What’s the No. 1 killer of children? (or: How the BSA keeps your Scouts safe)

Every hour in the United States, a child dies from a preventable injury.

Car crashes, suffocation, drowning, poisoning, fires, and falls took the lives of more than 9,000 children in 2009, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released this week. Preventable injuries kill more Americans under age 19 than any other cause.

And for every one child who dies, 925 more are treated in emergency rooms.

Fortunately for Scouts and Scouters, the BSA has been a health and safety pioneer for more than a century, working with medical and risk management experts to make the program one of the safest out there. (Sweet Sixteen of BSA Safety, anyone?)

That doesn’t mean injury prevention happens by itself, though. Following the BSA’s carefully worded safety guidelines can help you avoid a trip to the emergency room on your next campout — but only if you’ve actually read them.

Six leading causes of child injury (and how to prevent them)

Let’s take a closer look at the leading causes of child injury, taken from the CDC Web site and shared at the recommendation of BSA Health and Safety team leader Richard Bourlon and his volunteer medical lead David Berry, senior vice president of Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

  1. Suffocation
    • Make sure infants sleep alone; placed on their backs on a firm surface.
    • Be sure crib meets safety standards.
    • Avoid loose bedding or soft toys in crib.
  2. Poisoning
    • Keep medicines away from children and teens.
    • Keep cleaning solutions and other toxic products in original packaging and where children can’t get them.
  3. Motor Vehicle Crashes
    • Always use seat belts, child safety seats and booster seats that are correct for a child’s age and weight.
    • Use safe-driving agreements or contracts with teens.
  4. Drowning
    • Learn to swim—important for parents and kids.
    • Use a four-sided fence with self-closing and self-latching gates around pool.
    • Watch kids closely when they swim.
  5. Fire/burns
    • Use smoke alarms—where people sleep and on every level of the home—and test monthly.
    • Create and practice a family fire escape plan.
    • Install a home fire sprinkler system if possible.
  6. Falls
    • Use a soft landing surface on playgrounds (such as sand or wood chips, not dirt or grass).
    • Use protective gear, like a helmet, during sports and recreation.
    • Install protective rails on bunk beds and loft beds.

As I read those tips, I see that the BSA already expands on those guidelines in its comprehensive Guide to Safe Scouting.

In fact, David says, the “BSA has been a leader in this for a long time in terms of making dangerous things (like shooting, archery, snowboarding, climbing, etc.) safe. We should both get credit for it and let the CDC report serve as stimulus for our leaders to think about safety and Being Prepared for safety and injury prevention in all they do.”

So let’s add the Scouting spin to those six leading causes.

Six leading causes of child injury (with Scouting resources)

  1. Suffocation
    • Thankfully, this isn’t a concern for Scout-age children.
  2. Poisoning
  3. Motor Vehicle Crashes
  4. Drowning
  5. Fire/burns
  6. Falls
    • The BSA has certain limitations for climbing and rappelling; review them.
    • Also review the guidelines for skating, which also carries a risk of falling.
    • The BSA requires a helmet for climbing, rappelling, high COPE courses, biking, whitewater, horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding, and other activities with a falling risk. Be sure to wear one and enforce their use.

Scouts crave adventure. As Scouters, it’s your job to help deliver it to them safely.

What do you think?

What can unit leaders do to make the program safer for Scouts? Share your ideas below.