GSNorCal Volunteer Essentials
QUICK LINKS TO CHAPTERS: TABLE OF CONTENTS | NAVIGATION | QUICK START GUIDE| ABOUT GSNorCal | VOLUNTEERING | GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM | GIRLS & ADULTS | SAFETY-WISE | MONEY | BIENVENIDO (en Español) | GLOSSARY |
Quick Links to SAFETY-WISE Chapter Topics: Responsibility for Safety |
Girl Scout Safety Guidelines |
Adult-to-Girl Ratios |
Safety Activity Checkpoints |
High Adventure Activities & Forbidden Activities |
Emergencies, Accidents & Incidents |
Permission Forms |
Health History Forms |
First Aiders & Experts |
Meeting Place Considerations |
Girl Scout Activity Insurance |
What To Do If You Witness, Experience, or Suspect Abuse |
Product Sales Program Safety |
Online Activities |
Safety for Events |
Outings, Trips & Travel Checklist |
In addition to fun and friendship, girls are looking for adventure when they join Girl Scouts! These adventures provide them with unique opportunities to try new things, improve skills, overcome fears, and help other girls. Nothing is more important than ensuring the health and safety of girls when they are engaging in these fun adventures. At Girl Scouts, we work hard to build safety consciousness in adults, training staff, volunteers, and girls on all safety protocols so that we can ensure proper supervision, prevent accidents and incidents, and maintain program resources. Instilling in girls an understanding of the best ways to stay safe in today’s complicated world is a top priority for us.
Approaching Activities With Safety in Mind
How can you, as a Girl Scout volunteer, determine whether an activity is safe and appropriate? Good judgment and common sense often dictate the answer. What’s safe in one circumstance may not be safe in another. An incoming storm, for example, might force you to assess or discontinue an activity. If you are uncertain about the safety of an activity, call your council staff with full details and don’t proceed without approval. Err on the side of caution and make the safety of girls your most important consideration. Prior to any activity, read the specific Safety Activity Checkpoints available on the council website at www.gsnorcal.org/forms related to any activity you plan to do with girls. [SAFETY-WISE: Safety Activity Checkpoints]
If Safety Activity Checkpoints do not exist for an activity you and the girls are interested in, check with GSNorCal before making any definite plans with the girls. A few activities are allowed only with written council pre-approval and only for girls 12 and over, while some are off-limits completely. [SAFETY-WISE: Activities That Are Never Allowed]
When planning activities with girls, note the abilities of each girl and carefully consider the progression of skills from the easiest part to the most difficult. Make sure the complexity of the activity does not exceed girls’ individual skills—bear in mind that skill levels decline when people are tired, hungry, or under stress. Also, use activities as opportunities for building teamwork, which is one of the outcomes for the Connect key in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. [GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM: The Girl Scout Leadership Experience]
How Are Safety Guidelines Set?
The safety of our members is our highest priority. Protecting the adults’ and the council’s legal interests is also a high priority.
Restrictions on Girl Scout activities are generally set by GSUSA in partnership with our insurance company. Activities that are not allowed by GSNorCal are the activities which are not covered under Girl Scout insurance. These activities are deemed by the insurance company to carry an inherent level of risk that they are not willing to assume. Each council has its own individual insurance coverage. Activities may vary from council to council.
Activities that require prior written permission from the council are those that have additional laws, certifications or other guidelines which must be followed in order to be covered by our insurance. Our Risk Management team will assist you in meeting those guidelines.
GSNorCal believes that most volunteers would rather focus their time on having fun with the girls doing Girl Scout activities, rather than in spending time researching legal texts to ensure that they are following local and state laws and working with the insurance company to make sure that they will be covered.
GSNorCal’s approach is for staff and interested volunteers to monitor laws and guidelines so that you do not have to! When we must place restrictions on certain activities, there is lots of in-depth discussion and research to make sure there isn’t another solution. Guidelines found here in GSNorCal's Volunteer Essentials and on our forms is a result of that work.
Why So Many Forms?
GSNorCal continually strives to streamline and eliminate unnecessary forms. Forms are sometimes necessary, however, to ensure the safety of girls and adults, to comply with insurance and legal requirements and protect the liability of our volunteers and council.
Forms are designed to:
- Act as a checklist to inform you of certain legal or procedural requirements so you don’t have to memorize them,
- Communicate needed information to your troop, service unit or council. Often, this information is needed to support you with the appropriate legal and insurance requirements to minimize your and council's liability and to keep girls safe.
All forms can be found at www.gsnorcal.org/forms.
You, the parents/guardians of the girls in your troop, and the girls themselves, share the responsibility for staying safe. The next three sections explain who’s responsible for what.
Ensuring the health and safety of girls in Girl Scouting is a cornerstone of the Girl Scout Movement. This includes developing safety consciousness in both girls and adults, as well as training staff, volunteers, and girls to ensure proper supervision, planning to prevent accidents and incidents, and maintenance of program resources.
Everyone bears responsibility for safety: the council, the group leadership, the parents/guardians of the girls and the girls themselves. The point of all safety resources produced by Girl Scouts of the USA and GSNorCal is to establish a sound program experience that will protect and maintain the well-being of every Girl Scout, and protect the legal interests of the adults.
Responsibilities of Parents/Guardians/Caregivers
Engage each parent or guardian to help you work toward ensuring the health,
safety, and well-being of girls. Clearly communicate to parents and
guardians that they are expected to:
- Provide permission for their daughters to participate in Girl Scouting as well as provide additional consent for activities that take place outside the scheduled meeting place. This can include such activities such as: product sales, including Digital Cookie; overnight travel; the use of special equipment; or sensitive issues. [SAFETY-WISE: Permission Forms]
- Make provisions for their daughters to get to and from meeting places or other designated sites in a safe and timely manner and inform you if someone other than the parent or guardian will drop off or pick up the child.
- Provide their daughters with appropriate clothing and equipment for activities, or contact you before the activity to find sources for the necessary clothing and equipment.
- Follow Girl Scout safety guidelines and encourage their children to do the same. [SAFETY-WISE: Girl Scout Safety Guidelines]
Assist you in planning and carrying out program activities as safely as possible.
- Participate in parent/guardian meetings.
- Be aware of appropriate behavior expected of their daughters as determined by the council and you.
- Assist volunteers if their daughters have special needs or abilities and their help is solicited.
Responsibilities of Girls
Girls who learn about and practice safe and healthy behaviors are likely to establish lifelong habits of safety consciousness. For that reason, each Girl Scout is expected to:
- Assist you and other volunteers in safety planning.
- Listen to and follow your instructions and suggestions.
- Learn and practice safety skills.
- Learn to “think safety” at all times and to be prepared.
- Identify and evaluate an unsafe situation.
- Know how, when, and where to get help when needed.
In addition, girls can be taught the following skills over time to help them to develop healthy habits for safety:
- Brainstorm possible hazards or potential situations, and discuss how each situation should be handled.
- Agree to safe boundaries (where they can and cannot go) and other expectations for each activity.
- Older girls can be encouraged to consult Safety Activity Checkpoints when planning activities (but adults still carry primary responsibility to make sure these are followed).
Every adult in Girl Scouting is responsible for the physical and emotional safety of girls, and we all demonstrate that by agreeing to follow these guidelines at all times.
1. Follow the Safety Activity Checkpoints. Instructions for staying safe while participating in activities are detailed in the Safety Activity Checkpoints, available on www.GSNorCal.org/forms. Read the checkpoints, follow them, and share them with other volunteers, parents, and girls before engaging in activities with girls. [SAFETY-WISE: Safety Activity Checkpoints]
2. Points common to all Safety Activity Checkpoints include:
- They serve girls by offering girl-led activities and challenging opportunities that teach outdoor skills safety.
- Provide opportunities for active, experiential learning
- Help councils and troops maximize the Girl Scout experience by providing nationally and locally consistent policy that aims to safeguard the well-being of girls and the Girl Scout organization. [SAFETY-WISE: Safety Activity Checkpoints]
3. Arrange for proper adult supervision of girls. Your troop must have at least two unrelated, approved adult volunteers present at all times, plus additional adult volunteers as necessary, depending on the size of the group and the ages and abilities of girls. Adult volunteers must be at least 18 years old, be registered Girl Scouts who have completed the adult background check and have taken the appropriate adult learning courses before volunteering.
One lead volunteer in every group must be female. In addition, GSNorCal expects volunteers to be fully capable of performing their duties. Volunteers are not permitted to use or be under the influence of any substance which may impair their physical and/or mental skills at any time when they are supervising girls as part of the adult-to-girl minimums, even if girls are not in the same room or are sleeping. This includes alcohol or prescription medications, medical marijuana, or illegal drugs. [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios]
4. Get parent/guardian permission. When an activity takes place that is outside the normal meeting time and/or place, or a topic is discussed that could be considered sensitive, advise each parent/guardian of the details of the activity and obtain permission for girls to participate. Communicate with council and parents. Follow council procedures for activity approval, certificates of insurance, and council guidelines about girls’ general health examinations. Make arrangements in advance for all transportation and confirm plans before departure. [SAFETY-WISE: Permission Forms]
5. Report abuse. Sexual advances, improper touching, and sexual activity of any kind with girl members are forbidden. Physical, verbal, and emotional abuse of girls is also forbidden. Follow GSNorCal’s guidelines for reporting concerns about abuse or neglect that may be occurring inside or outside of Girl Scouting. [SAFETY-WISE: If You Witness, Experience, or Suspect Abuse]
6. Be prepared for emergencies. Work with girls and other adults to establish and practice procedures for emergencies related to weather, fire, lost girls/adults, and site security. Always keep handy a well-stocked first-aid kit, girl health history forms, and contact information for girls’ families. [SAFETY-WISE: Emergency Preparedness]
7. Use the Buddy System. Using the buddy system, girls are divided into teams of two. Each girl is responsible for staying with her buddy at all times, warning her buddy of danger, giving her buddy immediate assistance if safe to do so, and seeking help when the situation warrants it. Girls are encouraged to stay near the group or buddy with another team of two, so in the event someone is injured, one person cares for the patient while two others seek help.
