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Professional Search & Rescue

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 1,094
plantmandan wrote:

Good points, it all seems complicated. 

What if we turned this over to the military? They certainly have the funding and can operate anywhere. How about pulling some of our troops from places like Greenland, Japan, Italy, or Germany, and training them to do SAR operations? It won't happen, I know, but hey...  

Geez. Military already does do SAR. Coast Guard, but also guard and reserve units all over the country. They are pretty important for wildland firefighting, too.

If MP is proposing to change a system that already works quite well, maybe at least learn a smidge about how it actually works?

Best, Helen
Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Insert name wrote:

So you assume you make more money than us and that it makes your opinion more valuable? (I’m in the upper 3%, but it isn’t relevant). You can take your extra money and make a donation to these organizations.

That's a big stretch and misrepresentation of my intent. Also, just to be clear, you're saying there's something WRONG with me wanting to pay taxes to support S&R as a public service?

I mentioned paying significant taxes because the knee-jerk criticism almost ANY time you say you want something paid for out of public coffers is that you're a person who doesn't contribute just wanting to leach off of the government. My logic is something very different. First, we've got an already-dysfunctional system where certain things ARE charged back to the consumers. Look into public-agencies sending bills for ambulance rides, just for example. How many of those bills end in the agency getting paid? How much financial distress is created by that billing? Is that system actually working for the agencies that try to do that? Why is an ambulance taking someone away from a car crash to the hospital any less important of a public purpose than the fire truck that put out the burning car?

I also frequently see folks who needed SAR rescues described on these pages as "idiots" and "gumbies" and such. But shit happens. If you think you're so untouchable that you'll never fall and break something or get lost, well, good for you. And I'll expect you to waive off that rescue chopper, too. I think providing public safety services for the GENERAL PUBLIC is an obvious and well-spent use of tax dollars.
Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Insert name wrote:



How are you suggesting we split up SAR unit, by city, county, state? I don’t think a lot of you realize how much it would cost and how you would justify the cost to the people getting the bill.
Inyo/Mono county have 32,000 residents. Are they paying for the SAR for that area used ($125 per citizen on $4mil). predominantly by people from high income Counties outside of the area? 

In California there's a law stating EXACTLY that counties are allowed to charge the rescued person's county of residence for those costs. Said law was designed specifically to protect places like Inyo and Mono Counties. 

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 1,094
Señor Arroz wrote:

In California there's a law stating EXACTLY that counties are allowed to charge the rescued person's county of residence for those costs. Said law was designed specifically to protect places like Inyo and Mono Counties. 

For the record, you can be charged here also, for blatant idiocy. But it isn't done, because the rescuers want to be called before you make even more dumb decisions and make an even bigger mess.

They are ​charging wildland fires now, if you do something stupid. 19 year old who launched (illegal) fireworks in the Boise foothills a few years ago now has over $400k billed to him. Oops.

And no, ambulance services make no sense to me either, especially considering the low pay the guys get. I suspect because it's billed to "health" insurance, unlike the fire department that cuts you out of the car and is a public service.

Best, Helen
Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Good article from Outside Magazine from a few years back deals with all these questions and gives a great survey of the different policies in place across the USA.
Spaggett, Gotcha! · · Western NC · Joined Jun 2018 · Points: 0

I know this seems like a problem in this echo chamber, but it's not.  Real world analogs like EMS services for drug overdoses and wildfire abatement dwarf this and the funding of those services is absurdly more complicated than can be addressed here (not to mention varies greatly by location).  

  • SAR can and should be able to bill for their services on what mostly amounts to a lack of preparation and risk awareness with possibly a little bad luck.  
  • SAR should not be billed to the taxpayers.  Thankfully this group doesn't get to make that choice.  If a public agency provides the SAR service, the public agency should be rightfully reimbursed for the resources.
  • Yes, one should think twice about calling SAR, whether the cost is there or not is irrelevant.  You either need it or you don't.
  • The availability of SAR should not be a part of one's risk calculus in the field.  If it is, the potential costs (whether known or not) have already been accepted by the party.
  • I know this sounds harsh... but, tough shit.  Accept the risk and consequences when you hit the trailhead.  These are voluntary activities done by a sliver of a fraction of the population, and pure "bad luck" happens to even a minority of that group.  It's not public responsibility to bail your ass out at the disproportionate cost.

Edit to add:  I wouldn't be so goddamn grumpy about this if not for shit like this (pretty funny tho actually)  http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13201214399/Stranded-Inexperience-Darkness   
Comic justice would be a $5000 bill to support the local SAR office (OWB school) and other resources, which has to call in a Blackhawk to aid LG rescues multiple times per year.  Knowing the cost and needless risk to rescuers, maybe "Pair 2" wouldn't be so "tired and frustrated with each other" and try fucking climbing.

