Emergency Service Programs (1939-95)

Staring in 1939, a series of Emergency Service programs were put in place for older Boy Scouts (and Explorers).  The idea was to have older boys be prepared to assist in various emergency situations by having them be certified in various skills to earn the right to participate.  Insignia was created, both for uniform wear and as armbands, and requirements were set to earn the right to wear such insignia.  If a unit had a certain number of members certified in Emergency Service, then the unit was considered an Emergency Service Unit. Thus was the Emergency Service programs created.

In the beginning, the program grew out of the general need of preparedness for World War II on the home front and from earlier BSA programs.  In the postwar years, the program continued with the heightened need for Civil Defense and emergency preparedness.  As part of this program, every Boy Scout and Explorer unit were supposed to have a mobilization plan.  Starting in the 1960s, the need for these sorts of programs started to decline, in part due to the beginning of Emergency Medical Response systems in most communities, and the program was apparently dropped in the early 90s. However, in part this program continues in the various Search and Rescue and Fire Rescue Explorer Posts and Venturing Crews. It is unfortunately that with the seeming increase in various emergency situations around the country (floods, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.), that the need for these programs is not recognized.  Perhaps its the fear of litigation should a Boy Scout or Venturer get injured somehow in performing emergency service work that prevents the BSA from reviving such a program, as well as the increase in profession groups to handle these situations.


The first Emergency Service program was called the Emergency Service Corps.  It had two parts to it, the Corps member, who was an older Boy Scout or Senior Scout with certain training, and an Apprentice member, who had not yet completed all the training.

The 1941 Requirements for Emergency Service Corps Member:
1. First Class Scout
2. 15 years old
3. Pass these qualification tests each year:
    a) Run 1 mile in 8.5 minutes
    b) Climb an 18 foot rope, hand over hand, in 15 seconds
    c) Tie following knots with a 1/2 in rope or larger: Square, Bowline, Ant line hitch, Blackwall hitch, Two half hitches, Cat's paw, Clove hitch, Bowline on a Bight, Sheet bend
4. Hold following merit badges:
    a) First Aid
    b) Safety
    c) Pioneering
    d) Personal Health
    e) Firemanship
    f) Public Health
    g) Lifesaving*
    h) Rowing*

*-where required.

The 1941 Requirements for Emergency Service Corps Apprentice
First Class scouts who had not meet all the above qualifications could be apprentices.
Emergency Service Corps (1939-48)
KHAKI armband Emergency Service Armband, EMS-05
Emergency Service Corps Armband, EMS-06 Emergency Service Corps patch, EMS-01

Emergency Service Apprentice (1941-48)
Emergency Service Apprentice, EMS-07 Emergency Service Apprentice, EMS-08 Emergency Service Apprentice, EMS-02


With the creation of the Explorer program from the Senior Scout program, the Emergency Service Corps became Emergency Service Explorers.  The concept of an Apprentice was still kept, but was called "In Training".  This program continued unchanged even after Explorers became Exploring in 1959.  It is important to realize that during the 50s, ALL boys over 14 where automatically Explorers, regardless of whether or not they were in Posts or Troops.

To see two sets of requirements, go here.
Emergency Service Explorer (1949-62)
Emergency Service Explorer, EMS-11 Emergency Service Explorer, EMS-12
Emergency Service Explorer, EMS-03

Emergency Service In Training (1949-62)
Emergency Service In Training, EMS-09 oval armband, NO PICTURE


In 1962, the Emergency Service Explorer was replaced with the Ready Explorer.  No longer were Boy Scouts allowed to be part of the Emergency Service Corps idea.  Only Explorers.  Requirements for being considered a "Ready Explorer" required the Explorer to be physically fit, completed training in four of three emergency service areas (mobilization and communication; rescue, first aid, and public safety; family preparedness and emergency living; and water safety), and participate in at least one unit mobilization plus two preparedness activities. If at least 60% of a Post were Ready Explorers, then the Post was a "Ready Post."

Boy Scout Troops were expected to instead be "Prepared Troops", which required that the unit complete 3 projects in the area of fitness, training, and mobilization participation.  Packs could be a "Family Alert" pack if they qualified in the area of fitness and training.

This was all detailed in the Emergency Preparedness, BSA booklet from 1964.

EMERGENCY SERVICE (1969 - early 90s)

In 1969 or so, the Ready armband was replaced with an Emergency Service armband with the new Explorer Big E emblem.  This armband disappeared from the insignia catalogs in the early 90s, so am unsure what happened to the program.  It could be that with the existence of Fire/Emergency Service Explorer Posts, that the idea of "Emergency Service Explorers" were left in their hands.  Catalogs in the early 90s show the Emergency Service armband with the "Big E on line" version of the Exploring logo.  But were armbands produced with this logo?
READY & Emergency Service Explorers 
Ready Explorer, EMS-13 Emergency Service armband, EMS-14

Over the years, some literature was produced for these programs.  Also listed is some literature in this area from before this program was put into place.  I have little of it.  If someone can supply more information, it would be appreciated.

The 1950s had a whole series of books on emergency preparedness/civil defense.

The Emergency Preparedness, BSA booklet from 1964 gives detailed information on the Ready Explorer, Ready Explorer Post, Prepared Boy Scout Troop, and Family Alert Cub pack programs of that time.
Signal Emergency Units
Scout Emergency Units for Older Scouts- First Aid
   1919  18pg (shown)
Scout Emergency Units for Older Scouts- Signaling
   1919   18pg (shown)
Scout Emergency Units- First Aid Scout Emergency Units- Signaling
Scout Emergency Units
Emergency Service Training Plan (#3915)
Emergency Service Training Plan
Emergency Service Training Plan Reference Materials (#3925)
Putting the Emergency Service Plan into Action (#??)
Training for Mobilization (#3049)
   1940     30M940

pamphlet, 15pg

Survival-Civil Defense-Emergency Services Program Series

Family "Be Prepared" Plan (#3194)
Collection, Distribution & Communication Services (#3195)
    1951   50M251    28pg
First Aid & Rescue Methods (#3196)
     1951   50M351    28pg
Pattern for Survival (#3197)
     1951   50M251    28pg
Civil Defense Guide (#3198)
     1951   50M151   48pg

Emergency Preparedness, BSA (#3189)
   1964     50M464

booklet, 62pg

Emergency Service (#6609)
  other printings?
Fire/Emergency Services Program Helps(#23-327)

Fire/Emergency Services Program Helps

Updated: 04/01/2003mrb