Aquatics Safety

General Information

Take Scouts near any body of water—whether it’s a pool, lake, river, or ocean—and they have a natural desire to go swimming. Once a Scout has learned how to swim, they naturally want to progress into other aquatics activities, including sailing, rowing, canoeing, and rafting. There are plenty of age-appropriate aquatics activities. But before that swim or row, we want everyone to have a plan and be on the same page when it comes to aquatics safety in the BSA program. The two key training prerequisites are Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat. These are not learn-to-swim or learn-to-paddle courses; they are the “Boy Scout way” to conduct a safe and fun aquatics program. Both courses can be found on and taken online anytime. All leaders are encouraged to take the training and at least one adult needs the training when unit aquatics activities are conducted. Upon course completion, leaders should be able to understand the key points of each program.

  • Qualified supervision, personal health review, safe area, response personnel, lookout, ability groups, buddy system, and discipline make up the eight points of the BSA’s Safe Swim Defense.
  • Qualified supervision, personal health review, swimming ability, life jackets, buddy system, skill proficiency, planning, equipment, and discipline make up the nine points of the BSA’s Safety Afloat. Many camps and council aquatics committees offer these basic courses in person, in addition to higher level skill courses for unit leadership including Aquatics Supervision: Swimming & Water Rescue and Paddle Craft Safety. Should older youth or leadership wish to further hone their lifesaving skills, BSA Lifeguard certification is available. This is a "safety moment" that any volunteer can use as part of training or a unit level presentation. You can find more safety moments at

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