Spain to charge for rescue services

The Basque regional government is following the example of Catalonia in 2009 and will start charging for mountain rescue if a law currently going through parliament is approved. They cite the increasing number of operations and the costs to provide a good service and a number of abuses, such as people calling in helicopters just because they are tired.

Catalonia only bills where the rescue is due to negligence. In the Spanish Basque country the law will be more wide ranging. First of all it will apply to the following list of what they describe as “high risk” sports:

Scuba diving, swimming, windsurfing, kitesurfing, water skiing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing, skurfer, jet skis, surfing, body boarding, rafting, hydro speed, canyoning, canoeing, rowing, sailing with boats, bungee jumping, bungee jumping, kite buggy, quad, climbing, caving, mountain biking without a helmet, motocross, mountain motor vehicles, raid and trek riding, walks and horse riding, skiing, snowboarding, snow-mobiling, paraski, snowbike, mushing, ski-bike, ballooning , skydiving, base jumping, microlight flight, paragliding, hang gliding and parasailing.

Although ski touring is not explicitly mentioned it is probably covered by skiing. Hiking is not on the list. The Basque government recommends that everyone visiting the region is properly covered by insurance.

Victims will only be charged if they are on a “high-risk routes” or go to the mountains in bad weather such as “snow, fog, wind or extreme temperatures.”. High risk routes covers areas which are identified as hazardous or where there are bans or restrictions. Weather conditions will apply to where there is an Orange or Red weather alert (these correspond roughly to avalanche risks of 4 and 5). Any rescue where there is no justification will also be charged. This last point may lead to delays in calling mountain rescue until it is too late.

Charges will be € 2,244 per hour for helicopter time, € 76.50 / hour for a motor vehicle and € 37 / hour for each rescue worker.

This move may have an effect on insurance costs and cover. In much of Europe, outside of ski areas, rescue costs (although not medical expenses) are paid for by the government or local authorities and not passed on to the victim. If billing insurance companies becomes more widespread, particularly for certain activities and risk levels we can expect premiums to rise.

Posted by davidof on Thursday, 31 March, 2011 at 10:59 AM

In any case, in Catalonia not rescue has been charged still...even we have had several accidents under the precepts of the law (several avalanche in ski resorts of skiers in closed areas for avalanche risk). It seems that the main aim of the law is more pedagogic (be aware of the correct equipment, to do a responsible use of rescue resources and follow the indications) and to define legally the competence on rescue where several agencies are interested on (fire servie, civil protection, policie...)
May be now with the financial crisis things change

Posted by  on  Thursday, 31 March, 2011  at 12:15 PM

Thanks for that update, it is good to know and I’m sure it will make some people think more carefully.

Posted by davidof on  Thursday, 31 March, 2011  at 05:59 PM
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