I’m not sure why this story from four years ago is still rattling loudly around in my mind. It’s probably because I have two sons about the same ages as the boys in this tragedy, and we spend a fair amount of time in the woods ourselves.

It’s an awful story. There are lots of things out there that can sneak up on you and kill you if you’re not ready. This is by no means a criticism of the man involved. Every single one of us has unwittingly taken similar risks. Nothing is going to bring him and his sons back, but their loss can certainly help the rest of us learn.

One of the things I love about the Cub Scouts and Boys Scouts programs is their stress on preparation in all things (hence the Boy Scout Motto, “Be Prepared”), and especially on preparation for outdoor adventures. The boys learn about what to take on every hike (the Cub Scout Six Essentials and the Boy Scout Ten Essentials). The Cub list includes rain gear and a whistle, while the Boy Scout list adds extra clothing and fire-starting gear. Any single one of those items may well have saved the three lives lost in the above story.

Another thing Scouts do is practice regularly. All the fancy gear in the world does you no good if you don’t know how to use it. Plus, when you get in a bad way physically, your brain doesn’t work right either. I nearly killed myself on a long bike ride one hot summer day in Georgia years ago when I became badly dehydrated but took far too long to quit and call for a ride home. I’d never considered that scenario before it happened, and my dried-out brain missed very clear warning signs. I was lucky. Learning to do things well when you’re in good shape can save your life when you’re in a bad way.

The lessons here have value well beyond the great outdoors. The same ideas apply in business, as well as in other areas of our personal lives. In any scenario, it’s important to think about what the potential risks are and how you can prepare for them. What “gear” and training will make you ready if things go wrong?

You can’t anticipate every possible disaster, nor can you prepare for every eventuality. (A coworker of mine many years ago shared a tale of a canoe trip he and his Scouts once took, where a freak lightning bolt from a nearly clear sky killed two boys.) However, the simple act of preparing for some of them makes it much more likely that you’ll react well to any disaster that comes your way. And disaster will come your way eventually.