8. Travel safely. When transporting girls to planned Girl Scout field trips and other activities that are outside the normal meeting time and/or place, every driver must be an approved adult volunteer, age 21 or over and have a good driving record, a valid license, and a registered/insured vehicle. Male volunteers cannot drive girls without an adult female volunteer present in the vehicle. Insist that everyone is in a legal seat and wears her seat belt at all times, and adhere to state laws regarding booster seats and requirements for children in rear seats. [SAFETY-WISE: Trip & Travel Checklist: Transporting Girls]
9. Ensure safe overnight outings. Prepare girls to be away from home by involving them in planning, so they know what to expect. Avoid having men sleep in the same space as girls and women. During family or parent-daughter overnights, one family unit may sleep in the same sleeping quarters in program areas. When parents are staffing events, daughters should remain in quarters with other girls rather than in staff areas. [SAFETY-WISE: Supervision for Overnight Activities]
10. Role-model the right behavior. Never use illegal drugs. Don’t consume alcohol, smoke, or use foul language in the presence of girls. Alcohol is not permitted at an event where the main objective is girl program. If girls are present where alcohol is served at an adult-only event (sponsored and run by adults), they must be supervised by an adult who is not consuming alcohol who is responsible for the girls’ safety and well-being. (If alcohol is being served at a Girl Scout event, the participants will not be covered by Girl Scout insurance unless prior approval has been obtained from the insurance carrier). Do not carry ammunition or firearms in the presence of girls unless given special permission by GSNorCal for group marksmanship activities. [VOLUNTEERING: Volunteer Management Policies]
11. Create an emotionally safe space. Adults are responsible for making Girl Scouting a place where girls are as safe emotionally as they are physically. Protect the emotional safety of girls by creating a team agreement and coaching girls to honor it. Agreements typically encourage behaviors like respecting a diversity of feelings and opinions; resolving conflicts constructively; and avoiding physical and verbal bullying, clique behavior, and discrimination. [GIRLS & ADULTS: Creating a Safe Space for Girls]
12. Ensure that no girl is treated differently. Girl Scouts welcomes all members, regardless of race, ethnicity, background, disability, family structure, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic status or sexual orientation. When scheduling, helping plan, and carrying out activities, carefully consider the needs of all girls involved, including school schedules, family needs, financial constraints, religious holidays, and the accessibility of appropriate transportation and meeting places. [GIRLS & ADULTS: Creating an Atmosphere of Acceptance & Inclusion]
13. Promote online safety. Instruct girls never to put their full names or contact information online, engage in virtual conversation with strangers, or arrange in-person meetings with online contacts, other than to deliver cookies and only with the approval and accompaniment of a parent or designated adult. On group websites or Facebook groups, publish girls’ first names only and never divulge their contact information. Teach girls the Girl Scout Online Safety Pledge that can be found at www.gsnorcal.org/forms and have them commit to it. [SAFETY-WISE: Online Safety]
14. Keep girls safe during money-earning activities. Girl Scout cookies and other council-sponsored product sales are an integral part of the program. During Girl Scout product sales, you are responsible for the safety of girls, money, and products. In addition, a wide variety of organizations, causes, and fundraisers may ask the Girl Scouts to be their labor force. When representing Girl Scouts, girls cannot participate in money-earning activities that represent partisan politics or that are not Girl Scout–approved product sales and efforts. [GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM: Participating in the Product Sales] [GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM: Advocacy Projects] [MONEY: Money Earning Projects]
Whatever the activity, from camping to cookies sales, adult supervision is required regardless of the grade level of the girls. Adult volunteers must be at least 18 years old and may not still be registered as girl members. The table below has been developed to show the minimum number of adults needed to supervise a specific number of girls (councils may also establish maximums due to size or cost restrictions). These adult-to-girl supervision ratios were devised to ensure the safety and health of all girls taking part in the activity. For example, if one adult has to respond to an emergency, a second adult is always on hand for the rest of the girls. Consult the Girl Scout Adult-to-Girl Ratios Minimum chart below to determine the appropriate number of Adult-to-Girl ratios based on grade level and type of activity. Girl Scouts’ adult-to-girl ratios show the minimum number of adults needed to supervise a specific number of girls. (Sometimes GSNorCal or service units may establish maximums due to size or cost restrictions). The Girl Scout grade level is determined by the current membership year, beginning October 1st. Consult Safety Activity Checkpoints for adult-to-girl ratios for specific activities, as these may differ from standard adult-to-girl ratios.
Girl Scout Adult-to-Girl Ratios (Minimums)
Girl Scout Program Level:
Events, Travel, and Camping
Here are some examples on utilizing the chart:
- If you’re meeting with 17 Daisies, you need a minimum of three adults, at least two of who are unrelated (in other words, not your sister, spouse, parent, or child), and at least one of whom is female. (If this isn’t making sense to you, follow the chart: you need two adults for 12 Daisies and one more adult for up to six more girls. You have 17, so you need three adults).
- Your Brownie troop is going camping with 8 girls in attendance. You will need a minimum of 2 unrelated adults present, at least one of whom must be a female.
- If you have 17 Cadettes attending a group meeting, you need a minimum of two unrelated adults, at least one of whom is female (because, on the chart, two adults can manage up to 25 Cadettes).
Remember that these ratios are minimum numbers—for some activities, it may be necessary to have more adult supervision. In addition, GSNorCal expects volunteers to be fully capable of performing their duties. Volunteers are not permitted to use or be under the influence of any substance which may impair their physical and/or mental skills at any time when they are supervising girls as part of the adult-to-girl minimums, even if girls are not in the same room or are sleeping. This includes alcohol or prescription medications, medical marijuana, or illegal drugs. [VOLUNTEERING: Volunteer Management Policies]
It is the responsibility of the troop/group leader to:
- Make sure that there are always at least the minimum number of adults supervising the girls any time they are participating in a Girl Scout meeting or any kind of activity.
- Ensure that all adults who are providing supervision and are counted in the adult-to-girl ratio are registered members and have completed the adult background check process and are properly cleared.
- Ensure that all adults who are providing supervision and are counted in the adult-to-girl ratio are aware of which other adults are providing supervision—at no time should they allow an unscreened (or otherwise unapproved parent to substitute for their supervision duties).
Adult supervision for girls also extends to online activity
Please consult the following, which are all available at :
- The “Computer/Online Use” Safety Activity Checkpoint www.gsnorcal.org/forms
- Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge www.gsnorcal.org/forms
- Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Girls, Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Parents/Guardians and Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Volunteers, which are all available in the cookie program materials.
Adult Background Check Requirements
Any adult who will be included as a chaperone in the adult-to-girl ratio in an overnight activity must have completed the volunteer background check process.
Adult Sleeping Arrangements
Generally, adults should not be sleeping in tents or the same area, such as a hotel room with the girls. If the girls are not ready to be sleeping without an adult in their tents, shelters, or hotel rooms, it is recommended that the troop plan a simpler trip with indoor dormitory-style sleeping. If adults will be sleeping in the same area with the girls, more than one unrelated adult should be sleeping with more than one unrelated girl. No adult should be alone with any girl, unless she is her or his own child.
To clarify: a troop leader, her mother, and another unrelated female adult could sleep in a dormitory style room with more than one girl in the group.
One adult should not sleep in a tent or a hotel room with girls unless they are all her/his own daughters. If an adult must sleep in the same area with girls, there must be more than one unrelated adult with the group of girls.
Specific Rules Regarding Men & Boys
For overnight events, men and boys must sleep in separate areas and have separate facilities or separate times for bathroom use.
What are Safety Activity Checkpoints?
As discussed previously, Safety Activity Checkpoints and Girl Scout Safety Guidelines are designed to keep the girls and adults safe and to protect the adults and the council from legal liability. There are some activities that GSNorCal's insurance policy do not cover, and others where certain requirements must be met in order for the activity to be covered by GSNorCal's insurance.
When preparing for any activity with girls, start by reading the Girl Scout Safety Activity Checkpoints for that particular activity (www.gsnorcal.org/forms). (If there is no Safety Activity Checkpoint for your activity, check to see if the activity is not allowed.) [SAFETY-WISE: Activities That Are Never Allowed] Each Safety Activity Checkpoint:
- Offers you information on what is required of the site and/or vendor where you plan on participating in this activity.
- How to include girls with disabilities.
- What basic and specialized gear is required for the activity.
- How to prepare yourselves in advance of the activity.
- What specific steps to follow on the day of the activity, and so on.
In addition to reading these checkpoints yourself, you can also email or print them for co-volunteers, parents/guardians, and the girls themselves. The checkpoints are formatted as checklists, so that you, your co-volunteers, and the girls can check off that each step has been accomplished.
Safety Activity Checkpoints
*Paddling and Rowing Sports Progression Chart
Arts and Crafts
Archery | Arts and Crafts | Backpacking | Bicycling | Camping | Canoeing | Challenge Courses | Climbing and Rappelling | Computer/Online Use | Cross-Country Skiing | Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding | Fencing | Fishing | Geocaching | Girl Scout Cookies/Council-Sponsored Product Sale | Hayrides | Hiking | Horseback Riding | Ice Fishing | Ice Skating | Indoor Skydiving | Indoor Trampoline Parks | Inline Skating and Roller Skating | Kayaking | Orienteering | Other Land Sports | Outdoor Cooking | Parades and Other Large Group Gatherings | Playgrounds | Recreational Tree Climbing | Rowboating | Sailing | Scuba Diving | Segway | Shooting Sports | Skateboarding | Sledding, Tobogganing, and Snow Tubing | Snorkeling | Snowshoeing | Spelunking/Caving | Standup Paddleboarding | STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math) | Surfing | Swimming | Theme Parks | Trip/Travel | Tubing | Vaulting on Horseback | Waterskiing and Wakeboarding | White-Water Rafting | Windsurfing | Ziplining |
In keeping with the three processes of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience [GIRL SCOUT PROGRAM: The Girl Scout Leadership Experience],
be sure that:
- All activities are girl-led. Take into account the age and abilities of the girls. Older girls can take the bulk of the responsibility for carefully planning and executing activities, while younger girls will require more of your guidance but should still be deeply involved in making decisions about their activities.
- Girls have the chance to learn cooperatively. Have the girls teach each other new skills they may need for the activities, rather than hearing all that from you.
- Girls learn by doing. If research or special equipment is needed, they’ll learn better doing that research themselves rather than by having you do the legwork and report back to them. Even Daisies can do basic research and give reports or do show-and-tell for each other. Ambassadors may need you only for moral support as they research, teach each other, and plan every detail of their excursions.
If Safety Activity Checkpoints do not exist for an activity you and the girls are interested in, check with GSNorCal Risk Management & Travel before making any definite plans with the girls. A few activities are allowed only with written council pre-approval and only for girls 12 and over, while some are off-limits completely. [SAFETY-WISE: High Adventure Activities] [SAFETY-WISE: Activities That Are Never Allowed]
The following restrictions on activities are set to ensure the girls' safety, protect the council's and adult volunteers' legal interests, or both. There are some activities that the GSNorCal's insurance policy does not cover, and others where certain requirements must be met in order for the activity to be covered by GSNorCal's insurance.
