Should you have to pay for your own rescue?

Search and rescue operations are paid for by province and territories and they aren’t cheap. (REUTERS/Greg Locke)
Search and rescue operations are paid for by province and territories and they aren’t cheap. (REUTERS/Greg Locke)

If you’re in a dire situation and need the help of rescue personnel, the last thing on your mind is getting a bill for your own rescue.

There are some things to take into consideration, after all. Were you indulging in an activity that could have purposely put you in harm’s way? Adventure seekers, like rock climbers, off-road trekkers, white water rafters and those who indulge in other extreme sporting activities, do so knowing that their fun times don’t come without possible risk of danger and injury. Often, these thrill seekers will enter restricted areas to get their adrenaline pumping. Danger seems to be part of the allure.

However, daredevils don’t really think about the “what if’s” when they’re pursuing what makes their hearts beat faster, nor are they likely thinking about putting rescuers in harm’s way should they need people to come to their aid. aid

It might be a big mistake causing even more danger

Even though some adventurers go out of bounds when hunting for the next big kick and a large faction of the public thinks those who disregard danger postings should be charged if they need to be rescued, most rescuers don’t feel the same. It indeed can be very dangerous to rescue an out-of-bounds rock climber, skier or hiker but search and rescue personnel say laying criminal charges wouldn’t be wise.

Rescue workers rationalize that the family of the missing person who may need to be rescued will take matters into their own hands if they think criminal charges may be laid against the victim and that the victim might also have to foot the bill for his own rescue. That could put even more people in danger -- something rescue workers don’t want.

Provinces foot the bill

As it now stands, search and rescue operations are paid for by province and territories. And they aren’t cheap. They can cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars when added up.

It depends, too, on where the victim becomes stranded. For instance, if someone is at a ski resort and disregards the “danger, out of bounds” postings and ends up needing help, the ski resort could actually charge them for coming to their aid. That happened to a British Columbia man who was charged $10,000 to be rescued by the resort’s search and rescue team.

The public has been pressuring governments to bill wayward extreme enthusiasts should they need help to get out of a harmful situation. Since the invoices for rescues are sent to the province in which the rescue took place, the price tax is one which residents are paying. It’s not uncommon for one search to exceed $100,000.

Onus on adventurers in other countries

Many parts of the world don’t take lightly to adventurers bucking the rules. It is a criminal offence in Italy to cause an avalanche in the Alps. If the slide causes a fatality, manslaughter charges would be laid against those who survive. Private insurance for thrill seekers is available in Switzerland and France. If you don’t have insurance and get yourself and/or others into trouble, the cash for the rescue comes out of your own pocket. The “pay to play” system seems to work in Europe -- especially when people will continue to take risks for kicks.
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