Being in the wilderness is fun! But you don’t want to have to go home because of an injury. The BSA has developed several ordinances for enjoying the outdoors safely. Below, we’ve summarized the one you’ll probably use the most – Safe Swim Defense. However, there are several other trainings that you really need to have before going out on a unit outing. Good news – it’s easy to take them! Just log into your My.Scouting Account (my.scouting.org) and take them online!
Safe Swim Defense
For guaranteed fun, nothing tops swimming. All surveys of Scouts’ most popular interests at camp and for year-round activities rank swimming at the top of the list. It is also a good physical condition.
But whether for fun or fitness – do your swimming safely! It is tragic that the greatest number of Scouting fatalities are connected with water activity. Since most of them occur on unit outings, it is vital that adult leaders combat the danger with an effective plan for a Safe Swim Defense. Scout swimming must always be properly organized and supervised.
The Safe Swim Defense is a time-tested method of setting defenses essential to the safety of swimmers. The clear and simple procedures outlined below can be easily understood and applied to almost any swimming site. These essentials are also included in requirements for Lifesaving merit badge and BSA Lifeguard. BSA Lifeguard is an acceptable qualification required to support Safe Swim Defense.
1 — Qualified Supervision
Have a responsible adult (at least 21 years old) supervise all swimming. This person must be qualified in water safety training (BSA Lifeguard; Red Cross Advanced Life Saving or YMCA Senior Lifesaver) or must use assistants so qualified. Preferably have more than one adult qualified to supervise. Be sure everyone involved in supervision thoroughly understands the Safe Swim Defense and is firmly committed to its use.
2 — Physical Fitness
Require evidence of fitness for swimming activity with a complete health history from a physician, parent, or legal guardian. Adjust all supervision, discipline, and protection to anticipate any potential risks associated with individual health concerns. In the event of any significant health conditions, an examination (recommend form No. 4412) should be required by the unit leader.
3 — Safe Area
Have lifeguards and swimmers crisscross the entire 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 over 12 feet for swimmers. For boundary markers use poles stuck in the bottom, or plastic bottles or balloons attached to rock anchors with twine. Enclose non-swimmer and beginner areas with buoy lines (twine and floats) between markers. Put plastic jugs or balloons at outer corner of swimming area.
4 — Lifeguards On Duty
Appoint two capable swimmers as lifeguards. Station them ashore, equipped with lifeline (100-foot length of 3/8” nylon rope). In an emergency, one carries out the line and the other feeds it out from shore, then pulls his partner and the person being assisted. In addition, if a boat is available, man it with two capable swimmers, one rowing and the other equipped with a 10-foot pole or extra oar. Provide one guard for every ten persons.
5 — Lookout
Station a lookout on the shore where everything can be seen and heard in all areas. This person may be an 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 must 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. The 100 yards must be completed in one swim without stopping, 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 everyone with another in his/her own ability group. Buddies check in and out of the swimming area together. Emphasize each buddy lifeguards his buddy. Check everyone in the water about every ten minutes. The adult in charge signals for a buddy check with a single blast of the whistle or a ring of the bell calls “Buddies!” and counts slowly to ten 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. At the end of the swim make a final buddy check and account for everyone. Signal three blasts or bells for checkouts.
8 — Discipline
Be sure everyone understands and agrees that swimming is allowed only with proper supervision and use of the Safe Swim Defense. Advise parents of this policy. When everyone knows the reason for rules and procedures, they are more likely to follow them. Be strict and fair, showing no favoritism.