Safety Activity Checkpoints (SAC) provides the standard safety guidelines for Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) and Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes approved activities.
GSUSA, local councils, and other units holding a credential—including USA Girl Scouts Overseas (USAGSO)—shall be responsible for seeing that all activities are planned and carried out in a manner that considers the health, safety, and general well-being of all participants in accordance with these standard safety guidelines.
Throughout Safety Activity Checkpoints, several individual activities, such as Paddling and Rowing, Climbing and Adventure, and Target Sports, are categorized under related sections to provide continuity as well as grade level and skill progression information.
In this section, Introduction: Standard Safety Guidelines, you will find GSUSA’s standard safety guidelines, by topic, which apply to all Girl Scout activities. Please read and become familiar with all topics in this section.
Standard Safety Guidelines are to be used in conjunction with the specific, individual activity’s safety checkpoints along with reasonable common-sense adjustments to ensure a safe and positive experience for Girl Scout members. The intent of providing these standard safety guidelines is to establish a checklist for success and to foster confident leadership.
The adult supervision rule at Girl Scouts is a strict standard that requires that whenever girls meet, either in person or virtually, there must be at least two registered, approved adult volunteers who are unrelated (for example: not a sibling, spouse, domestic partner, parent, child, or anyone who would be considered a family member) and who do not live in the same residence, with a minimum of one who is female. Troop leaders must always be adults. Youth or youth members are not permitted to substitute for adult supervision. This rule applies to every Girl Scout gathering including troop meetings (in person and virtual), day trips, camp, sleep away travel, events, activities, and projects. There are no exceptions to this rule.
There are specific adult-to-girl ratio requirements for Girl Scout troop meetings as compared to events outside of the regular Girl Scout troop meeting, such as outings, activities, camping, and travel. Activities and travel outside of the regular troop meeting require more adult supervision.
The adult-to-girl ratio for Troop Meetings means a minimum of two registered, approved, adult volunteers who are unrelated, including one female, must be present at troop meetings for up to this number of girls:
- 12 Girl Scout Daisies
- 20 Girl Scout Brownies
- 25 Girl Scout Juniors
- 25 Girl Scout Cadettes
- 30 Girl Scout Seniors
- 30 Girl Scout Ambassadors
With one extra registered, approved, adult volunteer for every additional:
- 1–6 Girl Scout Daisies
- 1–8 Girl Scout Brownies
- 1–10 Girl Scout Juniors
- 1–12 Girl Scout Cadettes
- 1–15 Girl Scout Seniors
- 1–15 Girl Scout Ambassadors
The adult-to-girl ratio for outings, activities, camping, and travel means a minimum of two registered, approved, adult volunteers who are unrelated, including one female, must be present for up to this number of girls:
- 6 Girl Scout Daisies
- 12 Girl Scout Brownies
- 16 Girl Scout Juniors
- 20 Girl Scout Cadettes
- 24 Girl Scout Seniors
- 24 Girl Scout Ambassadors
With one extra registered, approved, adult volunteer for every additional:
- 1–4 Girl Scout Daisies
- 1–6 Girl Scout Brownies
- 1–8 Girl Scout Juniors
- 1–10 Girl Scout Cadettes
- 1–12 Girl Scout Seniors
- 1–12 Girl Scout Ambassadors
Some high-adventure activities may require more adult-to-girl supervision than stated above. For those activities, the individual activity’s safety activity checkpoints will provide the specific adult-to-girl supervision ratios. Remember, some activities are less safe for younger members, particularly Daisies and Brownies. Younger Girl Scout members may not be permitted to participate based on their age, as appropriate, and this will be specified on the individual activity’s safety activity checkpoints. In cases where younger girl participation is an option, but only under certain conditions, this is indicated on the first page of the individual activity’s safety activity checkpoints.
Note: For mixed-grade level troops (Multi-Level Troops), always use the adult-to-girl ratio for the lowest grade level in the troop. For example, if the troop consists of Daisies and Brownies, the Daisy adult-to-girl ratio should be followed.