Written pre-approval is required from the GSNorCal Risk Management department for any travel or high adventure activities. To request approval for a troop activity, use the Trip or High Adventure Approval Form. Service Units use the Event/Camp Notification & Approval Form to request approval at least one month prior to the event.
Activities that Require Written Pre-Approval From the Council
Activities That Are Never Allowed
Caution: You must get written pre-approval from the GSNorCal Risk Management & Travel Team for travel or high adventure activities. Submit the Trip or High Adventure Approval Form. (www.GSNorCal.org/forms)
Any overnight trip (including camping outings), trips involving air travel, day trips OR international trips.
High Adventure Activities:
Warning: The following activities are never allowed for any member, and are not covered by Girl Scout insurance:
In addition, there are some
activities in which girls and volunteers may not engage when representing
Girl Scouts. These include:
“It’s Not A Girl Scout Event” – Not A Good Idea!
Occasionally, a Girl Scout volunteer, in an effort to support the girls in the activities they would like to participate in, will decide to tell the girls and families that they will do the activity “as friends, and not as a Girl Scout troop” rather than find an approved vendor or modify the activity in order to comply with safety guidelines. Then the girls in the active troop, supervised by the Girl Scout volunteers, engage in the activity together, and the supervising adults choose not to follow a guideline established by GSUSA or the council in Volunteer Essentials or in a Safety Activity Checkpoint.
Not only could this could jeopardize the girls’ safety, it also buts both council and the volunteer(s) at legal risk. Girl Scouts does not cover participants in non-Girl Scout events, i.e., an activity that is not allowed or has not been approved. It may also expose the volunteer to some personal liability if there is an accident, injury or liability that might have been avoided had the volunteer followed Girl Scout safety guidelines.
High adventure activities, overnight trips (including camping outings), trips involving air travel, OR international trips, must be approved by GSNorCal's Risk Management team. Submit the Trip or High Adventure Approval Form. (www.gsnorcal.org/forms)
For the safety of our members, the council must approve sites and vendors for these activities before a troop uses the site or vendor for a troop or service unit event. This procedure is designed to ensure a safe experience for our girls, as well as to protect the legal interests of the adult volunteers and the council.
A list of current High Adventure Approved Vendors can be found on the council website. (www.gsnorcal.org/forms) The approved vendors/facilities listed have met the safety and insurance guidelines for GSNorCal & GSUSA. The Approved Vendors List is updated regularly. (www.gsnorcal.org/forms)
Adding Vendors to the Approved Vendors List
Troops are NOT limited to the facilities and vendors on the Approved Vendors List. If the vendor your troop wants to use is not on the list, BEFORE scheduling your activity, tell the vendor that because your activity is considered high adventure by GSUSA safety guidelines, there are a few steps to complete in order for any GS troop from GSNorCal to use the facility.
The vendor needs to provide GSNorCal with a copy of their Certificate of Insurance (COI) [MONEY: Contracts & Certificates of Insurance] that:
- Indicates at least $1,000,000 General Liability Insurance
- Lists Girl Scouts of Northern California as a Certificate Holder
- Lists Girl Scouts of Northern California as Additionally Insured
In addition, the vendor must agree to follow the Safety Activity Checkpoints related to the activities they offer.
Vendors can apply to become approved vendors by contacting the Risk & Management team. firstname.lastname@example.orgIMPORTANT: If a vendor/facility refuses to follow the safety guidelines listed above, then the council will not be able to endorse this vendor/facility on our High Adventure Approved Vendors List OR approve trips/outings for troops to use this vendor/facility.
Please note that approved vendors are subject to change depending on when their Certificate of Insurance (COI) Policy expires. If a vendor’s Certificate of Insurance (COI) policy expires and we are unable to reach the vendor to renew the policy, we must remove the vendor from the list until we receive the updated COI. Please contact the Risk Management team with any questions at: email@example.com
As you know, emergencies can happen. Girls need to receive proper instruction in how to care for themselves and others in emergencies. They also need to learn the importance of reporting any accidents, illnesses, or unusual behaviors during Girl Scout activities to adults. To this end, you can help girls:
- Establish and practice procedures for weather emergencies. Certain extreme-weather conditions may occur in your area. Please consult with your council for the most relevant information for you to share with girls.
- Establish and practice procedures for such circumstances as fire evacuation, lost persons, and building-security responses. Every girl and adult must know how to act in these situations. For example, you and the girls, with the help of a fire department representative, should design a fire evacuation plan for meeting places used by the group.
- Assemble a well-stocked first aid kit that is always accessible. First aid administered in the first few minutes can mean the difference between life and death. In an emergency, secure professional medical assistance as soon as possible, normally by calling 911.[SAFETY-WISE: First Aid & First Aiders]
(use to help the girls develop an emergency plan)
Girls can and should help develop the emergency plans. Younger girls could brainstorm safety rules, and older girls could develop the entire emergency plan
with adult guidance. Use this checklist to assist you.
- Ensure that all girls understand expectations and rules—for example:
- Should they stay with a certain adult?
- Where is it OK to go? With whom?
- What should they do if they become separated from the group?
- What are the bathroom procedures?
- Design a plan for managing emergency situations, defining how each possible emergency would be handled (by whom, who would be notified—when and how) including consideration of:
- Natural hazards (lake, cliffs, etc).
- Natural disasters (earthquake, storms, floods, fire, etc).
- Each program activity
- Injuries or medical emergencies
- Lost children
- Strangers or intruders
- Establish and communicate emergency evacuation plan with all participants. Let them know who is in charge in these situations prior to event. Should cars back into parking spots? Where should participants go?
- Specific emergency plans for this trip should include evacuation plans in situations where girls have been dropped off. This is especially important if there are not enough vehicles on site during the event/activity to evacuate all participants.
- Establish a security plan, adult supervision, placement of adults
- Establish an emergency communication system. Who should be notified in case of an emergency?
- Establish an at-home emergency contact person as outlined in STEP 3 the Outings, Trips and Travel Checklist. [SAFETY-WISE: Outings, Trips, and Travel Checklist: Emergency Contact Person]
- Determine how parents will be communicated with in the event of an emergency.
GSNorCal Emergency Management Plan
Although you hope the worst never happens, you must observe GSNorCal procedures for handling accidents and fatalities. At the scene of an accident, first provide all possible care for the sick or injured person. Follow established GSNorCal procedures for obtaining medical assistance and immediately reporting the emergency. To do this, you must always have the names and phone numbers of parents/guardians, and emergency services such as the police, fire department, or hospital emergency technicians and the council emergency number of 1(877) 636-1912 on hand.
After receiving a report of an accident, council staff will immediately arrange for additional assistance at the scene, if needed, and will notify parents/guardians, as appropriate. If a Girl Scout needs emergency medical care as the result of an accident or injury, first contact emergency medical services, and then follow council procedures for accidents and incidents. Your adherence to these procedures is critical, especially with regard to notifying parents or guardians. If the media is involved, let council-designated staff discuss the incident with these representatives.
|GSNorCal Emergency Management Plan|
Emergency Number: 1 (877) 636-1912
In line with recommendations from Girl Scouts of the USA, our council has developed a plan and a team to help respond to any emergency needing the attention of more than local troop or service unit personnel. Such emergencies are incidents of a serious nature that occur during Girl Scout activities.
An emergency is defined as any of the following:
If you become aware of any incident related to the above:
Be Prepared: Carry forms with you!
In case of emergency, troop leaders and event managers should always carry a copy (multiple copies for a large event) of the Media Information Sheet, the Accident-Injury Report Form, and the Incident Report Form, as well as permission forms and Health History Forms. (www.GSNorCal.org/forms)
|Accident-Injury Report Form|
This form is to be used to report any accident/injury occurring at a Girl Scouts of Northern California event, activity, meeting, campout, field trip. etc.
Communicate with GSNorCal Risk Management & Travel staff in the Alameda Office within 24 hours in case of any accident, injury, or incident at by emailing the Accident-Injury Report Form (along with a copy of the girl's or adult's Health History Form) or the Incident Report Form to:
Insurance@girlscoutsnorcal.org or call (800) 447-4475 Ext. 0 during business hours.
For emergencies, notify the council at its 24/7 emergency answering service: (877) 636-1912.
Council staff are prepared and
eager to assist you.
In an emergency, follow the
GSNorCal Emergency Management Plan as outlined above. [SAFETY-WISE: Emergencies, Accidents & Incidents: GSNorCal Emergency Management Plan]
Always call 9-1-1 first (if needed).
|Incident Report Form|
Use this form to report any non-injury incident that occurs which may result in future problems or other future repercussions for the people involved or for Girl Scouts of Northern California. Incidents might include:
If you would like to report anything anonymously, please follow the Whistleblower Procedures [ABOUT GSNorCal: Reporting Serious Concerns]
Every time a group meets at a time or location different from the regular group meeting, you must use a permission form—even if the girls are responsible for getting to that location on their own. Permission forms give parents the “who, what, when, where, and why,” so that they can decide whether their daughter can participate in the trip or activity.
A signed permission form permits you to include the girl in the activity and provides up-to-date emergency contact information.
Registered girl members of the current year, even if over age 18, are required to have parental/guardian permission forms.
We have four types of permission forms at GSNorCal:
|Permission Forms: (www.GSNorCal.org/forms)|
Annual Permission Form |
Girl Scouts of Northern California allows the use of the Annual Permission Form to be used if the activity meets all of the following criteria:
Note that the use of this form does not release the adult volunteers in the troop/group from the responsibility to effectively communicate with every family regarding the nature and logistics of each activity. If there is any possibility of a miscommunication with a family, which could result in a girl being mistakenly left unsupervised or a parent not knowing the whereabouts of their child, it is recommended that a Parent Permission Form be used.
The Annual Permission Form includes options for parents to give their permission to participate in product sales, to use photographs, and permission to participate in surveys or evaluations, in addition to go on trips that are located within one hour’s driving time, that don’t exceed 6 hours, and are not considered high adventure activities. [SAFETY-WISE: High Adventure Activities]
The Annual Permission Form is also available in Spanish.
