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Search and Rescue will never charge

Sun Peaks Ski Resort reignited the debate over charging for Search and Rescue services, after the ski hill participated in four separate rescues during the holiday period.

The ski resort said it was considering charging which prompted a Castanet poll that saw 84 per cent of respondents believing that those saved should indeed be charged.

And here in lies the problem, if someone who is lost feels they will be charged for the rescue, will they still call for help?

Central Okanagan Search and Rescue thinks it would be a major deterrent and that's why they say they will NEVER charge for a rescue.

“What will end up happening is that if people think we are going to charge for searches then they are going to call their friends and they are going to call their families and then they are going to try to go out and do something that we are actually trained to do,” explains Duane Tresnich, Vice President and Media Relations for Central Okanagan Search and Rescue.

“Then what will happen is we will no longer be considered a 'Search and Rescue' team but rather a 'Search and Recovery' team and people are going to die.”

Tresnich explains that when ski hills make comments along those lines they are referring to their own teams and resources used in the search, and that provincial volunteer organizations like COSAR will never charge.

Michael Sherwood, General Manager of Silverstar Ski Resort in Vernon understands why Sun Peaks would consider charging as he says it is a huge expense to the mountains.

“We have had people ski out of bounds and go through signage that forced us to use a number of resources to go out and bring them back into the resort and there is a significant expense to that,” explains Sherwood.

“Our position now is that we have not charged for out of bounds searches at Silverstar but in saying that, I could not commit that we will never charge.”

Big White's Michael J. Ballingall says Big White as well has never charged and instead suggests those saved show their appreciation with a donation.

“Once a successful search has been completed, we have always encouraged the person that has been rescued to make a substantial donation to the volunteer organization that saved them, that is the Central Okanagan Search and Rescue, and as far as we are concerned that has always been done, as we think that is a good system.”

Ballingall agees with COSAR in the fact at the end of day all that matters is that the person knows there is someone who is willing and able to come and get them, free of charge.

“We want people to always call as soon as they think they are in trouble, and we think if they believe they were getting a bill after the rescue it would deter people from calling immediately and therefore right now we not think it is a good idea.”

As for Castanet poll takers who think it is a good idea, COSAR says that is just a knee-jerk reaction to those that are breaking the rules.

“It is a gut reaction, if you actually sit down and think about it, it is a lot more than a 10-second decision to charge someone who goes under a rope. We need to do it for free, even though the person did it on purpose or by mistake, they need to know there is an organization who is willing to go out and get them,” says Tresnich.

At the end of the day Sun Peaks in Kamloops has decided not to charge the individuals they rescued over the holiday season, also deciding to suggest they make a donation to their local volunteer group.

They are asking the skiers and snowboarders to make a donation to Kamloops Search and Rescue or to tell their stories to the media to raise awareness about the dangers of out-of-bounds skiing.

“We don’t want people skiing out of bounds because there are rules for a reason. But if you do it, and you get stuck call 9-1-1, call the RCMP, get them to dispatch us and we will come and get you,” solidifies Tresnich.

“We will never consider charging...however, we do accept handshakes and hugs.”



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