Not saying there are not legitimate rescues out there where life is at stake, but every party has to weigh in the complexity of possible rescue based on the remoteness of the location if something were to go wrong.  That complexity comes at increased cost and risk to others, which cannot be taken for granted.  If one can't swallow the potential cost responsibility or not prepared for 100% self-rescue, stick to roadside crags (it's voluntary, remember!).
Insert name · · Conway, New Hampster · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 60
plantmandan wrote:

Good points, it all seems complicated. 

What if we turned this over to the military? They certainly have the funding and can operate anywhere. How about pulling some of our troops from places like Greenland, Japan, Italy, or Germany, and training them to do SAR operations? It won't happen, I know, but hey...  

They do that with the national guard during emergencies.

But that’s a slippery slope of military crowd control. The other issue is military members are also grossly underpaid and would only work near military bases. You would be requiring people who are doing other MOS’s to then be a medic/infantry or go through Mountain school? Those jobs are already hard to fill.
You think Yosemite rangers are bad, waiting until you have some Marines getting out of bounds campers....
Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
curt86iroc · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 74
Insert name wrote:

They do that with the national guard during emergencies.

But that’s a slippery slope of military crowd control. The other issue is military members are also grossly underpaid and would only work near military bases. You would be requiring people who are doing other MOS’s to then be a medic/infantry or go through Mountain school? Those jobs are already hard to fill.

the military already offers a nationwide terrestrial SAR program out of the AFRCC: https://www.1af.acc.af.mil/Units/AFRCC.aspx

The resources from the AFRCC are used to supplement local resources when needed. hence, why you see CH-47s and blackhawks during SAR activities. the main difference is these resources are never in control of the mission. that always lies with the local authorities (sheriff in CO).
Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 1,094
Spaggett, Gotcha! wrote: I know this seems like a problem in this echo chamber, but it's not.  Real world analogs like EMS services for drug overdoses and wildfire abatement dwarf this and the funding of those services is absurdly more complicated than can be addressed here (not to mention varies greatly by location).  

  • SAR can and should be able to bill for their services on what mostly amounts to a lack of preparation and risk awareness with possibly a little bad luck.  
  • SAR should not be billed to the taxpayers.  Thankfully this group doesn't get to make that choice.  If a public agency provides the SAR service, the public agency should be rightfully reimbursed for the resources.
  • Yes, one should think twice about calling SAR, whether the cost is there or not is irrelevant.  You either need it or you don't.
  • The availability of SAR should not be a part of one's risk calculus in the field.  If it is, the potential costs (whether known or not) have already been accepted by the party.
  • I know this sounds harsh... but, tough shit.  Accept the risk and consequences when you hit the trailhead.  These are voluntary activities done by a sliver of a fraction of the population, and pure "bad luck" happens to even a minority of that group.  It's not public responsibility to bail your ass out at the disproportionate cost.

Edit to add:  I wouldn't be so goddamn grumpy about this if not for shit like this (pretty funny tho actually)  http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13201214399/Stranded-Inexperience-Darkness   
Comic justice would be a $5000 bill to support the local SAR office (OWB school) and other resources, which has to call in a Blackhawk to aid LG rescues multiple times per year.  Knowing the cost and needless risk to rescuers, maybe "Pair 2" wouldn't be so "tired and frustrated with each other" and try fucking climbing.

Not saying there are not legitimate rescues out there where life is at stake, but every party has to weigh in the complexity of possible rescue based on the remoteness of the location if something were to go wrong.  That complexity comes at increased cost and risk to others, which cannot be taken for granted.  If one can't swallow the potential cost responsibility or not prepared for 100% self-rescue, stick to roadside crags (it's voluntary, remember!).

Geez. One size does not fit all.

SAR can​ charge. They choose not to.

Idaho has more territory in wilderness ​than some states back east entirely. Then there's the rest of the public lands. Its a public resource, managed by public agencies. Most of the messes take place there.

SAR is NOT just climbers, or even recreationists. It is a resource for the sheriff to use in difficult terrain. Period. That includes body retrievals no matter how they got there. Plane crashes, cars off the road, whatever. It also has included evidence searches. SAR has cadaver dogs....on and on.

And yes, they can ​request assistance from the Blackhawk guys to save our sorry asses. That, is a mission for the Blackhawk guys too, who have to stay current and train anyway.

Last? A pretty hefty percentage of people do ​send money to the SAR people who got them out of their jam....or, more often than not, found their loved one and brought the body home. You wanna figure out how to bill that out? As stated several times, SAR peeps are in it to serve ​people. Spending days on an arduous search in terrible terrain and weather? With the end result being.....sometimes never finding that loved one? Or, not until the snow melts and the search can continue?

