Decrease in Emergency Calls

Overall it was a good year for Emergency Services Department in that much worked smoothly in conjunction with it being a “quiet” year with no significant critical incidents. In fact all categories of calls to the field were down per our emergency dispatch statistics and our medical statistics show a significant decrease in patient volume compared to last year. The following table highlights the decrease by general emergency categories comparing 2008 to 2007:

Fire -25% Medical -10% Mental Health -45% Law Enforcement -37% Public Assists -55% (this includes emergency lockouts, Rangers, etc) Combined Call Volume -14%

Emergency Rideshare Program

The only significant failure of note was the Emergency Ride Share Program. Due to an administrative error with the voicemail provider, the system failed, and by the time this was realized it was already Wednesday of the event. There was neither time nor resources to correct the problem so the system was down most of the event. For 2009 there will be adequate time to double check all parts of the system in advance of the event to minimize the change of such a failure in the future.

Overview of Operations Management Structure

In recent years there has been an increase in emergency management resources to handle the increased load and complexity to match that which is required to keep Black Rock City as safe as possible. This operational management structure works in parallel with the department?s administrative management structure that is active year round in planning for operations before, during and after the event itself.

The following management roles are active 24/7. Many represent 12-hour shifts but some are 24-hour shifts. The purpose of this is to comply with the emergency management version of the concept called “span of control”. These operational leadership resources do not account for the technical support of non-operational resources such as the technical management of the communications system.

Senior ESD duty manager:

  • Operations Battalion Chief

Senior ESD Branch level duty managers:

  • Communications Duty Chief
  • Fire Duty Chief
  • Medical Duty Chief
  • Mental Health Duty Chief

Branch supervisors:

  • Medical Assistant Duty Chief
  • Medical Field Supervisor (NEW for 2008)
  • Medical Station Supervisor, Station 3
  • Medical Station Supervisor, Station 9
  • Medical Station Lead, Station 3 (NEW for 2008)
  • Medical Station Lead, Station 9 (NEW for 2008)
  • Mental Health Supervisor
  • Dispatch Supervisor
  • Fire Engine Lieutenant, Station 3
  • Fire Engine Lieutenant, Station 9
  • Strike Force Commander, Station 5

New Safety Team

A new Event Safety Team was created in 2008 to supplement the existing safety resources already present in the Performance Safety Team and Eyes on Art as well as the inherent safety role the Rangers and ESD volunteers perform as part of their usual duties. This new team was intended to provide a central focus for the above teams to follow up and handle participant hazards by working directly with theme camps, artists and participants through the creation of voluntary mitigation strategies. The team was an interdepartmental effort with representation from other safety-related teams. The concept was to bring together existing safety conscious people and provide them with an empowered and focused role in hazard mitigation. Feedback and reports from the team indicate that the Event Safety Team was success as a first year effort. Lessons learned from this year will make for a more effective team for 2009.

Follow up on recommendations from 2007

One of the recommendations made during the 2007 event debrief was to increase the available crew quarters for the emergency crews that work all night. This allows them to sleep between calls as well as get some well-deserved shuteye in a dark, quiet and air-conditioned environment after their shift. This provides an incentive to the volunteers to sign up for the night shifts and improves morale overall. By adding buildings to each station and increasing the size of the existing stations, we were able to more than double the crew quarters available.

Another significant recommendation in 2007 was to increase available Fire and EMS field resources to further reduce response times and distribute the call volume over a greater number of units so as to work the crews less intensely. An extra Fire Attack Tender was added this year during the peak of the event population and was stationed out near the Man. It provided first response to open playa calls and allowed the other stations to remain in service for the denser parts of Black Rock City. Another EMS response resource was also put in service, primarily in the same response district as the above Tender but the EMS Field Supervisor frequently shifted the unit to different parts of the city to provide additional coverage during peak call volume periods. Unfortunately the rental vehicle was unreliable and suffered multiple service interruptions due to various issues. For 2009 a more reliable resource will be researched and implemented.


Medical Branch Report

Approximately 53% of the total patient volume involved minor injuries such as blisters or cuts. Other common patient categories included eye problems (7.5% of total patients), dehydration (11%), and wound rechecks (8%). The remaining 20.5% of the total patient volume comprised of all other medical categories, including lacerations requiring sutures, allergies/insect bites, burns, abdominal pain/diarrhea and urinary tract infections (each representing 1-4% of the overall total patient volume).

The numbers for alcohol- and drug-related patients continue to be remarkably low for an event of this size. 2007 showed the largest spike in drug-related patients ever in the history of the event (79 total, up 400% from 2006) and but 2008 the average returned to range seen normally in previous years (32 total, down 247% from 2007). The 2008 numbers for drug-related chief complaints is also 21% lower than the running five year average which is currently 39. The statistics for alcohol-related chief complaints continues to be low, with only 14 reported this year, which is 36% lower than 2007 and 33% lower than the running five year average, which for alcohol is 21.

Of the 36 patients transported (a decrease of 46.3% from 2007) to Reno hospitals for additional care in 2008, 17 were stable patients transported by ground ambulance, and 14 were flown out by helicopter.

There were no fatalities this year during, or attributed to, the event.

Mental Health Branch, Fire Branch, and Emergency Dispatch Reports

The Mental Health Branch responded to 23 calls in 2008, which is a 47% decrease over the total calls for service in 2007. The breakdown by case type includes 11 psychiatric clients, two cases related to domestic violence, three sexual assault cases and two ‘Legal 2000’ evaluations (to determine if there is a danger to self or to others as a result of a mental illness). Additionally there were five other calls for evaluations or client follow-up.

2008 also marked the successful fusion of the two previously separate mental health teams (primary and support) into a single larger, more effective team.

The Fire Branch responded to 30 fire-related calls for service (a 25% decrease from 2007), two of which were significant responses. One was a small camping trailer fire during exodus caused by an electrical short, and the other a technical rescue from a raised platform that required the assistance of the DPW Heavy Machinery crew to support the incident with a cherry picker crane. There were no known significant injuries resulting from any of the incidents. Other calls types include evaluations of various planned and unscheduled burns for safety, performance support, hazard mitigation, vehicle accident response, and extinguishment of small fires that may be unsafe, such as an abandoned active burn barrel during high wind conditions.

The ESD Emergency Dispatch center handled 743 calls for service in 2008, a decrease of 7.5% from 2007. Call types include everything from requests for traffic control or public assistance to fire and emergency medical calls. The total number of calls average is one new logged dispatch incident once every 19.4 minutes during the event. In addition to new calls, dispatchers have the task of managing initial requests for Black Rock Ranger response, all currently active ESD calls, and all of the ESD response units in the field, which during peak hours can be as high as 30 EMS, Fire, Mental Health, and command resources.

For more information about ESD please refer to the ESD history page and the ESD sub-domain at http://911.burningman.com.

Written and submitted by:
Joseph Pred, Emergency Services Operations Chief
David Barr, Planning Sector Chief
Anna Duffy, Mental Health Branch Chief
Dave Spencer, Communications Branch IT Group Chief