Let me pose a scenario to you.
A young man gets lost in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The weather is bad and his situation is dire. Search and rescue personnel look for him and eventually find him. He’s taken to a hospital for treatment. He’s also given a $25,000 bill for the rescue.
This was a controversial case, to say the least. Many people can identify with the state in terms of holding people financially accountable for search and rescue efforts. This has become a bigger issue with the advent of rescue beacons that some people overuse when they wander off into the wilderness, get uncomfortable with their surrounds and decide they’re too tired to deal with it anymore. People who are that reckless – putting rescuers at risk unnecessarily – should be fined, the thinking goes.
But there is also another side to the argument. Many search and rescue groups adamantly oppose instituting fines and fees for search and rescue. They say if people are afraid of racking up a huge tab for their rescue, they’ll be less apt to call for help when they really need it, thus leading to desperate or even deadly situations that could be avoided.
Outside Online’s blog discusses this subject, citing a case where a Colorado search and rescue group convinced one city there to abandon its policy of charging for search and rescue. You can read about it here: http://outside-blog.away.com/blog/2010/09/no-charge-to-rescue-heats-up.html
But what about the Grand Canyon case where one group used a SPOT locator beacon three times, ultimately waving off a helicopter rescue crew three times after asking for help on rather mundane inconveniences? The rescuers in that case ultimately forced the group out of the canyon. Should they have been charged?
So what do you think? I’m likely to side with the rescue groups who stand against such fees, but I can understand where some would like to see the more careless or reckless types pay for their sins. Give me your opinion.