Who Can Instruct
Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat Training?
Information current Summer 2003
Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat training can be given by any person
authorized by the council, including a BSA Aquatics resource person,
a unit leader with aquatics skill, or any other person with aquatics
knowledge or experience whom the local council has approved.
Before a BSA group may engage in swimming activities of any kind,
a minimum of one adult leader must complete Safe Swim Defense training,
have a commitment card (No. 34243) with them, and agree to use the
eight defenses in this plan.
One of the best opportunities for Safe Swim Defense training is in
summer camp. The eight defenses are:
- 1. Qualified Supervision
- All swimming activity must be supervised by a mature and conscientious
adult age 21 or older who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility
for the well-being and safety of youth members in his or her care,
who is experienced in the water and confident of his or her ability
to respond in the event of an emergency, and who is trained in and
committed to compliance with the eight points of BSA Safe Swim Defense.
(It is strongly recommended that all units have at least one adult
or older youth member currently trained as a BSA Lifeguard to assist
in the planning and conduct of all swimming activity.)
- 2. Physical Fitness
- Require evidence of fitness for swimming activity with a complete
health history from physician, parent, or legal guardian. The
adult supervisor should adjust all supervision, discipline, and protection
to anticipate any potential risks associated with individual health
conditions. In the event of any significant health conditions, the
unit leader should require proof of an examination by a physician.
Those with physical disabilities can enjoy and benefit
from aquatics if the disabilities are known and necessary
precautions are taken.
- 3. Safe Area
- When swimming in areas not regularly maintained and used for swimming
activity, have lifeguards and swimmers systematically examine the bottom
of the swimming area to determine varying depths, deep holes, rocks,
and stumps. Mark off the area for three groups: not more than 3
1/2 feet deep for non swimmers; from shallow water to just over the
head for beginners; deep water not more than 12 feet for swimmers. A
participant should not be permitted to swim in an area where he cannot
readily recover and maintain his footing, or cannot maintain his position
on the water, because of swimming ability or water flow. When setting
up a safe swimming area in natural waters, use poles stuck in the bottom,
or plastic bottles, balloons, or sticks attached to rock anchors with
twine for boundary markers. Enclose non swimmer and beginner areas
with buoy lines (twine and floats) between markers. Mark the outer
of the swimmer area with floats. Be sure that clear-water depth is
at least 7 feet before allowing anyone to dive into the water. Diving
is prohibited from any height more than 40 inches above the water surface;
feet-first entry is prohibited from more than 60 inches above the water.
For any entry from more than 18 inches above the water surface, clear-water
depth must be 10 to 12 feet. Only surface swimming is permitted in
turbid water. Swimming is not permitted in water over 12 feet deep,
in turbid water where poor visibility and depth would interfere with
emergency recognition or prompt rescue, or in whitewater, unless all
participants wear appropriate personal flotation devices and the supervisor
determines that swimming with personal flotation equipment is safe
under the circumstances.
- 4. Lifeguards on Duty
- Swim only where there are lifeguards on duty. For unit swims in
areas where lifeguards are not provided by others, the supervisor
should designate two capable swimmers as lifeguards. Station
them ashore, equipped with a lifeline (a 100-foot length of 3/8-inch
nylon cord). In an emergency, one carries out the line; the other
feeds it out from shore, then pulls in his partner and the person
being helped. In addition, if a boat is available, have two people,
preferably capable swimmers, take it out - one rowing and the other
equipped with a 10-foot pole or extra oar. Provide one guard for
every 10 people in the water, and adjust the number and positioning
of guards as needed to protect the particular area and activity.
- 5. Lookout
- Station a lookout on the shore where it is possible to see and hear
everything in all areas. The lookout may be the adult in charge of
the swim and may give the buddy signals.
- 6. Ability Groups
- Divide into three ability groups: Non swimmers, beginners, and swimmers.
