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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: April 29, 2011 NO. 18 MAY 5, 2011
Should Search and Rescue Operations Be Free of Charge?

Don't charge

Lei Hongpei (Shanxi Daily): These two missions have caused huge administrative and economic costs and certain risks for the Beijing police. But the rescue missions show the administrative concept of "life first." Public resources should be used to ensure the safety of tax payers.

What Beijing police have demonstrated in these two missions is a humanity-based concept they should stick to.

People argue those rescued adventurers need to be charged for using public resources. But the point is the importance of people's lives outclasses economic resources. Putting people's lives first any time is the best implementation of a humanity-based administrative concept.

In foreign countries, it's quite common for people to ask for help from police when they leave their keys at home. You may think they make a big fuss out of it, but they argue they are tax payers so they are entitled to enjoy public services for free since police are paid for out of their taxes. From this perspective, we can see these two missions belong to public services offered by Beijing police to tax payers.

Zhao Mumu (gb.cri.cn): Helping those in need is the obligation of police. The first and utmost responsibility of police is insuring the safety of people's lives and property and not taking the cost of rescue into consideration.

Nowadays, along with the boom in travel and exploration, greater numbers of people are going outside their homes for adventure. But because of the lack of risk evaluation and monitoring systems in China, their outdoor adventure is likely to end up being an unpredicted accident with no safety insurance. Besides, the majority of these adventurers are immature college students, who have little experience of rescuing themselves in dangerous situations. Therefore, whenever there are accidents, the repercussions are quite severe.

When we encounter this kind of incident, the first thing we should do is not to discuss who should pay the bill for the rescue but examine the system in China. We should think about establishing a risk-monitoring and rescue system so whenever bad incidents occur, police can take action as soon as possible.

Strengthening safety education for adventure travel lovers is quite important and urgent for the government. Also, the educational functions of non-government organizations for adventure fans should be fully applied so they can be well informed of the dangers before they set out on these expeditions.

The possibility of ending up in a dangerous situation faces every citizen, and police are paid by tax payers for helping them when it's needed. It's really ridiculous asking for money from rescued people since the police have already been paid in advance by tax payers.

Adventure fans should reflect on their imprudent and immature behavior. But what's more important is the underdeveloped adventure travel market, out-dated equipment in various areas and lack of supervision. The responsibilities shouldn't be shouldered by adventurers alone.

Yang Dongfeng (www.chinataiwan.org): The fuel used in these two missions cost nearly 60,000 yuan ($9,100). But the value of life can't be measured by money.

Police helicopters are for serving the people. Beijing police, although having successfully fulfilled two tasks, still have a lot to learn. For instance, there is a special aerocade in Hong Kong, which has 11 helicopters managed by police for saving trapped people. We hope the Beijing police will eventually have a similar system to offer timely service to people in need.

Chen Yan (www.china.com.cn): People's lives are more important than anything else in the world. Although around 300 police were sent out for 13 hours and police helicopters were used for the Maoer Mountain rescue, a perfect result where no one was hurt proves the cost was totally justified. The manpower and money have been used for the right reasons.

Supporters of charging the rescued usually take international convention as the reason. For instance, if expensive equipment such as helicopters and snow clearers is used for rescuing people, the rescued should pay the bill after the accident as what they were doing was their personal behavior and shouldn't be paid for by other tax payers. This is true but one premise is usually ignored when one of these events happens in China. In the United States, adventure travel fans are rescued by professional rescue teams but China doesn't yet have that kind of teams and system. Whenever disasters and emergency incidents occur in China, we still have to send out police and the army to rescue people, and this belongs to the area of public resources. Their participation in rescues, even for adventure travel fans, can't be considered a waste of public resources.

Those interested in outdoor adventure are also among tax payers. Why can't they enjoy public resources and services for free? They don't get into trouble on purpose and, even if they are fully prepared, accidents might still happen.

Besides, if a rescue is charged for, it becomes an economic matter, which is not in accordance with its nature. Greater problems and disputes will arise if it's charged for. Whether to charge the rescued or not should be discussed with the input of professional rescue personnel. But China doesn't yet have special and professional rescue teams.

As has been pointed out by Gao Feng, an expert in public safety crisis intervention, the number of rescue missions is set to increase as adventure travel has become a trend and greater numbers of people may become trapped or find themselves in dangerous situations. Besides reminding travelers to be more painstaking about preparation and improving their ability to avoid dangers, improving the methods of rescue, enhancing efficiency and reducing the waste of resources should be taken into consideration.

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