Search and Rescue card is a good investment
Some 1,236 search and rescue missions were conducted in Colorado last year, according to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). In Colorado, the county sheriff is responsible for search and rescue. Most sheriffs, especially in mountain areas, rely on volunteer mountain rescue teams to actually provide search and rescue capability.
These dedicated volunteer teams work throughout the state year-round to aid people who are in distress or danger, and the cost of these missions is often in the thousands of dollars. By voluntarily purchasing a CORSAR card, you are contributing to Colorado’s Search and Rescue fund, which will reimburse these teams for the costs they incur to provide help.
The SAR Fund first reimburses hard costs incurred by search and rescue operations including fuel and transportation expenses, helicopters and damaged equipment replacement. No reimbursements are made for wages or medical transport.
After hard costs are paid, remaining funds are distributed to sheriffs for SAR equipment purchases and training. After covering administrative costs, 71 percent of the fund was paid out to county sheriffs to help cover SAR expenses in 2014. Last year, Grand County Search and Rescue received over $11,000 from the SAR fund, most of which was used to purchase a new ATV. Since inception, the SAR fund has distributed over $6 million to county sheriffs, resulting in access by volunteers to the best equipment and training in the country.
Besides CORSAR Card purchases, the Colorado SAR Fund receives dollars through a 25-cent surcharge on hunting licenses, fishing licenses, boat registrations, snowmobile registrations and off-highway vehicle registrations. Total revenues for 2013-2014 were just shy of $425,000.
That $425,000 is by no means the total cost of search and rescue in the state. Besides money from county sheriffs, search and rescue teams are funded by grants and donations. By far, most of the real cost for search and rescue is a shadow figure – the value provided by the unpaid volunteers. Paying for search and rescue can become a huge burden, especially for smaller mountain communities where most search and rescue missions occur. This is why the fund was first authorized by in 1987.
CORSAR card sales amounted to only 17 percent of the total revenues in 2014, about $73,000. Let’s think about that for a minute. Snowmobilers, OHV users, hunters and fishermen provide 83 percent of the money. Is it fair to charge these groups for each license or permit? According to recent DOLA records, these four groups made up 35 percent of the reimbursed missions, hunters accounting for 24 percent.
The other 65 percent were missions for hikers (29 percent), climbers (10 percent), skiers (7 percent), bikers (7 percent) and other activities. GCSAR records support these facts – the people we rescue most often are hikers. In 2002 the voluntary CORSAR card program was initiated to ensure that these backcountry enthusiasts have an opportunity to pay into the SAR fund.
Anyone who enjoys hiking, climbing, skiing, mountain biking, or just exploring should consider purchasing a CORSAR card. This is not an insurance card – search and rescue teams will always come to your aid and there is never a charge for search and rescue in Colorado. Having comprehensive search and rescue service available is important not only to our residents, but to visitors to our state.
The CORSAR card is available for $3 for a one-year and $12 for five-year card and can be purchased at over 300 retailers in the state. They are also available online from DOLA.
Purchasing a CORSAR card is an investment in the search and rescue capability of our state and helps ensure that your local teams have the equipment and training to help lost and injured people. Shouldn’t you be invested?
Greg Foley is a member of Grand County Search and Rescue and has been a mountain rescue volunteer for 35 years. He can be reached by email at gfoley@grandcountySAR.com. The GCSAR website can be found at grandcountySAR.com or on Facebook/GCSAR.
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