Keep each group in its own area. Non swimmers have not passed a swimming
test. Beginners must pass this test: jump feet first into water over
the head in depth, level off, swim 25 feet on the surface. Stop, turn
sharply, resume swimming as before and return to the starting place.
Swimmers pass this test: jump feet-first into water over the head in
depth. Level off and swim 75 yards in a strong manner using one or
more of the following strokes: sidestroke, breaststroke, trudgen, or
crawl; then swim 25 yards using an easy resting backstroke. The 100
yards must be completed in one swim without stops and must include
at least one sharp turn. After completing the swim, rest by floating. These
classification tests should be renewed annually, preferably at the
beginning of the season.
- 7. Buddy System
- Pair every youth with another in the same ability group. Buddies
check in and out of the swimming area together. Emphasize that each
buddy lifeguards his buddy. Check everyone in the water about every
10 minutes, or as needed to keep the buddies together. The adult in
charge signals for a buddy check with a single blast of a whistle or
ring of a bell and a call of "Buddies!" The adult counts slowly to
10 while buddies join and raise hands and remain still and silent.
Guards check all areas, count the pairs, and compare the total with
the number known to be in the water. Signal two blasts or bells to
resume swimming. Signal three blasts or bells for checkout.
of Swimming Ability
- 8. Discipline
- Be sure everyone understands and agrees that swimming is allowed
only with proper supervision and use of the complete Safe Swim Defense. The
applicable rules should be presented and learned prior to the outing,
and should be reviewed for all participants at the water's edge just
before the swimming activity begins. Scouts should respect and follow
all directions and rules of the adult supervisor. When people know
the reason for rules and procedures they are more likely to follow
them. Be strict and fair, showing no favoritism.
The swimmer test demonstrates the minimum level of swimming ability
required for safe deep-water swimming. The various components of the
test evaluate the several skills essential to this minimum level of swimming
Jump feet first into water over the head in depth, level
off, and begin swimming. Swim 75 yards in a strong manner using one
or more of the following strokes: sidestroke, breaststroke, trudgen,
or crawl; then swim 25 yards using an easy, resting backstroke. The
100 yards must be completed in one swim without stops and must include
at least one sharp turn. After completing the swim, rest by floating.
The test administrator must objectively evaluate the individual performance
of the test, and in so doing should keep in mind the purpose of each test
- "Jump feet first into water over the head in depth, level off, and
begin swimming. . . ."
The swimmer must be able to make an abrupt entry into
deep water and begin swimming without any aids. Walking
in from shallow water, easing in from the edge or down
a ladder, pushing off from side or bottom, or gaining forward
momentum by diving do not satisfy this requirement.
- ". . . Swim 75 yards in a strong manner using one or more of the
following strokes: sidestroke, breaststroke, trudgen, or crawl; . .
The swimmer must be able to cover distance with a strong,
confident stroke. The 75 yards must not be the outer limit
of the swimmer's ability; completion of the distance should
give evidence of sufficient stamina to avoid undue risks.
Dog-paddling and strokes repeatedly interrupted and restarted
are not sufficient; underwater swimming is not permitted.
The itemized strokes are inclusive. Any strong side or
breaststroke or any strong overarm stroke (including the
back crawl) is acceptable.
- ". . . swim 25 yards using an easy, resting backstroke . . ."
The swimmer must indicate the ability to execute a restful, free-breathing
backstroke that can be used to avoid exhaustion during swimming
activity. This element of the test necessarily follows the more
strenuous swimming activity to show that the swimmer is, in fact,
able to use the backstroke as a relief from exertion. The change
of stroke must be accomplished in deep water without any push-off
or other aid. Any variation of the elementary may suffice if it
clearly provides opportunity for the swimmer to rest and regain
- ". . . The 100 yards must be swum continuously and include at least
one sharp turn. . . ."
The total distance is to be covered without rest stops.
The sharp turn simply demonstrates the swimmer's ability
to reverse direction in deep water without assistance or
push-off from side or bottom.
- ". . . After completing the swim, rest by floating."
