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Utah Travel Headlines

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Moab Search and Rescue Prepares for Busy Spring

The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Colorado, has this interesting article about search and rescue in the Moab area. Below are excerpts.

Search and rescue members practice all year to respond to a variety of calls, but the spring season tends to be the busiest. Team members can all but forget about making weekend plans as calls for help are most likely to come during the evening and on the weekend — Saturdays, Fridays and Sundays, in that order.

“It’s the law of averages,” said George “Bego” Gerhart, acting commander of the county’s search operations. “When the skiing gets bad, here they come. It’s like they’re here the first day it warms up.”

Search and rescue workers pluck base jumpers off dizzying ledges every year. They respond when riders of ATVs and motorcycles roll over and when canyoneers find themselves in sticky situations. Calls come in from weary hikers on trails after dark, too tired and too thirsty to make it back. Broken ankles and legs are common.

The Moab-based group handles about 100 calls a year, the most of any search and rescue agency in Utah, members say.

Unlike the majority of volunteer search and rescue crews, Grand County search and rescue recently converted to a pay system for its rescue operations. Workers are paid on a hourly basis per mission. County officials determined the area’s tax base could not absorb all the costs of its relatively large numbers of missions.

Just for searchers to get out the door, those being rescued can expect to be billed $1,275. To be carried out of somewhere by litter or a rescue basket with a wheel, for example, will cost an additional $800.

Other charges apply for the various pieces of equipment needed for rescue, which can be one or any number of ATVs, jet skis, rafts, ropes, trucks and snowmobiles. A command center or trailer can be used as a base for dispatchers during lengthy operations.

Families of the deceased, however, are not billed for the recovery of bodies.

Having to pay to be rescued is a controversial topic among search and rescue agencies, because sometimes people delay calling for help because they are trying to avoid a charge.

“Then they realize they have to call or die,” Gerhart said.

Regardless, workers say money is not a motivating factor and they preferred doing the work as volunteers.

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