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you might find some still floating around, tour permits (local and national) were eliminated in March 2011 and were superseded by tour plans — and then by the Tour and Activity Plan in 2012.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