Chapter 4.4: Carrying Out Safe Activities
How can you, as a Girl Scout volunteer, determine whether an activity is safe and appropriate? Good judgment and common sense often dictate the answer. What’s safe in one circumstance may not be safe in another. An incoming storm, for example, might force you to assess or discontinue an activity. If you are uncertain about the safety of an activity, call your council staff with full details and don’t proceed without approval. Err on the side of caution and make the safety of girls your most important consideration. Prior to any activity, read the specific Safety Activity Checkpoints (available on your council’s website or from your support team in some other format) related to any activity you plan to do with girls.
If Safety Activity Checkpoints do not exist for an activity you and the girls are interested in, check with your council before making any definite plans with the girls. A few activities are allowed only with written council pre-approval and only for girls 12 and over, while some are off-limits completely:
- Caution: You must get written pre-approval from your council for girls ages 12 and older who will operate motorized vehicles, such as go-carts and personal watercraft; use firearms; take trips on waterways that are highly changeable or uncontrollable; experience simulated skydiving and zero-gravity rooms; or fly in noncommercial aircraft, such as small private planes, helicopters, sailplanes, untethered hot air balloons, and blimps.
- Warning: The following activities are never allowed for any girl: potentially uncontrolled free-falling (bungee jumping, hang gliding, parachuting, parasailing, and trampolining); creating extreme variations of approved activities (such as high-altitude climbing and aerial tricks on bicycles, skis, snowboards, skateboards, water-skis, and wakeboards); hunting; shooting a projectile at another person; riding all-terrain vehicles and motor bikes; and taking watercraft trips in Class V or higher.
When planning activities with girls, note the abilities of each girl and carefully consider the progression of skills from the easiest part to the most difficult. Make sure the complexity of the activity does not exceed girls’ individual skills—bear in mind that skill levels decline when people are tired, hungry, or under stress. Also use activities as opportunities for building teamwork, which is one of the outcomes for the Connect key in the GSLE.
Health Histories (Including Examinations and Immunizations)
Each council handles health histories differently. The staff at your council office may take care of obtaining and storing girls’ health histories—which may include a physician’s examination and a list of immunizations—as needed. Or, you may be asked to maintain these records for your group. Either way, keep in mind that information from a health examination is confidential and may be shared only with people who must know this information (such as the girl herself, her parent/guardian, and a health practitioner).
For various reasons, some parents/guardians may object to immunizations or medical examinations. Councils must attempt to make provisions for these girls to attend Girl Scout functions in a way that accommodates these concerns.
It is important for you to also be aware of any medications a girl may take or allergies she may have.
- Prescriptions and/or over the counter medications must be in the original container, must never be dispensed without prior written permission and written instructions from a girl’s custodial parent, guardian, or physician.
- The responsible adult must document each dose of medication administered, showing the child’s name, the name of the medicine, date, time, and amount administered, as well as the person’s name administering the medication. The record must be kept at least one year.
- Prescriptions and/or over the counter medications must be administered to a girl by or in the presence of the responsible adult in accordance with the written instructions.
- Common food allergies include dairy products, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, and seafood. This means that, before serving any food (such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies, or chips), ask whether anyone is allergic to peanuts, dairy products, or wheat! Even Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies should be aware of their allergies, but double-checking with their parents/guardians is always a good idea.
Girl Scout Activity Insurances
Every registered Girl Scout and registered adult member in the Girl Scout movement is automatically covered under the basic plan upon registration. The entire premium cost for this protection is borne by Girl Scouts of the USA. The basic plan is effective during the regular fiscal year (October to the following October). Up to 14 months of insurance coverage is provided for new members who register in the month of August. This insurance provides up to a specified maximum for medical expenses incurred as a result of an accident while a member is participating in an approved, supervised Girl Scout activity, after the individual’s primary insurance pays out. This is one reason that all adults and girls should be registered members. Non-registered parents, tagalongs (brothers, sisters, friends), and other persons are not covered by basic coverage.
This insurance coverage is not intended to diminish the need for or replace family health insurance. When $130 in benefits has been paid for covered accident medical or dental expense, any subsequent benefits will be payable only for expenses incurred that aren’t compensable under another insurance policy. If there is no family insurance or healthcare program, a specified maximum of medical benefits is available.
An optional plan of activity insurance is available for Girl Scouts taking extended trips and for non-members who participate in Girl Scout activities. These plans are secondary insurance that a council may offer to cover participants taking part in any council-approved, supervised Girl Scout activity. Optional insurance coverage is available for any Girl Scout activity that involves non-Girl Scouts or lasts longer than three days and two nights. Contact your council to find out how to apply. Your council may make this mandatory, in some cases, particularly for overseas travel.
For more information on Activity Accident Insurance for Troop Activities see GS-TOP council policy in Chapter 6: Policies, Permissions and Insurance
Review the Girl Scouts insurance plan description here.
The Safety Activity Checkpoints for most activities require having an expert on hand to help girls learn an activity. Please remember that all experts must be approved by your council. To make it a bit easier, many councils keep lists of local experts (such as sailing instructors) and facilities (such as rollerskating rinks) they’ve already approved. If your council doesn’t keep these lists, you’ll have to present an expert for the council’s consideration. Some things to keep in mind:
- Does the person have documented training and experience? She or he should have documented experience for the activity in question, such as course completion certificates or cards, records of previous training to instruct the activity, and letters of reference.
- What does she or he need to be able to do? This person should have the knowledge and experience to make appropriate judgments concerning participants, equipment, facilities, safety considerations, supervision, and procedures for the activity. At the very least, he or he should be able to give clear instructions to girls and adults, troubleshoot unexpected scenarios, and respond appropriately in an emergency.