Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?

SAR personnel practice a mission in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. NASAR photo.

Should search-and-rescue (SAR) subjects be billed for the cost of their rescue? It's long been a thorny issue, one that organizations that respond to SARs long have opposed.

The topic has been broached here on the Traveler in the past, but in light of our recent article on staying safe in the parks, and that of the rescue of a couple in Dinosaur National Monument, it seems fitting to revisit it, particularly in light of a news release from the National Association for Search and Rescue.

The release, issued last week by NASAR, the Mountain Rescue Association, the Colorado Search and Rescue Board, the International Association of Dive Rescue Specialists, the United States Coast Guard and the National Park Service, reiterated those groups' stance that they all either oppose billing, or do not bill, people after a search-and-rescue operation.

“Although it remains a local decision, billing for search and rescue operations is a dangerous practice that should be avoided,” said NASAR President Dan Hourihan.

NASAR's position:

To eliminate the fear of being unable to pay for having one’s life saved, SAR services should be rendered to persons in danger or distress without subsequent cost-recovery from the person(s) assisted unless prior arrangements have been made. The mission of SAR organizations is to save lives, not just the lives of those who can afford to pay the bill. As such, methods and means should be developed and used that diffuse the cost of humanitarian SAR operations among the many, allowing ­anyone to reasonably expect emergency aid without regard to their circumstances.

According to the release, "the idea of not billing for SAR services confuses many people. However, SAR professionals across the nation know of many instances in which someone – after an unforeseen accident, or spending hours searching for their missing companion – delayed calling for help. Each 'remembered' hearing, seeing or reading, 'somewhere' that rescues and searches cost 'thousands of dollars' – which they could not afford. Some have even chosen not to call for help, or refused emergency help."

To underscore this fear, the organizations cited a 2006 case in which a young hiker became stranded on Colorado’s 14,270-foot Quandary Peak. "She called 9-1-1, but asked the SAR team leader just to 'talk her out of the area,'" noted the organizations.

"The sun had already set and cold weather surrounded her in a dangerous area of the mountain. She repeatedly said the SAR team should not come to help her. After going back and forth with her on her cell phone, the SAR team leader finally asked why she didn't want help. She replied, 'I can't afford it.' He explained that there would be no charge and she then relented," noted the groups.

Additional examples where people initially refused help can be found in the attachments below.

“A delay can place SAR personnel in danger and can unnecessarily compound and lengthen a SAR mission,” says Mr. Hourihan. “Not calling for emergency SAR help could be as catastrophic as not calling the fire department when a small stove-top fire jumps to the ceiling and instantly fills the kitchen with flames, because the home owner’s first thought was, ‘How in the world will I pay the fire department?’”

Then-U.S.C.G. Commandant James Loy perhaps explained it best, in 1999, in the Coast Guard’s very similar position. “If the specter of financial reimbursement hung over the decision to report maritime distress, we could get fewer calls, we would get calls during later stages of emergencies, and more people would die at sea. This factor alone outweighs any consideration of how much money we might recoup,” said Admiral Loy.

Traveler footnote: Founded in 1973, the National Association for Search and Rescue comprises more than 10,000 volunteer and paid search and rescue professionals who work at the local, state and national level in land, aviation and water SAR. NASAR conducts hundreds of training courses and thousands of certification exams each year. More than 11,000 people hold any of 11 NASAR certifications in SAR operations.

NASAR-Position Statement.pdf34.04 KB
NASAR-Refusing Help.pdf53.23 KB


If the idiots get lost or hurt without carrying the Satellite location beacon available (low costs) they should be charged for any and all rescue costs.

And if they failed to file a flight pan, trip journey they should also be fined for bring idiots.

Search and rescue is for accidents, not the unprepared!!!!


"...adventure without regard to prudence, profit, self-improvement,
learning or any other serious thing" -Aldo Leopold-

Who decides where the line between idiocy and accident is? An interesting subject. I'd really like to see some means of "punishing" people who go off unprepared, willfully ignorant of hazards, expecting rescue when things turn sour. But how do you do that without inhibiting victims of true accidents or freak events from calling in the cavalry?

