Skip to main content
Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters
Main Content

CAPSafety Principles


Download the "CAP's Ideal Safety Culture" presentation


CAP Core Values

CAP Safety Principles

Key Assumptions



CAP Core Values


The very fiber of all core values; without it, all other core values cannot prevail. Integrity is the cornerstone for all that is moral and just in our society, embracing attributes such as courage, responsibility, accountability, justice, openness, self-respect, and humility. CAP members must practice the highest standards of self-discipline.

Volunteer Service

The very essence of Civil Air Patrol’s service to humanity. This core value implies a commitment on the part of all CAP members to place the organization’s purposes first and foremost. This process begins with the member’s agreement to obey the rules and regulations of CAP and the U.S. Air Force.


Striving to be the very best by constantly improving CAP’s humanitarian service to America. From personal appearance to resource management (and to behaviors that support safe outcomes), excellence must be the goal of all CAP members.


Treating everyone with fairness and dignity and working together as a team.

Back to top 

CAP Safety Principles

Learning – more than just the acquisition of knowledge, true learning takes place when knowledge becomes a change in behavior – when we know better, we do better. 

Learning is an act of taking personal responsibility to seek to be better than we were yesterday.  The learning principle can be tied to CAP’s core value of INTEGRITY where we not only do our best to do the right things, but we personally own the fact that none of us can know everything.  When we make an error, we need to acknowledge it, discuss it with others, and work to learn from it – and then change our behavior.  In doing so, we keep each other safe, our equipment ready and reliable, and our credibility strong.

Fairness - impartial and just treatment or behavior without favoritism or discrimination. 

We all make mistakes – humans are complex, and the factors that lead us to err are a complicated mix of emotion, experience, and day-to-day wear and tear.  Impartial and just treatment is also not devoid of compassion.  When we make mistakes, we need to avoid defaulting to blame, which will impede learning.  In combining fairness and compassion, we accept that everyone is susceptible to an honest error and, when treated fairly and compassionately, they will be open to learning and change.  In every situation, fairness can be tied to CAP’s core value of RESPECT where we listen openly to others and “seek to understand before being understood” and before deciding what actions to take.

Accountability – a willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. 

Having compassion for others is not a reason to ignore accountability.  When someone does not accept responsibility for being accountable, then “holding” accountable may be necessary – however, this is not the ideal in an effective safety culture.  Striving to model personal accountability is the responsibility of all leaders across CAP.  The accountability principle can be tied to CAP’s core value of VOLUNTEER SERVICE where “service before self” means, in part, that I am not only willing to account publicly for my contribution to safety errors, but also to be held to account by others when they observe an unsafe condition. When members embrace this core value and its accompanying safety principle, they see themselves as part of a team in service to each other as well as America’s communities.

Flexibility – the capability to adapt effectively when faced with change. 

We face unknowns every day, and situations can shift without notice, but when we can “bend without breaking,” we work to overcome barriers and obstacles to safe outcomes in ever-changing conditions.  In terms of risk management, no matter how prepared we think we are, things can still go wrong.  People in organizations that have highly reliable safety practices are always on the lookout for what can go wrong, and they work proactively to mitigate risks before negative outcomes occur.  Our core value of EXCELLENCE is reflected in the flexibility principle – when we are on the lookout for things that could go wrong and ask the same of every participant in our missions and activities, we are holding ourselves to a high standard to proactively protect our people and resources.

Back to top  

Key Assumptions

Every safety significant occurrence is an opportunity to learn and improve

To default to “these things just happen” is a mindset that can lead to far worse outcomes. The same behaviors that have led to serious accidents are also present in less serious mishaps. Regardless of the seriousness of the outcome, a willingness to learn is key to avoiding more serious mishaps.

The quality of safety outcomes is improved when we engage others to incorporate different perspectives

“I see in part, therefore I know in part” – one person cannot know everything and individually, our judgment can be fallible. We are far better off incorporating the views of others with a relevant stake in the outcome when we’re working on solving safety problems. 