Parent Permission Form |
The Parent Permission Form is recommended for any activities on a different day/time or different location than regular troop/group meetings. The Activity Permission Form is required for any of the following:
Sensitive Issues Permission Form|
Girl Scouts welcomes and serves girls and families from a wide spectrum of faiths and cultures. When girls wish to participate in discussions or activities that could be considered sensitive—even for some—put the topic on hold until you have spoken with parents and received guidance from your council. When Girl Scout activities involve sensitive issues, your role is that of a caring adult who can help girls acquire skills and knowledge in a supportive atmosphere, not someone who advocates a particular position. You are required to obtain permission forms signed by the girls’ parents/guardians using the Permission for Sensitive/Controversial Issues Form. [GIRLS & ADULTS: When Sensitive Topics Come Up]
Permission to Travel for Minors|
The Permission to Travel for Minors form, which must be notarized, gives the adult chaperones permission to transport minors across international borders. Two individually signed and notarized Permission to Travel With Minors Forms should be carried for each girl signed by each parent or guardian. If a single parent or guardian has custody, attach documentation stating the minor is in the sole custody of the signer of the Permission to Travel for Minors Form.
Girls under the age of 18 traveling from the United States to any foreign country, when not accompanied on the trip by parent(s), must have the notarized form from the parent(s) not accompanying the child stating that:
Girls under age 18 will not be able to board the international flight without this written permission.
Parent/guardian permission may be in the traditional paper form, but increasingly, members may wish to use electronic permission, which allows a much quicker return on permission slips but also raises questions about electronic signatures and scanned documents. In most cases, you do not have to include any special language when using electronic signatures in lieu of a handwritten signature. This is because the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN Act) accords electronic records and electronic signatures the same legal status as written records and handwritten signatures.
Electronic signatures include but are not limited to the following:
- Submission of an online survey through a click
- Submit buttons or check boxes accompanied by language to the effect of, “by clicking the button/checking the box, I agree with these terms.”
- A name typed by the sender at the end of an e-mail message
- Faxed signatures or other electronic transmission of a document containing a handwritten signature
- A code or PIN (such as those used with ATM and credit cards)
Health History forms (www.GSNorCal.org/forms)—which may include a physician’s examination and a list of immunizations—must be collected and kept on hand by the troop/group leader. Keep in mind that information contained in a girl’s health history is confidential and protected by law. The leader or other responsible adult should review the forms and keep them in sealed envelopes to be accessed in case of emergency. This information may only be shared with people who have a need to know the information such as the girl herself, her parent/guardian and a healthcare provider. Only those adults who have a need to review the information should have access to the forms.
Girl Health History Forms
Use this form to retain girls’ medical history and receive permission from parent/guardian for emergency medical treatment. Must have on site whenever girls are participating in any Girl Scout activity (meeting or outing). Completed annually, should be reviewed by parents periodically (they can re-sign and date the form), and must be dated within 2 months of any overnight activity.
Required for resident camp or trips lasting three nights or more, or when girls will be participating in physically demanding or strenuous activities. The required health examination by a professional health care provider must have been within the previous 24 months. Camp and school physicals are accepted.
Adult Health History Forms
Required for adults attending overnight activities or events.
Required for adults attending trips
3 nights or more, or when they participate in strenuous or physically demanding activities. The required health examination by a professional health care provider must have been within the previous 24 months.
For various reasons, some parents/guardians may object to immunizations or medical examinations. Girl Scout troops/groups must attempt to make provisions for these girls to attend Girl Scout functions in a way that accommodates these concerns. Check with council staff if concerned.
It is important for you to also be aware of any medications a girl may take or allergies she may have.
- Medication, including over-the-counter products, must never be dispensed without prior written permission from a girl’s custodial parent or guardian.
- Some girls may need to carry and administer their own medications, such as bronchial inhalers, an EpiPen, or diabetes medication. You must have documentation from the girl's parent or guardian that it is acceptable for the girl to self-administer these medications.
Common food allergies include dairy products, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, and seafood. This means that, before serving any food (such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies, or chips), ask whether anyone is allergic to peanuts, dairy products, or wheat. Do this even if you are aware of which girls have specific allergies! Even Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies should be aware of their allergies, but double-checking with their parents/guardians is always a good idea.
If an injury occurs, a copy of the Health History Form must be submitted to the council along with the Accident/Injury Report Form to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to:
Girl Scouts of Northern California
Attn: Risk Management & Travel
1650 Harbor Bay Parkway, Suite 100
Alameda, CA 94502
See [MONEY: Document Retention] regarding retention of these forms.
First Aid/CPR Courses
Emergencies require prompt action and quick judgment. For many activities, Girl Scouts recommends that at least one adult volunteer be first aid/CPR-certified. For that reason, if you have the opportunity to get trained in council-approved first aid/CPR, do it! You can take advantage of first aid/CPR training offered by chapters of the American Red Cross, National Safety Council, EMP America, American Heart Association, or other sponsoring organizations approved by GSNorCal.
Caution: First-aid/CPR training that is available entirely online does not satisfy Girl Scouts’ requirements. Such courses do not offer enough opportunities to practice and receive feedback on your technique. If you’re taking a course not offered by one of the organizations listed in the previous paragraph, or any course that has online components, get approval from GSNorCal at email@example.com.
A first aider is an adult volunteer who has taken Girl Scout–approved first aid and CPR training that includes specific instructions for child CPR. The following healthcare providers may also serve as first-aiders: physician, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, paramedic, military medic, and emergency medical technician.
First Aiders must take the online Girl Scout First Aider course which will familiarize them with their responsibilities, treatment protocols, procedures for emergencies, forms and record-keeping. They must also obtain the most updated version of the GSNorCal Health & Safety Plan.
The Safety Activity Checkpoints always tell you when a first aider needs to be present for troop/group events or activities.
Activities can take place in a variety of locations, which is why first-aid requirements are based on the remoteness of the activity—as noted in the Safety Activity Checkpoints for that activity. For example, it’s possible to do a two-mile hike that has cell phone reception and service along the entire route and EMS (Emergency Medical System) is, at maximum, 30 minutes away at all times. It is also possible to hike more remotely with no cell phone service at a place where EMS would take more than 30 minutes to arrive. It’s important that you or another volunteer with your group has the necessary medical experience (including knowledge of evacuation techniques) to ensure group safety.
The levels of first aid required for any activity take into account both how much danger is involved and how remote the area is from emergency medical services.
Access to EMS
Minimum Level of First Aid Required
Less than 30 minutes
Plus GSNorCal Online Course: Girl Scout First Aider
Download the most updated Girl Scouts of Northern California Health and Safety Plan www.GSNorCal.org/forms
More than 30 minutes
Wilderness First Aid (WFA) or Wilderness First Responder (WFR)*
Plus GSNorCal Online Course: Girl Scout First Aider
Download the most updated Girl Scouts of Northern California Health and Safety Plan www.GSNorCal.org/forms
It is important to understand the differences between a first-aid course and a wilderness-rated course. Although standard first-aid training provides basic incident response, wilderness-rated courses include training on remote-assessment skills, as well as the emergency first-aid response, including evacuation techniques, to use when EMS is not readily available.
First Aiders for Large Events
The presence of a first aider is required at resident camp. Day and resident camps require additional health care considerations regarding the first aider qualifications and on-site health care/treatment protocols and documentation. If you will be serving as a Girl Scout First Aider for a day or resident camp, please refer to the Volunteer Run Camp Administration Guide or contact the Outdoor program department at firstname.lastname@example.org. For large events, there should be one first aider for every 200 participants. For traveling or station events where there is a considerable distance between stations, event organizers should consider having first aiders with each group.
First Aid Kit
Make sure a general first aid kit is available at your group meeting place and accompanies girls on any activity (including transportation to and from the activity). Please be aware that you may need to provide this kit if one is not available at your meeting place. You can purchase a Girl Scout first aid kit, you can buy a commercial kit, or you and the girls can assemble a kit yourselves. American Red Cross offers a list of potential items in its Anatomy of a First Aid Kit on their website http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/anatomy-of-a-first-aid-kit (Note that the Red Cross suggested list includes aspirin, which you will not be at liberty to give to girls without direct parent/guardian permission). You can also customize a kit to cover your specific needs, including flares, treatments for frostbite or snake bites, and the like.
In addition to standard materials, all first aid kits should contain your council office telephone numbers [ABOUT GSNorCal: Office & Retail Locations] and emergency telephone number 1 (877) 636-1912, as well as contact information for parents/guardians, and emergency services such as the police, fire department, or hospital emergency technicians.
Your kit should also include:
- Parent Permission Forms (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/parent-permission-form.pdf)
- Health History Forms for Girls (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/girl-health-history-form.pdf)
- Health History Forms for Adults (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/adult-health-history-form.pdf)
- Accident/Injury Report (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/accident-injury-report-form.pdf)
- Incident Report Form (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/incident-report-form.pdf)
- Mutual of Omaha Claim Form (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/insurance-claim-form.pdf)
- Media Information Sheet (https://www.gsnorcal.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsnorcal/documents/volunteer_resources/risk/media-information-sheet.pdf)
The Safety Activity Checkpoints for many activities require having an expert on hand to help girls learn an activity. Please remember that all experts must be approved by GSNorCal Risk Management & Travel staff at: email@example.com
To make it a bit easier, GSNorCal maintains a list of local experts and facilities (such as roller skating rinks) that have already been approved. If your expert or venue is not on the approved list, you can work with GSNorCal’s Risk Management & Travel staff to have them included on the list. It is usually a relatively simple process to have an expert or facility placed on the Approved Vendors List. [SAFETY-WISE: Approved Vendors List]
Some things to keep in mind:
- Does the person have documented training and experience? She or he should have documented experience for the activity in question, such as course completion certificates or cards, records of previous training to instruct the activity, and letters of reference.
- What does she or he need to be able to do? This person should have the knowledge and experience to make appropriate judgments concerning participants, equipment, facilities, safety considerations, supervision, and procedures for the activity. At the very least, he or she should be able to give clear instructions to girls and adults, troubleshoot unexpected scenarios, and respond appropriately in an emergency.
Even when not required to have an expert instruct the girls for a specific activity for safety reasons, it is always a great idea to use your personal and troop networks to find experts to teach the girls particular skills. This will enrich their experience (and yours). Research performed by the Girl Scout Research Institute has shown that girls really appreciate the opportunity to learn from experts whenever possible.
When and how often to meet is up to you, your co-volunteers, parents, and girls: it may just be one time for this particular group of girls. Or, if you meet regularly, what day and time work best for the girls, for you, for your co-volunteers, and for other adults who will be presenting or mentoring? Once per week, twice a month, once a month? Most troops meet bi-weekly. Is after-school best? Can your co-volunteers meet at that time, or will meetings work better in the evenings or on the weekends?
