Over the past 10 years, I’ve owned a Garmin InReach GPS Satellite communicator in the unlikely event of being stranded or injured out in the wilderness. I purchased the device not only to protect myself, but to protect my loved ones as well. In the beginning, most family members didn’t really know what that orange device was hanging off the back of my daypack. But, when their cell phone signal became virtually nonexistent while we were trudging through some very cliffy terrain, it became immediately apparent that if someone in the group were to get severely injured or found themselves in a life threatening predicament, the InReach device was the only lifesaving method of communication.
Although, I almost needed to press the red “SOS” button twice throughout the years, I feel much safer knowing I have a lifeline to medical civilization. Interestingly, during my off-trail adventures, I’ve always wondered what the costs were if a trekker actually needed to be rescued. We’ve all heard stories of $20,000 helicopter rescue rides, mountaineers trapped in icy glaciers, mother’s car with children sinking in flooding river waters, and slip and fall leg fractures up in the high desert regions.
How Much Does It Cost to be Searched and Rescued?
This is the Information I was given from a Youtuber initially inquiring about the fees. This documentation was written by The Mountain Rescue Association in 2009.
MOUNTAIN RESCUE ASSOCIATION REAFFIRMS ITS POSITION OPPOSING CHARGING SUBJECTS FOR THE COSTS OF THEIR RESCUES
Rescue Leaders say Charging for Rescues Can Lead to Delays in the Call for Help, and Can Put Rescuers in Greater Danger,
(San Diego, CA, August 1, 2009) — The Mountain Rescue Association (MRA), a coalition of 90 mountain rescue teams throughout North America, reminds the public that it has a long-established policy opposing charging subjects of search and rescue missions for the cost of their rescue.
In the weeks following the search and rescue effort on Mt. Washington for Eagle Scout Scott Mason, the MRA has responded to a growing number of stories asking “who pays?”
“Charging subjects for their rescues can be dangerous for many reasons,” explained Charley Shimanski, President of the MRA. Shimanski, who served on a U.S. Senate-mandated panel that studied charging climbers on Mt. McKinley for their rescues, added, “Often people will delay calling for help when they fear a cost, and in the mountains, that delay in the call for help can increase the risk to rescuers And the subject alike.” He added that climber rescues are infrequent when compared to rescues of hikers, skiers, mountain bikers and other backcountry users. The latest data provided by the National Park Services shows that 82 percent of rescues in parks are for hikers boaters and swimmers. Mountain climbers represented just 4 percent of their rescue activities.
The majority of rescue services in the United States are provided by teams of unpaid professional rescue mountaineers who give up their own time to participate in search and rescue activities.
“The typical search and rescue mission is over within a matter of a few hours, and with the vast majority of the work performed by unpaid professional volunteers, the costs are generally very low. In those cases where military aircraft are used, the military simply charges their costs to training hours that they would have otherwise performed somewhere else,” Shimanski added.
Other facts about Rescue Cost Recovery
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) spends $680 million a year for SAR, 13% of their budget. They perform 82 search and rescue missions a day, assisting 114 people each day. The Coast Guard does not charge for its services.
When the United States military flies support to civilian SAR operations, it is logged as training time for them, while fulfilling a humanitarian purpose. That time flying, and the costs budgeted for it, would otherwise have been spent doing the same thing — training — but under less intense, less realistic conditions.
Military leaders themselves agree that their crews receive extraordinary experience in often severe conditions when responding to civilian SAR operations. This experience allows them to do things such as combat SAR operations in the difficult military operations.
The National Park Service, which also does not charge subjects for their search and rescue costs, defrays the cost of search and rescue among all visitors as part of the Park visitation pass. The search and rescue cost per visitor is 1.5 cents.
Mountain Rescue Association Position Statement on Charging for Rescue
The Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) with over 90 teams from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom — most of which are comprised of expert unpaid professional members — work through or for a local government search and rescue authority. In an effort to give back to the community, defray public agencies’ costs and keep taxes down, the MRA teams have been performing the bulk of all search and rescue operations for the past 48 years and those were done without charge to the victim.
The MRA firmly believes that training and education are the keystones in the solution to this issue. We believe that the individual must accept responsibility for his or her actions and that training in proper outdoors skills and for self-rescue might be the quickest and most effective method of resolving most rescue situations.
However, no one should ever be made to feel they must delay in notifying the proper authorities of a search or rescue incident out of fear of possible charges. We ask all outdoors groups and organizations to join us in sending this mountain safety education message.
We recognize that the governmental agencies have a need to address defraying their costs and we would welcome any opportunity to be involved in discussion of solutions or alternatives to the charge for rescue issue. The expert volunteer teams of MRA are proud to be able to provide search and rescue at NO cost and have NO plans to charge in the future.
About the Mountain Rescue Association
The Mountain Rescue Association is “a volunteer organization dedicated to saving lives through rescue and mountain safety education.” (www.mra.org)
The MRA is comprised of highly-skilled, active mountain rescue teams from around the country, and has stringent requirements for membership. The teams themselves make up the Association; therefore individual memberships are NOT available.
To become accredited by MRA, each regular member team must pass three different tests based on guidelines drawn up by the Association. These tests are conducted on appropriate terrain by at least three current MRA teams working together to evaluate the applicant group being tested. The tests involve high-angle rescue (rock rescue), Ice and snow, and wilderness search.
Once a team has achieved full MRA status, it is expected that the new members will be trained to MRA guidelines and tested accordingly by their team. MRA- qualified
personnel within teams are called Rescue Members. Accredited teams must re-test every five years to maintain their accreditation in the Mountain Rescue Association.
Because MRA teams are test-qualified by their peers, local, state, and federal agencies feel confident about working with them on search and rescue operations.
Qualified teams work hard for accreditation. Members meeting MRA guidelines are proud to wear the blue and white MRA patch.
For more information
For more information on Rescue Cost Recovery, contact Charley Shimanski, MRA President.
President and Education Director; Mountain Rescue Association (www.mra.org)
25 year veteran; Alpine Rescue Team (www.AlpineRescueTeam.org)
67 Pauls Road
Evergreen, CO 80439 USA
303-201-2900 (pager) mailto: email@example.com
In closing, I’d like to mention that being rescued in the wilderness (USA) seems to be generally cost free. However, the cost of hospital care is another story. We all know the cost of overnight hospital visits and x-rays.
Be safe and responsible for yourself and others out on your next journey. Consider purchasing an InReach GPS Communication device as a must item on your packing list.
David Pinter ~ Arizona Trekker