Perhaps you bill people, but have a system of insurance for SAR costs. When you purchase a back country permit you tack on a couple bucks a day for insurance. If you don't purchase insurance, tough luck. But can a ranger refuse to issue the insurance if the person seems reckless?

Not sure where I stand on this.

-Kirby.....Lansing, MI

If you call 911 and you are taken to the hospital in an ambulance, you WILL receive a bill from the ambulance company.

I don't think that the rescued people should be billed by any SAR group. What happens if one of the members of a SAR group are dumb enough to get lost and have to be rescued? And let's say they were opposed to billing, and they are billed? It's just stupid IMO, and it shows that more and more people are becoming cynical and want payment for something that is mostly voluntary.

If you can't afford a rescue, but are sure the taxpayers can, stay home.

NO,NO,NO Listen to the professionals, the people who volunteer for this duty day and night. If they say no, then its a bad idea. Currently local law enforcement can use judgement if they want to charge someone. So if someone dose something that is judged to be dum, or reckless, or whatever there is currently a means to get money from that person. Many states do have SAR funds to pay for rescue operations and as always and forever Mountain Rescue Association teams do not charge for rescue.

I have mixed feelings about this. Just yesterday I was enjoying my day off hiking in my park when I came across a man collapsed on the side of the trail. I identified myself as a ranger and asked if they needed help. They said he had simply gotten light headed. No one in the party had water and it was 83, in the desert, on a trail rated moderate. They refused any help but I advised them to go back down and get some water before doing the trail. They ignored me and hiked as fast as they could up the trail. I tried to keep up to keep my eye on the man but they out paced me. I later found out that the same man had later become a SAR and had to be carried out. What do you do when a ranger advised them that they weren't prepared but they ignored the warnings?

No... for all the reasons listed by the professionals. In reply to the comment about calling 911 and having to pay for the ambulance: I'm sure that there are many people who put off calling 911 who opt instead to "tough it out" only to have their situation worsen. Some, of course, arrange their own transportation from a family member or friend to avoid the cost of an ambulance when that seems overkill. There is no such alternative if you are injured, stranded or lost in the wilderness.

In my experience in mountain rescue most teams are volunteers, drive their own vehicles and supply much of the equipment at no cost to the taxpayers. We don't need government assessing charges to victims when the services are provided free by volunteers. For the limited number of paid rescuers (generally park rangers) they generally are hired for other duties and respond to rescues as needed. Except for the cost of training and equipment, there is very little impact on their agency's budget.

BUT MOST IMPORTANT! Regardless of how smart or stupid someone is, each life is precious so let's not castigate some for the predicaments they get in. Likewise everyone should feel confident they will receive rescue services when and if they need them without respect to ability to pay. Throw out the rescue fee and the ability to pay is a non-issue. I don't want to ever hear again of a young lady who refuses help "because my Dad will kill me when he gets the bill!"

Never charge for this service!

If you charge for this service, it is NOT the idiots that wandered off recklessly that you will be "punishing" -it is their CHILDREN who they took with them who will suffer!! These same people who didn't bring a beacon or even a map for that matter are the same ones dragging a 5 year old up a mountian, and when things take a turn for the worse you NEVER want a parent to hesitate to get emergency help for 5 YEAR OLD because they are trying to figure out if they have room on a credit card for the bill! Seriously, why is this even being debated?

P.S. if you can not pay for an ambulance ride and it was deemed medically necessary, it's free in Maryland for this exact reason. No one should hesitate to call for help for someone in life or death circumstances because of the cost.

There is no such alternative if you are injured, stranded or lost in the wilderness.

What business do they have in the wilderness. If someone goes into the wilderness or climbs a mountain just for fun why shouldn't they pay for any expense incurred. If someone else has to pay for their rescue why not also pay for their equipment and send them to school to learn safety in their hobby. If a child wanders away from camp and gets lost that is different. If a grown person makes a decision to put their life in danger for a thrill they should pay for their foolishness.