Factors that lead to negative safety outcomes are never simple and never just one thing

When we think we know what the solution is, we often don’t know enough about the problem. Human logic is faulty because we assume too much about the cause of an issue and do not ask enough questions to ensure we understand all of the factors. This leap to conclusions leads to irrelevant or unnecessary corrective actions that do not reduce the chances of harm or damage. 

Back to top  



Primarily linked to CAP’s Integrity value and CAP Safety’s Learning principle. Asking questions leads to discovering underlying factors, including what thinking and mindset led to decisions and actions which, in turn, can lead to improving knowledge of “the right things” and a corresponding change in behavior. When we aren’t curious, we miss opportunities to learn from the factors that could better protect our members and preserve our valuable resources.


Primarily linked to CAP’s Volunteer Service value and CAP Safety’s Accountability principle. By working together, we engage with others in ways that invite members’ perspectives and contributions, creating a sense of common purpose and aligned actions that reduce the potential for injury, illness, or damage. When member contributions are valued, personal accountability is more of the norm because members now know the value of cooperating as a team member and the consequences of not working together. When we don’t invite member cooperation, behaviors and actions may not align, resulting in breakdowns in openness and communication.


Primarily linked with CAP’s Respect value and CAP Safety’s Fairness principle. By openly sharing information and feedback, members feel valued by CAP’s leaders which can lead to increased member satisfaction. Safety leaders who embrace openness share information that can help increase member awareness of safety issues and ways to prevent them. When withholding information or feedback, members are then reluctant to engage and ask questions and may withhold relevant safety information or behave in non-ideal ways regarding safety best practices.


Primarily linked to CAP’s Excellence value and CAP Safety’s Flexibility principle. Reflecting on what worked and didn’t work leads to incremental improvements that help us become more proactive, meaning we become more adept at identifying factors before they become safety occurrences. When we move from an activity or an occurrence without reflection, we miss opportunities to gather relevant information in the moment while it is as available and as accurate as possible.


Primarily linked to CAP’s Integrity value and CAP Safety’s Accountability principle. By speaking up when something isn’t right and not waiting for someone else to, everyone holds safety as a personal value and is willing to be accountable for upholding our ideal outcomes, of which safety is one. When we act courageously and speak up, even if it means disrupting an activity to do so, we demonstrate high integrity.

Back to top  


Safety Performance

If we uphold our core values, principles, and behaviors we improve our safeguards which reduces the potential for people to get hurt; when we educate and develop members – rather than blame them or punish them, we reduce the chance of human error causing a mishap; and when members are vigilant and consistent in asking “What can go wrong?” (rather than “What went wrong?”) and “What can we do about it?” (rather than “How could we have prevented it?”) they are practicing proactive safety risk management.

Operational Readiness

We must prepare members for the inevitability of the unexpected and improve their resilience – their capacity to “bounce back” from the stress of a situation. When every participant embraces our values, principles, and behaviors – and is fully contributing and doing their part, then they can be more effective in their choice of action when addressing safety concerns; as a result, members become more agile when facing challenges; and we reduce the rate of damage to equipment, making it more available for missions and activities.

Organizational Credibility

We reduce the costs of injury, illness, and damage, not just to CAP as a non-profit corporation, but our members, our donors, our sponsors, and our partners – meaning more of the resources we have go toward the programs that help us achieve our mission-vision; and when that happens, we maintain public trust and confidence so they will call on us to serve; and we increase our ability to sustain the service we provide with minimal interruption.

Member Wellbeing

A safe place to participate is less stressful and provides a high confidence that people can participate and still go home at least as well as they arrived, if not more so; and because of this, members are more apt to participate fully, learn more easily, and develop more efficiently.

Back to top  

© 2023 Civil Air Patrol. All rights reserved.