“No one should ever be made to feel they must delay in notifying the proper authorities of a search or rescue incident out of fear of possible charges. We ask all outdoors groups and organizations to join us in sending this mountain safety education message.”
— Mountain Rescue Association (MRA)

For many years the AAC has offered a domestic and international rescue benefit. These benefits, combined, offer $12,500 of rescue insurance once you step beyond the trailhead. The AAC domestic rescue insurance covers up to $5000 of costs associated with search and rescue (SAR) operations in the U.S. Since 2014-only two (2) rescue reimbursement requests have been paid out, one of which was in a Utah county widely known for charging for SAR. The rest of the requests were denied because they were for medical reimbursement (not covered).

As demonstrated by the map below, only seven have legal provisions that allow SAR groups to charge victims. The laws generally allow recovery of rescue costs when people in need of rescue violate applicable laws, trespass, exhibit reckless or intentional disregard for personal safety, or when they fail to exercise “reasonable care.” As stated by the MRA and NASAR (get quote) it is a generally accepted practice that volunteer and paid SAR group do not charge for their services.

The United States National Search and Rescue Plan, which sets rescue policy for federal agencies, specifically rejects charging for rescues. The document states that participating agencies, “…agree that services that they provide to persons in danger or distress will be without subsequent cost recovery from the person(s) assisted.” This policy includes the National Park Service, as well as any federal agencies (Forest service) that may be asked to help in a SAR mission.

The likelihood of finding oneself with a bill from a SAR mission therefore is unlikely. In the cases that states, or private groups do charge, they must find that the person rescued acted negligently or did not exercise “reasonable care,” in which case the AAC domestic rescue insurance is void.