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NPS Rescue data in newspaper


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My sense is that some of these numbers are suspect (like that 20% of those rescued would have perished). Otherwise, this was interesting...



Park Service averages 11 searches per day


By MIKE STARK (AP) – Oct 19, 2009


SALT LAKE CITY — The ripest recipe for trouble in a national park? Young men hiking on a weekend who make a bad decision or two and end up hurt, exhausted or lost.


On average, 11 search-and-rescue operations are launched in national parks every day. While expenses average around $900, the price can easily jump into the thousands of dollars, according to a new analysis of search-and-rescue operations over 15 years.


Travis Heggie, an assistant professor at the University of North Dakota who headed up the study, also found that roughly 20 percent of the people who called for help likely would have died if they had not been rescued.


Nearly half of the calls for help are for hikers, often for the day, who are caught unprepared, get hurt or sick, or underestimate the wild landscape.


"They're coming into what they perceive is a safe environment," said Heggie, a former ranger who once worked on a park service risk management program.


The results are similar to an analysis published earlier this year of national parks in Utah, which found young male day hikers were among those most likely to need rescuing.


In recent days, rescuers helped a father and son whose ultralight plane crashed in Utah's Zion National Park, pulled three teenagers and one of the boy's mother from a cliff face at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the Utah-Arizona border and launched four separate searches over two days for missing hunters and hikers in Arkansas' Buffalo National River area.


Heggie's study, published in the latest issue of the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, was an attempt to quantify the "untold story" of national parks' search-and-rescue operations and see how much they cost. He found more than 65,000 operations in 1992-2007 with expenses exceeding $58 million.


The study also said that in 2005, half of the operations were in just five spots: Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park, New York's Gateway National Recreation Area, California's Yosemite National Park, Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park and Nevada's Lake Mead National Recreation Area.


The costs vary widely depending on the rescue's difficulty, the terrain and the equipment necessary, he said. In Yosemite, for instance, costs exceeded $1.2 million in 2005 while Zion spent about $139,000.


Individual parks pay for operations that cost $500 or less, while regional or national offices pick up higher tabs.


"We can't really turn a rotor on an aircraft and not spend over $500," said Dean Ross, branch chief of emergency services for the National Park Service.


In recent years, the park service has pushed more aggressively to educate visitors about safely traveling in the parks and the importance of understanding where they're going and bringing adequate water and gear.


More difficult, Ross said, is getting people to make the right judgment call when conditions change or they're going into an unfamiliar situation.


After someone is rescued, "you'd be surprised how many say, 'I knew that was going to be a bad idea,' " Ross said.


In a typical year, rescues include people stranded on cliffs, desert dunes, mountaintops and in the water of manmade reservoirs. Some parks have full-time rescue teams while others rely on park staff with other jobs who have rescue training.


In 2007, $4.7 million was spent in national parks across the country looking for lost, stranded or injured visitors, according to Park Service figures. More than 97 percent of searches were successful within 24 hours.


Heggie said that, behind hikers, boaters are the most likely to need rescuing, with many of the cases involving alcohol.


After high-profile operations, there's often a debate over whether people should be billed for being plucked from the wilderness. The park service doesn't seek reimbursement, partly because it might discourage people from calling for help when they need it.


The national park system has 391 sites around the country and attracted about 274 million visits last year.

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Is it correct to calculate: $4,700,000 / 274,000,000 visitors = $0.017/visitor/year is spent on SAR ?


At least that is less than the average National Park Entrance fee:-)


Heggie found 65,000 missions/15 years = 4333 total missions/year


4333 missions/391 sites = 11.1 missions per site per year. On average. Believable?





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