Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Who pays the cost of rescue?

Earlier this month, a National Park Ranger named Nick Hall was killed while rescuing climbers on Mt. Rainier.

From NBC News:

Hall was on Rainier’s northeast side at about 13,700 feet when he fell around 5 p.m. local time Thursday as he was helping the climbers aboard a helicopter, the service said.

“As the first of the climbers were being evacuated by helicopter, Mount Rainier climbing ranger Nick Hall fell, sliding more than 3,000 feet down the side of the mountain,” the service said in a statement.

…The climbers, two men and two women from Waco, Texas, had been walking on the Emmons Glacier Route on their way down from the summit when two of them slipped and fell into a crevasse, said Kevin Bacher, a park spokesman.

One of the climbers had a working cell phone and was able to notify park rangers. Rescue crews on foot located the climbers and lifted the two out of the crevasse, then began the process of transferring the climbers to a helicopter.

Every year we here in the Sisters Country hear of someone who gets themselves into a bind and needs rescuing. Such incidents often involve people who head out for a day, totally unprepared for something to go wrong that keeps them out over night or in a sudden onslaught of bad weather.

This kind of incident, especially something tragic like the Rainier episode always raises questions. A blog reader forwarded these:

·      Are we as a society are socially obligated to rescue adventurers who put themselves in harms way, or should they be ignored, since they know the risks, and let the chips fall where they may?

·      Should the rescued be held financially responsible for the costs of S & R, or, since they are (probably) tax paying citizens, should they be afforded S & R benefits? 

·      Should there be a superfund set up to pay for search and rescue, funded by said adventurers, to defray the costs of S & R, and give death benefits to the families of rescuers who are injured or killed in the process?

·      Should adventurers be require to purchase S & R insurance?

The SAR volunteers and professionals I’ve talked to often express frustration about people’s cavalier attitude to the wilderness in which they enjoy their adventures, their lack of respect for the elements, their lack of preparation for emergencies. But I don’t think a one of them supports making people pay for rescue. The reason? They’re afraid people will not call when they need to because they’re worried about the bill.

Anyway — interesting questions. What do you think?

Jim Cornelius, Editor

1 comment:

  1. When people, who through no fault of their own, end up needing to be searched for and rescued, what do we do? This happens when sever weather strikes abruptly leaving people in transit by car or foot or what ever stranded and in need of help.

    If a visitor to a national forest or park becomes disoriented or lost, not because they were seeking adventure knowing risks, but because they were in a public accessible place with no reasonable expectation of danger, and became incrementally minute by minute closer to danger without realizing it. Or someone of diminished mental capacity, a child or dementia patient, becomes lost, imperiled and in need of rescue- we are obliged to respond as a society.

    The examples of adventurers knowing risks requiring rescue are high profile but at the margins of what SAR is for. The day we as a society ask that someone in need pay for assistance, no matter who they are, is when we lose our humanity and succumb to fiscal despotism.

    The question about seartch and res