Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House search and rescue teams are confident they have enough insurance coverage to protect them from lawsuits.
Insurance has been under review in Alberta since a lawsuit was filed against a team in Golden, B.C., over the death of a skier who went out of bounds last past winter.
Bev Sliger, Red Deer Search and Rescue president, said teams tasked by the RCMP have a certain amount of coverage, but her team also fundraises to pay for its own insurance.
“We’re completely covered. We don’t require any more,” Sliger said.
“You’ll find the bigger teams in the province will be fine. It’s the smaller ones that struggle.”
Teams in smaller communities would likely have less opportunity to raise money, she said.
The Rocky team’s insurance, including its own liability coverage, is paid for by Clearwater County.
“We are sitting pretty good right now as far as insurance goes. We have our own liability insurance plus we’re also covered by the county’s large policy,” said president Edward van Heeren.
Neither Central Alberta team has been sued.
Monica Ahlstrom, Search and Rescue Alberta president and former president of Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada, said out of the 40 teams in Alberta, about 10 don’t have adequate coverage because they don’t have their own insurance.
She has spoken to Municipal Affairs Minister Ray Danyluk to request government pay the insurance, which would cost $75,000 to $90,000 for all the teams.
“It would cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars to replicate the service that volunteers search and rescue provide.”
It’s an essential government service, she said.
“It’s not a service that can’t be done. You can’t not go look for people when they go missing. You can’t not go look for that child or that Alzheimer’s person or that lost hunter.”
While the number of searches is decreasing due to technology like cellphones and GPS, the type of searches performed are serious with Alzheimer’s cases on the rise, she said.
Technology can only do so much. If people are hurt or their all-terrain vehicle breaks down, rescue teams are still necessary, van Heeren said.