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Emergency Prep Service Project during COVID

I am a relatively new merit badge councilor for E Prep. I have a scout who would like to complete the Service Project, however with COVID and many Emergency Organizations very limited on what they can do during COVID, They and I are at a loss for ideas of how to get this requirement completed. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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I assume you’re talking about Emergency Preparedness requirement 7a. I’m not aware of any “COVID-related waivers” to the Emergency Prep requirements from BSA.

Some agencies do tabletop exercises (e.g. simulated disasters that do not involve actual deployments in real space) from time to time. However, the details of what exactly the exercise involves (and whether or not they’re willing to have a non-professional participate) might dictate whether or not an acceptable simulated service exercise could be done under COVID conditions. You would have to talk to local agencies to see if they are doing any such exercises, whether or not they are willing to permit a scout to participate, and what role they might have for the scout to play. I would reach out to the same contacts that you would normally reach out to about these types of exercises (e.g. county or municipal emergency services agencies/directors).

If the scout wants to run such an exercise on the unit-level, he or she should probably talk through what they want to do and figure out whether or not it would satisfy the requirement. This could be an opportunity the scout to be creative about how to complete this activity. For instance, consider how to restructure some of the example disaster drills could be conducted virtually. The messenger project described in the pamphlet might be the most easily adapted, but the scout could come up with an ingenious way to adapt the lost child simulation as well.

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Some ideas were discussed On Scouter dot com

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  1. Do the following:
    (a) Take part in an emergency service project, either a real one or a practice drill, with a Scouting unit or a community agency.

If you break it down it looks like this:

  • Take part in an emergency service project
  • either a real one or a practice drill
  • with a Scouting unit OR a community agency

“With a Scouting unit” could mean any Scouting unit – the Scout’s troop, a Cub Scout pack, a Venturing crew, a Sea Scout ship, an international Scout unit, etc.

The Emergency Preparedness pamphlet has some example service projects / practice drills such as:

  • Lost child service project (practice drill)
  • Messenger service project
  • Simulated / mock bicycle or car accident
  • Setting up an emergency camp from scratch (with sanitation, cooking, and dishwashing facilities for a large number of people)
  • Simulate a building accident or fire with “victims” role-playing emergencies (such as touching a live electrical wire, clothes on fire, or stopped breathing)

For example: the lost child practice drill can be done outdoors, and Scouts can break up into small groups and maintain social distancing.

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The biggest challenge many units face right now is the inability to assemble in-person at all, even outdoors. A lot of these things depend on local COVID restrictions, and limitations on units conducting in-person activities.

Our local jurisdiction, for example, is not permitting in-person gatherings (even outdoors) of more than a very small number of people from a very limited number of households. Many units’ chartering organizations, similarly, are not permitting in-person activities at all right now, irrespective of the jurisdictional limitations. As always, make sure that whatever plans are developed are consistent with local safety guidance/requirements and are reasonably safe for the personnel involved.

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Check with your local fire department. They may have their training exercises which would allow for 7a to be completed during covid. You may have to split in smaller groups but it could work.

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I have used a themed campout in the past with works well. As an example you could basically plan a disaster scenario which will require the scouts to travel from point A to point B (say they have been asked to move from their camp site to an assembly area by a local authority having jurisdiction - and they need to bring with them x, y, & z) and along the way have scouts work through different scenario stations along the way. Maybe a downed power line, a lost person, a car crash, a first-aid case, etc.

I know this is a limited opportunity, i.e. in my experience individuals have to be over 16 years of age, but what about volunteering at a vaccine POD (point of distribution) clinic? Would this satisfy the requirement?

I would apply here a permutation of the advice that @Qwazse so often gives: how does the scout justify that the proposed work satisfies the requirement as written? Is that justification convincing?

As the MBC receiving the proposal from a scout, my response would be "What would you be doing in this situation? How do you believe that meets the requirement to “Take part in an emergency service project, either a real one or a practice drill, with a Scouting unit or a community agency.”?

Personally, I would be inclined to say that it’s somewhat different from the scope of projects described in the Emergency Preparedness MB pamphlet, but I can see areas of congruence as well. Potential duties could be somewhat overlapping with the idea of a “messenger service” run by scouts, some could overlap with traffic control duties (e.g. directing incoming/outgoing drivers at a mega-site), and some could be analogous to staffing an information booth at an emergency shelter (e.g. answering questions about where people go and how they sign up for appointments).

There could easily be restrictions on age set by the authority having jurisdiction over the vaccination site operations (e.g. must be a legal adult) which would make it unsuitable for scouts (without an Eagle extension) earning merit badges.

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