This critically important component of the test evaluates the
swimmer's ability to maintain in the water indefinitely even though
exhausted or otherwise unable to continue swimming. Treading water
or swimming in place will further tire the swimmer and are therefore
unacceptable. The duration of the float test is not significant,
except that it must be long enough for the test administrator to
determine that the swimmer is, in fact, resting and could likely
continue to do so for a prolonged time. The drown proofing technique
may be sufficient if clearly restful, but it is not preferred.
If the test is completed except for the floating requirement, the
swimmer may be retested on the floating only (after instruction)
provided that the test administrator is confident that the swimmer
can initiate the float when exhausted.
Reference: Swimming and Lifesaving merit badge pamphlets
Jump feet first into water over the head in depth, level off, swim
25 feet on the surface, stop, turn sharply, resume swimming as before,
and return to starting place.
The entry and turn serve the same purpose as in the swimmer test. The
swimming can be done with any stroke, but no underwater swimming is permitted.
The stop assures that the swimmer can regain a stroke if it is interrupted.
The test demonstrates that the beginning swimmer is ready to learn deepwater
skills and has the minimum ability required for safe swimming in a confined
area in which shallow water, sides, or other support is less than 25
feet from any point in the water.
Pool and Surf
The Safe Swim Defense applies to swimming at the beach, private or public
pool, wilderness pond, stream, lake, or anywhere Scouts swim. Here are
some additional points for the pool and the surf.
Pool - If the swimming activity is in a public facility where others
are using the pool at the same time, and the pool operator provides guard
personnel, there may be no need for additional designation of Scout lifeguards
The buddy system is critically important, however, even in a public
pool. Remember, even in a crowd, you are alone without protection if
no one is attentive to your circumstances.
The rule that people swim only in water suited to their ability and
with others of similar ability applies in a pool environment. Most public
pools divide shallow and deep water, and this may be sufficient for defining
appropriate swimming areas. If not, the supervisor should clearly indicate
to the participating Scouts the appropriate areas of the public facility.
Although such procedures add a margin of safety, their use may not always
be practical when the swim activity is conducted at a public facility
where non-Scouts are present. A responsible adult supervisor, who understands
his or her responsibility and the elements of safety, can exercise discretion
regarding certain procedures while maintaining safety.
Surf - The surf swimming environment of wave action, currents, tides,
undertow, runouts, and sea pests like stinging jellyfish requires precautions
for safe swimming that aren't necessary in other environments. A swimmer's
physical condition is very important and should enable the swimmer to
recover footing in waves, swim vigorously for at least five minutes without
becoming exhausted, and remain calm and in control when faced with unexpected
Designated swimming areas are marked by flags or pennants that are easily
seen. Beginners and non swimmers are positioned inshore from the standing
lifeguards equipped with reach poles. Better swimmers are permitted seaward
of the lifeguard but must remain shoreward of anchored marker buoys.
The lifeguard-to-swimmer ratio should always be 1-to-10, with a rescue
team stationed at the beach area and supplied with a rescue tube or torpedo
Safety Afloat has been developed to promote boating and boating safety
and to set standards for safe unit activity afloat. Before a BSA group
may engage in an excursion, expedition, or trip on the water (canoe, raft,
sailboat, motorboat, rowboat, tube, or other craft), adult leaders for
such activity must complete Safety Afloat Training, No. 34159C, have a
commitment card, No. 34242A, with them, and be dedicated to full compliance
with all nine points of Safety Afloat.
- 1. Qualified Supervision
All activity afloat must be supervised by a mature and conscientious
adult age 21 or older who understands and knowingly accepts
responsibility for the well-being and safety of the children
in his or her care, who is experienced and qualified in the
particular watercraft skills and equipment involved in the
activity, and who is committed to compliance with the nine
points of BSA Safety Afloat. One such supervisor is required
for each 10 people, with a minimum of two adults for any one
group. At least one supervisor must be age 21 or older, and
the remaining supervisors must be age 18 or older. All supervisors
must complete BSA Safety Afloat and Safe Swim Defense training
and rescue training for the type of watercraft to be used in
the activity, and at least one must be trained in CPR. It is
strongly recommended that all units have at least one adult
or older youth member currently trained as a BSA Lifeguard
to assist in the planning and conducting of all activity afloat.