Where to meet can be a bit trickier: a meeting place needs to provide a safe, clean, and secure environment that allows for the participation of all girls. You might consider using meeting rooms at schools, libraries, houses or worship, community buildings, childcare facilities, and local businesses. For teens, you can also rotate meetings at coffee shops, bookstores, and other places girls enjoy spending time.
If you need to sign a contract or use permit or obtain a certificate of insurance for your site, you'll need to have council staff sign that for you. [MONEY: Contracts & Certificates of Insurance]
Here are a few points to keep in mind as you consider meeting locations:
- Cost: The space should be free to use if at all possible. Contact your VDM (GSNorCal staff member) or service unit for help in locating a suitable space.
- Size: Make sure the space is large enough to accommodate the whole group and all planned activities.
- Availability: Be sure the space is available for the day and the entire length of time you want to meet.
- Resources: Determine what types of furnishings (table? chairs?) come with the room and ensure that the lighting is adequate. A bonus would be a cubby of some sort, where you can store supplies or a safe outdoor space for activities.
- Safety: Ensure that the space is safe, secure, clean, properly ventilated, heated (or cooled, depending on your location), free from hazards, and has at least two exits that are well-marked and fully functional. Also be sure a first-aid equipment is on hand.
- Facilities: Sanitary and accessible toilets are critical.
- Communication-friendly: Be sure your cell phone works in the meeting space.
- Allergen-free: Ensure that pet dander and other common allergens won’t bother susceptible girls during meetings.
- Accessibility: Be sure the space can accommodate girls with disabilities, as well as parents with disabilities who may come to meetings.
If this is your first time asking for a Girl Scout meeting place, here are a few speaking points to get you started:
“I’m a Girl Scout volunteer, with a group of ______ girls. We’re doing lots of great things for girls and for the community, like _____ and ______. We’re all about leadership—the kind that girls use in their daily lives and the kind that makes our community better. We’d love to hold our meetings here because ______.”
Here are some questions to consider when deciding if your possible meeting place is suitable:
Meeting Place Safety Guide
Whether meeting at a private residence or elsewhere, use the following checklist before each meeting to think about how to make your meeting place safer to prevent accidents or injuries. The safest possible meeting places should be chosen, and steps should be taken wherever possible to minimize potential risks listed in this guide.
Property owners and renters have legal liability if any person (invited or not) is injured while on their property. Adequate homeowners or renters insurance is a must if Girl Scout meetings or other activities will be held at your place of residence to protect your financial interests. If you choose to hold Girl Scout meetings at your residence, you carry the same legal liability as when any other visitor is on your property or at your place of residence.
Outside Around the Meeting Place
- Does the lighting system illuminate entrances, walkways, and parking?
- Are facility access points located in open, well-traveled areas?
- Are sidewalks and exterior stairs clear of snow and ice?
- Is playground equipment anchored so that it does not tip, slide, or move in an unintended manner?
- Are there pinch, crush or tearing points on individual pieces of playground equipment that could injure a girl?
- Do surface materials in fall zones under playground equipment absorb shock (materials such as rubber-like material, sand, gravel; shredded wood products)?
- If the property has a pool, is the pool access locked so that girls cannot enter the pool area unless swimming activities are to be conducted?
- Are pool chemicals stored, secured, and out of reach from children?
- Are all chemical cleaning solutions kept out of reach and properly stored to prevent access to children?
- Are all prescription medications kept out of reach and properly stored to prevent access to children?
- Are all weapons kept out of reach and properly stored to prevent access to children?
- Are all tools and power equipment kept out of reach and properly stored to prevent access to children?
- Is the area reasonably free of biting, and stinging insects?
- Is access restricted to recreational equipment such as ATVs, archery equipment, trampolines, and other sports equipment unless as part of the planned and supervised activity when allowed?
Inside the Meeting Place
- Are there two or more separate, usable exits available?
- Are exits ever blocked?
- Are exits available clearly marked with emergency lighting?
- Are steps clear of trip and fall hazards?
- Are handrails and railings on stairs present and secure?
- Are floors and walking areas free of trip and fall hazards?
- Is floor space adequate for the desired activities?
- Are toilets and sanitary facilities accessible?
- Do girls or adults have special needs that require adaptations of facilities for their disabilities?
- Are electrical outlets protected with outlet covers?
- Are extension cords tucked away so that they will not be walked on or trip someone?
- Are barriers or warnings provided for hot surfaces like fireplaces, heaters, radiators, and wood stoves?
- Are fire extinguishers available?
- Is first aid equipment readily available?
- Is telephone available and operational?
- Are emergency phone numbers provided for fire, ambulance, police, and poison control center?
Before the Girls Arrive
- Look around to see if there is anything you can do to lessen the chance of an accident.
- Ensure that you have consulted the Safety Activity Checkpoints for all of the activities the girls will participate in.
Every registered Girl Scout and registered adult member in the Girl Scout movement is automatically covered under the basic Mutual of Omaha Activity Insurance plan upon registration. The entire premium cost for this protection is borne by Girl Scouts of the USA, and the basic plan is effective during the regular fiscal year (October 1 to the following October 1). Up to 14 months of insurance coverage is provided for new members who register in the month of August.
This insurance provides up to a specified maximum for medical expenses incurred as a result of an accident while a member is participating in an approved, supervised Girl Scout activity. This is one reason why all adults and girls should be registered members. It is important to remember that non-registered parents, tagalongs (brothers, sisters and friends) and other persons are not covered by the basic plan.
This insurance coverage is not intended to diminish the need for, or replace existing, family health insurance. When $130 in benefits has been paid under this plan for covered expenses, any subsequent benefits from the basic plan will be payable (up to the specified maximum) only for expenses incurred that aren’t covered under another insurance policy. If there is no family insurance or healthcare program, a specified maximum of medical benefits is available under the basic plan.
An optional Activity Insurance plan is available for Girl Scouts taking extended trips (extending three nights or more) and for non-members who participate in Girl Scout activities. These optional plans are secondary insurance that GSNorCal offers to cover participants taking part in any council-approved, supervised Girl Scout activity. Contact your council to find out how to apply.
Ordering Additional Insurance
Troop Leaders (or other registered adults in charge of an event) may order insurance by completing the Trip Insurance Enrollment Plans Form www.GSNorCal.org/forms. Payment for the reasonably priced insurance will be made through an automatic electronic transfer from your troop or service unit bank account. Please e-mail the Risk Management & Travel Assistant if you have any questions at .
All requests must be received 2 weeks/10 workdays prior to the first day of your event.
GS Insurance Plan Comparison Chart
If ANY person—girl, sibling, adult or anyone who is not currently registered as a Girl Scout member will participate at your meeting, trip, or any other Girl Scout gathering, you will need to purchase additional insurance to cover this person or people. If an adult will participate other than as a visiting speaker or presenter or audience member, or unregistered children (siblings or friends) will participate in any way other than as an audience member, the additional insurance is necessary. This insurance is very reasonably priced, and the process is easy. Contact the Risk Management & Travel Assistant in the Alameda office Insurance@girlscoutsnorcal.org. Note that if an adult will supervise girls, she/he must register and complete adult screening.
(included in your membership)
Automatic coverage for registered members for Girl Scout meetings or events which does not exceed a total of 2 nights. You do not need to order this insurance.
(approx.11₵ per person, per day)
To cover participants who are NOT registered Girl Scouts and/or Girl Scouts participating in an event lasting 3 nights or more. Example: If your troop is planning a trip to Southern California for 5 days and 4 nights, you will need to purchase insurance for all of the registered members for the full 5 days because the trip is 3 nights or more.
(approx. 29₵ per person, per day)
This plan is recommended for trips out of state.
PLAN 3P Accident and Sickness Insurance
(approx. 70₵ per person, per day)
For groups with one or more participants who do not have personal family insurance (or where personal insurance may not be honored).
(approx. $1.17 per person, per day)
For any Girl Scout group planning a trip out of the country. It should be purchased in the planning stages of the trip, after it has been approved by the council, due to certain pre-trip benefits. Call the council office to obtain detailed information on how to purchase this plan.
Sexual advances, improper touching, and sexual activity of any kind with girl members are forbidden. Physical, verbal and emotional abuse of girls is also forbidden. All states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have statutes identifying persons who are required to report suspected child abuse to an appropriate agency. Therefore, if you witness or suspect child abuse or neglect, whether inside or outside of Girl Scouting, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. Staff members are mandated reporters, and have been trained in reporting suspected child abuse.
For additional information, please check the following resources:
- Department of Health & Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway: www.childwelfare.gov/can/
- How to Report Suspected Child Maltreatment: https://www.childwelfare.gov/responding/how.cfm
- Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect: www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/manda.cfm
Adult supervision for girls also extends to online activity.
In order to make sure that girls are aware of how to safely use the Internet, you should discuss online safety issues with the girls and distribute copies of the Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge and make sure they understand it. The girls should also take a copy of the pledge home and go over it with their parents. Both the girl and her parent should sign the pledge.
- “Computer/Online Use” Safety Activity Checkpoints"
- Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Girls, Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Parents/Guardians and Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Volunteers (available in product sales materials)
- Follow the Girl Scout Safety Guidelines [SAFETY-WISE: Girl Scout Safety Guidelines]
- Ensure that girls are supervised according to the Adult-to-Girl ratio minimums at all times. [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios]
- Consult the Safety Activity Checkpoints for every activity the girls [SAFETY-WISE: Safety Activity Checkpoints]
- Use required forms as the safety tools they are intended to be.
- Follow additional guidelines found here in Volunteer Essentials. Don’t forget to use your common sense.
Troop/Group Websites or Social Media Pages
Groups whose girls meet age criteria (13 years or older) and have parental permission may set up a group website or a Facebook group. It can be a fantastic way for girls to share information, market Girl Scout products, and talk about their Take Action projects. Girls under age 13 may not use social networks in Girl Scout activities.
Before you and the girls design a website, do remember that the web is an open forum for anyone, including potential predators. Girls must understand that the Internet is an open means of communication that anyone can access. As such, websites will often attract people other than their intended users. It is therefore important that any information that could jeopardize the safety and security of girls and adults not be disclosed on a website. The following measures will help to ensure girls’ online safety:
- Girl Scouts should only use their first names
- A Girl Scout’s last name, address, phone number, or e‐mail address should never be posted. For Digital Cookie a girl may post her unique Digital Cookie URL on her Facebook page and may email it to friends and family (for additional information please refer to Safety Activity Checkpoint for Online Product Sales, Digital Cookie Terms & Conditions for Volunteers and Digital Cookie Pledge for Girls)
- Ensure that websites do not show personal e‐mail addresses of girls, but use a troop, group or adult’s e‐mail.