Council Approval Requirement. On the first page of each individual activity’s safety activity checkpoints, you will see a field indicating whether your Girl Scout council requires you to have prior council approval to perform the activity. Council prior approval is required for those activities that are rated as high risk by Girl Scouts’ national insurance carriers. A council may approve an activity once for the duration of the year or require individual approval each time the activity takes place. This is a council decision as local norms and laws vary from state to state. The three council approval requirement types are:
- Required. You must check with your Girl Scout council for prior approval before taking girls.
- Not Required. You do not need to check with your Girl Scout council for prior approval.
- May Be Required. Your Girl Scout council will determine if prior approval is required.
Activities Not Listed in Safety Activity Checkpoints. In a challenging, learn-by-doing environment like Girl Scouts, it is only natural that Girl Scout members will sometimes want to take part in activities that are not specifically addressed in Safety Activity Checkpoints. If safety checkpoints are not provided for a specific activity in Safety Activity Checkpoints the first step is always to contact your Girl Scout council to make sure your council approves of the activity.
Be sure to have a plan or process in place for addressing and handling requests for activities that are not specifically listed in Safety Activity Checkpoints. When considering activities not specifically listed in Safety Activity Checkpoints:
- Consult with your Girl Scout council for clarification and approval before taking girls. Your Girl Scout council may or may not permit the activity. If your council does approve the activity, they may direct you to a specific vendor or facility or advise you to stay away from other vendors or facilities.
- Investigate whether the activity is similar to another activity and if the safety activity checkpoints for that activity can easily translate and apply to an approved activity, then follow those checkpoints.
- Consider whether the proposed activity requires any additional expert supervision or special certification for the instructor.
- As with approved activities, think about the quality of the experience in terms of how participation ties to Girl Scouts Five Outcomes, the long-term positive outcomes Girl Scout members receive in Girl Scouting.
Selecting an activity to do with Girl Scout members. When considering what types of activities to do with girls, whether specifically listed in Safety Activity Checkpoints or not, be thoughtful and intentional when selecting the activity and be mindful of the long-term positive outcomes that Girl Scout members receive through Girl Scouting. Think about how participating in the activity ties to at least one of Girl Scouts Five Outcomes. Girl Scouts has proven to help girls thrive in 5 ways:
Strong Sense of Self
Girls have confidence in themselves and their abilities and form positive identities.
Girls act ethically, honestly, and responsibly and show concern for others.
Girls take appropriate risks, try things even though they might fail and learn from their mistakes.
Girls develop and maintain healthy relationships by communicating their feelings directly and resolving conflict constructively.
Community Problem Solving
Girls contribute to the world in purposeful and meaningful ways, learn how to identify problems in the community, and create “action plans” to solve them.
Activities chosen should work towards intentionally helping Girl Scout members be successful in these key areas. As part of the planning process, consider how and why the activity selected connects to Girl Scouts Five Outcomes. Make it girl led by sharing these outcomes with them and engaging them in the activity selection and planning process.
The health and safety of our members is always Girl Scouts’ highest priority. Recognize that COVID-19 health and safety guidance will continue to evolve as the risk of coronavirus transmission changes over time.
Being prepared to adjust for changes in coronavirus risk and the federal, state, and local protocols concerning pandemic safety is something we will all need to continue to manage carefully and factor into plans as appropriate.
Recognize that state and local rules concerning coronavirus safety will vary from place to place. Safety regulations will also change as the risk of transmission changes. Be sure to stay current on what is required in your region but also consider that troop members may reside in different areas with different sets of safety parameters to abide by. A good way to ensure you are following the proper government guidance is to follow the practices as established in local public schools.
Girl Scouts has provided COVID-19 guidance specific to the topics that touch our lives in Girl Scouts. Your Girl Scout council’s COVID-19 guidance is the first place to go for health and safety practices in Girl Scouting.
COUNCIL NOTE: Review the GSNWGL COVID-19 guidance www.gsnwgl.org
Remember, always make sure that your planned activity complies with all federal, state, and local government health authorities at your locations and also where the activity will take place. For a variety of reasons during a pandemic, there may be situations where your council’s guidance is more strict than state or local guidance. If that is the case, either choose the rules that are most strict or contact your Girl Scout council for clarification.
Some basic coronavirus safety and health protocols that have been issued by the Center of Disease Control (CDC) and are practiced in Girl Scouts include:
- Wearing a mask (and making sure youth members wear a mask) where mandated and/or appropriate.
