Search and Rescue

You’ve planned your trip carefully, packed all the necessary gear, have the skill set to match your objective, are travelling with experienced outdoors people and yet, a rock falls, snow tumbles down a mountainside or ice gives way on a glacier and suddenly you’re in need of a rescue.

Helicopter rides aren't always for pleasure. (Photo: M.Kopp)

This rescue mission is legitimate, but there are many times when search and rescue teams are called out because someone didn’t plan their trip carefully, didn’t pack the right gear, or tackled a route that was beyond their abilities. And they are lost or injured as a result. Who should pay for that rescue?

It’s a touchy subject and one that has arguments on both sides. If you haven’t planned your trip carefully, packed the right equipment, or gone beyond your personal limitations, you should be responsible for your rescue – some people say.

But the other side argues that how is a backcountry rescue significantly different than a car accident or plane crash? Those individuals might have made bad decisions that landed them in that predicament, but they aren’t required to pay rescue fees.

The unfortunate part of the equation is that Search and Rescue organizations are quite often staffed by volunteers who depend on a mixture of public funding and grants to complete their missions. In Europe, rescue insurance is the answer. These policies don’t cover medical costs, but any expenses related to rescue and evacuation are covered.

What do you think?

Should North America start going that route to ensure ongoing volunteer-based search and rescue outside of established parks and protected spaces?

Did You Know?

American Alpine Club  members are automatically enrolled in a “Trailhead Rescue membership with Global Rescue, providing the member with $5,000 of coverage for rescue and evacuation to the nearest hospital or clinic because of a serious illness or injury that occurs beyond the start of the trail.” This covers everything from climbing to hiking to skiing to mountain biking – and there is not limit for elevation at which the accident occurs.

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