For Cub Scouts: The ratio of adult supervisors to participants
is one to five.
- 2. Physical Fitness
- All persons must present evidence of fitness assured by
a complete health history from physician, parent, or legal
guardian. The adult supervisor should adjust all supervision,
discipline, and protection to anticipate any potential risks
associated with individual health conditions. In the event
of any significant health conditions, the adult leader should
require proof of an examination by a physician.
Those with physical disabilities can enjoy and benefit
from aquatics if the disabilities are known and necessary
- 3. Swimming Ability
- A person who has not been classified as a "swimmer" may ride
as a passenger in a rowboat or motorboat with an adult "swimmer" or
in a canoe, raft, or sailboat with an adult certified as a lifeguard
or a lifesaver by a recognized agency. In all other circumstances,
the person must be a swimmer to participate in an activity afloat. "Swimmers" must
pass this test:
Jump feet first into water over the head in depth,
level off, and begin swimming. Swim 75 yards in a strong
manner using one or more of the following strokes: sidestroke,
breaststroke, trudgen, or crawl; then swim 25 yards using
an easy, resting backstroke. The 100 yards must be swum
continuously and include at least one sharp turn. After
completing the swim, rest by floating.
This qualification test should be renewed annually.
- 4. Personal Flotation Equipment
- Properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation
devices (PFDs) must be worn by all persons engaged in activity
on the open water (rowing, canoeing, sailing, boardsailing, motorboating,
waterskiing, rafting, tubing, kayaking, and surfboarding). Type
II and III PFDs are recommended.
- 5. Buddy System
- All activity afloat must adhere to the principles of the
buddy system. The buddy system assures that for every person
involved in aquatics activity, at least one other person is
always aware of his or her situation and prepared to lend assistance
immediately when needed. Not only does every individual have
a buddy, but every craft should have a ''buddy boat'' when
on the water.
- 6. Skill Proficiency
- All participants in activity afloat must be trained and experienced
in watercraft handling skills, safety, and emergency procedures.
(a) For unit activity on white water, all participants must complete
special training by a BSA Aquatics Instructor or qualified whitewater
specialist. (b) Powerboat operators must be able to meet requirements
for the Motorboating merit badge or equivalent. (c) Except for
whitewater and powerboat operation as noted above, either a minimum
of three hours' training and supervised practice or meeting requirements
for "basic handling tests" is required for all float trips or
open-water excursions using unpowered craft.
For Cub Scouts: Canoeing and rafting for Cub Scouts
(including Webelos Scouts) is to be limited to council/district
events on flat water ponds or controlled lake areas free
of powerboats and sailboats. Prior to recreational canoeing,
Cub Scouts are to be instructed in basic handling skills
and safety practices.
- 7. Planning
- Float Plan. Know exactly where the unit will put
in, where the unit will pull out, and precisely what course
will be followed. Determine all stopover points in advance.
Estimate travel time with ample margins to avoid traveling
under time pressures. Obtain accurate and current maps and
information on the waterway to be traveled, and discuss the
course with others who have made the trip under similar seasonal
conditions. (Preferably, an adult member of the group should
run the course before the unit trip.)
- Local Rules. Determine which state and local laws
or regulations are applicable. If private property is to
be used or crossed, obtain written permission from the owners.
All such rules must be strictly observed.
- Notification. The float plan must be filed with
the parents of participants and a member of the unit committee.
For any activity using canoes on running water, the float
plan must be filed with the local council service center.
Notify appropriate authorities, such as Coast Guard, state
police, or park personnel, when their jurisdiction is involved.
