BSA’s Tour and Activity Plan eliminated

April 3, 2017 update: In response to commenters wondering whether this was my annual April Fools’ Day post: It was not. The Tour and Activity Plan is no more. See these official FAQs on Scouting.org for more details. The original post follows.


Be prepared to spend less time filling out forms and more time having fun.

The Boy Scouts of America has eliminated its Tour and Activity Plan, shifting the focus away from paperwork and toward creating a safe space for Scouts to enjoy the program as designed.

The Tour and Activity Plan was a two-page document submitted to your local council for approval at least 21 days before longer trips. As of April 1, 2017, it is no more.

Richard Bourlon, team leader for Health and Safety, encourages unit leaders to instead use a “flexible risk-assessment strategy” when planning outings.

“We looked at how the old plan was being used, how many people were using it, how many calls we received about it, and how much time this took staff and volunteers, versus the return – did it create a safer environment?” Bourlon says. “There wasn’t a correlation, so we’re giving them that time back.”

What’s replacing the Tour and Activity Plan?

The old method: One adult leader filled out the form and submitted it to his or her council.

The new method: Have a plan. Get everyone on the same page. For Cub Scouts, that means the pack leadership. For other units, that means adult leaders work with Scouts/Venturers to plan a trip that’s safe, fun and engaging. No forms required.

“Getting everyone on the same page is a beautiful thing,” Bourlon says. “And then we also know you are using a handbook or other program literature consistent with BSA rules, regulations and policies.”

Going to do an activity that supports Scouting’s values but isn’t in any book? Consult the flexible risk-assessment tools in the Guide to Safe Scouting and the Enterprise Risk Management Guidebook when planning.

This change has added significance in Boy Scouting, Sea Scouting, Varsity and Venturing, where older youth should be doing most of the planning anyway.

“Before, this was only available to adults,” Bourlon says. “Our materials are now publicly accessible and appropriate for youth to use.”

What about Tour Permits?

Though you might find some still floating around, tour permits (local and national) were eliminated in March 2011 and were superseded by tour plans — and then by the Tour and Activity Plan in 2012.

All have now been eliminated.

How does insurance work in the post-Tour and Activity Plan world?

The Tour and Activity Plan wasn’t a determining factor in insurance coverage. (Neither, by the way, is wearing a uniform. You’re covered whether in or out of uniform.)

Registered volunteers have primary coverage for official Scouting activities, and nonregistered volunteers are provided excess coverage for official activities.

If an automobile or watercraft is used, the BSA provides additional excess auto coverage.

To be official, the activity should be consistent with the values, Charter and Bylaws, Rules and Regulations, the operations manuals, and applicable literature of the Boy Scouts of America.

Do I need to file any forms or notify the council of any trip we take?

No. But you should use the BSA planning tools available here. In most cases, this doesn’t include forms to complete and submit. These tools are meant to prompt discussions and conversations about risks.

What about Exploring?

The manual process Learning for Life and Exploring used in the past for outing permits is discontinued, too.

How does this change affect the safety of BSA outings?

It doesn’t. The Scouting program, as contained in our handbooks and literature, integrates many safety features. But no policy or form will replace the review and vigilance of trusted adults and leaders at the point of program execution.

Moreover, the program hasn’t changed. For example, parents still must give permission for leaders to take youth on a trip. Cub Scouts should only camp at council-approved locations. Etc.

Where can I find more information about BSA Health and Safety?

As always, this page is your best source.

48 Comments

    • Seems shortsighted. We all should have a plan- True! But BSA takes away a central form that documents the plan and pushes related risk assessments to the troop! What is the greatest risk? The activity or the transportation to the activity? Our directions are look at Guide to Safe Scouting and Enterprise Risk Management Guidebook when planning.

      I suppose there is a lawsuit behind this form being dropped so quickly
      .

  1. Have there been any changes regarding insurance for trips. Is there still supplemental BSA insurance for longer trips? How does this work?

      • Follow the GTSS and you will still be insured. If you plan to swim, make sure you follow SSD, Boating – following Safety Afloat. No more people in cars than seatbelts. And so on. Nothing about your planning/behavior is changed except you don’t need to get council to approve your tour plan.

