Ensure a happy holiday parade with these 16 safety tips

Marching in a holiday parade with your Scouts this year?

Keeping everyone safe should be tops on your wish list. After all, nothing can ruin the holidays quicker than a sprained ankle or broken arm — or worse — a few days before winter break.

You don’t need to be a Grinch, but you do need to read this special Holiday Parade Edition of the BSA’s trusted “Sweet Sixteen of BSA Safety.”

Included in the 16 are some tips you might not have known, like this one: Scouts should walk along the route or ride in passenger cars (assuming two-deep leadership).

They may ride on floats, truck beds, trailers or the like, but only if they follow the rules in No. 7 below.

All it takes is one Scout getting injured for you to understand why these rules exist. Is it worth the risk?

Here are the 16 tips:

parade-safety-11. Have qualified supervision

Do you have enough adults to supervise Scouts and monitor for hazards along the route?

Many packs and troops use a four-corners approach with adults: two adults at the front — left and right — and two bringing up the rear.

parade-safety-22. Consider physical fitness

How long is the parade route?

Are there hills?

Adults and youth need to be in good enough shape for the length and conditions.

parade-safety-33. Use the buddy system

Before you begin the march, make sure each Scout — and adult! — has a buddy.

That’s especially important in crowded environments.

Parades are typically crowded, and you don’t want a Scout to get lost in the shuffle.

parade-safety-44. Find a safe area

You wouldn’t choose a busy street for a Scout activity, but you don’t get to pick the location of a parade.

Parades can bring risks that might not ordinarily be present:

  • Moving vehicles and machinery
  • Animals
  • Firearms or fireworks
  • Hazardous weather
  • Large or unruly crowds
  • Potential for thrown objects

parade-safety-55. Check vehicles used to transport Scouts

Any vehicle used for transporting passengers should be equipped with a secure passenger compartment and approved safety belts.

And don’t put more people in a passenger vehicle than it’s designed to hold.

See No. 7, below, for more on Scouts and parade vehicles.

parade-safety-66. Bring personal safety equipment

Dress for the weather, and bring the following:

  • First aid kit (one or two per unit should suffice)
  • Rain gear
  • Good walking shoes
  • Water bottle
  • Sunblock
  • Insect repellant

parade-safety-7-27. Follow proper safety procedures

  • Allow adequate space between marchers and any vehicles
  • Designate a lookout to watch out for vehicles and other hazards
  • Take head counts before, during and after the parade

The BSA rule prohibiting the transportation of passengers in the backs of trucks or on trailers may be tempered for parade floats or hayrides, provided that the following points are strictly followed to prevent injuries:

  • Transportation to and from the parade or hayride site is not allowed on the truck or trailer.
  • Those persons riding, whether seated or standing, must be able to hold on to something stationary.
  • Legs should not hang over the side.
  • Flashing lights must illuminate a vehicle used for a hayride after dark, or the vehicle must be followed by a vehicle with flashing lights.

parade-safety-88. Consider the abilities of younger and older members

If the forecast calls for unseasonably warm or cold weather where you live, don’t be afraid to suggest that your younger Cub Scouts or older adults find a seat on the sidelines.

Perhaps they could find a better way to participate that’s suited to them.

Better safe than sorry.

parade-safety-99. Watch the weather

Don’t let a blizzard, high winds or rain make your parade dangerous.

Check the forecast several days out and daily as the parade approaches.

The best outcome in weather emergencies is to avoid them altogether.

parade-safety-1010. Plan ahead

Do you have all of your permission slips?

Did you determine a meeting spot for before and after the parade?

Did you distribute maps and emergency cellphone numbers to the adults?

Hold a pre-parade meeting with adult leaders where you discuss these items, consider severe-weather locations and discuss the location of a support vehicle nearby.

parade-safety-1111. Secure a communication plan

Cellphones or two-way radios can keep everyone on the same page.

You can use them in emergencies, of course, but also to tell parents and families when you’re nearing their spot along the parade route.

If you’re using cellphones, make sure you have numbers pre-programmed into your phone. With radios, find an open channel and stick to it.

parade-safety-1212. File your plan and permit

File your application for a BSA tour plan and any other required permits your city or county might need.

Find out more about BSA tour and activity plan at this link.

The tour plan might have changed since the last time you looked at it, so be sure you’re using the new version.

parade-safety-1313. Bring a first aid kit

Have first aid supplies handy.

Have trained adults who know first aid.

Find out what resources will be available at the parade, where they will be located and how to contact them if needed.

parade-safety-1414. Follow applicable laws

Know and follow all parade rules and regulations.

Most community parades have rules that they distribute to all participants.

Be sure to read them carefully.

parade-safety-1515. Bring a CPR-trained adult

Will there be firemen, EMT professionals and CPR-trained police officers all along the parade route?

Probably.

Should you have a CPR-trained adult with your group anyway?

Absolutely.

parade-safety-1616. Promote discipline

An essential part of parade safety is discipline. That means reminding Scouts that marching in the parade is a privilege.

They’re representing the entire Scouting organization to the community.

If you’re a Cub Scout pack, you can have that talk with the boys. If you’re a troop, ask your senior patrol leader to lead the talk.

