Chapter 7 quick links
Volunteer safety responsibilities
Parent/Guardian safety responsibilities
Girl safety responsibilities
Safety Activity Checkpoints
Transporting girls safely
Safety on the Internet
In Girl Scouting, the emotional and physical safety and well-being of girls is always a top priority. Here’s what you need to know.
Adult-to-girl ratios show the minimum number of adults needed to supervise a specific number of girls. These supervision ratios were devised to ensure the safety and health of girls—for example, if one adult has to respond to an emergency, a second adult is always on hand for the rest of the girls.
Any and all adults present on an overnight Girl Scout experience must be a registered volunteer with GSCO and have a current background check in place.
|Group Meetings||Events, Travel, and Camping|
|Two unrelated volunteers (at least one of whom is female) for every:||One additional volunteer to each additional:||Two unrelated volunteers (at least one of whom is female) for this number of girls:||One additional volunteer to each additional:|
|Girl Scout Daisies
|Girl Scout Brownies
|Girl Scout Juniors
|Girl Scout Cadettes
|Girl Scout Seniors
|Girl Scout Ambassadors
Here are some examples on using the chart: If you’re meeting with 17 Daisies, you will need three volunteers, at least two of whom are unrelated (in other words, you and someone who is not your sister, spouse, parent or child), and at least one of whom is female. This is determined as follows: for up to 12 Daisies, you need two volunteers, and one more volunteer for up to six additional Daisies. Since you have 17, you need three volunteers.
The emotional and physical safety and well-being of girls is always a top priority. You, the girls, and the parents/guardians of the girls share the responsibility for staying safe.
1. Follow the Safety Activity Checkpoints. This resource provides instructions for staying safe while participating in various activities. Read the checkpoints and share them with the adults and girls in your group before engaging in activities. Points common to all Safety Activity Checkpoints include:
- Girls plan the activity. Keeping their grade-level abilities in mind, encourage girls to take proactive leadership roles in organizing details of the activity.
- Arrange for proper adult supervision of girls. Your group must have at least two unrelated, approved adult volunteers present at all times, plus additional adult volunteers as necessary (see ratio chart). Adult volunteers must be at least 18 years old, and must be registered members and submit to a background check before volunteering. One leadership volunteer in every group must be female.
- Get parent/guardian permission. For activities outside the normal meeting time and place, advise each parent/guardian of the details of the activity and obtain permission for girls to participate. Find the Parent Permission for Girl Scout Activity at www.girlscoutsofcolorado.org/forms.
- Be prepared for emergencies and compile key contacts. Establish and practice procedures for emergencies related to weather, fire, lost girls/adults, and site security.
- Always have a well-stocked first-aid kit, girl health histories, and parent permission forms with updated emergency contact information.
- Get a weather report. On the morning of the activity, check weather.com or other reliable weather sources to determine if conditions are appropriate. If severe weather conditions prevent the activity, be prepared with a backup plan or alternate activity, and/or postpone the activity. Write, review, and practice evacuation and emergency plans for severe weather with girls. In the event of a storm, take shelter away from tall objects (including trees, buildings, and electrical poles). Find the lowest point in an open flat area. Squat low to the ground on the balls of the feet, and place hands on knees with head between them.
- Use the buddy system. Using the buddy system, girls are divided into teams of two. Each girl is responsible for staying with her buddy at all times, warning her buddy of danger, giving her buddy immediate assistance if safe to do so, and seeking help when the situation warrants it.
2. Report abuse. Sexual advances, improper touching and sexual activity of any kind with girl members, as well as physical, verbal and emotional abuse of girls is strictly forbidden. Follow the guidelines for reporting concerns about abuse or neglect that may be occurring inside or outside of Girl Scouting.
3. Travel safely. When transporting girls to planned Girl Scout field trips and other activities that are outside the normal time and place, every driver must be an adult (21+) with a membership and an approved background check, a valid license, and a registered/insured vehicle. Insist that everyone is in a legal seat and wears her seat belt at all times, and adhere to state laws regarding booster seats and requirements for children in rear seats.
4. Ensure safe overnight outings. Prepare girls to be away from home by involving them in planning, so they know what to expect. Males should have a separate sleeping area (such as tent, tabin, or separate room). Groups should have access to either a separate restroom or troops should bring a sign to indicate the gender using the restroom at that time. It is not mandatory that an adult sleep in the sleeping area (tent, cabin, or designated area) with the girls, but if an adult female does share the sleeping area, there should always be two unrelated adult females present. During family or parent-daughter overnights, one family unit may sleep in the same sleeping quarters. When parents are staffing events, daughters should remain in quarters with other girls rather than in adult areas. Overnight Trips training is required before your first overnight activity.