- Practicing good hygiene by washing or disinfecting hands frequently.
- Reminding youth and adult members about social distancing when in public and with each other.
- Focusing on scheduling activities outdoors instead of indoors whenever possible.
- Pre-screening for no symptoms, fever, or sustained contact with a COVID-19 positive person.
- Requesting a youth or adult member who is exhibiting symptoms of being sick to not participate and not return until they are no longer sick.
- Remember—if a youth or adult member knows that they have been in close and sustained contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, make sure that they comply with the appropriate quarantine period pursuant to the CDC before attending Girl Scout meetings or activities.
The CDC provides regular updates on their website which can be accessed here: CDC Coronavirus Updates (COVID-19) | CDC.
GSUSA strongly encourages adult volunteers who are able, and who qualify in their home state, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but it is not a requirement to participate in Girl Scouts. However, since state laws vary, contact your council to confirm its COVID-19 vaccination policy as it relates to adult volunteers.
COUNCIL NOTE: Review the GSNWGL COVID-19 guidance http://www.gsnwgl.org
Keeping to the Girl Scout motto, “Be Prepared,” proper preparation is the key to success. An important thing to consider, before taking Girl Scout members on a trip or to an activity, is an Emergency Action Plan (EAP). Volunteers can review their troop’s EAP with girls as a learning experience for them, to the extent it makes sense according to their age and maturity.
For the adult volunteer, it is important to think about and document an EAP for troop meetings and activities to ensure you are prepared in the event of an accident or injury. When creating an EAP, think through scenarios of what can go wrong. such as physical injury, severe weather, fire, intruder, missing person, or sudden illness. This basic step is invaluable. The key elements included in an effective risk management plan are:
Identify the type of emergency.
- Medical: a member becomes suddenly ill.
- Accidental Injury: a member is hurt during an activity.
- Weather related crisis or challenging environment as with backpacking. Always pay attention to weather so that the activity can be rescheduled if there is a severe storm or weather-related risk.
- Fire, become aware of all entrances and exits, and alternative exit routes.
- Missing or lost member.
Mitigate and minimize the damage, injury, or time element in seeking help. Make sure to know how far the activity is from the nearest Emergency Medical Service (EMS).
- If EMS is more than 30 minutes away, GSNWGL requires a General First Aider to be present with Girl Scout members. At GSNWGL, an Advanced First Aider is suggested, preferably with Wilderness First Aid (WFA) or Wilderness First Responder (WFR) credentials.
- If EMS is less than 30 minutes away, GSNWGL recommends a General First Aider should be present with Girl Scout members.
- If more than 200 people at an event, an Advanced First Aider should be added to the General First Aider for every 200 girls.
- Make sure emergency response vehicles can access the area where the activity is being held. If an emergency vehicle cannot access the site, notify either local EMS, park services, or other authorities ahead of time and tell them where you will be, what you will be doing, and how many members are with you.
Respond. Having confirmed the properly trained first aiders are present:
- Immediately engage the first aider to the accident scene involving an illness, accident, or injury.
- Notify and coordinate the arrival of emergency medical services or law enforcement.
- Contact all relevant parties:
- parents or legal guardians,
- council staff,
- law enforcement, and
- property owner or facility manager.
- Contact List. A chart, table, or simple list for all participants, including adults, with parent and legal guardian contact phone numbers as well as key emergency phone numbers, in addition to 911, such as the nearest hospital, medical center, law enforcement office or emergency transportation.
- Roles and Responsibilities. A pre-determined and established emergency role assignments showing who does what in the event of an emergency. For example, the leader stays with Girl Scout members while the co-leader calls for help and coordinates the arrival of emergency services and notifies the parents, or vice versa. Agree on this ahead of time so that you are calm and prepared if the worst occurs. Also think through what you will do if the injured person is one of the adults.
- Exit Strategy. Become aware of all emergency exits and/or evacuation plans beforehand. Identify and communicate alternative exit routes with all present.
- Meeting Place. Determine and communicate a pre-agreed upon meeting place (designated spot) in the event the group becomes separated, or a Girl Scout member should become lost.