- Always have a parent’s or guardian’s permission when using pictures of girls on a website. This is especially important if the girl is under 13 years old
- Do not post addresses of group meeting places, dates and times of meetings, events or trips on a website. Instead, an adult who wishes to communicate upcoming events with families of Girl Scouts should send an e‐mail to the families
- Do not allow automatic posting of messages to a website. All postings to message boards, social media and guest books should have adult oversight, and be screened prior to posting live.
- Make yours a static site that does not allow outsiders to post messages to the site, or make sure all postings (such as message boards or guest books) have adult oversight and are screened prior to posting live.
- Don’t violate copyright law by using designs, text from magazines or books, poetry, music, lyrics, videos, graphics, or trademarked symbols without specific permission from the copyright or trademark holder (and, generally, this permission is pretty tough to get!). Girl Scout trademarks (such as the trefoil shape, Girl Scout pins, and badges and patches) can be used only in accordance with guidelines for their use. (The Girl Scout trefoil, for example, may not be animated or used as wallpaper for a website).
- Consult resources:
In addition to great resources for girls, there is plenty of advice for adults on how to monitor your child’s online use, family internet safety tips, how to tell which sites are safe and reliable for teens, safe texting, IMing, and gaming, and more.
See additional guidelines specific to participating in the Product Sales Program [GS PROGRAM: Online Marketing]
What is an event?
- Any activity other than just a regularly scheduled troop/group meeting may be an event if it includes other people outside the troop/group
- Girls attending individually – any time you have girls attending as individuals rather than with their troop the activity qualifies as an event
- Promotion – when other troops, groups, or people are invited outside those planning the activity, it is an event
- Size – if more than two large or three small troops are involved, it would be considered an event
- Logistics – a complicated activity where there are many logistics to consider such as site, safety, transportation, etc. would be considered an “event”.
Are you planning events and activities for your service unit or the council? The Event Manager course is required for volunteers running events where this person is responsible for the planning and implementation of the event and for the well-being of the participants. The course is available online. The participant notebook for the course is designed as a checklist, and outlines the safety, financial, and other guidelines for events in GSNorCal. Event Managers are responsible for following all guidelines and procedures covered in the Event Manager course.
For large events, there should be one first-aider for every 200 participants. For traveling or station events where there is a considerable distance between stations, event organizers should consider having first aiders with each group.
If the event will involve an overnight or any high adventure activity, the service unit or other entity hosting the event will submit the Trip or High Adventure Approval Form, in addition to the Event Notification Form. www.GSNorCal.org/forms Troops or individuals attending the event do not have to submit either form to the council.
Use this clickable checklist to help you and the girls plan your trip.
- A trip that is farther than 60 miles from your regular meeting place and longer than 6 hours in duration but not high adventure (at least 2 weeks prior) [SAFETY-WISE: High Adventure Activities]
- Any overnight activity (at least 2 weeks prior)
- An event/trip of any length that includes a high adventure activity (at least 4-6 weeks prior)
- A trip that is 3 nights or more (at least 6-12 weeks prior)
- A trip outside of the state of California
- An international trip (at least 6 months prior)
A Girl Scout trip is an opportunity for girls to have fun, to experience adventure, and to enrich their ongoing Girl Scout program. Sometimes a trip is the culmination of a progression of activities that the girls are already engaged in.
A Girl Scout trip is defined as any time a group has an activity at a location other than the regularly scheduled meeting place. If the group will start and end at the regular meeting location, but will walk to a local park or other destination, this activity is not defined as a trip.
Safety Activity Checkpoints and the guidelines in Volunteer Essentials should be consulted when planning a trip of any length. Care should be taken to determine if troops are ready to participate in troop/group travel and trips.
- Adult Learning Courses
- Budgeting & Money
- Chaperones (follow adult-to-girl ratios)
- Additional Insurance
- Destination Logistics (reservations, contracts, tickets)
- Prepare the girls
GSNorCal offers a variety of training opportunities for you to prepare for a safe and fun travel & outdoor experience with your Girl Scouts. Before venturing outdoors, volunteers are required to have the knowledge and experience to lead a safe and positive travel & outdoor experience. Training requirements for Trip and Outdoor advisors can be found on our Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org). Below is a list of our Trip & Outdoor Courses. All Trip & Outdoor Course training is built on progression and prerequisite courses are required. View the Trip & Outdoor Advisor course page for detailed information.
Trip & Outdoor Basics (online course)
Required before you leave the meeting location for a local field trip, day trip, or longer trip.
Cook In (online course)
Required before girls use knives or prepare a snack or meal indoors. Learn the skills you’ll need to teach girls how to plan, budget, shop, and prepare their own meal.
Sleep In (online course)
Required before planning an indoor overnight at an indoor facility with indoor plumbing and electricity. Learn the skills you’ll need to guide girls as they plan, budget, prepare, and pack for their indoor overnight experience.
Campfire (online course)
Required before you have an outdoor campfire with girls. Learn the skills you’ll need to guide girls to build, light, and manage a campfire with safety in mind.
Troop Camping Certification (in-person course)
This course is required if your troop will either cook OR sleep outdoors (or in shelters without electricity or indoor plumbing). At least one troop adult who will assist girls in planning, budgeting, and organizing the troop camping experience and who will accompany girls on the camping adventure to make sure the trip is both safe and fun must take this course. The course is offered in-person or experienced campers may take the Troop Camping Equivalency as a challenge to the Troop Camping Certification Course.
Backpacking Certification (in-person course)
Required before you plan an overnight backpacking trip with girls. Learn the skills you’ll need to guide girls to plan, budget, shop, and prepare for their overnight backpacking trip.
Extended Travel Training (ETT) (in-person course)
When planning trips of 3 nights or more, national and international trips, the Extended Travel course is required of at least one adult who will attend outing and who is involved in the planning process for the trip. This course should be completed prior to starting the planning process or at least 6 months before the trip. It is highly recommended that girls take this course as well to help facilitate
the girl planning of the trip.
For tips on girl planning and preparation, along with assessing group readiness [PROGRAM: Outings, Trips & Travel] [PROGRAM: Travel Readiness (Progression)] For planning international trips [PROGRAM: Global Travel Toolkit] For travel opportunities [PROGRAM: Girl Scout Travel Opportunities]
- Follow minimum adult-to-girl ratios for events, outings, and trips [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios]
- Review the Safety-Wise chapter in Volunteer Essentials (this chapter) and any applicable Safety Activity Checkpoints, and establish adult supervision plan
Create Emergency Plan
- Brainstorm safety rules and precautions with the girls such as establishing boundaries, use of buddy system, plan for what to do if lost, etc.
- Help the girls to create an emergency plan. Bring this plan on your trip. The emergency plan should include the communication protocol – who is going to call the at home contact to let them know the group is okay? Who are the contacts for emergency and non-emergency local law enforcement? Who is then going to call the travelers' emergency contacts? And who is going to call your council in case of an emergency?
- Troop leaders should also ensure that girls know WHO is responsible for them, especially if it is a big trip. They should also know how to handle crowded situations and what to do in case they get lost or are in an accident. Perhaps test out these plans by having the girls spend a day in a local city – making sure they can navigate to meeting places and feel comfortable in public spaces, and even to learn how heavy their bags are!
- In the event of an emergency, everyone should stick to the plan. Gathering participants is the #1 priority. Once the group is gathered, call the emergency contact person to communicate the status of the group.
For International Travel:
For international trips, include in-country contacts (e.g. number for the U.S. embassy, American Express, Red Cross) and a "lost plan" for each location you visit in case any group members become separated. Register your group with the U.S. State Department and provide them with a list of names and the group's itinerary.
Before the group decides to travel, the first thing they should do is check the US State Department website for any travel warnings or advisories, and read the individual country descriptions. These might reference certain areas to avoid within a certain country, and always include tips on how to stay safe. travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html
A few weeks before the trip, register the group's itinerary with the US State Department. If the group is registered, the US Embassy knows that they are in the country, and in case of any incident will take active steps to locate the group. The group will also get updates about any security concerns in their destination. State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program step.state.gov/step/
If the group would like to connect with a WAGGGS member troop where they are visiting, they can submit the GSUSA Intent to Travel Form girlscoutsusa.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_5dlynji6EziK4Rv
Budgeting & Money
The Girl Scout product program is the nation’s leading business and financial literacy program for girls and it can make a huge difference when financing a troop's travel dreams. Travel adventures cost more than a day trip but this offers girls the opportunity to learn some financial skills that will serve them well throughout their lives while working towards an amazing goal. Girls learn:
- Goal setting
- Customer relations
- Good business practices
Since the money belongs to the troop/group, the adults should not be making the decisions about how it is spent, and instead the girls make the decisions. If they’re ready for a trip, they’re ready for this responsibility, too.
Create a detailed and realistic budget with the girls. Include amounts for any registration fees, transportation, parking, gas, food, tips, insurance, lodging, recreation/entertainment, admission fees, taxes, fees for travel documents and vaccinations, postage, duplication of materials, souvenirs, and emergency funds. Help the girls define personal and group expenses. For extended trips, the Global Travel Toolkit has different templates to help the girls think of all the possible expenses so that they can determine the cost of their trip. Once you have an idea of how much the trip is going to cost, help the girls to figure out how much they need. Use the Trip & Outdoor Budget Planning Tool to assist you and the girls in your troop with planning and budgeting for your trip or outdoor adventure.
Determine whether the Cadette or older girls have product program rewards money that they want to use on this trip. With input from families, the girls should decide how much will be paid by the troop and the amount each girl/family can contribute. Girl Scout trips should be affordable to all the girls in the troop/group. Discuss travel plans, budgeting and money-earning projects with families before finalizing plans.
What’s left after the girls/family contribution is the amount needed to raise through money-earning projects. Establish a group goal. How much will the group need to earn together? [MONEY: Money-Earning Projects - Approval Required]
Have the girls discuss and make decisions in advance, including:
- How to pay bills that occur before, during, and after the trip
- Shall the group pay all or any part of the costs for adult advisors to attend the trip? How many adults? Which ones? Could these adults help with the money-earning projects to help defray their expenses? The group cannot go on the trip without qualified adult chaperones, so this might be considered an expense to the troop/group. Travel Tip: When selecting adults for a trip, define the needs of the trip first. For example, does the trip require a lifeguard, or an adult who has taken Extended Travel Training, or Troop Camping Certification? Select adults that can fulfill the needs of the trip. (Note that it would not be acceptable to use troop funds to pay for “extra” adults who were not needed as part of the adult-to-girl ratios).