5. Role-model the right behavior. GSCO expects volunteers to be fully capable of performing their duties. While volunteering, it is not permitted to be under the influence of any substance, including marijuana, which may impair physical and/or mental skills. Don’t consume alcohol, smoke, or use foul language in the presence of girls. Do not carry ammunition or firearms in the presence of girls unless given special permission by your council for group marksmanship activities.
6. Create an emotionally safe space. Adults are responsible for making Girl Scouting a place where girls are as safe emotionally as they are physically. Protect the emotional safety of girls by creating a Group Agreement and coaching girls to honor it. Group Agreements typically encourage behaviors like respecting a diversity of feelings and opinions, resolving conflicts constructively, and avoiding physical and verbal bullying, clique behavior, and discrimination.
7. Ensure that no girl is treated differently. Girl Scouts welcomes all members, regardless of race, ethnicity, background, disability, family structure, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic status. When scheduling, helping plan, and carrying out activities, carefully consider the needs of all girls involved, including school schedules, family needs, financial constraints, religious holidays, and the accessibility of appropriate transportation and meeting places.
8. Promote online safety. Instruct girls never to put their full names or contact information online, engage in virtual conversation with strangers, or arrange in person meetings with online contacts. On group websites, never divulge girl’s contact information. Review the Computer/Online Use: Safety Activity Checkpoints, and teach girls the Girl Scout Online Safety Pledge here, www.girlscouts.org/help/internet_safety_pledge.asp.
9. Keep girls safe during money-earning activities. Girl Scout Cookie sale program and other council-sponsored product programs are an integral part of the program. During Girl Scout product sale programs, you are responsible for the safety of girls, money, and products. In addition, a wide variety of organizations, causes, and fundraisers may appeal to Girl Scouts to be their labor force. When representing Girl Scouts, girls cannot participate in money earning activities that represent partisan politics or that are not Girl Scout–approved product programs and efforts.
You want to engage each parent or guardian to help you work toward ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of girls. Clearly communicate to parents and guardians that they are expected to:
- Provide permission for their daughters to participate in Girl Scouting.
- Provide additional consent for activities that take place outside the scheduled meeting place, involve overnight travel, involve the use of special equipment, and/or cover sensitive issues.
- Make provisions for their daughters to get to and from meeting places in a timely manner.
- Inform you if someone other than the parent or guardian will drop or pick up the child.
- Provide girls with appropriate clothing and equipment for activities, or ask for help doing so.
- Follow Girl Scout safety guidelines and encourage their children to do the same.
- Assist you in planning and carrying out program activities as safely as possible.
- Participate in parent/guardian information meetings.
- Be aware of appropriate behavior expected of their girls.
- Assist volunteers if their girls have special needs or abilities and their help is solicited.
Girls who learn about and practice safe and healthy behaviors are likely to establish lifelong habits of safety consciousness. For that reason, every Girl Scout is expected to:
- Assist you and other volunteers in safety planning.
- Listen to and follow your instructions and suggestions.
- Learn and practice safety skills.
- Learn to “think safety” at all times and to be prepared.
- Identify and evaluate an unsafe situation.
- Know how, when, and where to get help when needed.
Each set of Safety Activity Checkpoints offers information on:
- where to do the activity
- how to include girls with disabilities
- where to find both basic and specialized gear required
- how to prepare yourselves for the activity
- what specific steps to follow on the day of the activity.
The checkpoints are formatted as checklists, so that you and the girls can check off each step. If checkpoints do not exist for your activity, contact your volunteer support specialist before finalizing plans.
Experts are required by Safety Activity Checkpoints for most activities to help girls learn. Girl Scouts of Colorado relies on our volunteers to determine the experience and role an expert will play.
• 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, she or he should b e able to give clear instructions to girls and adults, troubleshoot unexpected scenarios and respond appropriately in an emergency.
How can you, as a Girl Scout volunteer, determine whether an activity is safe and appropriate for Girl Scouts? Good judgment and common sense often dictate the answer. What’s safe in one circumstance may not be safe in another. Prior to any activity, read the specific Safety Activity Checkpoint related to any activity you plan to do with girls.
