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Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

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Lesson 4: Know what to do in an emergency, how to report incidents and near misses

Lesson 4: Know what to do in an emergency, how to report incidents and near misses

We’ve talked a lot about risk assessing to reduce risk but from time to time, incidents will occur. Knowing what to do when that happens is really important.

The Purple Card tells you what to do in an emergency and should be kept with you. You should familiarise yourself with what it says.

In the event of an incident, there are procedures which must be followed. In all situations, deal with the immediate emergency and then consider the following:

  • Who’s involved?
  • Who do I need to tell?
  • What information do I need to record?
  • What about the rest of the group?
  • What support do we need?

The Purple Card walks you through this, so make sure you have it handy just in case.

Deal with the immediate situation and alert the appropriate emergency services
- Alert your Commissioner (line manager)
- Alert the emergency contact/s of the individual/s involved
- If you’re abroad, alert any agencies required by the insurers
- For incidents involving air activities or water activities in coastal or deep sea waters, alert the appropriate government agency

When must an incident be reported to UK headquarters?

Let UK headquarters know via the Support Centre or the online Incident Report form if:

  • Someone suffers a personal injury or illness requiring a doctor, nurse, paramedic, dentist or hospital
  • Someone requires an emergency service rescue
  • Third party property’s damaged

You’ll need to provide basic information about the incident, including information about the injured party, what happened, where it happened and who’s reporting the incident.

If it’s a really serious incident then you’ll be linked up with the Critical Incident Manager, who’ll support you through the next steps. Although this may seem daunting, remember that you’re not on your own. Work with your leadership team and line manager, and if in doubt, call UK headquarters for support. And don’t forget to keep a copy of the purple card handy with you when on Scouting activities!

There’s also a simple online form for basic information on near misses to be passed to UK headquarters, see emergencies and reporting.

Learning from incidents

It’s also important to learn from incidents when they do happen. Using the ‘Five whys’ is a really useful strategy. Asking ‘Why?’ five times about the incident helps us to get to the root of what’s happened.

Let’s look at an example of using the ‘Five whys.

1. Why did Alek get injured during the game in the Scouts meeting place? - Because he was pushed over by the older Scouts
2. Why did he get pushed over? Because the Scouts were very boisterous and rough in the game
3. Why were the Scouts so boisterous? Because no volunteers were supervising them
4. Why was there no supervision?
Because we only ever have two volunteers; one was making coffee and the other was getting the next activity ready
5. Why was one making coffee?
Because he hadn’t had any training and no one told him he had to supervise activities


The root causes here are lack of training and understanding of leadership roles, and insufficient adult support.


Using the ‘Five whys’ is a really useful tool to help us learn from accidents and stop them happening in the future.

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The Safety workbook is available download and print.

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