Opinions on SAR Cost Recovery

Many members of the public seem to think that people who “break the rules” and need to be rescued should be charged for the cost of that rescue. This fits in line with the general “Blame the Victim” attitude that many people, including SAR Experts, have.

However, almost every SAR agency in North America, including all provincial, and national agencies (SARVAC, NSS, MRA, NASAR, BCSARA, US Coast Guard, US National Park Service, etc.) oppose charging people for rescue, or “cost recovery”. Here’s a collection of recent opinions from some of these agencies in response to a recent news article that a local ski hill is going to charge a subject $10,000 for his rescue.

An of course, my own comment; thinking that a fine would prevent people from getting lost presupposes that they are “planning” to get lost – if they had that much forethought they wouldn’t get lost in the first place, they would have planned ahead. The people we rescue tend to be either unlucky, or ignorant of what caused their problem and no fine would have prevented their actions.

This presentation by Vernon SAR member Don Blakely, outlines the issues and the responses from a Canadian perspective

And this excellent position paper from the US National Association for Search and Rescue

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it tells the story that the experts in the field, fully informed of the actual effect of a fine or some sort of cost recovery, are against it.

For more updates, the Facebook group No Charge for Rescue tracks news stories about this issue and works to inform the public of the policies of SAR agencies.

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2 comments on “Opinions on SAR Cost Recovery
  1. Wow. I was “pro-charge”, but you changed my mind with a single post. Seriously.

    • I’m glad.
      I’m planning a post on this on some future date.
      I’m not against a funding model for SAR like what they have in other countries — some are “insurance” based, others tax certain outdoor equipment, but in general we can’t put obstacles in the way of people calling for help.

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  1. […] arguments for avoiding a cost recovery model in this instance are almost identical to those against charging for Search and Rescue. The […]

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