Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Cost of Saving Idiots

Recently there has been a pile of money and effort spent on trying to save three mountain climbers. Three mountain climbers who deliberately put themselves in danger's way for the thrill of it. And now others pay the cost.

I can already hear boneheads saying "how cruel to try to put a cost on a life!" and "If it were my family member, I'd not spare any expense!"

Great. Then you finance it. Because it's easily $5,000 a person and up.

Have we lost all sense of reason? People willingly put themselves in harm's way, and then expect a rescue mission due to their lack of judgement. These rescues cost money, and although we've become an entitlement-minded society, we can't just keep throwing money after problems. Additionally, this idiocy puts the lives of rescuers in jeopardy, too.

If someone accidentally gets lost in a snowstorm through no fault of their own, that's a different story. Send out the troops!

But if I choose to start the new fad of "18-Wheeler Dodge" and begin standing in the middle of a 6-lane highway at rush hour for "the sport of it", I can't honestly expect the taxpayer to finance my rescues, medical bills, and funeral expenses.

Even the Coast Guard doesn't do free missions anymore, if it is shown that the sailor/boater created the mistake that resulted in the rescue.

Mountain climbers must be forced to post a surety bond to cover rescue costs. If they don't, it will be billed to either them or their survivors afterwards. You play, you pay.


R2K said...

These guys would not have asked for all this either. To their credit, they knew what they were doing and what they were exposed to. Sure they probably were a bit on the cocky side (as everyone is saying, they had done "harder" climbs in the past), but they would not have wanted all these people to be exposed to so much danger over them.

The other two are almost certainly dead, so any more risk is simply not worth it. They should pull back the effort.

But as a PS, I should note that often these guys need real practice. So there is some value to it.

Senor Caiman said...


Once again we see eye-to-eye on this one (I‘m looking down). I pay a monthly fee to US Sea Tow to rescue me when I’m out in the boat. I always keep my radio on in the boat and I’m constantly hearing “ Coast Guard St. Pete, Coast Guard St. Pete., this is the Stupid Honkie and I’ve run out of gas.” Learn to swim.

The bond idea is interesting. In the criminal justice system you pay $100 for every $1,000 of bond. If our legislators could come up with an average rescue cost for such risky hobbies, I’m confident I could persuade some handsome bail bondsman to pick up this business.

Edge said...

Living in the area where two of the hikers are from has spawned some interesting debates. First, I agree with the paying for it. Here's what the media has let me in on. One of the hikers went up with only half an orange. The other two we don't know how much food they had. Their sleeping bags did not have the water lining shell which rendered them useless in the cold. They had cell phones, but only one used them to call his son.

They chose to hike in a blizzard
They chose to hike the most dangerous face
They chose to hike knowing the blizzard was coming.

My question is why? And why weren't they stopped.

It should appear that if these men were going to hike, they should have registered and shown proof that they had all necessary equipment and provisions to survive. Developed a logged plan left with park rangers similar to a flight plan and proved they had necessary emergency commuications equipment.


I also believe Mt. Hood should be closed to the public during the winter months.

My conclusion is this. We have left reason behind and seek to let others rescue us from our own mistakes.


Ed Abbey said...

I have long ranted about having to pay rescue costs for people doing stupid things in the name of adventure. I also think that I shouldn't have to pay for bailing out the southern coastal states everytime a hurricane strikes and wipes out the coast. Any funding of such 'rescues' should always be the result of private funding or charities.

Anonymous said...


You have a very appropriate moniker. I love how you are such a conservative curmudgeon. Any Rooney has nothing on you! :)

I've thought about this issue every time it comes up and the way I've come to view it is the price we pay for being human. There would always be individuals among us, the Chuck Yeagers, who push the limits in the interest of exploration.

That's what got Yuropeans to this New World and man into outer frickin' space. This very human mindset is what might get the decendents of the human species out of the universe in time for its collapse, according to some theorists.

We all take risks in our own way so I don't fault the climbers. But I do agree w/ you that if any survivors are shown to be negligent than they should pay for their own rescues--but only if they were negligent and not merely the victims of unforseen circumstances.

The Lazy Iguana said...

Actually, the Coast Guard only charges for false distress calls. To my knowledge anyway. But if you are on the water, and issue a mayday call, they will come for you in any weather condition. If that "mayday" call is because you are out of gas or beer, then you may get a bill - but if it is a legitimate distress call then it is free.

I have Boat US unlimited towing insurance for non-emergency use.

By the way, your $5,000 per person figure is WAY lowball. The USCG estimates the cost per hour for assets (NOT including personnel and crew cost) is as follows:

More than $480 for a 110-foot patrol cutter

More than $280 for an 87-foot patrol cutter

More than $770 for a 41-foot utility boat

More than $420 for a Coast Guard 25- or 28-foot response boat

More than $4,400 for an HH-60J Jayhawk helicopter

USCG planes (Cessna Citation Jets) cost slightly less per hour than the chopper. While no boats were used for the mountain rescue effort, there were similar choppers and planes. The rescue attempt used many aircraft. These numbers could be old, current cost may be higher. I would estimate the cost for the Mount Hood rescue attempt to be at least $250,000.