That is the way I see it but, if someone wants to furnish the equipment and volunteer their time and expense or solicit money for that purpose then "God bless them"

"Seriously, why is this even being debated?"

It's being debated because some people have different opinions. I personally don't feel having a child in tow should give someone carte blanche to act recklessly and expect rescue with no repercussions. Someone mentioned above that local law enforcement often have the discretion to bill (or presumably even file charges against?) people that take unnecessary risks that require SAR. That sounds like a good system to me. But what if the people with the 5 year old know they might get a bill? Will they hesitate then? Should we make it clear that no one gets billed under any circumstances so these folks can go wild and put their children at risk without threats to their finances or liberty? I would think it would be in the best interest of the 5-year-old if the parents could expect some serious repercussions for putting the child at risk in the first place. Making sure the parents know there's free rescue available seems like a horrible thing to do for the welfare of the kids when their parents are this ignorant to start with.

I think the "crazies" out there are quite rare.

I spent some seven years on one of the busier SAR teams in Colorado. We clocked between 100 - 150 missions a year. I don't recall a single mission where a parent recklessly put their child in danger. I can count perhaps 5 or 6 where an adult acted irresponsibly which resulted in a rescue/recovery. Two died in separate incidents while thrill skiing off a cliff. One was caught in an avalance. All three were "expert" skiers. In another incident our team was providing support for a mountain marathon. One gentleman from Arkansas who was diabetic decided to challenge himself by not hydating for 24 hours before the race. He crashed and burned about six miles into the race on a hot August morning. We have had a handful of suicides. Not a single taxpayer's cent was spent to rescue/recover these people, yet they were cared for by our team. Of course it seems appropriate to charge or fine the guy from Arkansas for his stupidity but it's not worth the trouble. As for the others.....? Well... they are dead!

There are no ski resorts in our county. I have read news articles averaging perhaps a couple per year where skiers in Colorado have gone "out of bounds" at resorts and into danger zones to end up missing, injured, or worse. These incidents generally get more press coverage so perhaps the public gets the idea that irresponsbile people are the cause of more SAR missions than is actually the case. I know that our missions rarely got press coverage and the vast majority were successful missions and did not involve significant irresponsibility by the victims.

In my experience, outdoors people, are generally quite responsible, care for the environment, and take pride in their skills to remain safe. A good many of them know more about survival than the average person. They are clearly not a burden on the system.

There will always be people with bad judgement. Everyone is a novice when they first venture into a new environment. We have to take care of them along with the others... no charge!

reading this article and comments changed my mind somewhat. There are questions, though Public lands are exempt from local taxes. Local police, fire and EMS staff and equipment are often involved in SAR operations. Shouldn't there be some compensation to the local taxpayer? Then there is the moral hazard issue. Do people take needless risks because they know that someone will bail them out?

ronlee67 -

Thanks for some excellent first-hand perspective.

A topic we can all get our teeth into. Thanks for the thoughtful discussion. Much better than guns in parks. Search and Rescue is a huge operational cost to the National Park Service. The question to bill cannot be asked nor explored until the service can accurately identify the true cost of doing this business. Of the 391 units in the National Park Service I'd 3 of them report the same. Absent a pay code for this type of work too many of our employees and volunteers provide this service without any of us knowing what the true cost is. We do not look at what we paid out the previous year and factor it into our budgets as a line item. Each unit is left up to reaching that magic goal of $500 dollars to get a major SAR account and reimbursement from the regional and national level. It's not a mystery where that funding comes from, it is however a mystery of who's smart enough to use it.

A second issue is certification/qualification. If we look at the staff that predominantly provide search and rescue many of them spend an incredible amount of time maintaining structural fire, ems, instructor certifications and law enforcement. It's not a bad idea of professionalizing SAR, however if we do let's increase the base budget and factor that time and cost associated with it so we don't have the same 5 people taking on the work load of 15. It all comes down to supply and demand. Before those of you who provide rescue to the general public say "no" too quickly, think about where the money is coming from. If the National Park Service could provide equal reimbursement, staffing and training to all of the units that respond day in and day out to SAR missions I'd think you'd hear a resounding "No". When they don't and parks are left footing the bill it leads to one thing.....shortfalls for field staff.....and at the end of the day once again we see our front line heroes pay the price. So who really should be paying for Search and Rescue?