When the unit returns from this activity, persons given the
float plan should be so advised.
- Weather. Check the weather forecast just before
setting out, know and understand the seasonal weather pattern
for the region, and keep an alert "weather eye." Imminent
rough weather should bring all ashore immediately.
- Contingencies. Planning must anticipate possible
emergencies or other circumstances that could force a change
in the original plan. Identify and consider all such circumstances
in advance so that appropriate contingency plans can be developed.
For Cub Scouts: Cub Scout canoeing and rafting does
not include "trips" or "expeditions" and is not to be conducted
on running water (i.e., rivers or streams); therefore,
some procedures are inapplicable. Suitable weather requires
clear skies, no appreciable wind, and warm air and water.
- 8. Equipment
All equipment must be suited to the craft, to the water conditions,
and to the individual; must be in good repair; and must satisfy
all state and U.S. Coast Guard requirements. To the extent
possible, carry spare equipment. On long trips or when spare
equipment is not available, carry repair materials. Have appropriate
rescue equipment available for immediate use.
- 9. Discipline
- All participants should know, understand, and respect the rules
and procedures for safe unit activity afloat. The applicable
rules should be presented and learned prior to the outing, and
should be reviewed for all participants at the water's edge just
before the activity begins. When Scouts know and understand the
reasons for the rules, they will observe them. When fairly and
impartially applied, rules do not interfere with the fun. Rules
for safety, plus common sense and good judgment, keep the fun
from being interrupted by tragedy.
Note: For cruising vessels (excluding rowboats, canoes, kayaks,
and rafts, but including sailboats and powerboats longer than
20 feet) used in adult-supervised unit activities by a chartered
Venturing crew or Sea Scout ship specializing in watercraft operations
or used in adult-supervised program activity in connection with
any high-adventure program or other activity under the direct
control of the National Council, the standards and procedures
in a forthcoming Sea Scout manual may be substituted for the "Safety
Properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation
devices (PFDs) must be worn by all persons engaged in activity
on the open water (rowing, canoeing, sailing, boardsailing, motorboating,
waterskiing, rafting, tubing, and kayaking).
Only U.S. Coast Guard-approved equipment (types I, II, or III)
is acceptable for use in Scouting aquatics. Ski belts are
not acceptable. Scouts and unit leaders should learn which type
is appropriate for each specific circumstance and how to wear
and check for proper fit.
Swimming activity in turbid water should be limited to surface
swimming. Turbid water exists when a 12-inch white disk at the
depth of 3 feet is not visible from above the surface of the
water. Underwater swimming, headfirst entry (except for racing
dives), and board diving are not permitted in turbid water. Supervised
instruction in lifesaving skills and surface diving may be conducted
in confined areas of turbid water not exceeding 8 feet in depth
and free of bottom hazards.
Snorkeling and scuba skills are taught and practiced only in
clear water. Clear water exists when a 12-inch disk at a depth
of 8 feet is visible from above the surface of the water.
BSA Lifeguard training has been established to provide units (packs,
troops, teams, and posts) with qualified individuals within their
own membership to give knowledgeable supervision for activities
on or in the water. The first standard in the Safe Swim Defense
and Safety Afloat guidelines establishes a need for qualified supervision.
An adult currently trained as a BSA Lifeguard or an adult leader
assisted by a Scout holding BSA Lifeguard training meets this requirement.
To enroll in the BSA Lifeguard course, you must be at least 14
years of age or have completed the eighth grade. The latest requirements
for BSA Lifeguard training are included on the application form,
No. 34435A. Every unit leader is encouraged to become trained or
to be certain that at least one youth or adult member of the unit
has such training.
Swimming areas should be large enough to avoid crowding (minimum
of 40 square feet per swimmer). Note the following in accordance
with Safe Swim Defense rules. Mark off the area for three groups:
not more than 3.5 feet deep for non swimmers; from shallow water
to just over the head for beginners; deep water not more than 12
feet for swimmers.
