Lifesaving Merit Badge Helps and Documents

A round buoy lifesaver being thrown into the water for a rescue and an image of the Lifesaving merit badge emblem.

Scouts learn how to help those in trouble in the water while working on the Lifesaving merit badge. They practice and demonstrate the skills for reaching, throwing , and go rescues. They also find out how to determine which rescue technique to use and how to keep themselves safe while giving assistance to another person.

Either the Emergency Preparedness merit badge OR the Lifesaving merit badge is required for the rank of Eagle Scout. Scouts who earn both badges may count the second badge as an elective.

Help with Answers for Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirements

Find specific helps for some of the Lifesaving merit badge requirements listed below. Some of these resources will just give the answers. Others will provide engaging ways for older Scouts to introduce these concepts to new Scouts.

Ask Scouter Mom a question or share your ideas with others

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 1: Safe Swim Defense

Safe Swim Defense

Safe Swim Defense provides the steps which a BSA unit must take to safely participate in an activity which involves swimming. Read more and see an explanation of the 8 components here.

Eight Components of Safe Swim Defense

  • Qualified Supervision
  • Physical Fitness
  • Safe Area
  • Lifeguard on Duty
  • Lookout
  • Ability Groups
  • Buddy System
  • Discipline

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 2: Swimming Merit Badge and Skills

Requirement 2 Helps and Answers

Swimming Merit Badge

Swimming Merit Badge Requirements, Answers, and Resources

You must earn the Swimming merit badge before doing the requirements for the Lifesaving merit badge.

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 3: Drowning and Rescue Information

Risk Factors for Drowning

  • Inadequate Supervision: Safe Swim Defense requires adequate supervision.
  • Poor swimming skills: Test swimming ability before an aquatics activity and only allow activities are within skill level limits.
  • Unsafe areas: Ensure that the area is not to deep for the ability level and check the area for hazards, such as submerged obstacles or sudden drop-offs.
  • Unsafe activities: Don’t allow activities such as diving in shallow water or running on a slippery pool deck.
  • Poor judgement: Enforce swim tests and safe swimming areas protect swimmers who overestimate their ability. Require PFDs when appropriate.
  • Medical issues: Be aware of any medical issues beforehand.

BSA Swim Test

The BSA swim test is used to determine ability level so that participants can swim in an area which is appropriate for them.

How to Identify Swimmers in Trouble

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs — vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

How Rescue Methods Vary Depending on the Setting and the Victim

An unconscious victim will not be able to hold on to something you extend or throw to them, so these methods will not be effective. This may also be the case for an injured victim.

A strong current or wind can make a throwing rescue difficult. And the victim may be too far away from the shore for a reach rescue.

Situations Where You Should Not Use an In-Water Rescue

  • If the attempt will put yourself in danger. You cannot help the victim if you end up in trouble. Remember that the most important person in a rescue is the rescuer.
  • If you do not have a plan to safely rescue the victim.

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 4: Reaching Rescues

How to Do a Reach Rescue

  • Brace yourself by lying down or grasping something on shore so you are not pulled in yourself
  • Extend your free hand to the victim to pull them
  • To extend your reach, use a paddle, pole, shirt or towel

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 5: Throwing Rescues

Requirement 5 Helps and Answers

How to Do a Throw Rescue

How to Do a Throw Rescue

  • Select an item which floats.
  • It does not have to have a line attached, although that is better.
  • Throw the item to within the victim’s reach, but do not hit the victim in the head, which could cause injury.
  • Allow for wind and current when aiming your throw.
  • If you miss, try again by pulling the item back in (if it is attached to a line) or by throwing another item.

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 6: Rowing Rescues

Requirement 6 Helps and Answers

How to Do a Rowing Rescue

For Multiple Victims

How to Do a Rowing Rescue

  • Plan ahead. Take something with you to throw to the victim, such as a PFD.
  • Wear a PDF yourself.
  • It is better if a second person can be in the boat with you to assist.
  • Row or paddle to the victim.
  • When you are close enough, throw the PFD or reach it out on an extra paddle.
  • If possible, tow the victim back to shore. But if it is too far or hypothermia is a concern, carefully help them into the boat, taking care not to swamp or capsize.

For Multiple Victims

  • Assess the situation to see which victim is in the most danger and rescue them first.
  • Throw a PFD or something which floats to the other victims to support them until you can come back.

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 7: Items to Aid in a Go Rescue

Requirement 7 Helps and Answers

Why Are Buoyant Aids Preferred?

A buoyant aid is preferred because it can help support the victim and keep them afloat. The support also makes it easier to tow the victim since the aid supports some of the victim’s weight.

Items That Can Be Used as Aids in a Go Rescue

  • PFD (life jacket)
  • An empty cooler
  • A rescue tube or ring
  • Seat cushion
  • Kick-board

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 8: Rescuing a Conscious Victim

Requirement 8 Helps and Answers

Swimming Rescues for a Conscious Victim

Swimming Rescues for a Conscious Victim

  • Assess the situation
  • Select your equipment
  • Try to do a reach, throw, or row rescue if possible
  • If you must go to the victim, shout to them while approaching and encourage them
  • Instruct the victim what to do
  • If necessary, tow the victim using an aid
  • Avoid making contact with the victim
  • Help the victim get out of the water
  • Arrange for medical care

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 9: Removing Clothing

When Should You Remove Clothing for a Rescue?

You should remove your bulky street clothing for a go rescue. It will become very heavy in the water and will take energy you need to rescue the victim. You should remove

  • Jacket
  • Boots
  • Jeans
  • Sweaters

Summer clothing such as t-shirts and shorts do not need to be removed.

Other Considerations

If the water is very cold, your clothing may help keep you warm. You will have to decide if the warmth is worth the extra weight based on the conditions.

On the other hand, if it is cold it will be good to have some dry clothes when you and the victim come out of the water, so this is also a consideration.

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 10: Avoiding Contact

Why Avoid Contact with a Drowning Victim?

The victim may panic and try to hold on to the rescuer. This can drag the rescuer down also.

Lead and Wait Technique

  • Stay near the victim but out of their reach
  • Keep encouraging them to move toward you as you slowly back up toward shore
  • If the victim won’t follow, wait briefly and then try again

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 11: Non-equipment Rescues

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 12: Escape Grasp


Learn more about how to help others safely with these ideas and related achievements.

Swimming Program Feature

Swimming Troop Program Feature

The Swimming program feature helps Scouts learn how to safely enjoy fun and physical activity in the water. Scouts also need to know how to swim to enjoy other aquatics activities such as boating and paddling.

Lifesaver Ranger Elective

To complete the Lifesaver elective for the Venturing Ranger award, Venturers must have a BSA Lifeguard certification, take an EMT course, or take a lifeguarding course. They must also put a first aid kit together and teach somebody else to make a kit.

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One response to “Lifesaving Merit Badge Helps and Documents”

  1. Tylene Byrd Avatar
    Tylene Byrd

    Is there a printable checkoff sheet for this merit badge?

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