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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.

Read the Purple Card.

Order a free copy of the Purple Card from Scouts Store

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.

In the event of an incident:

  1. Deal with the immediate situation and alert the appropriate emergency services, if required
  2. Alert your Commissioner or designate.  If you’re unable to, speak to your line manager. Do this as soon as possible under the circumstances
  3. Alert the emergency contact/s of the individual/s involved
  4. If you’re abroad, alert any agencies required by the insurers
  5. For incidents involving air activities or water activities in coastal or deep sea waters, alert the appropriate government agency
  6. Inform UK Headquarters at the earliest opportunity 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 is 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. 

A critical incident is one involving loss of life, near loss of life or collapse of a structure. In the event of a critical incident:  

  1. Deal with the immediate situation and alert the appropriate emergency services, if required.  

  2. Alert UK Headquarters (you will need to provide a basic overview of the incident, who is involved, where the incident occurred and Group information). A Critical Incident Manager will assist you and guide you through the management of the incident.   

This may seem daunting but 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! 

When dealing with an emergency, remember: 

  • Do keep a record of actions and communications, including details of others who may have seen what happened 
  • Do keep calm and ask for support where needed 
  • Do refer all news media to the Duty Media Officer and seek support before talking to the media by calling UK Headquarters 
  • Don’t make any admission of liability 
  • Don’t initiate contact with the news media 
  • Don’ttry to handle things on your own 
  • If you see an activity, premises or equipment which is potentially dangerous, report it to the premises manager, line manager or activity organiser immediately  

  • If your concerns are ignored, contact the responsible Group Scout Leader/Commissioner or body. If you’re not sure who this is, speak to your line manager 

We would like to hear about any situation that could have led to injury, illness or damage. This is especially important where the issue relates to equipment or the process followed and to help us improve the advice and information new give to the movement and prevent future incidents. 

You can report near misses to UK Headquarters on this simple online form for basic information on near misses

To contact UK Headquarters, including notification of incidents, critical incident support and contacting the Duty Media Officer, you can call the Support Centre on 0345 300 1818 or contact us online at

Out of hours contact: In an emergency situation where you need to speak to the on duty Critical Incident Manager, Safeguarding Officer or Media Officer please call 0345 300 1818 or 020 8433 7100 where an out of hours service will help you to contact the correct person. 

When you complete the assessment at the end of this workbook, you will need to confirm you have read and understood the Purple Card. 

If you don’t understand your responsibilities, speak to your line manager or District Commissioner for advice and support. If you don’t know who this is, contact the Support Centre. You can then re-visit this training.

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. 

This could be done over a cuppa at the end of a regular meeting or at a more formal review after an incident. Stepping back and looking at what an activity was trying to achieve could lead to doing it a different way. This might be a change in route, venue, additional training, an increased adult to young person ratio or better equipped participants. 

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.

There are some additional online tools to help you understand learning from incidents

Download in PDF

The Safety workbook is available download and print.

Download the Safety workbook