If you are uncertain about the safety of an activity, contact your volunteer support specialist for guidance. 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. 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 discuss your plans with a council staff member for girls ages 12 and older who will:
• Use firearms for target shooting (see Sport Shooting Safety Activity Checkpoints)
• Take trips on waterways that are highly changeable or uncontrollable (See Whitewater Rafting Safety Activity Checkpoints)
CAUTION: When activities involve unpredictable safety variables, they are not recommended as Girl Scout program activities. These include but are not limited to:
- Bungee jumping
- Flying in privately owned plane, helicopters or blimps
- Hang gliding
- Untethered hot-air ballooning
- Jet skiing or using WaveRunners
- Riding a motorbike
- Using outdoor trampolines
- Paintball tagging
- Riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs)
- Stunt skiing
How parents decide to transport girls between their homes and Girl Scout meeting places is each parent’s individual decision and responsibility.
For planned Girl Scout field trips and other activities (outside the normal meeting time and place) in which a group will be transported in private vehicles keep in mind the following:
- Every driver must be an approved volunteer at least 21 years old, have a good driving record, a valid license and a registered/insured vehicle.
- Girls never drive other girls.
- All state laws must be followed.
- If a group is traveling in more than one vehicle, the entire group must consist of at least two unrelated, approved adult volunteers, one of whom is female, and the girl-volunteer ratios in the “Knowing How Many Volunteers You Need” section must be followed. Care should be taken so that a single car is not separated from the group for an extended length of time.
Private transportation includes private passenger vehicles, rental cars, privately owned or rented recreational vehicles and campers, chartered buses, chartered boats and chartered flights. Each driver of motorized private transportation must be at least 21 years old and hold a valid operator’s license appropriate to the vehicle. In addition, state laws must be followed, even if they are more stringent than the guidelines here.
Anyone who is driving a vehicle with 12 or more passengers must be a professional driver who possesses a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Note, you must check with council to determine specific rules about renting large vehicles. Fifteen passenger vans are not recommended.
Please keep in mind the following non-negotiable points regarding private transportation:
- Obtain parent/guardian permission for any use of transportation outside of the meeting place.
- If you will be renting a vehicle, read all rental agreements to be sure you comply with their terms and avoid surprises. For example, in many cases the minimum age of drivers is 25, and the maximum age is often under 70. In addition, make sure the car is adequately insured and you know who is responsible for damage to, or loss of, the vehicle. Finally, ensure you have a good paper trail that shows the vehicle rental is Girl Scout–related.
- Obtain parent/guardian permission for any use of transportation outside of the meeting place.
Checklist for drivers
When driving a car, RV or camper, take the following precautions and ask all other drivers to do the same:
- Ensure all drivers are registered, background-checked approved volunteers at least 21 years old.
- Girls should not be transporting other girls.
- Never transport girls in flatbed or panel trucks, in the bed of a pickup, or in a camper-trailer.
- Keep directions and a road map in the car, along with a first-aid kit and a flashlight.
- Check your lights, signals, tires, windshield wipers, horns and fluid levels before each trip, and recheck them periodically on long trips.
- Keep all necessary papers up to date including, but not limited to: your driver’s license, vehicle registration, any state or local inspections, and insurance coverage.
- Wear your seat belt at all times, and insist that all passengers do the same. Girls under 12 must ride in the back seat.
- Follow all the established rules of the road in your state, including the speed limit. Some additional guidelines include: keeping a two-car-length distance between you and the car ahead of you, not talking or texting on a cell phone or other personal electronic device while driving, not using ear buds or headphones while driving, and turning your lights on when your windshield wipers are on.
- Plan rest stops every few hours and avoid driving for extended periods at night. If traveling with others, prearrange stopping places along the way. When planning longer trips, arrange for relief drivers.
- Do NOT drive when you are tired or taking medication that makes you drowsy.
Keep these items in the car:
- Map and directions
- First aid kit and flashlight
- Parent Permission and Health History forms for each girl
Troop/group leaders are expected to maintain health history records for the group. To download important health forms, start here www.girlscoutsofcolorado.org/forms .
Note: Heath history, address and contact details of girls are confidential. Please keep this information in a safe place.
It is important for you to be aware of any medications a girl may take or allergies she may have. Keep in mind the following
- Medication, including over-the-counter products, must never be dispensed without prior written permission from a girl’s custodial parent or guardian (Medication Permission form).
- 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. Do this even if you are aware of which girls have specific allergies! Even Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies should be aware of their allergies but double-checking with them and their parents/guardians is always a good idea.
All adult volunteers with the troop also need to complete an adult health history form. They could have a chronic condition or allergies or medications that others need to be aware of.