Interesting discussion on this topic. And it's surely one that will continue to pop up from time to time.

A key problem with un-billed SARs, however, is that the NPS seemingly has no dedicated national SAR fund from which to reimburse parks for SARs. As a result, funds are redirected from elsewhere, to the detriment of those programs. And then, as Chief Ranger points out, different parks track SAR expenses differently.

Anyone out there know why the Park Service hasn't created a dedicated SAR fund, or why parks don't follow the same paper trail in tracking their SAR expenses?

I think that each SAR callout should be reviewed and if it is deemed that "recklessness" is the over riding contributing factor then there should be repercussions to the parties involved. This could be in the form of fines, community service, teaching others or some other form of "pay back" other then a total reimbursement for the SAR expense. Recklessness is determined by what a knowledgeable prudent person would be doing and equipped for given the circumstances. In an example above someone mentions the diabetic not drinking for 24 hours prior to the race and bonking out 5-6 miles into it. This is reckless behavior. People hike into the Grand Canyon NP every year with "a bottle" of water, the rangers do their best to discourage this, but there is nothing they can do to stop this kind of behavior. This is reckless behavior. Going back country skiing without the proper avalanche equipment or when the danger is High is reckless behavior. If people knew they could suffer repercussions for recklessness then maybe many would think twice before engaging in activities they are not trained for or prepared for.

The NPS, BLM, NFS can easily come up with a cost analysis spreadsheet that can determine the cost of a SAR operation. Accountants are very good at this and make it uniform throughout the fed and state governments so that services can factor in these operations into their budgets.

Personally, I think more SAR operations are not for the crazies or the extreme high adventure people that get the press, but for the hiker who takes the wrong turn and gets lost, the backpacker who falls and can not hike out, the kayaker who gets rolled and entangled in river debris; but I think MOST SAR operations are for people who don't think about where they are going and are not prepared properly for their outing. Some would fall into the category of recklessness, but I think most would just make it to the "stupid" category. In my opinion.

Jim.hiker great observation on who is really getting rescued. Before we launch into Human Error, Gross or Reckless Negligence or Intentional Rule Violator decisions the National Park Service needs to start treating our visitors like adults. When we accept responsibility for creating the nuisance in the first place and mitigate it, post appropriate warnings and honestly relay what the ramifications are if you choose to disregard the warnings we might see some folks make the right decision in the first place. Our visiting public is smarter than we give them credit for. When you are drawn like a moth to the flame towards the lava spewing into the ocean to get a glimpse of Pele you pass signs that tell you in no uncertain terms what your fate will be if you play with lava. I think most adults can figure that out. Nowhere on that hike do we accurately post the ramifications for walking on unstable terrain for 2 miles in flip flops, sandals, motorcycle boots and high heels. These unsuspecting visitors embark on the journey only to meet their fate of a serious knee or ankle injury that keeps them from their original destination. Human Error, Gross or Reckless Negligence or Intentional Rule Violator? If we spent the time and energy at this level we would decrease our SAR work load significantly. I'm all for holding people accountable for their actions, it's a tool we have and use. Clearly it's not the answer to this significant fiscal dilemma. I’m not ready to charge the public (honest error) for a rescue if we’ve not done our due diligence and as you’ve pointed out this is where we spend the majority of our time and energy.

You know what I think...... If the Gov can spend trillions on war, they could take 1% that they use to kill people and spend it to save people. wow?! Im so fed up with good people losing their lives over the dollar or lack there of, when our Gov waste so much.

Steve - you have an interesting knee-jerk reaction, well not really interesting, more common place. Let's see, in 2006 “…836,131 missing-person records were entered into the National Crime Information Center's Missing Person File” (Eng. 2008).

I guess we should make all of those people pay for their rescues too?

