Vehicle Use when Volunteer

Dirt Rider

Active member
Curious what the ramifications are if I use my POV when doing volunteer SAR? Do I need special insurance, do I write off the expense? Thinking about getting into SAR after I retire and understand the cert situation for myself, but no sure how the POV fits into the picture?
 

the kid

Juke Box Hero
The agency you work for/volunteer for should cover you, your vehicle, and any gear you use.
 

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BritKLR

Kapitis Indagatoris
It's been my experience that vehicle, vehicle expenses (gas, tires, etc...), vehicle insurance and personal equipment expenses are your responsibility (volunteer organizations have to be very careful how and where they spend their funds on volunteer staff, otherwise someone may claim employee status) while personal injury typically falls under workers comp as long as the organization is recognized by the state as a legitimate organization and provides such coverage. Your normal auto insurance should cover you to and from a scene but, if your using your vehicle for off road travel, Recovery or transporting others you'll need to confirm that your carrier will cover that since most common insurers don't like the risk associated with anything off-road. Again, at your expense. An additional issue is theft insurance for your thousands of dollars worth of gear. It's heartbreaking to hear about when a dedicated volunteer gets their vehicle broken into and all their gear is taken. Good luck.
 
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68camaro

Any River...Any Place
When I did SAR, like Paul says, the volunteers were responsible for all costs and I never heard issue of insurance companies having problems. The only time we were going to be paid for gas was when we were asked to help out during Katina in LA, but it was through Fed and our State managing call-out.

Also, we had SAR volunteer get killed in one-car auto accident driving long way home after all night search......please be careful and sleep at base or pullover when driving if tired.
 

the kid

Juke Box Hero
It's strange that your states and or agencies don't cover you. Here in Wa state you are covered under the agency insurance whine you are assigned to and or your own dept under training. We have had lost and or damaged gear and equipment replaced at no out of pocket cost to the searcher(volunteer) as well as vehicle damages from both accidents and mechanical issues during a search to include responding to and driving home from... I guess each state is different. But we can request fuel reimbursement for all missions if we have receipts to show usage.
 

cdthiker

Meandering Idaho
My experience has been that most of this is going to land on you. It is, after all a volunteer thing. The Sar outfit insurance should cover your use of thier equipment, but your personal rig and what not comes out of your pocket most of the time.
You can indeed write off miles, and some other expenses for work that is associated with " charity" and or volunteering. The per mile rate tends to be less than if you were using the rig for work purposes. Ask your local tax professional to be sure.
 

cdthiker

Meandering Idaho
My experience has been that most of this is going to land on you. It is, after all a volunteer thing. The Sar outfit insurance should cover your use of thier equipment, but your personal rig and what not comes out of your pocket most of the time.
You can indeed write off miles, and some other expenses for work that is associated with " charity" and or volunteering. The per mile rate tends to be less than if you were using the rig for work purposes. Ask your local tax professional to be sure.
 

BritKLR

Kapitis Indagatoris
It's strange that your states and or agencies don't cover you. Here in Wa state you are covered under the agency insurance whine you are assigned to and or your own dept under training. We have had lost and or damaged gear and equipment replaced at no out of pocket cost to the searcher(volunteer) as well as vehicle damages from both accidents and mechanical issues during a search to include responding to and driving home from... I guess each state is different. But we can request fuel reimbursement for all missions if we have receipts to show usage.
Sorry, this doesn't make sense. Are you a full time employee of another agency (full time SAR group, firefighter, Emergency Services, etc.) being assigned/volunteer to a SAR event and/or training? Or a volunteer, using your own gear and time for a volunteer organization, and the volunteer org covers your gear, insurance and vehicle damage?
 

Dirt Rider

Active member
In lancaster Ca. Hope to do SAR in the high desert and mountains, maybe eastern Sierra area as well, not sure who I am going to be working with yet, still researching all the hoops I need to jump through. Have some volunteer ranger SAR experience from many years ago and will be looking into doint this in 2020.
 

the kid

Juke Box Hero
Sorry, this doesn't make sense. Are you a full time employee of another agency (full time SAR group, firefighter, Emergency Services, etc.) being assigned/volunteer to a SAR event and/or training? Or a volunteer, using your own gear and time for a volunteer organization, and the volunteer org covers your gear, insurance and vehicle damage?
I am a SAR volunteer, I am volunteer for the local sheriff's department SAR team, as the sheriff's office is responsible for all SAR activities and responses. We do interagency work with other teams in other areas/counties within the state. We are 100% volunteer and their is no obligation to respond, and infact we only get about 30-40% of the team actually responding and going to a call-out typically. But we are covered under the sheriff's office's insurance and state insurance from the moment we leave our house or work and start responding (given we take the most direct route reasonably possible) our personal vehicle is covered, our gear we use is covered. Additionally our fuel can be reimbursed if we submit the receipt(s) for it. For the last 10years I have been doing this, this has how it's been. I have had equipment replaced that was lost and or damaged, I know of other members who have had their vehicles towed and repairs covered when they broke while on mission. Typically those types of coverages come from the state level and the sheriff's office insurance is covering you personally. We do not have SAR specific vehicles to use so we use out personal vehicles out of necessity. I also for the last 10years have been writing off all mileage -to missions, trainings, general meetings, and board meetings as well as any gear I purchase that I can use for SAR, and any modifications to my vehicle(s) that. Can/could be used in SAR.
 

BritKLR

Kapitis Indagatoris
I am a SAR volunteer, I am volunteer for the local sheriff's department SAR team, as the sheriff's office is responsible for all SAR activities and responses. We do interagency work with other teams in other areas/counties within the state. We are 100% volunteer and their is no obligation to respond, and infact we only get about 30-40% of the team actually responding and going to a call-out typically. But we are covered under the sheriff's office's insurance and state insurance from the moment we leave our house or work and start responding (given we take the most direct route reasonably possible) our personal vehicle is covered, our gear we use is covered. Additionally our fuel can be reimbursed if we submit the receipt(s) for it. For the last 10years I have been doing this, this has how it's been. I have had equipment replaced that was lost and or damaged, I know of other members who have had their vehicles towed and repairs covered when they broke while on mission. Typically those types of coverages come from the state level and the sheriff's office insurance is covering you personally. We do not have SAR specific vehicles to use so we use out personal vehicles out of necessity. I also for the last 10years have been writing off all mileage -to missions, trainings, general meetings, and board meetings as well as any gear I purchase that I can use for SAR, and any modifications to my vehicle(s) that. Can/could be used in SAR.
Thank you for the additional info. Makes sense since your under a governmental org versus a 501C3 org. And, thank you for your years of service, so few do. Much appreciated.
 

Dirt Rider

Active member
Many thanks to all for the information, this helps clear up a lot of questions I had. Anyone in my area doing this?
 

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the kid

Juke Box Hero
Thank you for the additional info. Makes sense since your under a governmental org versus a 501C3 org. And, thank you for your years of service, so few do. Much appreciated.
We are a 503c as well. We did this to separate our equipment and resources from being soaked up by the sheriff's department and or it's partnered agencies (they are in a regional taskforce that shares equipment and specialty equipment between several departments and agencies between them.) So inorder to keep our equipment that we as a group raise money for and purchase for our own teams use we were advised by our command (LT and deputies) to have us as our own entity but still under the legal jurisdiction of the sheriff's department/office. Basically keeping our SAR stuff off of the property books of the department so that someone else can't come in and say "oh hey that's cool, we want that..." and we never see our brand new ATV again... And you are very welcome, it's been a pleasure to work with many fine people who bring so much to offer and learn from, not to mention the reward of helping others in need.
 
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