Patrols should camp out of earshot from each other and the adult leaders. But how do we provide adequate adult supervision in that situation? With radio communications, of course!
An ideal troop campout has patrols camping separately, probably 100 feet to 100 yards apart from each other. The SPL and ASPL(s) camp separately. The adults should also be at the same distance. But in that configuration, how do the adults provide “qualified supervision” as required in the Sweet Sixteen of BSA Safety? And how does the youth chain of command from Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) to Patrol Leader (PL) work?
This is the supervision requirement from the Sweet Sixteen:
Every BSA activity should be supervised by a conscientious adult who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility for the well-being and safety of the children and youth in his or her care. The supervisor should be sufficiently trained, experienced, and skilled in the activity to be confident of his/her ability to lead and to teach the necessary skills and to respond effectively in the event of an emergency. Field knowledge of all applicable BSA standards and a commitment to implement and follow BSA policies and procedures are essential parts of the supervisor’s qualifications.
The major part of that is training and experience, so the adult needs to be comfortable with their level of oversight while leaving room for a boy-led troop.
With FRS hand-held radios, the Patrol Leaders can communicate with the Senior Patrol Leader, and the adults can monitor the discussion. FRS radios are quite effective at 100 yards, even through trees.
Patrol Leaders can report back to the SPL, or can ask questions. The adult leaders can listen to the traffic. If quick intervention is needed, adults can break in on the discussion. If the SPL needs mentoring, the Scoutmaster can walk over, perhaps with an announcement on-frequency that they are visiting the campsites.
Radio communication should always be backed up with “management by wandering around”, as I learned at Hewlett-Packard. A casual stroll through the campsites with a few questions can uncover a lot of information.
What does this cost? Good quality FRS radios are available in the $20-40 range. A troop with four patrols would need six radios, one for each PL, one for the SPL, and one for the Scoutmaster.
If the youth leadership has amateur radio licenses, they could use hand-held radios with greater range. Amateur hand-helds (HT’s) start around $50.