We are all (maybe not you) tax paying citizens, for which we recieve police, fire, park ranger services. Some simply choose to day hike in the National Parks, so when rescue becomes necessary due to "unforeeable" events, should they be "taxed" more than the "idiot" who doesn't "foresee his house catching on fire," and falls asleep on his couch smoking and causing the fire department, police and ambulance to come to his house? According to you apparently so because he wasn't wearing a PLB.

Should all the people who get lost walking from their car to their tent (NON-mountain climbers), which account for 84% of all SAR events annually, be charged for their rescue or be required to carry locator beacons?

That won't stop idiots from being idiots.

By your qualification, someone carrying a locator beacon or satillite phone escapes being charged for their rescue because they were not idiots....well this shows how truly lacking in foresight you were in lining up your statements. Take for example this story: In September 2009 two men, very inexperienced in backpacking, and their two teenage sons attempted the Grand Canyon’s Royal Arch Loop, and “carried a personal locator beacon - just in case.” During the trip, in the course of three days they pushed the “panic button” three separate times mobilizing helicopters for the daring rescue inside the canyon walls. Upon being forced into a helicopter on after the third “panic,” one of the hikers stated, we” never would have attempted this hike” without the locator beacon. Maybe these men shouldn’t have been out there in the first place. These type of incidents are becoming so frequent “the head of California's Search and Rescue operation has a name for the devices: Yuppie 911” (Cone 2009).

Steve are you a Yuppie?

Cited Sources you might want to review:
Bradley, Ryan. “Q+A: Mountain Rescue Myths Debunked: Mount Hood Rescue 2006”. National Geographic Adventure Magazine. National Geographic online. Web 14, January 2010.

Cone, Tracie. “Locator beacons being used as Yuppie 911 by some hikers”
The Charleston Gazette. Charleston, W.V.:Oct 26, 2009. p. A.2

Eng, Heather. "Technology to the Rescue." PC Magazine 27.6 (2008): 19-20. Academic Search
Premier. EBSCO. Web. 21 Jan. 2010.

Farran, Sandra. "Technology hits the trails." Maclean's 109.12 (1996): 64. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 14 Jan. 2010.

Graham, David, A.. “A Mountain of Bills, Who should have to pay to rescue stranded climbers?”. NewsWeek online (December 17, 2009). Web 14 Jan. 2010.

Heggie, Travis, W. “Search and rescue trends associated with recreational travel in US national parks”. J Travel Med. 2009 Jan-Feb;16 (1):23-7. Web. 21 Jan. 2010.

Heggie TW, Amundson ME. “Dead men walking: search and rescue in US National Parks”. Wilderness Environ Med. 2009 Fall;20v (3):244-9. Web 21, 2010.

Johnson, Rich. "Get Saved Anywhere." Outdoor Life 215.4 (2008): 24-25. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 21 Jan. 2010.

Mitchell, Dan. "Lost? A personal locator beacon could save your life.(Business/Financial Desk)." The New York Times. (July 5, 2007): C7(L). Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Clark College - Cannell Library. 14 Jan. 2010

National Association for Search & Rescue, “NASAR Guide to SMART use of Emergency Signaling Devices” NASAR online January 14, 2009. Web 14 January 2010.

Stienstra, Tom. "Lost in Mount Baldy snow, hiker saved by technology.(OUTDOORS)(Column)." San Francisco Chronicle. (Feb 10, 2008): C11. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Clark College - Cannell Library. 14 Jan. 2010

Always think before doing anything stupid-I would ask myself-Do I want to be in any sisuation-to have to put the resuers lives at stake?No.

It's a no. Billing for search and rescue missions must be supported by the government and must be given an exact budget.

I think Diver.Sixx made a good point, I am inclined to agree with him. I do think there is a means to charge those who show gross negligence in judgement, at least in the parks I have worked in, otherwise lets lend the helping hand.

Diver sixx - $115 billion in the global war on terror (including Iraq and Afghanistan) in 2012 (constitutional). $2.48 Trillion entitlements (mostly unconstitutional). I think you are looking in the wrong bucket for your SAR money. And yes, "victims" should pay the cost of their SAR in cases of gross negligence or false/unnecessary calls if they haven't already paid SAR insurance.