The supplemental insurance arranged by Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) through Mutual of Omaha provides basic medical coverage for injuries and sickness (depending on the coverage selected) for participants at Girl Scout hosted activities and travel. There are two situations in which this supplemental insurance is required:
• Non-member participation in Girl Scout activities: Any time a non-registered adult (parent or other adult) and/or child (male or female not currently a Girl Scout member) participates. This requirement includes siblings. (Events such as Me & My Guy or a bowling activity with members and non-members participating are examples.)
• Extended travel: All travel three nights or more in length, no matter Girl Scout membership status.
In both circumstances insurance is purchased on a per person, per day basis. GSUSA has established low-cost supplemental insurance coverage through United of Omaha. In the event of an accidental injury, the individual’s personal insurance provides primary coverage and the Mutual of Omaha plans provide secondary coverage. Girl Scouts of Colorado provides no additional coverage for non-members in event of an accident outside of these plans.
Girl Scout Activity Insurance
Every registered Girl Scout and registered volunteer member in the Girl Scout movement is automatically covered under the basic Mutual of Omaha Activity Insurance plan upon registration. The entire premium cost for this protection is borne by Girl Scouts of the USA, and the basic plan is effective during the regular fiscal year (October 1 to the following September 30). 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. This is one reason why all volunteers and girls should be registered members. It is important to remember that non-registered parents, tagalongs (brothers, sisters, and friends) and other persons are not covered by the basic plan.
This insurance coverage is not intended to diminish the need for, or replace existing, family health insurance. Mutual of Omaha will work with the family’s health insurance to determine the amount of any benefits for expenses incurred that aren’t covered under another insurance policy.
An optional Activity Insurance plan is available for Girl Scouts taking extended trips (longer than three days and two nights) and for non-members who participate in Girl Scout activities. These optional plans are secondary insurance that a council may offer to cover participants taking part in any council-approved, supervised Girl Scout activity. Contact your volunteer support specialist to find out how to apply. In some cases, council may make this insurance mandatory, particularly for overseas travel.
How to obtain insurance
Upon completion of the trip notification form, volunteers will be contacted with next steps to complete insurance purchase. If you have additional questions please contact Girl Scouts of Colorado at 303-778-8774. http://www.girlscoutsofcolorado.org/en/for-volunteers/forms-and-resources/trip-notification.html
• Know what to report. See the “Procedures for Accidents” section.
• Establish and practice procedures for weather emergencies, fire evacuation, lost persons, etc. You and the girls can design a fire evacuation plan for meeting places used by the group.
• Assemble a well-stocked first-aid kit that is always accessible. First-aid administered in the first few minutes can mean the difference between life and death. In an emergency, secure professional medical assistance as soon as possible by calling 911.
First Aid and CPR
For many activities, it is recommended that at least one adult volunteer be first-aid/CPR certified. Safety Activity Checkpoints will tell you when a first-aider needs to be present.
Creating a safe environment for girls is important, so first-aid and CPR training is an acceptable use of group funds. American Red Cross, National Safety Council, EMP America, and American Heart Association provide many training opportunities. (GSCO offers first aid training on a limited basis.)
Take child CPR if you’re working with younger girls and adult CPR if you’re working with older girls and adults. First-aid/CPR training that is available entirely online does not satisfy GSCO requirements.
A first-aider is an adult volunteer who has taken first aid and CPR training. Healthcare providers such as physicians, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, paramedics, military medics, and emergency medical technicians may also serve as first-aiders.
First aid requirements are based on the remoteness of the activity. It’s important that you or another volunteer with your group has the necessary medical experience (including knowledge of evacuation techniques) to ensure group safety. The levels of first aid required for any activity take into account both how much danger is involved and emergency medical services (EMS) response time.
|Access to EMS||Minimum Level of First Aid Required|
|Less than 30 minutes||First Aid|
|More than 30 minutes||Wilderness First Aid (WFA) or Wilderness First Responder (WFR)*|
It is important to understand the differences between a first aid course, and a wilderness-rated course. Although standard first aid training provides basic incident response, wilderness-rated courses include training on remote-assessment skills, as well as the emergency first aid response, including evacuation techniques, to use when Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is not readily available.
The presence of a first-aider is required for large events of 200 people or more. There should be one first-aider for every 200 participants.
First Aid Kit
Make sure a first aid kit is available for all Girl Scout meetings and activities (including transportation to and from the activity). You can purchase a first aid kit or your group can assemble one. American Red Cross offers a list of potential items in its Anatomy of a First Aid Kit.
The suggested list includes aspirin, which you may not give to girls without direct parent/guardian permission. Customize your kit to cover your specific needs, including flares, treatments for frostbite or snake bites, and the like.
