Evacuation Insurance: When to Pull the Ripcord

Nepal, April 25, 2015

Many adventure travelers consider themselves so resilient that they can get out of any backcountry jam. This bulletproof mentality leads many to scoff at evacuation insurance until they get in that untenable situation where they desperately need help.

When a 7.8 earthquake jolted Nepal on April 25, 2015 Tusker’s group was within two hours of their destination, Everest Base Camp. The quake had taken 18 lives at EBC and avalanches wiped out lower elevation roads to Kathmandu and its airport. Tusker trip leader Mel Kaida didn’t immediately know how bad things were, but sensed they were stranded, but lucky to all be healthy. She contacted Tusker’s home office where Amy Frank immediately contacted medical evacuation partner, Ripcord Travel Services and began making evacuation plans.

Ripcord sent Al Bora, a former Marine to Kathmandu and an Evac plan was hatched. Mel was to lead her group 28 miles downhill to the Syangboche Airstrip where a helicopter could pick them up. Al was able to find a Russian M-18 chopper to perform the evacuation. On April 29 the Tusker group flew out of the Himalayas back to Kathmandu airport then flew home. Ripcord’s team remained in Nepal delivering 11,000 kilos of food to remote villages near Lukla and Manaslu.

Facts about Evac insurance

Buying evacuation insurance is not so simple. There are many companies offering policies and rates are not standard. Some companies charge rates based on the countries you are visiting and there are many price variables depending on terrain etc. Ripcord simplifies its coverage with standard rates and only charges higher rates for Polar expeditions.

Tusker founder Eddie Frank chose to partner with Ripcord and its medical affiliate Redpoint Solutions LLC because of its well established track record and a no altitude or mountaineering restrictions. If you’re hurting on Everest they will come and get you.

Ripcord has ten million worldwide clients and conducted evacuations on all seven continents. Its staff includes former special ops veterans and medical pros from Stanford Medicine located close to Ripcord’s headquarters in Northern California.

Most travel insurers will only evacuate to the nearest appropriate hospital, but only after getting authorization by local foreign attending physicians. Ripcord provides rescue from point of injury to home hospital of the clients choice in the U.S. Ripcord also bundles trip insurance for things such as trip cancellation, interruption and lost baggage.

Tom Bochnowski is Eddie’s go to guy at Ripcord. “Every Tusker client is covered by Ripcord from rescue, evacuation and advisory services. It’s part of every trip they provide,” Tom said. “Tusker goes to very remote locations and their client’s safety is Tusker’s top priority.”

From the CAR to Mongolia

Many of Ripcord’s rescues are dramatic. Hunter Scott Limmer was in the Central African Republic when he came under heavy fire from Lord’s Resistance Army rebels who put bullet holes in his Land Rover and shot out two of his tires. He texted Ripcord and the company stayed in touch with him every 20 minutes until they could fly in a small plane to evacuate him.

Staying in touch is a key feature of Ripcord and has been beneficial to Tusker. When Ravi dislocated his shoulder on a Tusker Mongolia trek, Eddie got Ripcord’s doctor on the satellite phone. While Eddie worked with Ravi’s dislocated shoulder, Mel was on the phone with Ripcord’s medical team who assisted with medical advice the shoulder. Ravi was able to complete the trip. Without Ripcord’s medical intel, Ravi’s trip would have ended.

Don’t worry, be insured

Many of us don’t travel to remote locations because we worry what if something goes wrong and we’re stuck. It’s a real concern in a changing world, but there are ways to assuage the fear. Go with an adventure company who has its act together and who partners with a solid medical evacuation company.

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