Lifesaving Merit Badge Pamphlet
Lifesaving Merit Badge


Requirements were REVISED effective January 1, 2021.

To see the changes which were made, Click here.

For the previous requirements, Click here.

This Merit Badge
(or Emergency Preparedness MB)
is Required to earn the Eagle Scout Rank

The requirements printed in the 2022 and 2023 editions of the Scouts BSA Requirements books were NOT updated
and did not match the requirements on and in the Lifesaving merit badge pamphlet as shown below.
The 2024 edition of the Scouts BSA Requirements book has the correct requirements.

The official requirements for all merit badges are those posted on

  1. Before doing requirements 3 through 15, review with your counselor the principles of Safe Swim Defense.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Demonstrate "reaching" rescues using various items such as arm, leg, towels, shirts, paddles, and poles.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. List various items that can be used as aids in a "go" rescue. Explain why buoyant aids are preferred.
  8. 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. (a) Present one aid to a subject, release it, and swim at a safe distance as the subject moves to safety.
    2. (b) In a separate rescue, present the other aid to a subject and use it to tow the subject to safety.
  9. 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.
  10. Discuss with your counselor the importance of avoiding contact with an active subject and demonstrate lead-and-wait techniques.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.

* Your counselor may accept recent training in CPR by a recognized agency as completion of this requirement only if he or she feels your skills are satisfactory and need no additional reinforcement.

For more information about the BSA Swimmer test, see the Swimming merit badge requirements.

Note to the Merit Badge Counselor:

In the 2021 Guide to Advancement (BSA Publication 33088 - SKU 648216), Under Section Merit Badge Counseling Risk Management and Quality Control - Section Supervisory Qualifications and Certifications has specific special qualifications or certifications for either the merit badge counselor or the supervisor of certain activities that may be involved with this merit badge, as follows:

The qualifications below for aquatics-related merit badge counseling and supervision not only assist in managing risk, but also give counselors credibility. Current policies are found at Guide to Safe Scouting at health-and-safety/gss/gss02 and supersede any other publications or literature.

Lifesaving. Demonstrations or activities in or on the water must be supervised by a mature and conscientious adult, age 21 or older, with certification in Red Cross First Ald/CPR/AED or equivalent, and as a BSA Lifeguard or Aquatics Instructor or equivalent.

BSA Advancement ID#: 9
Scoutbook ID#: 72
Requirements last updated in: 2021
Pamphlet Publication Number: 35915
Pamphlet Stock (SKU) Number:  
Pamphlet Revision Date:  

Worksheets for use in working on these requirements: Format
Word Format PDF Format

Blanks in this worksheets table appear when we do not have a worksheet for the badge that includes these requirements.

Page updated on: February 05, 2024

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