CINCINNATI – When two fishermen wandered lost in the woods around the Great Miami River for six hours this week, rescuers from three municipalities were called in for a search that included a helicopter, as well as watercraft. Despite the resources spent on their misadventure, taxpayers, not the lost fishermen, will pay for the extensive search operation.
Officials with the Miami Township Fire Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, two of the three agencies that rescued the men, said the costs associated with legitimate search-and-rescue operations are almost never billed to people who are rescued. Officials in Warren and Butler counties said the same, unless the same person or group is repeatedly calling for help, further stretching public resources in a time of austerity.
One of the reasons, officials say, is that if some victims are in life-threatening situations, they may put money concerns over safety and decline to contact the authorities.
"The one thing we don't want is people fearing to call 911 because they will get billed," said Steve Ober, Miami Township fire chief. "Most of us (public safety officials) have the same mentality."
WCPO Insider may read more about why agencies rarely bill victims after a search and rescue, and may learn about what circumstances warrant a bill.