- What percentage of money should be held to cover regular troop/group expenses besides the trip?
- Not all families can afford to spend the same amount for activities. Will there be some money set aside for financial aid? How could a confidential system be set in place to allow girls to apply for the funds?
- How should it be handled if a new girl joins the troop sometime before the trip? How would the troop/group help make it possible for her to attend?
- What will the money be used for if plans for the trip fall through?
Set up a group travel bank account to be overseen by two people who work together as the designated adults. Have the two people together be responsible for group funds and keep a daily account of expenditures. Likewise, all funds should not be held by just one person at any time during the trip.
Not all trips involve money-earning projects, but if yours does:
- GSUSA and GSNorCal policies and guidelines must be followed.
Check with the Fund Development Dept. before soliciting funds from local organizations, foundations, or businesses. Encourage girls to present travel plans to potential contributors—but leave the “ask” to adults. In other words, let the girls share their excitement about their goals, but let the adults ask for donations. Asking for money or materials or services is considered fundraising by the IRS and Girl Scout policies, and for many reasons (legal and otherwise), adults are the only people who can raise money for Girl Scouts.
To determine how many volunteer chaperones the girls will need with them on the trip, see the adult-to-girl ratios. [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios] As you ask for chaperones, be sure to look for ones who are committed to:
- Being a positive role model
- Respecting all girls and adults equally, with no preferential treatment
- Creating a safe space for girls
- Prioritizing the safety of all girls e.g. not drinking alcohol on the trip, not leaving the girls alone, etc.
- Supporting and reinforcing the team agreement
- Handling pressure and stress by modeling flexibility and a sense of humor
- Creating an experience for and with girls
- Getting fit (appropriate to the trip)
- Becoming a registered Girl Scout member-volunteer
- Have a cleared background check with GSNorCal
Be sure every chaperone reviews and follows the Girl Scout Safety Guidelines, and understands rules and expectations for the trip.
Be sure the chaperones each understand their responsibilities and which girls they are responsible for, and ensure that the girls also know which chaperone they report to. Specify who is responsible for contacting the emergency contact person in case of any emergency situation. Be sure that everyone understands that the chaperones are responsible for the girls' safety, and not the tour director.
For info, resources, and training: training.gsnorcal.org.
How parents decide to transport girls between their homes and Girl Scout meeting places is each parent’s individual decision and responsibility.
For planned Girl Scout field trips and other activities—outside the normal meeting time and/or place—in which a group will be transported in private vehicles:
- Every driver must be an approved adult volunteer at least 21 years old, and have a good driving record, a valid license, and a registered/insured vehicle.
- Girls never drive other girls.
- If a group is traveling in one vehicle, there must be at least two unrelated, approved adult volunteers in the vehicle, one of which is female, and the girl-volunteer ratios on must be followed. [SAFETY: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios]
- If a group is traveling in more than one vehicle, the entire group must consist of at least two unrelated, approved adult volunteers, one of whom is female, and the girl-volunteer ratios must be followed. [SAFETY: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios] Care should be taken so that a single car (with a single adult driver) has at least two girls, and is not separated from the group for an extended length of time.
Current laws regarding car safety seats for children must be followed. Children must be in a belt-positioning booster seat until they are at least 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall. In addition, children under 12 must be in a rear seat (may not ride in a front seat because of air bags).
GSNorCal encourages groups to transport girls in family-sized vehicles which are familiar to the drivers. Vans carrying up to 10 people are acceptable. Vans designed to carry 12 passengers may be used upon special approval if at least two drivers have a current Class B license. Vans designed to carry 15 or more passengers are NOT approved to transport Girl Scouts in our council.
Private transportation includes private passenger vehicles, rental cars, privately owned or rented recreational vehicles and campers, chartered buses, chartered boats, and chartered flights. Each driver of motorized private transportation must be at least 21 years old and hold a valid operator’s license appropriate to the vehicle—state laws must be followed even if they are more stringent than the guidelines here.
It is the responsibility of the troop/group leader to ensure that drivers have a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance. Use the Troop Driver Form, available on the council website www.GSNorCal.org/forms
When driving a vehicle to transport Girl Scouts, take the following precautions and ask any other drivers to do the same. The troop/group leader should familiarize drivers with guidelines for acting in this capacity and ask them to take the online Troop Driver course on the Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org).
Each driver of motorized private transportation must:
- Be at least 21 years old. Girls may not transport other girls. It may be assumed that Girl Scout activities begin when custody of the participant takes place. To be specific, if travel is part of the activity, girls may not transport other girls.
- Hold a valid driver’s/operator’s license appropriate to the vehicle being driven. For example, anyone who is driving a vehicle with 12 passengers must also possess a Class B driver’s license.
- Carry the minimum insurance required by the California Responsibility Law.
- Must be registered members and complete the adult screening process established by the council.
- A male volunteer may act as a driver, but must never have one girl in the car alone, except for his own daughter.
- Keep directions and a road map in the car, along with a first aid kit and a flashlight.
- Check your lights, signals, tires, windshield wipers, horns, and fluid levels before each trip and check them periodically on long trips.
- Keep all necessary papers up to date, such as your driver’s license, vehicle registration, any state or local inspections, insurance coverage, and the like.
- Wear your seat belt at all times, and insist that all passengers do the same. Keep girls under 12 in the back seats.
- Never transport girls in flatbed or panel trucks, in the bed of a pickup, or in a camper-trailer. Girls must always wear seat belts and be in a seat intended for passengers.
- Follow all established rules of the road in California (following the speed limit, keeping a two car length between you and the car ahead of you, not talking or texting on a cell phone or other personal electronic devices, not using ear buds or headphones, driving with your headlights on when your windshield wipers are on, etc.)
- Avoid driving when tired, taking medication that makes you drowsy, or for extended periods at night.
- Plan rest stops every few hours. If driving with others, prearrange stopping places along the way. When planning longer trips, arrange for relief drivers.
- Never travel in caravans (having drivers follow behind one another). This can result in an increased chance of accidents if drivers hurry through a light to stay together, or make unsafe lane changes to follow. Instead, every driver should know where they are going and where any rest stops will be taken.
- Turn in completed Troop Driver Form to Troop Leader. This form should be reviewed and updated on an insurance.
Information and training for drivers is available on the Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org).
Rented or Chartered Vehicles
Even though written agreements are always required when chartering a vehicle, you are not authorized to sign an agreement even if there is no cost associated with the charter. Such an agreement must instead be signed by the council staff person designated by GSNorCal. [MONEY: Contracts & Certificates of Insurance]Rental Vehicles
Troops, Service Units, or volunteer run programs can rent vehicles using Girl Scout funds as long as it is to transport girls or equipment for Girl Scout programming. GSNorCal no longer requires prior approval for those renting vehicles, but does require that all adults driving a rental vehicle to transport girls must be background screened and registered as a troop driver. GSNorCal does not offer rental vehicles, discounts and will not be held liable for any rental vehicle incidents. It is recommended that when an adult rents a vehicle that you purchase the additional rental insurance coverage or make sure that your personal coverage will be sufficient. Rental vehicles are to be treated as personal vehicles when used for Girl Scouting activity.
Groups wishing to lease commercial buses must also have permission from the GSNorCal Risk Management and Travel Team. All vehicles traveling on public roads are equipped with:
- First-aid kits
- Emergency-warning reflectors
- Fire extinguishers
- A cell phone or some other kind of communication device
Commercial bus companies must:
- Be approved by GSNorCal listed on the Approved Vendors List.
- Provide a certificate of insurance with evidence of general liability and automobile liability for the vehicle (minimum of $1 million) and evidence of collision/comprehensive insurance for the vehicle
- Provide evidence of workers' compensation insurance for the driver
- Provide a copy of their last CHP safety inspection.
- Relief-driver availability (if driving hours indicate)
- Show that drivers are approved by the state to carry children.
- Show that drivers are part of the statewide program that monitors driving records.
- Provide seating and storage capacities, as well as bathroom availability for long trips
- Carry emergency equipment
- Documentation of safety-check procedures, including frequency
Use of Ridesharing Companies Not Permitted
Uber, Lyft, Curb, and similar ride sharing companies are not permitted to transport girls because the safety, credibility, and insurance of the drivers is far more difficult to qualify than that of traditional or well-known charter and rental companies. Complete auto insurance coverage is often not available or not sufficient for the majority of ride sharing drivers.
Rental or Purchase Policy for Storage Units & Trailers
Girl Scouts of Northern California supports the rental of storage units and/or purchase of storage units and storage trailers purchased by Service Units and Day Camps in the name of Girl Scouts of Northern California for the use of storing program supplies and product sales property. These units should never be used to store personal property.
Contracts and Agreements are to be signed by the key holders of the units with a minimum of two unrelated signors for each unit. In the case of moving storage units, such as trailers that are purchased in the name of Girl Scouts of Northern California, it is the responsibility of the Service Unit or Day Camp to uphold maintenance and vehicle registration tags for the unit. The storage of the vehicles is the responsibility of the Service Unit or Day Camp. Service Units must annually submit copies of their registration and insurance to the Senior Property Director.
Girl Scouts of Northern California will cover liability insurance on all storage vehicles and units as long as the property is owned and utilized in the name of Girl Scouts of Northern California. Liability insurance will renew annually when contracts or registrations are renewed with facilities or the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles. Liability insurance does not cover theft, or in the case of trailers, collision. These extra insurances should be purchased by the Service Unit/Day Camp in charge of the unit. If the Service Unit/Day Camp fails to maintain the vehicle registration and upkeep of vehicles, Girl Scouts of Northern California has the right to transfer the property of unit out of the possession of the Service Unit or Day Camp. No trailer should ever be used without up-to-date registration tags, collision insurance and Girl Scout of Northern California liability insurance.
Additional insurance (beyond basic coverage included in Girl Scout membership) must be purchased for:
- an event where unregistered people are participating
- any Girl Scout activity, event or trip lasting 3 nights or more
- for trips out of state or any other trip where sickness could occur
- where one or more participants does not have personal family insurance (or where personal insurance may not be honored
- any trip out of the country
Consider buying travel insurance in case of flight cancellation, delays, or date changes. This kind of insurance is an added cost, but if the group ends up having to cancel a trip the insurance may be able to reimburse them for flights and other costs incurred. Additional insurance purchased through GSNorCal does not cover these special circumstances and can be purchased through independent insurance carriers.
