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Does it cost to hit the SOS button??
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Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Does it cost to hit the SOS button?? on 09/27/2013 07:48:20 MDT Print View

I am a very happy owner of the Delorme SE...

Does anyone know if you get a bill from anyone if you hit that SOS button? I almost called for help for someone we met on the trail (thankfully we did not have to) and a friend said that if I had, I would have been the one billed for the rescue because it was in my name.

Anyone know anything about this? Is my friend crazy? Or should I be extra careful about using my Delorme to call for help for someone else.....

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Does it cost to hit the SOS button?? on 09/27/2013 08:58:17 MDT Print View

SAR and County Sherrif's departments have seen greatly increased call outs now that everyone has a cell phone with them.

In places that have budget shortfalls and lots of stupid visitors, some agencies have started invoicing for the more ridiculous call outs. As to whether they could collect, I don't know.

Is someone badly injuried, are you at risk of death or injury? Hit the button.

Currently a bit lost? Tired? Sore feet? Don't hit the button.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Does it cost to hit the SOS button?? on 09/27/2013 09:49:01 MDT Print View

If you're worried about the cost then the emergency likely isn't serious enough to hit the button.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Re: Does it cost to hit the SOS button?? on 09/27/2013 09:53:16 MDT Print View

Or, stated another way, perhaps first ask what the cost will be for not hitting the button?

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Does it cost to hit the SOS button?? on 09/27/2013 10:09:54 MDT Print View

Oh no worries...if I need to hit it I will, and I certainly won't for silly things. I was just wondering if anyone knew if the registered owner of the device, be it delorme, or spot...or whatever, would be billed if they used it for someone else (ie I come across an emergency, I call for help, that person is rescued...am I the financially responsible party because it was my device?)

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
Re: Does it cost to hit the SOS button?? on 09/27/2013 10:37:40 MDT Print View

Jennifer,

I think the answer is "maybe"... We all know that "Good Samaritan" laws aren't always sensible or fair.

Firstly, this question would only be relevant to those jurisdictions where the SAR is billed to the "victim". But assuming you ARE in one of those places, your question is whether YOU, as the party initiating the contract with the First Responders (albeit on behalf of someone else who is the recipient), will be held financially responsible.

I would say it would depend on the local Good Samaritan laws. In one place I know, it is illegal to NOT help someone in need if it is possible for you to do so; in other places, people have been sued for trying, unsuccessfully, to administer first aid to a victim in dire need...

It's pretty much a crap shoot, but you seem like a nice person, and I have every confidence that you would do the "right thing" morally, regardless of the laws.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Does it cost to hit the SOS button?? on 09/27/2013 10:54:58 MDT Print View

This is why I always hike with an attorney.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Typically nothing. on 09/27/2013 10:59:34 MDT Print View

In response to a few people in the news getting billed for call outs (and again, I'm not seeing how they could necessarily collect), some people have recommended (when phoning or using a text) just explaining the situation:

e.g. "I've encountered a party of 4 on the southeast shore of Lost Lakes with a 35-year-old male who has a possible tib-fib fracture, which I have now splinted, but they don't seem able to self rescue."

Then they ask for a description (clothing/tent color, names, etc).

But not you asking for a helicopter, mounted ranger, whatever. Rather like if you call in auto accident on the interstate, you don't expect to get billed for the tow truck unless it was your car.

Just like around town, you shouldn't ask for "police and ambulance" primarily because they are going to ask what the situation is before dispatching, anyway. Just explain the situation, "3-car accident on High Street at 47th, 2 undriveable vehicles blocking two lanes of southbound traffic, 3 apparent injuries, everyone is conscious, no fire, but I can smell gasoline" tells them what they need to know (how many police for traffic control, how many tow trucks, ambulances, etc).

All of that gets muddier with a single "SOS" button and no way to relay detailed information.