But - rescue agencies are around for just this kind of thing. And the climbers did not choose to set out in a blizzard. They started the climb in fair weather. The blizzard came later into the climb.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy Iguana, but...they did know the blizzard was coming, according to sources. And they did leave ill-equipped. I do agree that rescue agencies are there for fools and innocents, but why put them at needless risk? If we cut out the fools, or at least charge them for being idiots, we will save both money and lives.

Incidentally, I thought the $5K was a little low, but I was going by an estimate I found on the net.

Matt, ;o) A female Andy Rooney... I like that! Well, I am more of a moderate curmudgeon, if the truth be told. There are times I really p*ss off my conservative friends, and times and really p*ss off my liberal friends.

I don't think it's the price of being human. The price of being human would be the basic necessities. It might even be medicines and remedies for problems and conditions that we didn't ask for. It might be charity to those who are truly unfortunate.

But... paying for someone's foolishness? Why? What good do mountain climbers bring to society? Why should society pay for their imbecilic choices? Do mountain climbers decrease the hole in the ozone layer? Do they promote world peace? Do they contribute aid to the homeless or solve the oil crises? No... all these idiots did was deplete our resources just a little more, and add stress to their families.

And think about it. If they are forced to buy rescue and/or life insurance, it certainly sends the message "This Could Happen To You, You Idiot."

Ed, and you have an excellent point too, my friend... to some extent. In that case, we'd also have to exclude paying for the inevitable earthquake that will hit Cali and kill millions. And any more Mt. St. Helen eruptions. The thing is that insurance usually covers the risk of living in a particular locale. In the case of New Orleans, yeah... I'll give you that one. I can't figure out why anyone would have willingly chosen to live in such a dangerzone to begin with.

Edge/Jef, thanks for the additional info. That's very interesting and I appreciate the contribution! ;o)

Senor Caiman, I'll even let you in on the franchise early! Get to work selling those bonds!

R2K, To their credit, they knew what they were doing and what they were exposed to. Exactly! Which is why they or their families should put the money up for the rescue efforts. Read Edge/Jef's comments about it.

Anonymous said...

Extreme sports.

It does exactly what it says on the tin.

Miss Cellania said...

Round here, unincorporated communities rely on Volunteer Fire Departments. A homeowner must buy a "membership" in the VFD to insure they will respond in case of a fire. Oh sure, they will respond if you refuse to join, but they will also send a HUGE bill to your homeowner's insurance company afterwards.

Insurance is always a good thing to have.

Cranky Yankee said...

...and fat people should have to pay more for health care because they willingly stay or get fat at the risk of being in bad health. Either that or I should get lower costs because I am in shape, right?

But then again I participate in "extreme" sports so I should pay more.
But wait I was trained for most of my extreme sports in the military so in a sense I already paid.
But wait I just bought a sport bike.
But wait I wear a helmet when I ride my motorcycle.
But wait...

The point is in the negligence and if I'm not mistaken these guys estates will most likely get some sort of bill. A kid got lost in the woods near me not too long ago and there was a big search effort. He was found alive and his family got a bill from the town for the "services" rendered. My mother got a huge bill when my father died for the ambulance that responded to try to save his life and one of my mother's cousin was on the crew. Why wouldn't these guys estates get billed?

Saur♥Kraut said...

Cranky, I agree. And...incidentally, fat people and people with bad lifestyle choices (that create health problems) are actually charged higher premiums.

Miss C, you know, I remember reading about such fire depts in rural America in the 1800s, early 1900s. Basically, you paid the fire department or they would arrange for an "accidental" fire to break out on your property. ;o) I'm sure yours is above that, however.

Daniel, ;o) True dat.

Cranky Yankee said...

"....are actually charged higher premiums."

Really? I don't remember having to take a physical or fill out any health related forms to sign up for my family's healthcare benefits. And yes, we pay through the nose and we are very fit and healthy.

Now, if you are talking about life insurance your are absolutely correct.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Cranky, actually, you're right about it for life insurance (and certain other types of insurance, such as Afflac, etc). But they are currently debating beginning to charge people with unhealthy lifestyles a heftier premium because it is they that are driving up the cost of healthcare in a disproportionate amt. BUT, currently health insurance can (and usually is) age and sex banded. The only time it isn't is if it's group health insurance (and even then, it is... but it's hidden under the group average rate).

Anonymous said...


I'm not saying that mountain climbers do ANY good for society--they don't. They're just having a vacation in their own selfish interests.

