COSAR firmly believes that training and education are the keystones in the solution to this issue. We believe that the individual must accept responsibility for his or her actions and that training in proper outdoors skills and for self-rescue is the quickest and most effective method of resolving most rescue situations.
There will always be cases where the subject does something completely and obviously irresponsible, necessitating a rescue. Then the discussion starts anew about charging for rescues. Keep in mind that such cases are relatively rare.
COSAR is proud to be able to provide search and rescue at NO cost and have NO plans to charge in the future.
All other considerations aside, charging for rescues is not free, as many people may assume. There are significant costs that go along with enforcing and collecting fines which may be levied by the government. Any prosecution or fine requires enforcement, enforcement time costs a lot of money. It is also pretty common knowledge that collections are rarely straight forward and efficient.
Furthermore, fines require process to avoid injustice. That means lawyers, appeals, courts, and judges. Again, more taxpayer money. Then there is the issue of defining negligent/reckless actions that should be fined. Not easy to make this distinction since even a well-prepared person can make mistakes that could lead to the need for rescue. No one is perfect, and in the moment, any of us can make errors in judgement.
Ultimately, the search and rescue system in BC costs the taxpayer very little money. There are single municipal fire departments with bigger budgets than the entire SAR program. We are all volunteers, and we all give of ourselves freely. To charge would be to go against what we are all volunteering to do, save lives.
A Comment from the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association:
“For the nearly 2500 volunteers that belong to the 80 registered search and rescue teams in the Province of British Columbia the moral obligation of helping those in need will always take precedence over political, legal, economic and jurisdictional issues. We conduct over 1300 responses in BC each year; from urban searches for people with dementia, wilderness searches for people who become lost on hikes, to backcountry rescues using technical expertise and equipment.”
**** Thank you to the North Shore Search and Rescue for their collaboration in writing this piece.