This May, I had people looking at me, expecting me to activate my PLB. "No, I am more than 24 hours away from activating, we're in no immediate danger" (after a boat sinking in a remote location). Hailing a passing boat on a VHF handheld was effective, far faster, better for us, the USCG, and gave the captain's clients a good story to take home.

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Does it cost to hit the SOS button??" on 09/27/2013 11:15:57 MDT Print View

I would think it would be much like dialing 911- it's not the person making the phone call that gets the bill, but rather the person receiving the emergency services. I could be wrong, but I also rather think that if you got a bill and let the rescue agency know what happened they'd redirect the bill.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
Does it Cost on 09/27/2013 11:34:58 MDT Print View

Generally speaking, you will not be billed, nor will anyone else, for that matter, unless, the call is egregiously stupid. A classic case is the party in the Grand Canyon that hit the panic button on their PLB three times in 24 hours - the last time because the water they were drinking was "a little bit salty." I believe the NPS charged them for the three helicopter sorties under the heading of "creating a public disturbance," or something similar.

Someone triggering SAR for a potential emergency that in hindsight is no big deal is merely exercising caution

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
bigger question on 09/27/2013 11:54:36 MDT Print View

is when would you hit the big red button for someone else

im sure we all agree that in case of serious injury wed all press it

but what if someone is just a bit cold and panicked because of lack of skill or poor gear

how about if they sprained their wrist

or if they are just plain thirsty like mentioned above

or if they are lost, but everyone else isnt

what if they start screaming or crying ...

its actually a pretty serious questions IMO as more and more people with less skills go outside ...

;)

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: bigger question on 09/27/2013 12:03:25 MDT Print View

We all know that Eric would hit the button if it was for a hawt babe.

--B.G.--

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: bigger question on 09/27/2013 12:26:30 MDT Print View

As has been mentioned, I don't think it's possible to give an answer considering the 1000s of players involved nationwide. I volunteer with the local SAR group. Lately, more than 50% of our calls have been canceled before we could respond. I don't know that anyone is interested in sending these people a bill but I can't speak for the 1000+ other counties in the U.S.

If you can meet the "reasonable person standard" and articulate that the victim was at risk of losing their life or suffering significant bodily injury, I'd think that there would be an unbelievably low chance that anyone would try to send you a bill.

If you're the victim and they have to fly you out, I'd plan on setting up a payment plan for the $10k bill you'll probably receive. From speaking with a ranger at Rainier NP, not all flights are billed. If the victim is lucky, it will be the Army medevac who responds.

Just speaking from my EMS days, we received reimbursement from fewer than 60% of our calls. Sadly enough, writing off these expenses is part of the game.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
Cost of SOS on 09/27/2013 12:54:08 MDT Print View

"what if someone is just a bit cold and panicked because of lack of skill or poor gear" - that phrase describes most of the victims in the SAR ops in which I have participated. Before the era of cell phones, we would get a call from Johnny's mom - Johnny wasn't back on time. We would hit the trail and find Johnny, usually just a bit tired, thirsty, and overdue. All ended well. Costs are insignificant when you are using volunteers. If we called for a military helicopter, they would charge the mission to training time - the pilots loved it-our missions were much more fun than the routine milk runs they normally flew..

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: bigger question on 09/27/2013 12:58:05 MDT Print View

"If you're the victim and they have to fly you out, I'd plan on setting up a payment plan for the $10k bill you'll probably receive."


4 years ago in rural Colorado it was $25,000 for a Medivac 200 mile round trip.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: bigger question on 09/27/2013 13:04:05 MDT Print View

I don't know how rescues go in the national parks now. It used to be that they had an unofficial rule, that if the victim was 100% legal, with any necessary permit, doing something that was totally permissible, and then they had some very bad luck, that the rescue would happen for free. However, if they were doing something wrong, lacking any necessary permit, or somewhere where they shouldn't have been, that the rescue was billed to them.

That is part of the reason why there are so many rules at the national parks, just to help keep visitors out of trouble.

