Should stranded adventurers pay for own rescue?
Some states are considering billing victims for back-country rescues. But one group warns that the policy may discourage people from getting help.
The blogosphere is afire with praise for an in-depth and amazing multimedia report by the New York Times about the world-class skiers who were caught up in a deadly avalanche last winter in Washington state.
The report focuses on the perils facing skiers who go into the unmonitored back country. It also coincides with news that several states -- including those where skiing, hiking and other outdoor recreation are big business -- are considering legislation to bill victims of back-country mishaps for some rescue operations.
Lawmakers in Wyoming are considering a bill that would let local law enforcement charge for search-and-rescue (SAR) missions in cases where they believe the victims put themselves into harm’s way.
The legislation came after an incident last winter: a $14,000 operation to rescue three snowmobilers trapped in a mountain pass. When state officials asked the snowmobilers to help pay for some of the costs of their rescue, the three hired an attorney -- who questioned if the state had the authority to ask for such a payment.
In response, the proposed measure would let rescue payments "be left up to the discretion of the sheriff (involved)," Wyoming representative Keith Gingery, the bill’s sponsor, told the Jackson Hole News and Guide. "They'll say which ones are victims or whether someone may have contributed to the situation."
If the measure is passed, Wyoming would join a growing list of states and counties that allow some sort of fee for search-and-rescue operations.
"If you’re getting rescued, there should be an expectation you’re going to participate in the cost of that rescue," New Hampshire senate Republican leader Jeb Bradley said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Lawmakers are hoping these fees will not only help fund local SAR operations, but encourage adventurers to be more cautious in back country areas.
Colorado has a "Corsair" card that residents and visitors can purchase for $3 a year or $12 for five years. Colorado.gov says that by purchasing the card, "you are contributing to the (state’s) Search and Rescue Fund, which will reimburse these teams for costs incurred in your search and rescue.” But it also warns the card is not insurance, nor does it pay for medical transport.
Grand County, Utah, meanwhile, lists a sliding scale of fees on its website for SAR operations -- with collectable costs anywhere from $250 for a small incident, classified as taking less than three hours with six or fewer responders, to $750 dollars for a "large incident" requiring more than three hours with seven or more responders. Those fees do not include extras like helicopter rental, fuel costs and any damage to equipment.
But the idea of billing the victims of outdoor adventures also has its opponents.
In an online position statement, the National Association for Search and Rescue worries that some victims in life-threatening situations may put money concerns over safety and decline to contact potential rescuers.
"A perceived or actual belief that the subject of a SAR mission will be billed for the lifesaving actions undertaken on their behalf must not delay or interfere with a timely call for help," the statement notes.
"Delays can place SAR personnel in extreme danger and unnecessarily compound and extend the length of the SAR mission," the statement adds. "Because of these factors, and to eliminate the fear of being unable to pay for having one’s life saved, SAR services should be rendered to persons in danger or distress without subsequent cost recovery from the person(s) assisted unless prior arrangements have been made."
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We keep comparing "CRIMES" against a fellow Citizen...To a dangerous BEHAVIOR towards ONESELF, associated with known RESULTS...
If a SKIER,SNOWBOARDER,SBiler,HUNTER or HIKER gets "mugged" in the Wild, that's a CRIME.
If they do something inherentally dangerous on purpose....That is STUPITY.
If you cannot understand the difference......You are the LATTER.
Kayest.....CRIMES are crimes...
Stupidty and dangerous behavior, are not exactly the same situation.
But I can understand part of your comparisom.
We pay taxes for various reasons, we pay insurances for other reasons, we pay extra on premiums;
For anything out of the ordinary or an "established set" of rules & regs in a given area or region.
Now some places we pay more taxes, for better services; Or even when more services are needed.
Insurance on the other hand can increase for more coverage, or even bad behavior.
Even sometimes through a fault of NOT our own making.
Certain Gov mandates in some States, are included in this...Like "no fault."
In the "old days" if an adult or child went missing...The Community turned out to hunt..Still do most places...But then the Calvary goes wild, with planes,helicopters,horseback, ATVs and boats....
Then just "some guy and a dog" finds the lost....We found one kid in a small river/creek that way.
I believe the Coast Guard has the "duty" to take care of boats and ships; But we also pay for many permits,taxes and insurances..
So I also believe other sports(some do) pay those same fees, taxes, insurances and extra premiums/fees if deemed somewhat dangerous....Pay to Play, but never completely restrict a person's lifestyle.....If someone chooses to leave the Reservation on their own? THEN they are on THEIR OWN.
This is a real grey area.
Do you charge when someone hires a helicopter to fly in for extreme skiing, and then gets in trouble?
What about when someone just takes a wrong turn on what is supposed to be a short walk to see waterfalls. and gets lost on the wrong trail?
Either of these could be very expensive to help the victims, but are very different.
I do not think a sheriff, who may have budget problems, a good decision maker of these kinds of questions. It could end up that in the first example no charge would be made, while a different sheriff may charge for the second example.
I wish I was smart enough to be able to make a good decision about this topic.
It maybe a bill for some or all of the cost fo rescue operations or a permit fee for going into these high risk places, YES, they should pay. Many, no let's say most , people have no idea of how much these rescue operations cost, even if, as most are, manned by trained volunteers. These volunteers who paid for their own training and give freely of their time still use expensive equipment that must be maintained. The horses they ride, the trailers to haul them, the snowmobiles and their trailers, the climbing ropes, harnesses and other climbing gear, not to mention the planes and helicopters that cost hundreds of dollars and hour to keep in the air. I agree with Beck, an insurance policy would be a great idea. I'm sure that some companies would be glad to work something out, with premiums based on levels of experience, training, location of site, weather. After all they have been doing that for years with cars, trucks, planes, boats. And of course, no insurance, it's your bill.
Hellooooooooo, Maybe people will be a little more careful with their extreme sports and dangerous activities....Especially, if a plane or chopper flies over with a banner reading:
"MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR MAKER...."
If I drive my truck into the ditch....I have to pay the price or all the bills.
People should absolutely be bearing the cost of their rescues from the back country. Taxpayers should not be on the hook to pay for other people to risk their lives having a good time. Once you decide to explore off marked trails, you should expect to own the risk associated with your adventures. I like the idea of some sort of insurance program to cover the SAR costs - then you can share the risk with your fellow adventurers. Note that I say this as an avid hiker myself.
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