Any registered or unregistered participant who does not have personal insurance may purchase insurance for the duration of the Girl Scout event/activity through GSNorCal.
All contracts or signed agreements must be signed by a council staff member. Troops and service units are not legal entities, and may not legally enter into contracts. Please allow at least two weeks prior to the date you need the signed agreement.
All reservations should be made in advance. Do not post the exact itinerary on a public website where it could be viewed by anyone. Instead create a closed network such as a closed Facebook group.
Prepare the Girls
The girls should spend time learning or practicing any needed skills (such as dressing for the weather, fire or knife safety, using specialized equipment, etc.) before the trip.
Girls should develop a Behavioral Contract that guides appropriate behavior at events, outings and trips. Be sure all girls understand the rules and expectations, along with consequences for breaking the rules.
If the group will be staying in a hotel, everyone should know where the emergency exits are, and always lock the door. Travelers should not mention their room number in front of strangers.
Online training is available to help trip and outdoor advisors with tips on getting girls involved in planning and preparing girls for certain activities and outings. Volunteer Learning Portal (training.gsnorcal.org)
For International Trips: Have the girls find out if they need a VISA or any special immunizations to enter that country, and whether there are health concerns. Check the Center for Disease Control website: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list
Be sure to discuss the following items with the girls and their parents before you leave on any trip (you may also want to put this information in writing and have girls sign it):
- Who her buddy is—and how the buddy system works
- What to do if she is separated from the group, whether by accident or because of a crime
- What to do if she loses something significant: money, passport, luggage
- How to report a crime
- What to do if emergency help is needed
- How to perform basic first-aid procedures
- How to deal with a large crowd (if applicable)
- What to do in the event of a crime
- What behaviors you expect—and what consequences exist for not living up to those behaviors
If a Girl Scout Cadette, Senior, or Ambassador will be traveling alone during any part of a trip, use the opportunity to help her feel comfortable with and capable of being on her own. Always talk first with her parents to assess her maturity and ability to handle herself, and have them complete an emergency form. If she is flying, discuss the possibility of booking a nonstop flight to make her trip less stressful, and ask parents to contact the airline, which will make special arrangements for any unaccompanied minor.
With the girl herself, develop a trip plan, discuss hotel security and safety, and talk about avoiding excess communication with strangers, not wearing a nametag, and avoiding exposing money or other items (such as smartphones & iPads) that are attractive to pickpockets.
- Permission & Health History Forms
- Trip Folders
- Emergency Contact Person
Communication with Families
All families should have itineraries, a copy of the emergency plan, and contact information for the trip's emergency contact person.
Permission forms must always be used when:
- Activities are held in a different place than regularly scheduled meetings OR
- Activities are held on a different day or time than regularly scheduled meetings OR
- Activities are considered high adventure [SAFETY-WISE: High Adventure Activities]
Use the appropriate permission form(s) as needed for the trip to communicate plans to the parents/guardians. [SAFETY-WISE: Permission Forms]
Girl and Adult Health History Forms must be signed and re-dated by a parent/guardian within two months of an overnight activity. Health History With Physical Exam Forms are needed for girls and adults for any trip lasting 3 nights or more or for strenuous or physically demanding activities. The required health examination by a professional health care provider must have been within the previous 24 months. Camp and school physicals are accepted. It's important to note that adults also need a health history form for overnight events.
- Permission forms (Annual Permission & Parent Permission)
- Health History forms (in a sealed envelope) for all girls/adults/participants they are responsible for
- Driving Directions/Maps
- Troop Roster
- Pertinent Emergency Contact Information
- Council Emergency Card
- Mutual of Omaha Claim form and brochure
- Accident/Injury Report
- Incident Report form
- Media Information Sheet
- Troop Driver Form and Vehicle Assignment, if the group will be driving
Troop/Group Emergency Contact Person
A troop/group emergency contact person must be established for every trip. Having an emergency contact person allows chaperones to focus on keeping everyone together, safe, and calm while the emergency contact handles communication with families. Your service unit leadership must be given contact information for your troop/group’s emergency contact person in case there are any problems or emergencies that arise on any trip. This person would act as a "point person" in case of any emergency on the trip or an emergency or natural disaster at home while the troop/group is away. The troop/group emergency contact person must be a person who will NOT attend the trip, and should know:
- Which girls and adults are present on the trip
- Where the troop is going
- Dates and times of the trip
- Where and when the group will return
- Contact information for the adults present on the trip
- Contact information for service unit leadership
- Contact information for all families
- How to activate the GSNorCal Emergency Management Plan
|Type of Trip/Event||Approval process and time line for submitting the Trip or High Adventure Approval Form|
|The Trip or High Adventure Approval Form is not required, but you should inform your service unit of the activity plans.|
The Trip or High Adventure Approval Form must be submitted to GSNorCal. Travel plans require approval from the council at least two weeks prior to the trip.
Event/trip of any length includes a high adventure activity
|The Trip or High Adventure Approval Form must be submitted to GSNorCal. Travel plans require approval from the council at least 4-6 weeks prior to the trip.|
|Trip is 3 nights or more||The Trip or High Adventure Approval Form must be submitted to GSNorCal. Travel plans require approval from the council at least 6-12 weeks prior to the trip.|
| International trip||The Trip or High Adventure Approval Form must be submitted to GSNorCal. Travel plans require approval from the council at least 6 months prior to the trip.|
It is recommended that groups spend two years planning and preparing for a major trip. Encourage girls to gather the needed information to submit the Trip or High Adventure Approval Form themselves.
Contact the Risk Management & Travel team at email@example.com if you have any questions.
Before discussing what girls should bring, it's a great idea to discuss what they shouldn't bring. Girls should not bring valuable items on any kind of trip. The items could become lost or damaged, and more importantly, could make the girls a target when out in public.
First aid kit
Never give any medication, including over-the-counter medications, to a girl without a parent/guardian's written permission. For extended trips, include items such as Benadryl, Tylenol, anti-diarrhea medicine, medicines for stomach upset and motion sickness. Parents/guardians must indicate on the health forms which over-the-counter medications girls are permitted to take.
- Prescription Medications for Girls: Unless a girl has a physician or parental note to carry her own, adults are responsible to keep medication for girls. This authorization may be needed in situations where home hospitality is given and the girl is away from the first aider. Personal medications to be administered in case of emergency include bee sting kits, asthma inhalers, epinephrine injectors, diabetic medication, diabetic insulin and syringes, ect. (Girls need a physician's note to keep the medication with her at all times.)
- Permission Forms: Annual Permission Forms, Parent Permission Forms, or Permission to Travel with Minor (for international trips)
- Health History Forms for Girls, Adult Health History Forms for overnight trips, and Health History with Physical Forms (for trips of 3 nights or more)
- For International Trips: A copy of her Health History Form with Physical Exam and insurance information, and any medication she must carry with her (e.g. asthma inhaler, diabetic medication, insulin syringes, or epinephrine injectors.)
Emergency Plans and Council Emergency Cards
- All drivers/adult chaperones carry Trip Folders
For international trips:
- Girls and adults should carry international calling cards that you can purchase in local shops, along with instructions on HOW to make a call. Most U.S. cell phones do not work overseas. Contact your phone provider to find out before the trip.
- Girls and adults carry citizenship documents and copies, or documentation of legal status and copies, to reenter the United States. It's also a good idea to have electronic copies scanned and emailed so they can be accessed from a computer. Additionally, adults should carry copies of each traveler's passport.
- Girls and adults should carry itineraries with the address and contact information for every part of the trip, including the nearest US embassy or consulate to each trip location. Adults should carry copies of reservations and confirmations. Each person should have a map.
- A copy of her Health History Form with Physical Exam and insurance information, and any medication she must carry with her (e.g. asthma inhaler, insulin and syringes, or epinephrine injectors.)
- To minimize risk, when traveling overseas travelers should not wear nametags or monogrammed shirts. Uniforms are definitely appropriate at World Centers and WAGGGS events; however, uniforms are not recommended for other travel. It can be each group’s decision whether or not to wear matching or Girl Scout clothing, but right now – in our current environment – it is recommended that they do not. Some groups decide to wear the same color to find each other in a crowd. In this case, solid colors – even green! – will work. However, blending in may be a good idea right now.
For extended trips, girls bring:
- A copy of her Health History Form with Physical Exam and insurance information
- A copy of the group itinerary with all contact numbers
- Personal medications to be administered in case of emergency, such as bee sting kits, asthma inhalers, etc. (Girls need a physician's note to keep the medication with her at all times.)
Follow GSNorCal safety guidelines in Volunteer Essentials and in the Safety Activity Checkpoints. In case of emergency, follow emergency plan.
An ID bracelet (or dog tag) is required for each person with the following information:
- Girl or Adult Name
- Girl Scouts of Northern California
- GSNorCal Emergency Phone Number 1 (877) 636-1912 (include country code for international travelers)
These can be made at a pet store, military surplus store, or ordered online.
Safety Tips for Hotels, Motels, Hostels, or Dormitories
Share these safety tips with girls before you leave on any trip that involves a stay at a hotel, motel, hostel, or dormitory:
- Always lock the door behind you, using the deadbolt and the chain or anchor.
- Do not open the door for strangers; if hotel staff claims to be at the door, call the front desk to confirm.
- Don’t mention or display your room number when in the presence of strangers.
- Never leave jewelry, cameras, electronics, cash, or credit cards in your room.
- Never leave luggage unattended in the hotel lobby (or in an airport or train or bus station).
- When arriving at the hotel, locate emergency exits.
- Keep a small flashlight on your bedside table, along with a small bag with your room key, wallet, passport, and cell phone. Take the flashlight and bag with you if you have to leave the room in an emergency.
- If a fire alarm goes off, get out as quickly as possible. Don’t stop to pack your suitcase.
- Before leaving your room, feel the door: If it is warm, do not open it. Stay in your room and stuff towels around the door. Call the hotel operator immediately. If the door is cool, proceed slowly out the door, looking for flames or smoke. Repeat these instructions for any door you encounter.
- Contact the front desk to make sure girls’ rooms are cleared of any minibars or refrigerators. Also be sure the hotel doesn’t provide access to inappropriate movies on TVs and does not allow long-distance calls. Alert the hotel management that underage girls are staying in the hotel, and ask them to contact you if any girls are seen out of their rooms after bedtime.
- Let the girls problem solve when things don't go according to plan
- Take lots of pictures, share with families
- Have girls write thank you notes to the drivers/adult chaperones