We all can’t wait to get back to outdoor Scouting adventures — camping, hiking, canoeing, swimming and more. As restrictions from COVID-19 shutdowns slowly lift, it’s important to Be Prepared for any future activity. Now may be a great time to review aquatics safety rules, appropriate guidelines and other safety resources.

It’s also vital to have the right gear. Did you know there are five main types of life jackets? The BSA requires properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jackets when boating, and Type III jackets are recommended for general recreational use. Check the label before you buy because some are not approved by the Coast Guard.

Another resource is Water Safety USA, a roundtable of nonprofit and governmental organizations committed to preventing drownings. The Boy Scouts of America is a member.

Today is International Water Safety Day, and the roundtable is promoting a #GetInAgain Challenge. Encourage your Scouts to join in by coming up with an intention, starting with “When I get in again…” For example, they can say:

  • When I get in again, I am going to pass my swim test.
  • When I get in again, I am going to earn my Webelos Aquanaut adventure.
  • When I get in again, we are going to swim at family camp.
  • When I get in again, I am going to earn my Swimming merit badge.
  • When I get in again, I am going to go boating at camp.

They can share that message with others on social media. Another message they can help share is another Water Safety USA promotion: #BeBuoyant

Like I mentioned earlier, there are different types of life jackets, and they are important to wear. In the last decade at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes, 87% of people who drowned were not wearing a life jacket. When you plan your unit’s next aquatic adventure, make sure you have the right type:

  • Type I: Offshore. Often bulky and buoyant. They’re designed to turn an unconscious person face-up; however, they are not Coast Guard-approved.
  • Type II: Near-shore. Many are the bright orange, square PFDs. Not as buoyant as Type I.
  • Type III: Flotation Aid. These fit well and keep a conscious person afloat. Recommended for general recreation use.
  • Type IV: Throwable Device. These are ring buoys, square cushions, etc. They’re what you’d use in rescue situations.
  • Type V: Special-Use Devices. Used only for specific activities, like whitewater rafting.

Wherever you go (whenever that may be), wear the appropriate gear and follow local laws and safety rules.

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