These 20 easy-to-memorize Scout mnemonics could save a life

Lightning_Safety_SignIn a life-threatening situation outdoors, a Scout’s skills are only as good as his memory.

That’s why mnemonic devices — popular for schoolchildren memorizing the order of the planets, the metric system, or the colors of the rainbow — are also useful when the pressure’s on you to react to a health or safety emergency.

Boost your emergency preparedness with the 20 mnemonics below. Most come courtesy of Scouting magazine’s friends on Facebook and Twitter. Have one we missed? Leave a comment at the end of the post. 

1 – Treating shock

“Face is red, raise the head; face is pale, raise the tail.”

— Nancy R.

2 – Warning signs of a stroke

Think FAST:

Face – One side of smile droops.
Arms – Do they have equal strength?
Speech – Is it slurred?
Time – If you observe these, get them to a hospital quick.

— Sarah P.

3 – Hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia

“Hot and dry, sugar high; cold and clammy, need some candy.”

— Matt D.

4 – Dehydration

If you’re drinking enough water, your urine should be “Clear and Copious.” (Lots more user-submitted hydration mnemonics here.)

Stephanie H. 

5 – Poisonous plants

“Leaves of three, let it be.” Also, for the non-leafed seasons of the year, “Don’t touch the hairy vines!”

Tom H.

6 – Treating diarrhea

Switch to the BRAT or BRATTY diet:


Some like to add T and Y to get BRATTY:

Meg M. and Carrie M.

7 – Using a fire extinguisher

Cool things off with the PASS technique:

Pull the pin
Aim at the base of the fire
Squeeze the trigger
Sweep across the fire

Stan W.

8 – Proper winter camping attire

Stay warm, but not too warm, by getting COLD:

Clean – dirty clothes lose their loft and get you cold.
Overheat – never get sweaty; strip off layers to stay warm but no too hot.
Layers – dress in synthetic layers for easy temperature control.
Dry – wet clothes (and sleeping bags) also lose their insulation.

Phil S.

9 – Diagnosing hypothermia

Look for the “umble” family. Does the person fumble, mumble, stumble, and grumble?

Sammy C.

10 – Identifying poisonous snakes

Looking at the color of bands works for some varieties of snakes. Remember “red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, friend of Jack.”

Seana D.

11 – Treating strains

It’s all about RICE, RICE, baby:

Rest: The patient should rest the injured area. Have him or her avoid movement that causes pain.
Immobilize the injured area. Immobilization can lessen pain and prevent further damage.
Cold: Apply cold to the injured area. Applying ice or a cold pack can help reduce swelling and ease pain.
Elevate the injured area above heart level to reduce swelling. Serious injuries to the limbs may preclude this.

Bob F.

12 – When you’re on fire

Just as we learned as kids: “stop, drop, and roll.”

Heidi H.

13 – The ABCs of CPR

ABC in its original form stood for “Airway, Breathing, Circulation.” But as this Wiki page explains, there are now several variations recommended by different groups.

Nearly all groups still use ABC in some form, but others add D for defibrillation using an AED.

14 – Determining a person’s medical history

This one is usually for the pros, but when interviewing a patient, take a SAMPLE:

Signs and Symptoms
Past medical history
Last oral intake
Events leading up to the injury and/or illness

Mike A.

15 – Signs of a fracture


Loss of function
Irregularities on the bone surface, such as depressions or lumps
Unnatural movement
Crepitus, a sound similar to scrunching a bag of frozen peas heard/felt when the two ends of a broken bone grate together

Mandy M.

16 – Saving someone from drowning

We’ve always learned this order: “reach, throw, row, go.” But Bob K. suggests starting with “talk.” “Always try to talk them back first,” he says.

17 – Conditions that could cause unconsciousness

They’re summarized in the longest mnemonic of the day: FISH SHAPED.

Infantile convulsions
Head injury
Heart attack

18 – Identifying edible berries

Lifehacker offers this one:

White and yellow, kill a fellow.
Purple and blue, good for you.
Red … could be good, could be dead.

19 – Boating mnemonics

This page has a nice collection of them.

20 – An essential rule of camping

And finally, one that made me laugh: “Dark sky at night, you’re up too late; Dark sky in the morning, you are up too early.”

— Leon V.

21 to ?? – Your turn

Share your mnemonic in the comments section below.

Photo from Flickr:  Some rights reserved by steven n fettig

About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.