12 Comments

  1. In regards to #7, from the Guide to Safe Scouting:

    Parade Floats and Hayrides
    The BSA rule prohibiting the transportation of passengers in the backs of trucks or on trailers may be tempered for parade floats or hayrides, provided that the following points are strictly followed to prevent injuries:
    1. Transportation to and from the parade or hayride site is not allowed on the truck or trailer.
    2. Those persons riding, whether seated or standing, must be able to hold on to something stationary.
    3. Legs should not hang over the side.
    4. Flashing lights must illuminate a vehicle used for a hayride after dark, or the vehicle must be followed by a vehicle with flashing lights.

  2. The Guide to Safe Scouting has a section titled “Parade Floats and Hayrides” that states:

    “The BSA rule prohibiting the transportation of passengers in the backs of trucks or on trailers may be tempered for parade floats or hayrides, provided that the following points are strictly followed to prevent injuries:

    1.Transportation to and from the parade or hayride site is not allowed on the truck or trailer.
    2.Those persons riding, whether seated or standing, must be able to hold on to something stationary.
    3.Legs should not hang over the side.
    4.Flashing lights must illuminate a vehicle used for a hayride after dark, or the vehicle must be followed by a vehicle with flashing lights.”

  3. Recently a participant in a parade in Miami was killed when she dropped her cell phone under a stationary float. She reached down as the float started and she was run over by the float. This was an adult. I discussed this with our Scouts who assume that the driver of a vehicle can see them. Not always the case.

  4. I’d love to see one addition to the GSS. Maximum safe speed for floats/trailers in parades. Not with scouts – but I’ve seen drivers speed up when parades do the accordion thing. We’re planning to tow a Sea Scout boat in a parade and if we had a couple wavers in the boat – I’d want to have something firm to follow.

  5. Troop 9212 and Pack 9212 coordinates each year with our local town of Summerville to have folks bring can goods and toys to the parade.

    As the Scouts pass out candy to the crowd, the crowd helps us with a Community Service Project. We collect the toys and food as we march through the city which the parade route is about 2-2.5 miles.

    Those from the crowd who donate as well as those who don’t also get a nice slip of paper inviting them to a “thank you” event that night.

    This has been a great success for not only showing our Scout and Christmas Spirit but also we stock a local food pantry and support the Marines for Toys 4Tots at the same time! We’ve even had local grocery stores donate the use of shopping carts for the Cubs to push and the older Boy Scouts march in full backpacks that are empty to start, filled when we get back.

    Following the Parade our Charted Organization, Palmetto Land has a free Christmas Concert in Town Square and the Troop and Pack serve anyone who stops by Cookies and Hot Cocoa as that thank you for helping our project and to spread some Christmas cheer.

    We are on year 5 of this and hundreds and hundreds of people have participated, 1000’s upon 1000’s of of pounds of food have gone to those who need it, and lots and lots of Toys are collected.

    So what happens to the toys…we actually deliver the toys with the Marines on Christmas morning. That project starts at 6am as we coordinate with the Marines, local law enforcement, firefighters, the Channel 2 News team, Congressmen and Senator, and we go out and bring Christmas to others…on Christmas. If the trend continues for 2015 (keep your fingers crossed) we will have helped deliver to the Charleston Area over 50,000 toys in 6 years.

    My recommendation is to find a way during the busy time of the year for Scouts and their families to perform service to others. I know it is busy. I know folks are shopping, traveling, working etc. Find a way to budget it in. In the last 6 Christmas mornings, I wake up at 5am an sitting on the couch are not kids ready to tear into presents, but rather Scouts in uniform ready to “help other people at all times!”

    Merry Christmas from Pack and Troop 9212!

  6. One of my favorite memories as a scouter, was leading a group of cubs, singing christmas carols, as snow fall was falling, covering the road, and waving an American Flag I had rigged up for this parade.

  7. Number 11 recommends using two-way radios for coordination – I second the motion. When I was a Scoutmaster, I was lucky enough to have licensed ham operators for most of my assistants and we always used handie-talkies for internal communications wherever the troop went. I’m retired from troop leadership now (I’m a District Commissioner) but I still take groups overseas to the Blair Atholl Jamborette in Scotland every even-numbered year. On every trip ham radio has been a really useful tool for our contingent as we tour through Scotland, communicating between cars when we drive and letting us get the group back together when we split up.

    One important point – if you don’t have licensed hams, Family Radio Service (FRS) walkie talkies, like those shown in the picture, are a useful substitute. BUT you should realize that those are not legal outside the USA (and maybe Canada). Do not take them overseas! I ran into one ham in London on one of our trips who said that FRS radios used by American tourists were causing major interference to the London police, because those frequencies are allocated to Public Service agencies over there and one of the common FRS frequencies happened to fall on the input of a London Police repeater. You could get in big trouble for that, not to mention potentially interfering with law enforcement or lifesaving activities.

  8. Night time parades usually involve a generator and special precautions should be taken regarding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Also all electrical connections should be taped to prevent electrical shock. Our local parades prohibit marchers from throwing candy to the crowd, but we recently had someone ahead of us doing that and we had children darting out in front of our float. The driver needs to be “situation aware” at all times and move very slowly.

  9. Pre-plan and explain over and over how to handle any railroad tracks along the parade route. (Our most recent parade was inturrupted by a train, but all participants knew what to do, and parade marshals were stationed at the crossing)

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