- Communication Method. Have a method of emergency communication that works. If camping or backpacking, consider a whistle or horn as an emergency call out. Make sure to inform Girl Scout members that this is the sound of an emergency. When they hear this sound, they know to go to the designated spot. If there is cell service at the activity site, save all contact names and numbers, including those for the appropriate authorities, in your mobile phones before the activity takes place.
Activity Preparation. Communicate with your Girl Scout council and girls’ parents/guardians about the activity, including details about safety precautions and any appropriate clothing or supplies that may be necessary. Follow council procedures for activity approval, certificates of insurance, and guidelines about girls’ general health examinations. Girls are key to activity planning. Keeping their grade level abilities in mind, encourage them to take proactive leadership roles in organizing details of the activity.
Review Safety Activity Checkpoints with Instructors. Standard Safety Guidelines and the individual activity’s safety activity checkpoints should be reviewed with the vendor, facility, camp, or your Girl Scout council as appropriate to determine if the safety checkpoints can be complied with. Take any questions or issues with safety compliance to your Girl Scout council for guidance and next steps.
Itinerary and Key Contacts. Give an itinerary to a contact person at home. Call the contact person upon departure and return. Create a list that includes Girl Scout members’ parent/guardian contact information, council contacts, and emergency services contacts. Keep this list on hand or post in an easily accessible location. Emergency and parent contact information should be saved to an adult’s mobile phone on the trip and be provided to the contact person at home.
Safety Gear. Safety gear includes clothing and equipment members will need to safely take part in the activity. These items are necessary to ensure safety. Always opt to take the safety equipment offered by an organization or facility, even if it is not specifically listed in the individual activity’s safety activity checkpoints. If the facility offers helmets, always accept the use of helmets, and have members wear them.
Required Gear. Required gear simply means activity specific gear necessary to participate in the activity. For example, for skiing, members will need skis, boots, and poles, or otherwise plan for rental equipment.
Additional Gear. Additional gear may include items that support a safe and healthy outdoor learning experience. These are items that often make the experience more comfortable. Recommended items, based on Girl Scout experience, include:
- layers of clothing for wintertime or activities on or by the water or mountains, where temperatures or wind can change dramatically within a short period of time,
- sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, sun visor, lip balm,
- change of clothes for water related activities or those involving dirt or mud, such as spelunking,
- comfortable shoes and socks if hiking or spending long days outside in order to prevent ticks and blisters,
- watch, compass, and map(s),
- insect repellent,
- towels for waterfront, pool, and paddling activities,
- bottle of drinking water, healthy snacks, and
- backpacks (Girl Scout members carry their own gear and supplies).
Always take additional gear into consideration when planning an outdoor activity or trip in addition to the safety gear required for the specific activity.
Instructor Credibility. Verify instructor knowledge, experience, and maturity. Ensure the volunteers or onsite instructors possess the proper skills, knowledge, training, and certification, or documented experience required to meet your council’s guidelines and as outlined in the individual activity’s safety activity checkpoints for the approved activity.
With respect to instructing and safeguarding children, maturity level and years of experience can positively impact the support needed for volunteers to safeguard Girl Scout members. For example, while the legal definition of an adult lifeguard is 18, qualified lifeguards of 21 years of age are preferred whenever possible.
Visiting and Participating Adults. Occasionally, friends and family members join Girl Scout outings or trips, or experts in a subject may be invited to troop meetings to help work on badges. Verify with your Girl Scout council any specific requirements when adults attend Girl Scout gatherings such as background checks for participating adults or episodic volunteers including specific background check requirements for adults who will regularly or periodically attend Girl Scout gatherings, have shared oversight over members, participate in an overnight stay, handle money, or drive youth members.
General Insurance. Commercial general liability insurance protects the Girl Scout organization. The facility or vendor that hosts your troop event (for example, a riding stable, a hotel, or a bus company) should carry general liability insurance and auto liability insurance when motor vehicles are involved. A facility that carries valid general liability insurance has almost always been examined for risk by its insurance carrier. If a facility or vendor does not carry general liability insurance, it’s a red flag. It may not be safe, so it would be best to select another facility or vendor.
When your Girl Scout council requires you to provide documented evidence of insurance, ask the facility for a certificate of insurance for your records. Be aware that some places either do not or cannot provide a certificate of insurance to all customers, only provide a certificate of insurance when a group is very large, or if the group plans to pay a certain amount in advance. Still, the conversation will give you an idea of whether the facility is adequately insured, and you can consult your council representative for next steps.