"Diving" refers to any water entry where the feet are not making
first contact with the water. "Elevated entry" refers to any water
entry from a height more than 18 inches above the water. According
to BSA Safe Swim Defense standards, no diving or swimming activity
of any kind is done in water with a depth greater than 12 feet.
All water entry must be feet first where the water has less than
7 feet of unobstructed depth. A leaping entry is recommended where
water is at or above head level; a step-down or jump-down entry
from a sitting position is recommended for shallower water.
No diving is permitted in water with less than 7 feet of unobstructed
depth. Diving is permitted in clear water over 7 feet deep from
a dock, pier, or platform that is no more than 18 inches above
the water surface. For elevated entry from 18 inches high but less
than 40 inches above the water surface, clear and unobstructed
water depth must be at least 9 feet. The water must be clear enough
to enable supervisory and guard personnel to see the diver at the
deepest part of the plunge.
Board diving is permitted only from boards, mounted on a fixed
(not floating) platform or deck, no more than 40 inches (approximately
1 meter) above the water surface. Clear water depth below the board
should be 9 to 12 feet. A guard or supervisor should be positioned
where the diver can be seen at all times beneath the surface. There
should be no other surface or underwater activity or obstruction
for at least 15 feet on either side of the board and 25 feet in
front of the board. Diving should always be done straight ahead
from the board, never to the sides.
Any elevated entry from a height greater than 40 inches must be
feet first and only from a fixed platform or solid footing no more
than 60 inches above the water surface. Clear water depth should
be 10 to 12 feet. Other protective measures and distances are the
same as for board diving.
Any person possessing, displaying, or using scuba equipment in
connection with any Scouting-related activity must be currently
certified by the National Association of Underwater Instructors
(NAUI) or the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).
These two agencies are recognized by the Boy Scouts of America
for scuba training and instruction. Alternatively, if PADI or NAUI
training and instruction is not available, certification may be
accepted from other agencies that comply with Recreational Scuba
Training Council (RSTC) guidelines, provided that such acceptance
has been expressly approved by the BSA local council in consultation
with the BSA national Health and Safety Service.
Scuba programs may be a part of Boy Scout or Venturing activities
for participants who are 14 years of age or older. Persons meeting
the age requirement and properly certified may participate in group
dives under the supervision of a responsible adult who is currently
certified as a dive master, assistant instructor, or any higher
rating from NAUI or PADI. Student divers must be under the supervision
of a currently certified NAUI or PADI instructor. No exceptions
to the BSA age requirement are permitted, and any NAUI or PADI
age requirements for those 14 and older shall be followed in all
Scout-related activities. A 14-year-old participant with a junior
diver certification may dive only when accompanied by a buddy who
is a certified open-water diver at least 18 years old.
Because of lack of frequency of diving by most sports divers,
it is important that any certified divers be screened and evaluated
by a certified diving instructor before participating in BSA-related
activities. The skills to be evaluated include the following:
- Use of buoyancy control device
- Giant stride entry
- Removal and replacement of weight belt
- Neutral buoyancy
- Snorkel to regulator exchange
- Removal and replacement of scuba unit under the water
- Face mask removal, replacement, and clearing
- Emergency swimming ascent
- Alternate air source ascent
- Predive safety drill
- Five-point ascent and descent
- Deepwater exits
- Simulation of surface procedures
- Persons with symptomatic or active asthma/reactive airway disease
(commonly known as RAD) should not be allowed to scuba dive.
This would include, at a minimum, anyone who:
- Is currently taking medication for asthma/RAD
- Has received treatment for bronchospasm in the past five
- Has exercise induced bronchospasm
- Has cold-induced bronchospasm
- Persons with asymptomatic asthma/RAD who wish to scuba dive
should be referred to a pulmonary medical specialist who is also
knowledgeable about diving medicine for a complete medical examination,
including exercise and bronchial challenge testing. Any determination
of fitness for diving must be made on the basis of such examination
and specific testing.
