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The cost of being rescued

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The cost of being rescued

Postby austex » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:22 pm

This was in Yahoo news this morning. I know it costs the system $ in some ways but isn't that why we pay the fire dept and sheriffs etc? I know resource $ are tapped but what price do you put on safety?





(Reuters) - After an all-terrain vehicle accident in the Utah desert last spring, 53-year-old Mikki Babineau expected a long recuperation for collapsed lungs and 18 broken ribs.

What the Idaho woman didn't expect was a $750 bill from the local Utah sheriff's office for sending a volunteer search and rescue unit to her aid, a service for which the sheriff in that county regularly charges fees.

Just a handful of states, including Oregon, Maine and Babineau's home state of Idaho, have laws authorizing local agencies to bill for rescues when factors such as recklessness, illegal activity or false information led to the predicament.

Lawmakers from the Rockies to the Appalachians periodically question why adventurers who incur costs should not have to pay the price - literally. That debate has heated up this year as legislators in at least two states have sought, so far unsuccessfully, to enact laws to allow fees for rescues.

"In the rare case where a person took unnecessary risks, that person should be sent a bill," said Wyoming Republican Representative Keith Gingery, who tried but failed to pass such a law in his state.

That few states currently allow such billing is chiefly due to objections by national search and rescue groups, who say the prospect of payment could prompt people to delay seeking needed aid, possibly making a dangerous situation worse.

But that has not stopped lawmakers from considering such laws. Legislators in New Hampshire, for example, are seeking to shore up search and rescue funds by establishing fees ranging from $350 to $1,000.

That legislation, designed to address deficits in a state rescue fund paid through licensing of hunters, snowmobilers and other outdoor recreationists, is pending before a New Hampshire House committee.

SURVIVAL SKILLS

A similar effort to impose payment in Wyoming came to naught this year after Gingery failed to persuade a state House panel last month to approve a provision to give county sheriffs - who in many Western states oversee search and rescue teams - the right to recover rescue costs.

The issue came to the fore last winter in the state's Teton County, home to mountains as perilous as they are scenic, when a group of snowmobilers entered the back country near a steep pass northeast of Jackson Hole and required a helicopter rescue.

When the county later asked them to contribute to the $14,000 cost of the operation, an attorney for the snowmobilers wrote a letter contending local officials had no authority to ask for reimbursement.

Wyoming's Gingery and other backers of billing those saved say the issue is broader than money. Billing for rescues, they argue, would place ill-prepared hikers, skiers and snowmobilers, especially those engaged in extreme sports, on notice.

Recent advancements in outdoor equipment, navigational devices and off-road vehicles are allowing greater access to remote areas by more people with fewer outdoors and survival skills, complicating rescue missions, Gingery said.

Rescue expenses are also rising in states like Idaho, where gas taxes cover part of the tab. Since July, nearly $85,000 has been distributed for searches from a state fund. That compares to roughly $63,000 for all of fiscal year 2012 and about $71,000 the year before, Idaho State Police documents show.

Search and rescue groups say their services make up just a fraction of the emergency costs incurred by law enforcement and medical agencies nationwide, and that efforts to bill for rescues are tied to rare but highly publicized incidents in which the stranded made foolish errors in judgment.

FEAR OF COSTS

"There is a lot of hue and cry about recovering rescue costs, but we never question people's right to dial 911 for authorities, fire departments and paramedics and we don't begrudge those costs," said Howard Paul, spokesman for the Colorado Search and Rescue Board, which oversees 50 volunteer teams in that state.

Colorado logged 1,428 missions in 2010, the most recent year data was available. While that was a high for search and rescue operations compared to the four preceding years, the record since 1995 was set in 2002 with 1,582 missions.

Dan Lack, chairman of the Rocky Mountain Rescue Association, said the specter of paying for a rescue can instill fear in some of those in need.

He was on hand in August when a climber became wedged between rocks in the Colorado mountains and ordered people who became aware of his plight not to call for help because he didn't want to be charged. They dialed 911 anyway.

"If others had not alerted us, he wouldn't have called for help until the sun went down, thunderstorms came in and my teammates and I would have been in danger," Lack said.

"I, for one, am happy to go out and rescue someone, free of charge, who's had a bad day," he said.

That ethos has underpinned 40 years of rescue work for Roger Beckett, resource coordinator for Olympic Mountain Rescue in Washington state, where lawmakers have unsuccessfully floated bills to force payment for rescues. Volunteer teams have opposed those proposals every time, he said.

Beckett said poor judgment, if defined loosely, and the lesser evil of inexperience are chief reasons for rescues.

"Inexperience won't get you in trouble but it will keep you from getting out of trouble," he said, adding he finds no fault in the relative few whose misadventures trigger a rescue.

"Every day you get out of bed, you take a risk," he said. "Should we bill you?"

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Todd Eastham)



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Re: The cost of being rescued

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:22 pm

If you are trying to say this is true everywhere, stop. It's not the case in the Sierra Nevada. If you have any concerns about this contact the jurisdiction you are going out to the wilderness in - if it's a national park, there are federally funded search personnel so contact the park. If it's national forest wilderness areas, contact the county or counties into which you will be traveling - the search team is connected with county sheriff offices. I know for a fact that in most of the counties the answer will be a resounding NO.

What will confuse people in California is when medical services are necessary during a rescue - they will get a bill for medical services. That can be mitigated by contacting your medical insurance to see if there is a rider to place on their policy to cover such emergency expenses. Not all policies will. Going into the wilderness means taking risks you don't normally take - you are responsible for the outcomes, so if you don't want to pay for the medical charges when you do get hurt somehow, if you do, it's your responsibility to be properly insured.