I'm saying the trait that compels a person to climb a mountain is a desirable one in the human genome. I am reminded of an Indian friend who questioned the need to go into outer space. I was speechless. As an American, I never thought to do otherwise was also an option.

Yeah, I'm moderate too. We need more people willing to read the left and right--extremists on boths sides piss me off.

QUASAR9 said...

Gosh Saur, you are tough lady
or should I say tough cookie

So next time I go messing around, if I fall and break my leg, I guess no good calling you - unless I can pay my way

Saur - and I though you were sweet
I really really did indeed, and no matter how hard you try to convince me, I just cannot believe you'd leave me in the mountains out in the cold with a broken leg on Xmas day! - just because I cannot for the rescue helicopter pay. As far as you are concerned I can wait till 'hell freezes over'

But I have been known to be wrong, and often - even to read people wrong

Saur♥Kraut said...

Quasar, I would happily chip in to dig you out. ;o) You know I love you.

Matt, we agree completely! ;o)

Kathleen said...

Mankind has been getting pretty darn soft. Shoot, the Donner party had to wait an entire winter to get rescued. *ouch*

The Lazy Iguana said...

Saur, the reports I heard suggested the climbers were very well equipped. And you know how weather forecasting goes. On a tall mountain bad weather can hit fast with little or no warning. Weather forecasting is far from an exact science.

So who knows what should be done.

Mr. Fabulous said...

YES! Thank you! I think the same thing anytime some pinhead tries to climb something or sail somewhere or fly in a balloon somewhere...

Anonymous said...

We had this very same discussion today at work, and I mentioned of few of the same points you made here. One of them being that it didn't seem right that mountain climbers and other adventurers should endanger the lives of the rescue crews who have to find them should they become lost, all for the sake of a dangerous hobby. And the expenses involved are not cheap, as you say.

One of the guys I was discussing this with, who happens to be a hunter, said that whenever hunters apply for hunting licenses in certain states, part of the fee goes towards funding such rescue operations. Not a bad idea, given the fact that hunters also turn up missing in the wilderness occasionally.

I'm not against life's adventures, but there does need to be more accountability somehow.

Badoozie said...

well in the news report i read, the park ranger said they did everything right, and were well prepared, for two days should the need arise.....and they registered with the park ranger and left a note in their car as it would seem as though matt has hit the nail on the head, they were just on a vacation, and one got hurt, thus causing a delay in getting down plus unforeseen circumstances which no one had predicted, so it was an unfortunate accident, sure it could have been avoided, but we all put ourselves in harms way at one time or another, i'm not a fan of climbing hills, but i do enjoy other things which basically put me in harms way, and could result in my needing to be rescued.

also, there is the notion of people having unprotected sex, and spreading std's and aids, which sex is a selfish act that benefits no one but the participants, and the results can be deadly, ie; spread of aids.

Lucy Stern said...

I agree too.

Cranky Yankee said...

They just called off the search. According to the Sheriff who led it the guys who were lost did everything right and were very experienced. It was a tragic accident. To compare this tragedy to drunken idiots in boats is illogical and irrelevant.

It is sad. I'm glad they spent every possible resource to find these guys. Who cares how much it cost. It could be me next time.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Cranky, it's easy to say "who cares how much it cost." But the truth is, that our nation can't spend money wildly, any more than we can. Just because Pres. Bush has set a new standard in fiscal irresponsibility doesn't mean that we should allow it to continue.

In the future, people like this need to buy bonds or they (or their surviving families) can be billed later for the full amount.

Cranky & Badoozie, Even if they were well-provisioned and left a note, they still knew it was risky and it was a needless risk ... for the "thrill" of it all. Well, I guess they got the thrill of the lifetime, huh?

Lucy Stern, ;o)

Anon, I didn't know that hunters paid something toward rescue efforts. What a marvellous idea!

Mr. Fab, exactly. I'm a sailor and I love it, but I always had insurance when I went out. I also knew the Coast Guard would fine my butt if I were negligent!

Lazy, see my note to Badoozie and Cranky. ;o)

Kathleen, well... at least they brought snacks. :D

Bryan said...

Saur, that last anonymous post was mine. I distinctly remember signing my name. Something must have gone wrong with the software.

Oh, well.

Cranky Yankee said...

Actually, the estimated $6500.00 per day came from State funds. There is a small amount being spent by the military, but that funding is coming in the form of training. I can tell you from experience that is well worth the expense.

The people of Oregon have decided they wanted to fund search and rescue for their mountainous terrain which brings ample tourism revenue to cover that type of expense. Oregon law does not require reimbursement of these costs unless negligence is the cause. So the people of Oregon have spoken as to how they want to spend their money.

Don't worry none of your precious federal tax dollars went to cover this. I didn't cost any of you anything.

Cranky Yankee said...