  2. This in a way concerns me. While it is nice to not have to do the paperwork, and have a timeline for submissions and such, but that document also could be used in the case of an emergency. Like a float plan, I feel that there should be a paper trail of the 5 W’s in case a group doesn’t make it to their destination. That document could be use to aide search and rescue (absolute worst case scenario) or other services used to locate the group of people. I believe that removing this completely is a mistake even with the flex risk assessment. I would highly encourage troops, packs, and crews to continue to ensure the safety of their scouts (girls and boys) to continue to document your trips and have that left with someone not on the outing.

    • you are correct, the new plan is to tell you to do what is right, but there is no requirement here that you document what your plan is. Just a hope that you actually do it. Bad plan, but I agree that there probably was a lawsuit that had BSA tied in knots since they required paperwork but the plan was not followed. I would like to know what really happened.

  3. It is NOT an April Fools joke as this was announced a couple months ago on several blog sites that this was in the works.

  4. How does this affect insurance for the units if the council does not have any information about activities that are outside of the boundaries of the unit? I know the units have insurance, but what about BSA insurance covering incidents like injury and accidents, which are bound to occur?

    • BSA insurance is always secondary to whatever your primary (and chartered organization’s) insurance covers.

      • No, as stated in the article and in the Charter Agreement, BSA insurance is primary for registered leaders and chartered organizations. It covers first. The only exception is vehicle accidents (car, boat, or plane) where it is secondary.

  5. All I can say is THANK YOU!
    It’s vital that patrols and crew get back to providing adult leaders with good plans that they can endorse.
    The tour and activity plan was a useful tool but in the wrong hands. My youth needed to be the ones working through it, then sending it to me for approval.

    Here’s hoping that our youth put together solid plans for some great scouting!

  6. No April Fool joke. Heard this last week from our Council. They did not want to put it out before the effective date so folks wouldn’t call. Only about 25% ever filed the tour plan anyway. That says it all.

  7. Bryan,

    You should have included a link to the BSA’s “Tour and Activity Plan Terminated FAQ” in the introduction of your post. While you’re always informative, this issue requires an authoritative explanation from National Council.

    Here’s the link: [http://www.scouting.org/Home/HealthandSafety/TourPlanFAQ.aspx].

  8. Apparently the BSA is in on the April Fool’s joke as well, as this can actually be found on the scouting.org website. The “joke” may be that it is actually for real!

  9. In taking Leadership training for the Appalachian Mountain Club, which is far more intensive then BSA training, we spent an entire morning on Risk Management which is really what the BSA form was about. From an insurance (liability) standpoint, we as volunteers for the BSA were always covered (even if we did not fill out the form). The form was there really as a tool to get leaders to think about planing and safety to mitigate risk.

    A well trained leader should not need the form, but not every leader is trained and even if they were trained, the BSA does not focus at all on Risk Management. So while doing away with the form is great, the BSA needs to have better training (and more of it).

    • I am in total agreement that additional risk management training/information would be useful for most Scout volunteers, apart from the specifics of BSA’s policies and procedures, which taken alone are excellent, but lacking in specifics as to how to recognize/address risks in the outdoors for extended periods of time with youth, not to mention other adults, whose experience in the outdoors may be lacking. Reference my website riskmanagementinscouting.com.

  10. Practicality finally wins out over theory.
    The responsibility for the success of an outing is being put where it belongs, the people who are planning the outing.
    If a piece of paper is useful for your planning use it. If that piece of paper gets filled out after all the planning and pen whipped into compliance what good is that?

  11. The Ground Hog in TX saw its shadow this morning, ran around chaotically denouncing the end of Tour Plans and permits. True “cause and effect”…..

  12. Official Congratulations and Applause to Richard Bourlon and the Health and Safety Team for making it simple while we keep it fun.

  13. So, is there going to be any oversight at all? If a unit leader decides some or all of the suggestions in the “Guide to Safe Scouting” are silly or irrelevant what will happen? There’s no enforceable obligation to abide by these guidelines as they are simply guidelines. Seems to me the main purpose of this change is to absolve BSA of any responsibility if anything goes awry. Simply saying scouting trips should use the “Guide to Safe Scouting” to plan trips is no safeguard at all. How about all trips MUST use the Guide and be able to demonstrate that they have. Otherwise, scouting outings become nothing more than group family outings. No need for being scouts at all.

    • If a unit leader decides not to follow the Guide to Safe Scouting or the Sweet 16, then that unit leader (and his/her chartered organization) is potentially liable for anything that may happen. No tour permit will prevent that.