Yeah, it's complicated. And works really well, at least here.

Again, a fair percentage of people who require SAR didn't factor any part of anything into what they were up to before. They couldn't figure out where the car is, walking back down a trail, went fishing and fell in, went down in a plane crash...

Best, Helen
Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Old lady H wrote:

Geez. One size does not fit all.

SAR can charge. They choose not to.

Idaho has more territory in wilderness than some states back east entirely. Then there's the rest of the public lands. Its a public resource, managed by public agencies. Most of the messes take place there.

SAR is NOT just climbers, or even recreationists. It is a resource for the sheriff to use in difficult terrain. Period. That includes body retrievals no matter how they got there. Plane crashes, cars off the road, whatever. It also has included evidence searches. SAR has cadaver dogs....on and on.

And yes, they can request assistance from the Blackhawk guys to save our sorry asses. That, is a mission for the Blackhawk guys too, who have to stay current and train anyway.

Last? A pretty hefty percentage of people do send money to the SAR people who got them out of their jam....or, more often than not, found their loved one and brought the body home. You wanna figure out how to bill that out? As stated several times, SAR peeps are in it to serve people. Spending days on an arduous search in terrible terrain and weather? With the end result being.....sometimes never finding that loved one? Or, not until the snow melts and the search can continue?

Yeah, it's complicated. And works really well, at least here.

Again, a fair percentage of people who require SAR didn't factor any part of anything into what they were up to before. They couldn't figure out where the car is, walking back down a trail, went fishing and fell in, went down in a plane crash...

Best, Helen

Great post, Helen. Like I've said before, I don't see SAR as in any way separate of different from other similar public safety functions -- cops, firefighters, coast guard, lifeguards... Often it's a function being performed by the very same people using the same equipment. A firefighting chopper also makes a great rescue platform, just for example.

Grant Kleeves · · Ridgway, CO · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 55
Old lady H wrote:

Geez. One size does not fit all.

I think this sums it up pretty well, FWIW I am on a volunteer SAR team, and to echo someone upthread, it is one of the most fulfilling things I do, is it always fun? no, not at all, there's days that really  suck... but being there for someone having a really bad day and just maybe being able to make it suck less is a really amazing feeling, I don't think most of us would bat an eye if we had to use more personal gear or pay for training, the reward in a smoothly executed rescue is pretty high...

with that coloring my opinion, I think some places, notably the front range and probably a lot of CA could pretty easily support a paid rescue team, there's  big tax base relative to the number of people engaging in outdoor pursuits that would put them in need of rescue and also enough rescues to keep people on staff without them sitting around most of the time...

where that model doesn't work as well is small towns with a ton of recreation, when there are more people playing in the mountains than live in town, a tax to support SAR doesn't work nearly as well in this case, also, even with pretty high call volume (say 50-60 calls a year) it's pretty hard to justify paying more than one or two people who are mostly going to sit around... sure , insurance is an option but it only pays when on a rescue, you still have to pay for training and downtime...
Arlo F Niederer · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 465
curt86iroc wrote: things are already changing in some states...

https://www.wyoleg.gov/Legislation/2019/HB0246




I volunteered on Teton County SAR for 12 years and was a volunteer EMT for Jackson Hole Fire/EMS.  I was elected as a founding trustee of the volunteer EMT pension fund.  There was already a volunteer Firefighter pension fund, so they decided to add a fund for volunteer EMTs.  Nice to see that they are adding in SAR!  Since Wyoming is mostly rural and sparsely populated, many locations rely on volunteers to provide emergency services, and the pension funds are an effort to compensate all the volunteers.

An important consideration: who is LEGALLY required to provide emergency services for SAR type ACTIVITIES?  In Wyoming, it is the Sheriff department in each county.

One of the difficulties is the variety of disciplines that SAR must provide.  On Teton County SAR, we had to provide SAR for climbing, whitewater, cave rescue, backcountry skiing/snowmobiling, airplane crashes, lost persons, avalanche...  The Sheriff's Department tried to cover this initially, but it was impossible for them to cover all of the disciplines within their budget. So 26 years ago they formed a volunteer team.

Although some posters here are advocating for professional, paid teams, I guarantee that the Teton County SAR team is highly skilled, experienced, and professional and can hold their own against any other SAR team out there.  We had over 240 hours of training every year.

Although we weren't paid, there were many perks such as pro deals on gear.  Just to name a couple, how does a 50% discount on Black Diamond and North Face sound? Teton County SAR provided much of the required gear, but it was necessary to use some personal gear.  Consequently, every 6 months they provided a $400 gear stipend if you responded to a minimum number of callouts.
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