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Lifesaving Merit Badge Helps and Documents

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.

Lifesaving Merit Badge Resources

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.

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 1: Safe Swim Defense

Before doing requirements 3 through 15, review with your counselor the principles of Safe Swim Defense.

Requirement 1 Helps and Answers

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

Before doing requirements 3 through 15:

  1. Earn the Swimming merit badge.
  2. Swim continuously for 400 yards using each of the following strokes in a strong manner, in good form with rhythmic breathing, for at least 50 continuous yards: front crawl, sidestroke, breaststroke, and elementary backstroke.

Requirement 2 Helps and Answers

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

Explain the following:

  1. Common drowning situations and how to prevent them.
  2. How to identify persons in the water who need assistance.
  3. The order of methods in water rescue.
  4. How rescue techniques vary depending on the setting and the condition of the person needing assistance.
  5. Situations for which in-water rescues should not be undertaken.

Requirement 3 Helps and Answers

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

Demonstrate “reaching” rescues using various items such as arm, leg, towels, shirts, paddles, and poles.

Requirement 4 Helps and Answers

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

Demonstrate “throwing” rescues using various items such as a line, ring buoy, rescue bag, and free-floating support. Successfully place at least one such aid within reach of a practice victim 25 feet from shore.

Requirement 5 Helps and Answers

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

With your counselor’s approval, view in-person or on video a rowing rescue performed using a rowboat, canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard. Discuss with your counselor how effectively and efficiently the rescue was performed.

Requirement 6 Helps and Answers

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

List various items that can be used as aids in a “go” rescue. Explain why buoyant aids are preferred.

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

Correctly demonstrate rescues of a conscious practice subject 30 feet from shore in deep water using two types of buoyant aids provided by your counselor. Use a proper entry and a strong approach stroke. Speak to the subject to determine his or her condition and to provide instructions and encouragement.

  1. Present one aid to a subject, release it, and swim at a safe distance as the subject moves to safety.
  2. In a separate rescue, present the other aid to a subject and use it to tow the subject to safety.

Requirement 8 Helps and Answers

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

Discuss with your counselor when it is appropriate to remove heavy clothing before attempting a swimming rescue. Remove street clothes in 20 seconds or less, enter the water, and approach a conscious practice subject 30 feet from shore in deep water. Speak to the subject and use a nonbuoyant aid, such as a shirt or towel, to tow the subject to safety.

Requirement 9 Helps and Answers

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

Discuss with your counselor the importance of avoiding contact with an active subject and demonstrate lead-and-wait techniques.

Requirement 10 Helps and Answers

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

Perform the following nonequipment rescues for a conscious practice subject 30 feet from shore. Begin in the water from a position near the subject. Speak to the subject to determine his or her condition and to provide instructions and encouragement..

  1. Perform an armpit tow for a calm, responsive, tired swimmer resting with a back float.
  2. Perform a cross-chest carry for an exhausted, responsive subject treading water.

Requirement 11 Helps and Answers

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 12: Escape Grasp

In deep water, show how to escape from a victim’s grasp on your wrist. Repeat for front and rear holds about the head and shoulders.

Requirement 12 Helps and Answers

Lifesaving Merit Badge Requirement 13: Rescuing an Unconscious Victim

Perform the following rescues for an unconscious practice subject at or near the surface 30 feet from shore. Use a proper entry and strong approach stroke. Speak to the subject and splash water on the subject to determine his or her condition before making contact. Quickly remove the victim from the water, with assistance if needed, and position for CPR.

  1. Perform an equipment assist using a buoyant aid.
  2. Perform a front approach and wrist tow.
  3. Perform a rear approach and armpit tow.

Requirement 13 Helps and Answers

Earning the Lifesaving merit badge is an invaluable part of a Scout’s journey, teaching essential skills for aquatic emergencies. One critical requirement involves performing three specific rescues for an unconscious subject, simulating a real-life scenario where quick, decisive action can save lives. Each step of these rescues, from the proper entry to the execution of the tow, reinforces the importance of preparedness and calm under pressure.

Firstly, when attempting to rescue an unconscious subject 30 feet from shore, it’s crucial to use a proper entry that minimizes splash, maintaining visibility and avoiding further harm to the victim. A strong approach stroke, such as the freestyle or breaststroke, should be used to reach the subject efficiently. Upon reaching the subject, attempt to rouse them by speaking loudly and splashing water, assessing their condition without direct contact initially.

For an equipment assist rescue, utilize a buoyant aid, such as a life ring or rescue tube, to safely tow the subject to shore. Approach the subject from the front, secure the buoyant aid to the subject, and perform a wrist tow to bring them to safety.

In a front approach rescue without equipment, grasp the subject’s wrist firmly to ensure control and tow them back using a strong, steady stroke, maintaining both your buoyancy and that of the subject.

Lastly, the rear approach and armpit tow involve approaching the subject from behind, placing your arms under theirs, and gently pulling them to safety with a careful backstroke, keeping the subject’s airway clear of water.

After safely reaching the shore, it’s vital to quickly remove the victim from the water and position them for CPR, calling for assistance if needed. These lifesaving actions, practiced and perfected during the pursuit of the Lifesaving merit badge, equip Scouts with the knowledge and skills to act confidently and competently in aquatic emergencies.

Requirement 14: Submerging Victim

Discuss with your counselor how to respond if a victim submerges before being reached by a rescuer, and do the following:

  1. Recover a 10-pound weight in 8 to 10 feet of water using a feetfirst surface dive.
  2. Repeat using a headfirst surface dive.

