Tuesday, September 17, 2013

National Park Rescues...and Ultrarunning

My local paper ran a decent story in its outdoors section entitled National Parks: They get rescued, we get the bill (15 Sep 2013).

I'd link to the online version, but it seems not to be there.  Also, the original source for the feed came from reporter Gary A. Warner at the Orange County Register, but they have a paywall up so I cannot excerpt easily from the article.  For what it's worth, here's the link.

OK, attribution aside, the article pointed out that National Park Service rescues cost money and follow a pattern of causation:

  1. People are not in good enough physical condition to do what they try to do.
  2. Errors in judgement (failing to turn back, choosing wrong route, underestimating time till dark, etc.).
  3. Not having proper clothing or gear.

We all could learn from that list, right, when we run in the backcountry?

Oh, and the article goes on to discuss the notion of having the rescuees pay for the search and rescue efforts on their behalf.  I get the sentiment, but I see a slippery slope: just how dumb or careless do you have to be to trip the payment threshold? 

What if there was a 10% chance of thunderstorms, you didn't pack the right rain protection, and the storm came anyway, sending you into hypothermia and rescue?  Were you negligent?

Also factor in the idea that if people know they might get hit with a hefty rescue bill, wouldn't there be a great incentive to delay calling for help...possibly waiting until it was too late?

Plus the parallel with other public safety entities: we don't seem willing to charge, say, homeowners for fire department responses to fire caused by careless smoking, do we?  Or police response to getting mugged when you chose to walk through a bad neighborhood?

Slippery slopes, indeed.


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