I'm inclined to agree with Diver-sixx and rmackie, as well as with jim.hiker and Chief Ranger.

ecbuck, would be interested in your breakdown on the 2.2 trillion, (did I get that right?), in entitlements, ie what are the entitlements, what are the costs and sources you refer to get these stats. Thanks.

No, seriously. An unbiased source, not the Heritage Foundation. That was a cute try though.

Rich - turned to your usually tactics I see- attack the messenger and ignore the message (Saul Alinsky at his best). If you think those numbers are wrong - show a source that says something different.

BTW - here is a US News and World report story that says (essentially - different years) the same thing. $2.2 billion of entitlement spending in 2010:

"In 2010, entitlement spending had grown to be almost 100 times higher than it was in 1960; it has increased by an explosive 9.5 percent per year for 50 straight years. Entitlement transfer payments to individuals (such as for income, healthcare, age, and unemployment) have been growing twice as fast as per capita income for 20 years, totaling $2.2 trillion in 2010 alone—which was greater than the entire gross domestic product of Italy and roughly the same as the GDP of Great Britain.

In 1960, entitlement spending accounted for less than a third of all federal spending; in 2010, it was just about two thirds of government outlays, with everything else—defense, justice, all the other duties of government—making up less than one third."

Perhaps you should pay a little more attention to the Heritage Foundation, you might actually learn something.

That was a cute try though.

It appears this discussion has wandered off the trail, gotten seriously lost, and is need of a SAR mission of its own :-)

However, a comment a bit earlier by Vanny Thompson raises an interesting point on the topic at hand. He said, "Billing for search and rescue missions must be supported by the government and must be given an exact budget."

Perhaps Vanny meant SAR activities should have their own, dedicated budget? One of the many budget challenges for NPS managers is the difficulty in planning for costs for emergencies such as SAR missions. In large parks with a long track record of such activites it's possible to make an educated guess from year to year, but even so, a major SAR incident can run up a lot of costs, and if this occurs near the end of the fiscal year, it's a potential financial problem.

Well, we know one thing we aren't going to change people that don't think for themselves or are the born risk takers.

I think the simple fact that they may incure some sort of charge if they are so inclined to foolish actions that it may cost them something rather than walking away from the act and doing it at a future date or looking at it as a big joke when it's all said and done.Money,community service,nolonger allowed to use these parks,etc.would help maybe ?

Let's face it their is no easy anwser but that's what life is all about. Tomorrow any one of us may take our last breath weather it is by our actions or God's calling.

Diver.Sixx, another perspective on your comment about what is spent on defense and why we should lend the helping hands on SARs, well here is a try. Social Security, and Medicare take up a major faction of federal spending amounting to roughly 58% of the total federal outlays, whereas military spending is only about 18%. US news and World Report and other web-sites point this out. The problem with this representation is that Social Security and Medicare are parts of the mandatory spending of the federal government financed by the dedicated revenue raised from payroll taxes as imposed by FICA and through medicare payroll deductions and Income taxes. If we separate the above mandatory spending (its interesting to note this is now called entitlements when all of us pay into Social Security and Medicare, in my case for over 50 years now), but in any case if we look only at the discretionary spending appropriated by Congress on an annual basis, a different picture arises and then military spending equates to roughly 57% of the discretionary budget. When we compare that to the other world powers, only China comes close at 8.2%. Sources -Google, Federal Budget. many informative articles including the 2013 Federal budget.

Thanks Ron. You point out one more example of how "facts" can be so easily twisted to meet whatever agenda one wants to put forth. Whatever happened to plain old honesty?

That's right Ron, defense is discretionary - we really don't need it. (Sigh) Its only one of the designated powers of the constitution where as Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid (huge transfer payments which are only "mandatory" because they are mandated by Congress) have no Constitutional basis.

Even though Social Security and Medicare is a biggest chunk of gov't spending, it is shown on my pay stub as collected seperately. For lower paid individuals it probably is a larger part of the total of taxes paid. That money should not be used for anything else but what it is mandated for. And probably should not be included in total gov't spending because it is not discretionary. At least in my eyes, that is the problem with your chart. If you take S.S. and Med. out of your pie chart, defense is a large chunk.

