I didn’t realize until recently that evacuation service insurance only covers transport from facility to facility. So whether you’re motorcycling in the desert, hiking a canyon, or on a boat in the Sea of Cortez, you’re going to need to fill this gap. This is the motivation behind Celia Diaz’s Binational Emergency service.
- Celia Diaz’s Binational Emergency Service
- Just dial 066 – Baja’s 911
- Ranchers, fishermen, and radios
- About those emergency vehicles…
Celia Diaz’s Binational Emergency Service
Sign up: http://binationalemergency.org
Binational Emergency is a nonprofit organization with local knowledge and relationships with people who can help. Their $45 annual fee is well worth it, over and above your medical and emergency evacuation service (Discover Baja members get discounted rates on Binational membership). Because if you can’t get the word out, you’re just stuck in the woods, so to speak.
Binational has contacts on both sides of the border with experts in the medical field, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, social workers, consular officials and hospital personnel. They have contacts with local pilots, ranchers, and boaters. Some of these people and organizations will need reimbursement for charges from efforts made on your behalf. However, if you do not have insurance or the money to pay for the evacuation, Binational will look for a volunteer pilot, which can take some time.
I know that pilots in Mulegé parked at Serenidad airstrip have done their share of search and rescue. They don’t need to be paid for their time but do appreciate being reimbursed for fuel. If your emergency is extreme, Binational will enlist the US coast guard, but they are not always able to respond.
This is a fantastic addition to your travel and evacuation insurance. So do join this great nonprofit service before your trip. Give Binational’s information to your friends, family, and people you meet on the road so that they can easily locate you and get help.
A couple of years ago some kayakers did not make their destination in the often unpredictable waters of the Sea of Cortez, causing their family to spring into action. A neighbor with a plane at Serenidad airstrip volunteered to sweep Bahía Concepción, and the Mexican Navy went out to look, too. With sadness, everyone abandoned hope, but it turned out that the kayakers had just changed their plan and were enjoying some time at a remote island. Please don’t be those people.
Just dial 066 – Baja’s 911
But don’t count on getting a signal. I have TMobile’s 3 Country plan, but cell coverage is spotty or nonexistent in most of the areas where it’s really fun to ride, hike and explore the missions, canyons, and nature. You won’t find a signal in Cataviña, Bahía de Los Ángeles, or in the beautiful terrain inland of Mulegé, Loreto, and San Juanico.
If you do get a signal, just dial 066. I’ve been told that you don’t need to punch in the country code, even if you’re using a foreign phone.
Ranchers, fishermen, and radios
If you don’t use a satellite tracker, or even if you do, one of your traveling companions may go for help. Or you may enlist a local rancher on horseback—more common than you might think—to radio in your location. In the absence of cell service, the rancheros communicate by radio and can notify local emergency services like an ambulance or the bomberos (fire department). You may need to ride in a truck bed to an access point: road, airstrip, or boat. Some of the more permanent fish camps may have radios, or they may motor out to a yacht if they’ve seen one and have the gas to spare. (Offer to pay them.) Again, Binational’s bilingual staff are a great help as they’re available 24/7. Even so, things will happen slowly, so try to relax.
About those emergency vehicles…
The emergency vehicle nearest me is parked on empty due to lack of funds. They don’t fill up the tank because somebody might “borrow” the gas for their own vehicle. So before they can respond the driver will need money for gas and time to go to the gas station. And they may not be as prepared as you expect them to be. No to mention that nothing happens as quickly as it does in America del Norte.
For example, when a neighbor needed medical transport to La Paz the ambulance was not equipped with the oxygen necessary for the trip. A friend—a local fisherman and diver—drove to Loreto to get his dive tank filled. (There’s no compressor in Mulegé since the dive shop closed two years ago.) Four hours later he returned and rode along in the ambulance (back past Loreto), to Hospital Generalaria Juan María de Salva Tierra in La Paz (considered the best in the state). Then the hospital required 10,000 pesos ($500) before they would admit her. He would not normally have had that much cash in his pocket, but in a crazy coincidence, that morning I had paid him exactly 10,000 pesos to fix our boat. I wish this story had a happy ending. But she had led a long and happy life retired in Posada, and we celebrated it a few days later with her family.
Doc in a Box
If you’re in a tourist area like Cabo San Lucas you may be diverted to a “Doc in a Box” facility with predatory pricing. Here’s a thoughtful article on how to avoid these gougers and other great information about emergency care in Baja. (Baja Insider)
Your solutions? Stories?
I’d love to hear your ideas and stories about search and rescue in Baja. Do you have a great solution? Have you been though it? Tell us in the comments, below.