      Example: #9 of the Sweet 16 is Weather Check. No tour permit or council review is going to stop a unit from going on an outing if they choose to do so in inclement weather. No council has ever said, “no, you can’t go on that outing, the weather is looking bad for Saturday.”

      #13 is First Aid Resources. No tour permit or council review requires units to show proof of their first aid kit or trained first aider.

      Requiring that Scouters and units MUST use the GTSS and Sweet 16 is contained in item #3 of the Scouter’s Code of Conduct:

      http://www.scouting.org/filestore/HealthSafety/pdf/Scouter_Code_of_Conduct.pdf

  14. No April Fools joke–that was the moon High Adventure base opening in 2019 which will run about 24,000 for the week, not including transportation.
    As folks above have stated, I wonder the implicarion to insurance. Is this so insurace coverage and liability falls only on the chartering unit, not the BSA.

  15. The article stated there is no change in insurance coverage due to the form no longer being required, in fact it never mattered. Having no insurance if the form wasn’t filed was a myth, as well as the requirement to wear a uniform.

  16. The Guide to Safe Scouting has been updated to reflect the elimination of the Tour and Activity plan.

    You can download a PDF copy of the latest Guide from here: [http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/HealthandSafety/GSS/toc.aspx]

  17. I really wish BS of A should publicize the insurance policy they have for liability insurance. It would solve the problem of urban legend that we must wear class A’s to be covered. Since we no longer have to file tour permits or tour plans, the boogeyman of no permit/plan, no insurance has had a stake driven through its heart. Unless trainers keep it alive.

  18. A Scout Salute! to Richard Bourlon and his team for getting rid of this useless exercise. Nothing about them promoted safety, and they were typically “approved” by some low-level clerical staff person who had no idea what constituted a safe outing.

    In an active program, the extra paperwork shuffle could consume one or more volunteers for a year. One for the weekend outing, one for the patrol trip, one for the meeting held at the local pool, one for the service project. I think there were months when we must have filled out a dozen of the things. Annoy the parents for DL #s and car information. Watch as they show up with different cars because wife/husband took the one they had put down. Try to get ahold of the CC on his business trip to China to sign 12 forms for the month. Never get the numbers right as people add and drop for various reasons. Ignore the nonsense about carrying a copy of the Guide to Safe Scouting on every outing. Have the council call up because you didn’t write down an address for the backcountry off-road campsite. Ugh!

    Good riddance! Bravo to the Health & Safety Team for a job well done!

  19. Am wondering how this impacts bringing along copies of every participant’s part A and B medical for every weekend camping trip? Still necessary?

    • After what happened to me on a trip, HECK YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I had an accident on a weekend trip that required 2 visits to the emergency room in a 6 hour period. You better believe he keep copies of the health forms with us.

  20. I see this differently than some. When you submit the plan, it is inferred that someone at Council is actually LOOKING at the plan. If something looked wrong and was missed and then the trip ends in disaster it makes the Council look liable too. Council legal and staff have been shifting the liability to the adult leaders of each program for years.

    If a disaster occurs, and it winds up on the 6 O’clock News the Council can say “We knew nothing about it, have no involvement in it, the fault for this TRAGEDY is someone else’s”

    Using a standard of Do The Right Thing is not standard at all. We have all seen Scout Leaders (in other troops, posts, Ships etc. of course) do very dumb and dangerous things in the past. When called on the event, the Adult Leader always thinks they were going it right.

    This just gives “distance” between the troop and the Council to prevent the Council from being sued.

  21. Leave the plan as available. I like to have the youth fill it out, so they know where requirements come from. If you wish, just don’t require the councils to approve them.

  22. Haven’t seen the National Tour Permit specifically addressed. I can’t believe that BSA doesn’t want to know when a troop is leaving the country.

  23. I do hope the BSA will examine all the paperwork required. As the mother of a Life Scout working on his Eagle project, the paperwork is immense. Also as the organizer for a small group of 12 going to Summit for a High Adventure activity, it took me hours of time to organize and gather the Summit Waiver, Climbing Waiver, White Water Waiver, Medical Forms, Swim Test, Youth Protection for the adults and Wilderness First Aid. The paperwork filled a 3 inch binder, for 12 people… There has to be a way to sign those waivers on-line, BSA already has the YPT in their system. We should be able to scan and send almost all of this via email. I hope someone with knowledge of how to do that could offer their services to the BSA…

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