As of April 1, 2017, BSA terminated its Tour Plan trip planning resource. There is no stated replacement.
Since either the Tour Plan or its predecessor Tour Permit procedure have been in place since the 1960s, this is a major decision by BSA to remove one aspect of the risk management planning process available to unit leaders, even if nothing more than a reminder of applicable policies and procedures to be followed in the planning and conduct of an outdoor activity.
BSA identifies the following potential benefits of this change:
- Reduce complexity, cutting back on processes and paperwork for unit leaders
- Increase consistency with the Commitment to Safety, the Guide to Safe Scouting, Risk Assessment Strategy, as well as Camp Standards planning tools,
- Change the conversation, engaging everyone in risk-based planning vs. process, and
- Eliminate processing, freeing staff to focus on membership and removing administrative burden.
Some may quibble regarding whether one or more of the stated benefits overrides the benefit of having the Tour Plan in place but, in the end, the responsibilities of adult volunteers remain unchanged. Unit leaders must continue to assume total responsibility for, and exercise the requisite initiative with respect to, risk management planning for a planned outdoor event.
Indeed, BSA reminds volunteers that while there is no longer any “required [planning] process”, Scouters are reminded “to conduct the Scouting program consistent with BSA rules, regulations, and policies,” to which mention is made in the above link. This includes obtaining permission from parents for participation, obtaining annual physical exams for participants, adhering to safe driving and driver insurance practices, avoiding unauthorized activities, among others. [While there may no longer be any BSA-required planning process, units are still required to undertake a “planning process” sufficient to meet their duty of care toward their participants. The termination of Tour Plans is not a license to avoid following applicable policies and procedures!]
While there is no stated replacement, a new resource “The Adventure Plan” bsatap.org appears to be a new (2016) BSA-sponsored trip planning resource now available to unit leaders. See, a TAP summary here.
Of course, a healthy dose of risk management planning should be incorporated into any TAP planning.
What does this all mean? It means that each unit must have in place procedures to educate its adult volunteers regarding all applicable BSA policies and procedures, and not merely assume that such knowledge is an inherent aspect of being an adult over the age of 21, make sure that its adult volunteers are trained (not merely with respect to the initial training courses of SST and IOLS, but also with respect to Youth Protection, Safe Swim Defense, Safety Afloat, Weather Hazards, Climb on Safely, and Trek Safely), are familiar with the Guide to Safe Scouting, and that the unit has adequate first aid and CPR resources available.
Indeed, the operative word is now “initiative”. An adult volunteer should:
- take the initiative to learn applicable policies and procedures,
- take the initiative to learn or acquire the applicable technical skills,
- take the initiative to learn outdoor leadership skills,
- take the initiative to learn risk assessment skills, and
- take the initiative to gain the experience relative to the desired outdoor activities.
Indeed, a unit can best meet its duty of care toward participants in an outdoor activity by making sure that:
- all unit leaders are technically competent and adequately trained for their position;
- all unit leaders are familiar with and practice outdoor risk management principles;
- all unit leaders are familiar with and practice BSA’s safety rules and regulations, as well as industry-recognized “best practices”, including knowledge of which activities are not approved by BSA;
- all unit leaders provide adequate supervision;
- all participants are given appropriate guidance and are properly trained before engaging in activities;
- Scout participation in an activity is both age- and skill-level appropriate;
- the proposed outdoor activity is appropriate for the expected conditions;
- all participants are fully informed of potential risks and steps taken to manage such risks;
- all parents are fully informed so that informed parental consent may be obtained for their son’s participation; and
- appropriate medical treatment is available for any participant in need of such treatment.
In the end, it is all about being a “qualified supervisor”, who, as stated by the Guide to Safe Scouting, is one who is “sufficiently trained, experienced, and skilled in the activity to be confident of his/her ability to lead and teach the necessary skills, and to respond effectively in the event of an emergency.”