In addition to standard materials, all kits should contain an Emergency Plan wallet card.
Download the Emergency Plan Wallet Card at www.girlscoutsofcolorado.org/forms.
Girl Scout activity insurance forms, parent permission forms, and health histories may also be included.
Procedures for Accidents
Always have on hand the names and telephone numbers of council staff, parents/guardians, and emergency services such as the police, fire department, or hospital emergency technicians.
Download the Emergency Plan Wallet Card at www.girlscoutsofcolorado.org/forms.
Follow these steps, in order, when an incident occurs:
1. Determine extent of injury and give appropriate first aid, as qualified.
2. Call for emergency help – police, fire department or hospital as appropriate. Dial 911 (Call police in the event of a motor vehicle accident.)
3. Move non-injured people away from the scene as appropriate.
4. In the event of a fatality or serious accident, always notify police. Retain a responsible adult at the scene. Ensure the victim and surroundings are not disturbed until police assume authority.
5. Notify Girl Scouts of Colorado of the incident. During business hours, call 877-404-5708. After hours, call the emergency answering service at 877-425-4886. After receiving a report of an accident, Girl Scouts of Colorado staff will immediately arrange for additional assistance at the scene, if needed, and will notify parents/guardians, as appropriate.
6. Complete an Accident–Illness–Injury Report form and submit within 48 hours.
Download the form at www.girlscoutsofcolorado.org/forms.
Speak only to the police or proper authorities. Do not call the media and do not make statements to them. Do not make any statements or release any names. Do not place any blame or accept liability. Do not sign any statements or reports, except for the police and your insurance company. Please share insurance information with the other party.
Refer all media inquiries to the communications staff: 303-607-4844.
Here’s your tool to guide an online safety discussion with your girls -the Girl Scouts Online Safety Pledge: www.girlscouts.org/help/internet_safety_pledge.asp. Consider providing a copy of the pledge for girls to review and sign with parents!
Girls must understand that the Internet is an open means of communication that anyone can access – let’s help them learn how to stay safe while enjoying all the Internet has to offer!
• Girls should only use their first names online. They should never use or provide their last name, address, phone number or email address.
• The Annual Parent Permission Form allows parents the opportunity to give permission to use pictures of the girls in your troop. All forms can be accessed at www.girlscoutsofcolorado.org/forms.
• Do not allow automatic posting of messages to a website – monitor and approve all postings to social media and guest books.
• Ensure that websites do not show the personal email addresses of your girls – use a troop, group or adult’s email!
Safety in Technology Based Product Programs
Girl Scouts use the Internet for a variety of reasons including the online marketing and sale of approved Girl Scout related products. Below are some key points to keep in mind for all online activities:
- Girls must read, understand and accept the Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge, prior to conducting any online sales or marketing activities, which is available at the end of the Safety Activity Checkpoints.
- Girls may send e‐mail messages to alert friends and family about product programs and accept customer orders via email.
- Social media sites may be used to market product program to friends and family, however, all applicable GSUSA and council guidelines must be followed.
- Girls writing product e‐mails or announcements online should sign with their first names only, their troop/group number or name and their council name.
- Personal e‐mails or street addresses of girls should never be used. Instead, use one of the following:
- A blind return address account where the girls’ name or personal e‐mail is not revealed to the customer and is instead hosted on a secure site
- A group account, monitored by a volunteer
- A volunteer’s e‐mail account, which is supervised by that volunteer
- Marketing on the internet for the Girl Scout Cookie Program and Fall Product Program should be to friends and family only.
- For clarity purposes friends and family are people that the girl or her family knows personally.
- Marketing on the Internet should always be girl led with supervision and oversight of parents or caretakers.
- The Girl Scout Cookie Program is a girl led program, friends and family of the girl should not market or share girl contact information and sales links
- Internet sales transactions are approved for friends and family only on the following platforms: Fall Program Vendor Sites (QSP, M2, Trophy and Ashdon), Digital Cookie Program
Girls may only post about their participation with Digital Cookie on social media sites that allow them to restrict access to only friends and family (e.g. Facebook but not Craigslist or other unmonitored sites).
- Parents/guardians must approve the content of a girl’s Digital Cookie site before it goes live.
- For girls under 13 years old, a parent/caregiver must also manage the girl’s Digital Cookie Site and be responsible for all content and approvals.
For additional information and guidance please attend Product Program trainings and see the Girl Scout Cookie/Council-Sponsored Product Programs: Safety Activity Checkpoints, and Computer/Online Use: Safety Activity Checkpoints.