Requirement 14 Helps and Answers

Achieving the Lifesaving merit badge requires mastering a variety of skills, including how to respond if a victim submerges before a rescuer can reach them. This scenario demands calm, strategic action to ensure both the rescuer’s and the victim’s safety. For the Lifesaving merit badge, scouts learn not just to approach but also to recover submerged objects or victims efficiently, simulating the urgency of real-life rescues.

Firstly, discussing the approach to a submerged victim emphasizes the importance of quick assessment and decisive action. Scouts are taught to remain calm and use visual cues to estimate the victim’s location. Then, practicing recovery techniques in water 8 to 10 feet deep is crucial. A feetfirst surface dive allows for a controlled descent, enabling scouts to reach a 10-pound weight while maintaining the ability to see their surroundings and adjust their approach as needed.

Repeating the recovery with a headfirst surface dive teaches scouts another effective method for reaching a submerged object quickly. This dive is more direct but requires careful technique to avoid injury. By mastering both dives, scouts demonstrate their preparedness to respond effectively in diverse rescue scenarios, a key component of earning the Lifesaving merit badge. This training instills confidence and competence, ensuring scouts are ready to act in emergency situations.

Requirement 15: Spinal Injury

 Demonstrate management of a spinal injury to your counselor:

  1. Discuss the causes, signs, and symptoms of a spinal injury.
  2. Support a faceup subject in calm water of standing depth.
  3. Turn a subject from a facedown to a faceup position in water of standing depth while maintaining support.

Requirement 15 Helps and Answers

Earning the Lifesaving merit badge involves understanding various aspects of water safety, including recognizing and responding to spinal injuries, which are critical emergencies that can occur in aquatic environments. Scouts working towards the Lifesaving merit badge learn about the causes of spinal injuries, which can range from diving into shallow water to impact with a solid object while swimming. They also study the signs and symptoms of a spinal injury, which may include pain or pressure in the neck or back, numbness or paralysis in parts of the body, loss of control over limbs, and difficulty with balance or walking.

As part of the Lifesaving merit badge requirements, scouts practice supporting a face-up subject in calm water of standing depth. This skill is essential in preventing further injury to someone who may have a spinal injury. The technique requires scouts to approach the subject gently, support the head and neck in a neutral position, and keep the person’s body aligned to avoid twisting or bending the spine.

Additionally, scouts learn to turn a subject from a face-down to a face-up position in water of standing depth, a maneuver that is critical when a spinal injury is suspected. This technique involves carefully rolling the subject over while supporting the head and neck, ensuring the spine remains as straight as possible throughout the process. These practical skills, coupled with knowledge of spinal injury causes, signs, and symptoms, are vital components of the Lifesaving merit badge, preparing scouts to respond effectively to aquatic emergencies with confidence and care.

Requirement 16: Resuscitation 

Demonstrate knowledge of resuscitation procedure:

  1. Describe how to recognize the need for rescue breathing and CPR.
  2. Demonstrate CPR knowledge and skills, including rescue breathing, on a mannequin under the guidance of a current CPR/AED instructor trained by a nationally certified provider.

Requirement 16 Helps and Answers

For the Lifesaving merit badge, scouts must learn critical skills that can save lives, including recognizing when rescue breathing and CPR are necessary. This understanding is foundational to the Lifesaving merit badge curriculum, emphasizing the importance of quick and accurate assessment of a victim’s condition. Scouts are taught to look for signs such as unresponsiveness, absence of normal breathing, and lack of pulse as indicators that rescue breathing and CPR may be required.

Furthermore, the Lifesaving merit badge requires scouts to not only describe but also demonstrate CPR knowledge and skills on a mannequin. This hands-on practice, supervised by a current CPR/AED instructor certified by a nationally recognized organization, ensures that scouts learn the correct techniques for performing rescue breathing and chest compressions. The training covers the sequence of checking the victim’s condition, calling for help, and administering CPR and rescue breaths efficiently and effectively. Through this comprehensive approach, scouts working towards their Lifesaving merit badge develop the confidence and skills necessary to act decisively in emergency situations, embodying the scouting commitment to preparedness and service.

Requirement 17: Injuries and Illnesses

With your counselor, discuss causes, prevention, and treatment of other injuries or illnesses that could occur while swimming or boating, including hypothermia, dehydration, heat-related illnesses, muscle cramps, sunburn, stings, and hyperventilation.

Requirement 17 Helps and Answers

In the process of earning the Lifesaving merit badge, scouts delve into the multifaceted aspects of safety in aquatic environments, including the causes, prevention, and treatment of various injuries or illnesses that can arise while swimming or boating. This comprehensive understanding equips scouts with the knowledge to handle emergencies, aligning with the core values of preparedness and responsibility emphasized in the Lifesaving merit badge.

Hypothermia occurs in cold water conditions, leading to a dangerous drop in body temperature. Scouts learn to prevent it by wearing appropriate protective clothing and to treat it by gradually warming the victim. Dehydration and heat-related illnesses, on the other hand, are risks during hot weather. Preventive measures include staying hydrated and avoiding excessive exposure to heat, while treatment involves moving the affected person to a cooler place and providing fluids.

Muscle cramps can be prevented by proper hydration and warm-up exercises; treatment involves gently stretching and massaging the affected muscle. Sunburn prevention is critical and includes applying sunscreen and wearing hats and protective clothing, with treatment involving cool compresses and aloe vera gel.

Stings from marine life require scouts to recognize symptoms and administer appropriate first aid, such as rinsing with seawater and removing stingers carefully. Hyperventilation, often caused by anxiety or overexertion, can be managed by calming the individual and encouraging slow, deep breaths.

Through the Lifesaving merit badge, scouts not only learn to identify and respond to these common aquatic-related issues but also to implement effective prevention strategies, ensuring safer swimming and boating experiences for themselves and others.


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.


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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