Night Activity Safety Guidelines
If you are going to be out with a group at night, some things to remember are:
- Even if the event is being
arranged by somebody else such as the local authority, be as organised as
YOU can. Your knowledge of safety could save lives!
For events you organise such as night hikes,
rambles or large groups. Let the local police force
in the area know what you are going to be doing. They may not be interested, but it helps avoid embarrassing situations and they may know if your activity is going to conflict with something.
Make sure groups involving youth and children are adequately supervised by responsible adults. Look up your local area guidelines for this if you don't know what the minimum ration of adults to children should be. For night activities where there is more chance of groups spreading out or an increased security risk such as hikes and orienteering you WILL need more adults.
- Laying on hot drinks and/or
food at the end of a night activity, particularly during colder nights, is appreciated by many and worth considering.
The following guidelines are provided by the Scouting
Night Activity Safety Guidelines
Sent in by Thomas Murphy, Scout Leader.
- High visibility vests/jackets should be worn by at least a
proportion of the group. The more the better. Failing that, reflective strips
are not expensive and can be used instead. A car driver travelling at 60 miles
per hour on an unlit A road will not see you in time to take avoiding action
unless you are wearing something reflective.
- Children should understand that they always remain BEHIND the lead
adult and in FRONT of the "tail end Charlie" adult.
- With large numbers of children, the easiest way to retain control
is to break the group down into smaller groups of no more than five or six
children per adult. Each adult is then responsible for the specific safety of no
more than six children. Whenever a headcount is called, children go to their
specific adult. The Group Leader then needs only to check with his helper adults
that all children are accounted for. It is very easy to overlook a child if one
adult is trying to count a large group at night - children do mill around, no
matter how often they are told to stay still; if adults do not know the names of
the children for whom they are responsible, then they should carry a list and
call a register of "their" children
- Torches: should always be carried at night, especially when
walking alongside an unpaved road. The lead adult should wear a cycle lamp
clipped to his/her jacket or a headtorch (a torch on an elasticated band, worn
around the head); The tail adult should wear a red LED cycle lamp strapped to
his/her back, preferably in flashing mode to attract the attention of drivers -
these can be seen over half a mile away on a straight road.
- Children should walk in single file; adults should walk alongside
at intervals so that they can control the section forward of them. The control
section is from immediately in front of the adult to the back of the adult in
front. All adults should carry torches, which they point forward at an angle
slightly below the eyelevel of an oncoming driver (i.e, the driver will see the
light but not be blinded by it).
- When crossing roads, the whole group should be brought to a stop
at the edge of the road. One adult crosses the road to act as a receiving
marshall. Two adults step into the road, facing away from each other, to stop
any on-coming traffic. The fourth adult is responsible for despatching small
groups of children between the "bridge" created by the two adults on the road.
Children pass between the backs of the two adults on the road. Children are sent
over in small groups so that, should a driver not be prepared to stop for any
reason (drunk; boy racer; reacting too late; emergency vehicle; criminal etc.),
the danger to the group is minimised. It is easier to grab hold of one or two
children and fling them out of the way than to try and rescue 20 or 30 of them
at the same time. The despatch adult is the last person to cross and does so
ONLY when the last child is safely over the road.
- Whistles: Adults should all carry whistles. Useful if the group
gets split up for any reason; also useful if the line of walkers is beginning to
straggle. Three blasts on the whistle is the signal for the lead member of the
group to stop. It may just be that the line is too long and there is a danger of
the group becoming separated; it may be that there is a specific problem which
needs to be addressed. Six blasts on the whistle is the international distress
signal and means that there is a problem which needs to be sorted.
- First aid kit: Should be at least one of these carried on every
hike - plus a first aid manual; ideally, at least one adult should be first aid
trained with an up to date certificate.
- Medical records: especially on a hike, there should be a medical
record for each child, one copy of which is carried by a responsible adult on
the hike, another copy of which is carried by the home contact (see below). In
the event of a hospital trip, these can be lifesavers. I have been surprised by
just how many children in my care are allergic to penicillin, specific types of
anti-biotic, anaesthetic and so on. Ideally, medical forms should include
details of the child's blood group as well - although most parents seem not to
know this detail.
- Mobile 'phone - always useful, especially if there is an accident
and the emergency services need to be called. In the event of an incident,
particularly where more than one person is involved, a 'phone call should be
made to the designated home contact who should have names, addresses and
telephone numbers for all children on the hike. The home contact acts as the
liaison between the group and parents for incident management purposes. This
leaves the group leader free to deal with the incident after making one call as
he/she knows the home contact will be relaying information to affected parents.
- Refuse to allow a child on a night hike, particularly in autumn or
winter, unless they have adequate head, hands and feet protection. A cold child,
as I know from experience, is a miserable child. Worse still, children are much
more susceptible to cold and hypothermia than adults - they can go from feeling
chilled to dangerously cold in a matter of minutes as most of them have
relatively little body fat on them.
- Teach children the golden rules if they get separated from the
Frequent headcounts every half mile or so if the hike is a long
one - that way you cut down the chances of losing a child and, if the worst
happens, you cut down on the area you have to search.
For longer hikes, prepare a route card with checkpoints along the
way. One copy of the route card stays with the group leader; another copy of the
routecard (and map) should reside with the home contact; confirm safe arrival at
each checkpoint by 'phone so home contact knows how far you have progressed; in
the event that a checkpoint is not made within a reasonable time of estimate
(and assuming that the group leader has not called to say the group is running
late), the home contact can
- Keep warm; hat/hood on; gloves on; zips and
buttons done up; arms across chest to keep heat in; hands tucked into
armpits; crouch or squat to minimise body surface area and keep heat in
- shelter behind a NEARBY tree or in a bush to get out of the wind and/or rain
Shout "Help! Help! Help!" at regular intervals;
once or twice a minute should do; too often and the child will become tired
and get upset more quickly
- Stay where you are unless you are in danger; the
group can retrace its steps and find you because they know where they have
been; they cannot find you if you wander off
- Remain calm; you WILL be found
initiate emergency search and rescue and have a rough idea of where the group
You might care to look at
http://www.scoutbase.org.uk/library/hqdocs/por/2002/chapter_9.htm which sets
out the Scouting standards for activities with children.