Incident reporting in the BSA: How it works, and why it matters

Accidents happen.

It’s how you respond to them that matters.

To ensure the safety of its participants, the Boy Scouts of America expects leaders to use the four points of SAFE:

  • Supervision: Youth are supervised by qualified and trustworthy adults;
  • Assessment: Activities are assessed for risks during planning;
  • Fitness and skill: Leaders have confirmed that prerequisite fitness and skill levels exist for participants to take part safely; and
  • Equipment and environment: Safe and appropriately sized equipment, courses, camps, campsites, trails or playing fields are used properly.

However, incidents can occur even when the program is being delivered as designed. That’s when the BSA’s incident reporting process comes into play.

Here’s how it works:

What is an incident?

The BSA defines three categories of incidents:

  1. Incident/general liability: This is an allegation of bodily injury, illness or property damage.
  2. Membership infraction/youth protection: This is an incident that relates to behavior that puts a Scout’s safety at risk, such as youth protection violations, allegations of abuse, self-harm, etc.; or one that calls into question a registered leader or youth member’s continued registration with BSA.
  3. Near miss: This incident was an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness or damage, but had the potential to do so.

What do I do in the event of an incident?

The BSA calls for a four-step process in the event of an incident. Note the addition (in bold) to step No. 2 in cases of suspected abuse.

  1. Provide care for the injured person and get medical attention immediately if needed. Make sure everyone is safe and OK.
  2. Notify your local council, if representatives are nearby. This could include the campmaster, health lodge or the event leader if the incident occurred at a council camp, for example. Otherwise, let your local council know about the incident as soon as you can, and inform them that you’ll be filing an incident report shortly. If the incident involves suspected abuse, follow the BSA’s mandatory reporting of abuse policy, which requires you to report suspected abuse to law enforcement.
  3. Gather the facts, preserving and documenting the evidence. Utilize the incident reporting tools (more on that below) for the type of incident that has occurred.
  4. Complete an incident report and report it to your council.
Based upon your answers, choose which reporting tool is needed to document your incident.

What are the incident reporting tools?

There are three different reporting tools, depending on the type of incident. Each are fillable PDFs that you can fill out within your browser, through a PDF editor (such as Adobe Acrobat or Apple’s Preview app) or by downloading, printing and filling out by hand.

Each of the tools at the above links will guide you through the step-by-step process of gathering the facts — the who, what, when, why, where and how of the incident itself. Follow them! It’s important!

Why is this important?

Timely and complete incident reporting provides the BSA with an opportunity for analysis of incidents that occur and promotes continuous improvement of our programs. The sooner a clear, concise and complete incident report is made, the sooner an appropriate response to the incident can occur.

It’s essential to include all the information you can in your incident report, including providing a detailed incident description, filling out all the forms in their entirety and providing additional attachments — such as photos of the incident, the unit’s participating roster, release and waiver forms, witness statements, etc. — when required.

Once your incident report is complete, please submit it to your local council. If you aren’t sure which council you’re in, click here to find the right one.

You can use this BSA Safety Moment to share the importance of incident reporting with other adults in your unit.

About Aaron Derr 226 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.