I don't know about you guys but I paid my social security taxes and that's what it was and is a tax. Because I was self employed I paid 15% of my income to it.When I get that check each month I don't look at it as a gift from the government but something I earned after many years of long hours and hard work.I never felt that it was wrong that I was paying it because I would see the return down the road.

The problem is the goverment has spent that money like a drunken soldier.

Agreed. When I get my pittance of a Social Security check each month it is MY money I'm getting back. It has NOTHING to do with any deficit.

"Entitlement"? Damn right I'm entitled to my own money back that I paid into for 45 years and was promised back. "Entitlement" is only a dirty word to the partisans on the right.

Can anyone tell us which president presided over the first raids on social security to use the money for other purposes?

Rick - Do you expect to get everthing back that you paid into SS and Medicare/Medicaid with a reasonable return? If you are getting back your own money, why not abolish SS and keep the money to begin with? SS and Medicare/aid are nothing but a giant ponzi scheme with the government being the scamster.

{edit} And by the way Rick - I believe you are entitled to your SS payments. The govt made a promise and they should stick to it. But the system is not sustainable. No one of merit is suggest the current or soon to be retires have payments cut. What is being suggested is that the system be modified to ween the public of this addiction. The problem is that there are too many people that are net beneficiaries from the current system of others' expense.

This is way off topic, but since SS has come up, did anyone see the Frontline program the other night on PBS about 401K plans? Very interesting. Social Security is a much better way to go. (If it was operated properly. But some bank robbers from the White House and Congress got into the vault awhile ago and blew the whole thing to pieces.)

Maybe we need some search and rescue in the halls of Congress. Search for wisdom and try to rescue what little we can find.

Lee, interesting post, I am certainly no expert on the issue of Social Security except to say how beneficial it has been to both my spouse and I as well as extended family members. Some stats show that sixty percent of Americans receive at least two thirds of their retirement income from social security, but the payments received replace less than 40% of their earning averages. Currently, only about 15% of employees have traditional defined-benefit pensions at their workplace and 55% have no retirement plan at all. As pointed out on nightline, many problems developing with 401 Ks, etc. There are those that are calling for adding a supplement to social security that would guarantee all retirees about 60% of their average wage in retirement (similar to that of most developed nations). This would be accomplished, not by increasing the payroll tax, but by raising the payroll tax cap and eliminating top end tax breaks now offered to private retirement plans that disproportionately benefit the wealthiest americans.

I too would defer to those responsible for and working in SAR and say don't charge. That said, it would be nice to find a way to impose some kind of penalty to those that exhibit gross negligence or venture out with an expectation of rescue when it starts raining. I suspect (or at least hope) that these individuals are a very small minority so perhaps it isn't worth the effort as there will always be, as Kirby pointed out, difficulty in defining when whatever line is established gets crossed. Thanks to those that were able to keep their comments on topic.

many problems developing with 401 Ks, etc.

Oh, like what - someone gets to keep their own money?

There are those that are calling for adding a supplement to social security that would guarantee all retirees about 60% of their average wage

Of course there are some calling for that. The "gimmie" some. Why should anybody be guranteed a certain level of income at retirement at someone elses expense?

I'll agree entirely with wild places and others who think there should be some way of billing those who are grossly negligent. Like those who pass a whole forest of signs along the upper reaches of Bright Angel Trail and continue deep into the canyon wearing flip-flops or carrying no water. (Although I think they may actually have to pay for their mule ride out. But that's an exception if it is the case.)

ec, before writing anything else, do some good research. You can watch the Frontline piece via the PBS website. It points out that the people who get "to keep the money" are not always those who are depositing it into their 401 accounts. And Ron, thanks for some facts. It's always refreshing when someone posts facts instead of opinions.

Now let's get back to SAR topics.

Lee et al, from my conversations with Park Service personnel, they do have the option of billing for gross negligence, but it seldom seems to happen.

are not always those who are depositing

Sounds like SS and Medicare to me.