Here is the executive summary of a study that puts to rest the misconceptions of this entire debate.

• The fatality rate for climbing has dropped dramatically over the last several decades in the United States and at many popular
mountains, refuting the commonly held perception that rapid growth in the number of climbers has translated into more rescues and
more fatalities.
• Climbing and mountaineering rescues are limited in number and occur less frequently than seemingly safer activities like hiking,
boating, hunting, swimming and motor vehicle use.
• The complexity of climbing rescues and the ability of climbers to self-rescue in minor accidents make climbing rescues more
expensive on average than rescues of many other recreational groups, but the most expensive rescues are searches for lost persons.
• Most climbing rescues are performed by highly skilled volunteer rescue units who do not charge or by specialized park rangers
whose costs are often subsidized by climbing use fees, making climbing rescues less of a drain on taxpayers than rescues of other
recreational participants.
• Charging for climbing rescues runs counter to national search and rescue policies, opens government agencies up to costly lawsuits
and tends to delay the call for help, putting rescuers and victims at greater risk.
• Though several states have laws allowing the recovery of rescue costs, most have been used in only the most egregious cases—and
none has been used to recover costs from a mountaineer or rock climber. Federal regulations allow land managers to fine people
who create hazardous situations.
• Mountain rescues, like all emergency response activities, involve inherent risks to rescuers. Volunteer and professional mountain
rescuers have an exemplary safety record, especially when compared to fatalities for other emergency response providers.
• Taken together, these factors show that there is little justification for singling out climbers to pay rescue costs if other groups
continue to be rescued without charge.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Saur, I wish I could disagree with you because I once had some silly activities in my general program, but I think you are on the money. (Sorry cranky)

Saur♥Kraut said...

Cranky, whether it's state or federal money, it's coming out of someone else's pocket. Someone other than the climbers and their families. And I'm sorry, but I doubt that everyone is in agreement with the expense. I've seen some of the debates.

3 Score, thanks! Hope all's well with you and yours right now.

Bryan, it may have had something to do with the transition of the blog to the newest version.

honkeie2 said...

Amen....that is about as close as we can get to making stupidy painfull.

The Lazy Iguana said...

I tend to agree with Cranky. The only human thing that can be done when someone goes missing is to launch a search and rescue mission. I would also tend to agree that the Mount Hood type rescues are not common, as climbers are pretty much well trained and equipped.

So should money be spent looking for avalanche victims? I mean they knew they were skiing right?

Besides, Bill O'Reilly said on his show that the rescue effort was a terrible waste of "tax money" and that people who climb mountains should expect no efforts to help them if they run into trouble.

I refuse to agree with anything that walking talking turd says. I would like to put him on top of a tall mountain and then loose his GPS coordinates. OOPS! My mistake!

Cranky Yankee said...

I should have known this "made up" issue had the stink of Bill Orally on it. It's like the, so called, "war on christmas." They make it up to get word of mouth buzz among the chattering classes.

It sure would be fun to drag him up a peak and leave him there cowering wouldn't. I'm sure he couldn't keep up with me...

Saur♥Kraut said...

Cranky & Lazy, hey, don't lump me in with O'Reilly. I can't stand him! I guess we're in agreement here, though.

And as for looking for avalanche victims, it's not the same high-risk factor, so it's not a fair comparison.

Honkie2 ;o)

Anonymous said...

I think I am slightly confused as to what exactly the differences between the different types of bonds there are. Are jail bail bonds similar surety bonds and to corporate bonds? Are there specialist bonds people for all the different types of bonds or can surety bonds people deal with any kind of bond? Also how would I go about getting bonded? Does it depend on previous financial information and if I have a criminal record will that affect anything?

Anonymous said...

Who should I get in contact with about a states own laws about mortgage broker bonds and as such, how would I get a mortgage bonds form? I life in England and am considering moving to America, don’t know where yet however I was doing some general reading about housing and came across the term mortgage broker bonds and am a little confused, is it a mortgage or a loan to acquire a mortgage?
Also if I want to set up life insurance do I need insurance bonds? Or can I simply open a policy with a company? I’m a little confused by some of the jargon. I am not moving anytime soon but thought I should be aware of things I will need to understand.

jon said...

Can you tell me what Surety Bonds are? I have heard of Corporate Surety Bonds but I don’t understand what they are, can you help?

Anonymous said...

Here are the actual hourly costs for Coast Guard assets as taken directly from one of their news releases:

The following are the hourly rates for San Diego-based Coast Guard assets (amounts include labor, employee benefits, fuel and maintenance costs and are based on 2008 statistics):

More than $3,452 for a 110-foot patrol cutter
More than $2,577 for an 87-foot patrol cutter
More than $2,739 for a 41-foot utility boat
More than $1,617 for a Coast Guard 25- or 28-foot response boat
More than $13,880 for an HH-60J Jayhawk helicopter