of fatigue, stress-affected behavior, resistance to changing conditions, lack of experience or knowledge, overconfidence, lack of respect for risks or hazards, poor conflict resolution, ineffective leadership, bad participant behavior, lack of understanding of participant skill level, summit fever, tunnel vision, hazard unawareness, time or schedule pressures, leader ego, or unreasonable goals.

In the absence of the exercise of good judgment, Scouts can be placed in a position of vulnerability during the activity from which there may be no recovery. Good
judgment in the outdoors is accordingly an integral part of the risk management process, and can be enhanced both by training and experience, taking particular note of
the prior outdoor experience of other leaders in the unit. Lastly, in the unfortunate event of a serious injury (or worse) to a Scout during an activity due to the failure to exercise good judgment, there may be an emotional cost to be paid by the participating adult leader(s). As one adult leader once said when remarking about the seriousness of an injury suffered by one of his Scouts – “I wish I had a time machine . . .” This is just a reminder that a bad day may have a number of victims, youth and adult leader alike, both physical and emotional.

Summer Safety

Now that the spring and summer boating seasons are approaching, some safe boating reminders.  A  kayak or canoe river trip may not normally seem to be a high risk event. 
But what if is added to the mix fast moving water due to heavy rains or snow melt, or the fact that Scouts or adults inexperienced or unskilled in kayaking or canoeing are participating , or the fact that the temperature of the river is under 70 degrees, or the fact that the river conditions may exceed the skill level of many of the Scouts or adults, or a combination of the above? Will leaders determine that the water level and river flow rate are acceptable both for the activity and for the age and experience level of the group? Will the water temperature be determined to be within acceptable limits? Are the water level and flow rate susceptible to sudden change due to recent or approaching weather? Many local rivers have on-line flow rate/water temperature gauges that may prove invaluable when determining whether the river conditions are appropriate for the activity.  Most will find water temperatures below 70 degrees F. to be chilly (fairly typical for local rivers until mid-summer). If you don't know what the water temperature is, bring a thermometer.  Attention is directed to Chapter 14 of BSA’s Aquatics Supervision manual (2013 edition) for a discussion of cold water safety, which states that at water temperatures below 60 degrees F., boaters should wear insulating clothing such as a wet or dry suit. In other words, participants should dress for the water temperature.  Safe boating to all! 

For Previous Risk Management Articles, Click Here



Risk Management

More InfoHide Info ]
Risk Management Documents and Materials
Item Name Posted By Date Posted
BSA Campout safety checklist DOCX (38.75 KB) J. Hellwege 4/2/2014
BSA Event safety checklist DOCX (42.45 KB) J. Hellwege 4/2/2014
Unit's duty of care toward its scouts PDF (214.45 KB)  more ] J. Hellwege 3/28/2014
Bear safety reminders Link J. Hellwege 3/27/2014
District Risk Management presentation PPTX (2.29 MB) J. Hellwege 3/21/2014
Risk analysis scale PDF (59.01 KB) J. Hellwege 3/21/2014
BSA drowning statistics PDF (17.97 KB) J. Hellwege 3/21/2014
Bear safety in the outdoors PDF (63.41 KB) J. Hellwege 3/21/2014
Representative Outdoor Risk Factors PDF (166.39 KB)  more ] J. Hellwege 3/21/2014
CPR Training video  Link  more ] J. Hellwege 3/19/2014
BSA's SAFETY PAUSE Scouting magazine article Link  more ] J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
Fatal, near fatal or close call outdoor incidents Link  more ] J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
Outdoor Leader On-Line  Link  more ] J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
Hypothermia, drowning and cold water survival Link  more ] J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
Cold Water Survival - American Canoe Association Link J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
Cold, Wet and Alive Video (cold water dangers) Link  more ] J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
The Risk Zone - Transporting Scouts Safely Link J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
Wind chill chart  Link J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
Heat index chart Link J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
Listing of causes of accidents in the outdoors Link  more ] J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
American Canoe Association  Link  more ] J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
NOLS on-line store  Link  more ] J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
Wilderness Risk Management Conference resources Link  more ] J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
Aquatics program safety resources  Link J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
Cold water safety - the "silent killer"  Link  more ] J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
Whitewater safety tips (Scouting Magazine) Link J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
How to use an EpiPen (Scouting Magazine) Link J. Hellwege 3/18/2014
BSA Guide to Safe Scouting Link J. Hellwege 3/17/2014
General BSA health and safety FAQs Link J. Hellwege 3/17/2014
BSA health and safety forms Link J. Hellwege 3/17/2014
Incident reporting form Link J. Hellwege 3/17/2014
LDS Church safety resource video Link  more ] J. Hellwege 3/17/2014
BSA health and safety alerts Link J. Hellwege 3/17/2014
BSA risk management training  Link J. Hellwege 3/17/2014
BSA program guidelines, policies, plans Link J. Hellwege 3/17/2014
Page 1 of 2
1  |  2
Association Management Software Powered by®  ::  Legal