There are also some counties that will fine people who have done some stupid, risky thing they should not have been doing - this is reckless endangerment and a separate issue.
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Re: The cost of being rescued

Postby Ross939 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 7:19 pm

The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people who hike and hunt in the Sierras and most national forests do not take out any type of proxy on their medical insurance to cover such a cost. Should we? Yes, we probably should, but the vast majority of those out there do not. That being said, if you find yourself in a situation where a search and rescue is in order, the odds are they will administer some sort of medical attention on you before the ordeal is finished, and you had better exhaust all other resources available, or you will get stuck with a bill, for several thousands of dollars.
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Re: The cost of being rescued

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Feb 18, 2013 7:23 pm

That's also not true.

In my county, we have volunteers who are medical personnel, but when on searches they do not operate in that capacity. We activate medical teams separately from search teams.

I can't think of a search where we last had to call in medical personnel, and we have searches every month, year round. That doesn't count water rescue - most of those are actually recoveries, since water is by far the most prolific killer out there.

The national parks are the opposite - the vast majority of their "rescues" are actually medical callouts. Tourists try to hike Half Dome and end up having stroke, heart attack, heat issues, etc. The permitting for Half Dome has knocked the average number of medical callouts down by half - to 5-6 per day.

We save the taxpayers of our county more than three million dollars a year by volunteering.

The fact is - if thinking you will be charged keeps you or your family from calling for help, you may be causing yourself medical harm in the long run based on the decision to delay the call - and the charges you accumulate from medical services will then have nothing to do with the rescue and everything to do with the false belief that all rescues involve charges, or all rescues involve medical services. They do not. The vast majority of searches I have been on have no medical component whatsoever - in fact, none of the searches in the past several years, whether I have been on them or not, have involved medical intervention. A few have involved finding remains, which allow families closure and to make claims on life insurance - a community service that makes creeping through manzanita picking up bone shards worthwhile. If my family was depending on the income from life insurance and I vanished - I'd hope search teams found what was left of me. Some searches are related to law enforcement activities and locate evidence. Some searches are urban, and locate Alzheimer's sufferers or small children lost in town. None of them costs anyone a dime, and we don't appreciate the perpetuation of the myth that anyone is charged because we don't want to see anyone delay getting help when it's clear someone is missing.

Which is why our search team has never and will never charge anything. We are a self supporting nonprofit organization. We buy our own gear, pay for our own training, and raise the funds to replace team gear. I just wrote a grant proposal to get us new gps units and will shortly submit another. Madera, Merced, Fresno, Tulare, Inyo and other counties are all independent agencies, nonprofits, and do not charge a cent.
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Re: The cost of being rescued

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:53 pm

People just need to keep in mind the difference between free of charge for rescue and immediate medical treatment and the costs once you are taken out of the wild. You will be taken out for free but once you arrive at a hospital then what ever is done for you at this point you will be charged for.
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Re: The cost of being rescued

Postby oldranger » Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:56 pm

Rogue

Your last post is not exactly correct. Frequently NPS will transport to helispot where transfer is made to private ambulance. At that point the meter starts.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: The cost of being rescued

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:29 pm

Well that is what I meant. Whether your given over to an ambulance or flown directly to a hospital once you pass into private care you have to start paying.
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Re: The cost of being rescued

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:37 pm

You can be charged before you get off the trail, if we have to send medical personnel out to you.

We have first aid training, enough to recognize and stabilize for transport. But actual medical intervention is something we can't do. If you need medical intervention before you can be transported that is possible and very expensive.

There are search teams that do include medical teams, but you're going to get charged for that - including medivac, aka riding in a helicopter while receiving medical intervention. Yosemite will by default ask for your insurance information right away. Yosemite does tons of medical interventions in the field.
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Re: The cost of being rescued

Postby LMBSGV » Tue Feb 19, 2013 9:37 pm

There are search teams that do include medical teams, but you're going to get charged for that - including medivac, aka riding in a helicopter while receiving medical intervention. Yosemite will by default ask for your insurance information right away. Yosemite does tons of medical interventions in the field.


This is why I always carry my Kaiser card alongside my driver's license in my camera bag. If I am ever in that situation, I don't want there to any questions about extraneous details.
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Re: The cost of being rescued

Postby rlown » Tue Feb 19, 2013 9:44 pm

hmm. I carry nothing except for the wilderness permit and the sharpie writeup in the bottom of my canister. They're gonna treat you regardless and it'll take months anyway for the insurance to work out the bill. Assuming they find you. The info would be in the truck at the trailhead or at home with the wife.

the most important thing to have in your immediate possession is any allergies to meds.
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Re: The cost of being rescued

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Feb 19, 2013 9:50 pm

rlown wrote:hmm. I carry nothing except for the wilderness permit and the sharpie writeup in the bottom of my canister. They're gonna treat you regardless and it'll take months anyway for the insurance to work out the bill. Assuming they find you. The info would be in the truck at the trailhead or at home with the wife.

the most important thing to have in your immediate possession is any allergies to meds.


It would probably be nice to have your id with you, in case you are found in an extremely hypothermic state, so we know it's you - if you're the one we're looking for, we'll know we can stop looking. If not, well, hopefully your panicked family were able to give us a good recent picture or something.
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Re: The cost of being rescued

Postby rlown » Tue Feb 19, 2013 10:06 pm

not taking my ID.. name is on the permit. name is in the can. name is on the pack frame. that should be enough. Wife has clear instructions not to call until 3 days after I don't call on exit. Did that once in Trinity, but I called her after two days.

But, back to the cost topic. They will charge you and it does take months for the insurance and medical groups to work out the bill.
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