May 31st, 2017

Utah Launches Search and Rescue Assistance Subscription Service

The cost of a Search and Rescue effort to assist a backcountry user in distress can add up quickly. Many rescues require the use of helicopter time and specialized equipment, which can run the cost of a single rescue into the tens of thousands of dollars in short order. In most places, the burden of that expense falls on the local government. However, in some cases, the government may legally request that the user of the services help foot a portion (or all) of the bill.


Search and Rescue Assistance Subscription

The State of Utah has launched a Search and Rescue subscription service program to help ease the expense the service, on both the government and the user. The service is simple. Any individual or family may pre-purchase a subscription for an annual fee of $25 per individual or $35 per family. In the event that a subscriber requires Search and Rescue services, that person will not be asked to pay back any portion of the rescue.

It’s a clever system that can benefit both the user and the government. For a minimal cost, the user can have peace of mind that they won’t be charged for a rescue. This is important, as time is always a factor in Search and Rescue operations, and the risk that a user might delay in calling for help because they are worried about what it may cost them later is a concern. Secondly, subscribers can feel good knowing that they are assisting a chronically underfunded service that has real value for tourism economies and local backcountry enthusiasts.

The benefits for the state are obvious as well. Although the per-user amount is low, most users won’t require Search and Rescue services in their lifetime. Any amount that does comes in through the subscription service will help ease the burden of the service. The State of Utah plans to feed revenue from the subscription service back to Search and Rescue organizations for their specialized equipment and training needs.


Search and Rescue Avalanche

Fine Print

The subscription is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, however. With the plan, the state may still decide to charge a subscriber if the incident is deemed as result of recklessness. Also, dogs and medical expenses are not covered under the subscription.

Details on the plan, including how to subscribe, can be found on the Utah Search and Rescue Assistance Card site.


— MS