Some friends of mine were backpacking in a national forest wilderness area a few days out, and one person developed a bad case of high altitude illness. The group sent out a runner to get help, and then a stranger came by with a Spot device. They thought about it a lot, and then it was decided to hit the SOS button. Once that was done, they had to wait for some unknown type of rescue. So, the Spot owner left and went on his trail away. Little did he know that the Spot was still transmitting the SOS call. Meanwhile, the SOS call was forwarded to the county emergency dispatcher. They were thinking about sending a helicopter, but then they saw the Spot location was moving away. They assumed that the victim was now mobile and maybe OK, so they scrubbed the flight. Once the runner reached a road, he managed to get a telephone call placed to the same rescue authorities. They matched up the location reported by the runner with the original location reported by Spot, and they concluded that the helicopter flight was necessary after all. The helicopter picked up the victim, but only flew partway back to a hospital before landing to let the victim off. Strange.

--B.G.--

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Calling help for another on 09/27/2013 16:55:06 MDT Print View

Jennifer,

Just remember the old saying, "No good deed goes unpunished."

There is some truth in it. On the other hand most people have good hearts.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: bigger question on 09/28/2013 22:04:12 MDT Print View

"I don't know how rescues go in the national parks now. It used to be that they had an unofficial rule, that if the victim was 100% legal, with any necessary permit, doing something that was totally permissible, and then they had some very bad luck, that the rescue would happen for free. However, if they were doing something wrong, lacking any necessary permit, or somewhere where they shouldn't have been, that the rescue was billed to them.

That is part of the reason why there are so many rules at the national parks, just to help keep visitors out of trouble."

I never heard of this rule, unofficial or otherwise, at least in the way you have stated it. Charging for rescue costs is discretionary, and it is therefore a judgement call. Actually in many parks, the county sheriff will be the responsible party for conducting rescue and the county policies will apply.

Actually, this is just common sense. If you have shady characters doing bad things like poaching wildlife, pot hunting archaeological sites, digging up plants for profit (ginseng roots,for instance) would you be inclined to cut them any slack?

I am reminded of a private sector example. More than sixty years ago, some poachers decided to bag some elk on Santa Rosa Island (now part of Channel Islands NP), then a privately owned ranch,along with the elk which were reserved for guided (and quite lucrative) trophy hunts. These guys landed their plane ona remote ridge in theSE sector of the island, bagged their elk, and then found out that the ridge was not long enough to take off.

They had to walk to the ranch house and throw themselves on the ranchers' mercy, which actually was considerable in that they were not lynched on the spot. Maybe that was because Sanat Rosa Island does not have very many tall trees. In any event, they got no help in retrieving their plane and it remains to this day on a high barren ridge in the Sierra Pablo. You can probably spot it on a good aerial photo if you know where to look.

I am,of course, fairly biased, but I do think most (not all,surely) of the NPS regs can be justified, even when the rationale is not self evident.

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Does it cost to hit the SOS button??" on 09/30/2013 13:22:01 MDT Print View

Eric Said: "im sure we all agree that in case of serious injury wed all press it

but what if someone is just a bit cold and panicked because of lack of skill or poor gear

how about if they sprained their wrist

or if they are just plain thirsty like mentioned above

or if they are lost, but everyone else isnt

what if they start screaming or crying ..."

=============
I would say no triggering a SAR to all those circumstances because none of them are life threatening nor do they have to become life threatening. However, I would be willing to assist under any of those circumstances by supplies, gear or advice. None of my trips are so cast in stone that I wouldn't be willing to change my trip plan on the spot to render assistance or even to escort someone back out. I have routinely run into people requiring assistance and see it as just the right thing to do and hopefully if I ever need assistance someone will feel the same.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Does it cost to hit the SOS button?? on 09/30/2013 13:29:43 MDT Print View

From what I've heard (I could be wrong):

Legitimate emergencies usually don't result in a bill.

Pressing the button because you are tired, hungry, and too lazy to hike out will result in a bill.

Getting rescued in an emergency that was totally avoidable and caused by your own stupid choices might result in a bill.