The Snorkeling, BSA, requirements have been developed to introduce
Scout-age children to the special skills, equipment, and safety
precautions associated with snorkeling; to encourage the development
of aquatics skills that promote fitness and recreation; and to
provide a solid foundation of skills and knowledge for those who
later will participate in more advanced underwater activity.
Any trained Aquatics Instructor, BSA, may serve as a counselor.
A person recognized and certified as a snorkeling instructor by
the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the
National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), American
Red Cross, or the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) also
qualifies as a Snorkeling, BSA, counselor.
Instructions must be conducted in clear, confined water with a
maximum depth of 12 feet. A swimming pool is recommended. All requirements
must be completed as stated on the application form, which is available
at your local council service center. The counselor may not omit,
vary, or add requirements. The requirements are presented in the
order in which they should be taught to the Scout. The completed
application should be submitted to the local council service center
by the counselor or unit leader.
BSA Snorkeling Safety
Snorkeling Safety is the recommended procedure for conducting
group snorkeling at a private or public pool, wilderness pond,
stream, or wherever the water looks inviting enough to take a dip.
- Qualified Supervision
All snorkeling activity must be supervised by a mature and
conscientious adult age 21 or older who understands and knowingly
accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety of the
youth members in his or her care; who is experienced in the
water and is confident of his or her ability to respond in
the event of an emergency; and who is trained in and committed
to compliance with the eight points of BSA Snorkeling Safety.
- Physical Fitness
All persons must present evidence of fitness for snorkeling
activity with a complete health history from physician, parent,
or legal guardian. The adult supervisor should adjust all
supervision, discipline, and protection to anticipate any
potential risks associated with individual health conditions.
In the event of any significant health conditions, a medical
evaluation by a physician should be required by the adult
leader. Those with physical disabilities can enjoy and benefit
from aquatics if the disabilities are known and the necessary
precautions are taken.
- Safe Area
Training in the use of snorkeling equipment shall be performed
in clear, confined water that is not more than 12 feet deep.
Snorkeling may be done in water outside of a confined area
under the direction of the qualified supervisor if the participant
has met the BSA snorkeling requirements. The local conditions
and ability of those engaged in the snorkeling activity should
be considered by the qualified supervisor to determine if
any special precautions should be taken.
Snorkeling shall not be done if boat traffic, waves, current,
water temperature, or weather conditions in the area are
deemed unsafe by the qualified supervisor. Time in the water
should be adjusted based on the water temperature.
- Proper Equipment
- The snorkeling equipment shall be properly fitted and
in good repair.
- The use of snorkeling vests and personal flotation devices
is at the discretion of the qualified supervisor based
on the local conditions and the ability of the person(s)
engaged in the snorkeling activity.
- A diver-down flag must be used in accordance with local
rules and regulations.
- Appropriate lifesaving equipment in good repair is ready
and available to the qualified lookout while supervising
the snorkeling activity.
- Qualified Lookout
The qualified lookouts are stationed in a location (either
afloat or ashore) where it is possible to see and hear all
those engaged in the snorkeling activity. The qualified lookout
is a strong swimmer with lifeguard skills (i.e., competent
swimmers with basic water-rescue skills serve as both lookouts
and lifeguards). A minimum of two qualified lookouts are
provided with at least one qualified lookout for every eight
snorkelers in the water.
Beginners and non swimmers in clear, confined water of the
appropriate depth may use masks and fins, separately or together,
under close supervision. Training for Snorkeling, BSA is
limited to qualified swimmers.
Snorkeling in open water is limited to those classified
as swimmers unless the supervisor determines that those in
the other ability groups may safely participate while wearing
a properly fitted personal flotation device.
A group should not undertake a snorkeling activity in open
water unless all participants, including the adult supervisor,
have completed basic instruction in the Snorkeling, BSA requirements.