When planning to use a written contract with a facility or when considering a new vendor, remember to consult with your Girl Scout council for the proper insurance requirements and to see if your council uses an approved vendor list. Check to confirm the certificate of insurance you will be obtaining validates the insurance limits outlined in your contract or agreement before submitting a contract to your council for signature.
Activity Accident Insurance. Activity accident insurance is supplemental health insurance that protects registered Girl Scout members. Registered members are automatically covered under activity accident insurance when participating in all Girl Scout events and activities including trips that involve two (or less) overnight stays.
Important. The Basic Plan does not cover trips of more than two overnight stays. Trips that are three overnights or more are not covered under automatic activity accident insurance. Also, non-members are not automatically covered persons and international trips are not automatically covered trips. Additional activity accident insurance must be individually purchased for coverage under these scenarios. In simple terms, you will need to purchase extra activity accident insurance for outings and events that:
- involve three or more overnight stays,
- take place outside U.S. territory, or
- include non-members, such as siblings and friends.
COUNCIL NOTE: When planning activities and trips, consult the Field Trips & Travel pages on the council website to find specific council guidance and forms, including the Plan 2, Plan 3E, or Plan 3PI insurance forms.
Leave No Trace. Girl Scouts has a long tradition of leaving an area better than we found it. Search the web for tips on environmental responsibility and remember our principle of Leave No Trace. Doing so will teach Girl Scout members responsibility and safeguard your troop and local Girl Scout council from complications or issues involving the use of public property.
Emergency Preparation. Familiarize yourself with basic first aid, emergency response requirements, and other precautions. Know how far away and where emergency medical and law enforcement services are located. Understand your surroundings in relation to the closest medical facility or hospital. Also, familiarize yourself with the forms of emergency communication and emergency transportation options that are available.
Weather Conditions. Always monitor the weather in the days preceding an activity or trip. Check the local weather report on the day of the trip. For circumstances in which forecasted weather could be a risk to safety, consider scheduling alternatives and options. In the case of severe wind, lightning, hail, ice, snowstorm, flood warnings due to heavy rain, or a hurricane or tropical storm, make contingency plans for itineraries and transportation. Reschedule the event if the weather report is severe. Adhere to public safety announcements concerning staying indoors or evacuating the area. In extremely hot weather, do outdoor activities in the morning and late afternoon hours and, during the hottest time of day, stay in a shaded area or inside with air conditioning. On extremely hot days, it is important to plan for easy access to plenty of drinking water to prevent heat exhaustion and dehydration. If extreme weather or temperature conditions prevent a trip, be prepared with a backup plan or alternative activity.
Buddy System. For trips and activities, it is helpful for members of similar age to pair up as partners. Each Girl Scout member is responsible for staying with their buddy throughout a trip or activity. A buddy can warn their partner of danger, lend a helping hand, or get immediate assistance when the situation warrants it. All Girl Scout members are encouraged to stay near the group so if someone is injured or not feeling well, there are others, including an adult, close by to seek help.
Permission Slips. Annual permission slips are parental or legal guardian consent forms for attendance at regular troop meetings throughout the year. If annual permissions are practiced in your council, in addition to specific activity permission slips, volunteers should keep copies of all permission forms for all Girl Scout members.
Day Trips and Activities. It is imperative to secure a signed permission slip from a child’s parent or guardian for any trip or special activity outside the troop meeting space. This applies to all Girl Scout members under the age of 18. Always keep a copy of these permissions.
In most cases, one parental consent or one legal guardian is legally acceptable. However, there may be circumstances regarding a custody situation or a standard in your council where dual parental consent is required. For international trips, written consent is generally required from both parents/legal guardians. If there is a question about single versus dual parental or dual guardian consent, consult your Girl Scout council and they can consult local or state laws for specific local guidance.