- Buddy System
All participants in snorkeling activities should be paired
as buddies and remain close enough that they are constantly
aware of their buddy's location and condition. Generally,
buddies should take turns making breath-holding dives. That
is, one buddy remains at the surface, floating with his mask
in the water while breathing through the snorkel, and keeps
an eye on the buddy who is down. When the diver surfaces,
both buddies should check their position relative to the
rest of the group before moving on or letting the other buddy
It is the combined responsibility of the adult supervisor,
the lookout, and the lifeguards to know the number of people
in the water at all times, to make periodic checks of that
number, and to call for buddy checks when it is necessary
to confirm that number.
Be sure everyone understands and agrees that snorkeling
is allowed only with proper supervision and use of the complete
BSA Snorkeling Safety. The applicable rules should be presented
and learned prior to the outing, and should be reviewed for
all participants at the beginning of the snorkeling activity.
Scouts should respect and follow all directions and rules
of the adult supervisor. When people know the reason for
rules and procedures they are likely to follow them. Be strict
and fair, showing no favoritism.
Safe waterskiing starts with safe equipment; a thorough knowledge
of techniques; competent instruction; an efficient, careful towboat
operator; and a conscientious observer. A life jacket is a must
for all water-skiers. Skis should be in good shape and free from
sharp or protruding edges. The boat operator should be driving
solely for the benefit, satisfaction, and safety of the skier.
The boat and skier should stay away from docks, swimmers, boaters,
people who are fishing, and other objects.
The Water-Skier's Safety Code and Boat Driver's Safety Code are
found in the Waterskiing merit badge pamphlet. These are
guidelines to be followed by all those involved in the sport of
Reference: Waterskiing merit badge pamphlet
The BSA boardsailing program has been developed to introduce Scout-age
children to basic boardsailing skills, equipment, and safety precautions,
to encourage development of skills that promote fitness and safe
aquatics recreation, and to lay a skill and knowledge foundation
for those who will later participate in more advanced and demanding
activities on the water.
Any person recognized and certified as an instructor by Windsurfer
International or the U.S. Board Sailing Association may serve as
a counselor for the Boardsailing Award with the approval of the
local council service center. Any person trained and experienced
in boardsailing skills and safety may serve as a counselor for
this award in a Scout summer camp program under the direction and
supervision of a currently trained BSA Aquatics Instructor.
Instruction in recreational activity must be conducted according
to the BSA guidelines for boardsailing. The Boardsailing Award
is now available for inclusion in Scouting programs.
Reference: Boardsailing BSA Award Application, No. 19-935
The American Whitewater Affiliation (AWA) Safety Code includes
ten recommendations for river safety:
Guide to Safe Scouting
- Be a competent swimmer.
- Wear a PFD.
- Keep your canoe or raft under control, always!
- Be aware of river hazards and avoid them.
- Boating alone is not recommended; preferred minimum is three
to a craft.
- Be suitably equipped.
- Wear shoes (tennis shoes or special canoeing shoes are
- Tie your glasses on.
- Carry a knife and waterproof matches (also compass and
- Don't wear bulky clothing that will waterlog.
- Wear a crash helmet where upsets are likely.
- Carry an extra paddle and canoe-repair tape.
- Open canoes should have bow and stern lines (painters)
securely attached. Use at least 15 feet of 1/4- or 3/8-inh
rope. Secure them to the canoe so that they are readily
available but will not entangle feet and legs in case of
- Swim on your back in fast water, keeping your feet and legs
downstream and high. Keep watching ahead.
- When you start to spill, keep the upstream gunwale high.
- If you do spill, hang on to your canoe and get to the upstream
end. (Note: If you are heading into rough rapids and quick rescue
is not expected, or if water is numbing cold, then swim for shore
or a rock where you can climb out of the water.)
- When you are with a group:
- Organize the group to even out canoeing ability
- Keep the group compact for mutual support.
- Don't crowd rapids! Let each canoe complete the run before
the next canoe enters.
- Each canoe is responsible for the canoe immediately behind
The Guide to Safe Scouting online now.
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