Overnight Trips. Prepare Girl Scout members to be away from home by involving them in planning the activity or event so they know what to expect. On trips where male volunteers are part of the group, it is not appropriate for them to sleep in the same space as girl members. Always support and maintain an all-girl atmosphere for sleeping quarters. Men may participate only when separate sleeping quarters and bathrooms are available for their use. Men should not be in a situation where they must walk through girls’ sleeping quarters to enter or exit their sleeping quarters or access restrooms. In some circumstances, such as a museum or mall overnight, with hundreds of girls, this type of accommodation may not be possible. If this is the case, men do not supervise girls in the sleeping area of the event and the adult-to-girl ratio is adjusted accordingly.
An exception is made for family members during events such as parent-daughter or family overnights, where one family may sleep together in an area specifically designated to accommodate families. Also please make note of the following:
- Each participant has her own bed.
- Parent/guardian permission must be obtained if girls are to share a bed.
- Youth members and adults do not share a bed; some councils make exceptions for family members.
- It is not mandatory that an adult sleep in the sleeping area with youth members.
- If an adult female does share the sleeping area, there must always be at least two unrelated adult females present.
Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway. See Travel/Trips Safety Activity Checkpoints for specific safety checkpoints when utilizing Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway. There are specific steps that must be followed when utilizing these privately owned property rentals, steps that are not necessarily taken with traditional commercially owned and operated properties such as hotels.
Modeling the Right Behavior. Adult volunteers should adhere to the Girl Scout Promise and Law. When spending time with Girl Scout members or representing Girl Scouts, do not consume alcohol, smoke, vape, or use foul language. Always obey the law, for example, by not talking on a phone or texting while driving.
Drugs and Alcohol. Volunteers and adults may not purchase, consume, possess or be under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs/substances, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter medications which impair performance or judgment while participating in Girl Scout sanctioned activities, in the presence of Girl Scout members, while conducting Girl Scout business, or in Girl Scout branded clothing. Alcohol or any substance which may impair one’s judgment must never be used by volunteers, adult members, or any other adult in the presence of a youth member, or immediately prior to a Girl Scout activity with your troop.
Alcoholic beverages may be served to and consumed by adults of legal age at Girl Scout events, when youth members are not present, and when approved by the council’s Board of Directors or the council’s Chief Executive Officer.
Youth members are not permitted to attend events where alcohol is being served and consumed. However, with prior council approval, youth members may be permitted to attend functions at locations where alcohol is incidentally being purchased by adults and then taken away to be consumed elsewhere, away from youth members. For example, a council may approve an event taking place at an arena, stadium, theme park, movie theater, or places where alcoholic beverages are sold at a concession stand and taken away to be consumed.
Firearms. Firearms and/or weapons are prohibited at any Girl Scout activity and on Girl Scout owned or leased property except when in the possession of a sworn officer of the law, council-authorized property staff, a certified instructor, licensed wildlife control personnel, and/or trained adult while conducting a council approved Girl Scout program activity. Volunteers and adults do not carry ammunition or firearms in the presence of Girl Scout members, unless given special permission by your council for target sport activities.
Online Safety. Instruct all Girl Scout members never to put their full names, location or contact information online, engage in virtual conversations with strangers, or arrange in-person meetings with online contacts. On group websites, publish first names only and never divulge their location or contact information. Teach members the Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge and ask them to read it, understand it, discuss it, and commit to following it.
Money Earning Activities. Safety is an important consideration during money earning activities, including Girl Scout Cookie Program sales and other council sponsored product sales. During Girl Scout product sales, you are responsible for the safety of Girl Scout members, money, and products. In addition, a wide variety of organizations, causes, and fundraisers may appeal to Girl Scouts to serve as their labor force. When representing Girl Scouts, members cannot raise money for other organizations, participate in money earning activities that represent partisan politics, or are not Girl Scout approved product sales and efforts. It is imperative that Girl Scouts do not partake in anything that can be construed as unrelated business income. This is essential to protect our organization’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. If there is a questionable circumstance, consult your Girl Scout council.
Volunteer Essentials. A key resource for volunteers in Girl Scouting is Volunteer Essentials. While Safety Activity Checkpoints focuses on safety guidance and parameters, Volunteer Essentials addresses an array of topics such as Engaging Girls and Families, Troop Management, Product Program, Troop Finances, and the Leader’s Guide to Success. All Girl Scout volunteers are instructed to review, understand, and practice the principles and standards in both Volunteer Essentials and Safety Activity Checkpoints.