DPW Dispatch resides in a 40 foot semi-trailer at the DPW Depot. The trailer is one of the first “structures” to take its place on the playa each year, and the crew of seven (plus or minus) operates 24/7 for approximately one month. At times, the job of Dispatch is similar to herding cats who are coordinating others carrying buckets of steam.
The Dispatch office is a clearinghouse, welcome wagon, light in the night, resource allocator/provider, and activity director all rolled into one group of enflamed individuals. Dispatch members are drawn from a large pool including newbies, returning dispatchers, and some retirees from other Burning Man departments as well as (in good years) several Senior Staff guest dispatchers. This reservoir of institutional knowledge again served the city well in 2009.
Dispatch monitors multiple radio channels to provide support and coordination services to many departments within the city (as well as the work ranch and the Gerlach office). Dispatch staff is integral in helping many Depot and DPW services including receiving and all forms of fuel.
Again in 2009, the team had responsibility for emergency services dispatch before and after the event. Ever more radios were added to the fleet around event time thanks to renting additional units but even so there always seems to be a need for more. Dispatch also provided after hours support to Black Rock City Gate Crew.
Heavy Equipment Support Services
This year one major change with Heavy Equipment is the further refinement of the Support Services camp. This camp was situated at Esplanade and 5:30 and consisted of living space for crew, a storage yard for heavy equipment as well as a raised tower built on top of a shipping container. Much like the tower at the airport, the high vantage point allows for more accurate and timely tracking of heavy equipment. It saves time and hassle for the heavy equipment dispatcher if they can just look out the window and see where equipment is deployed. Since this location was on Esplanade, it perforce provided interactivity and showmanship – including flame effects and a full service bar.
Another notable improvement in 2009 was tracking for all of the individual jobs Support Services executes over the course of the event season. Jobs have been tracked in the past, but this year, dedicated Support Services staff created a comprehensive database of jobs and hours. This improved tracking allows Burning Man to more closely analyze where resources are being spent. Ultimately this will let us save money while still providing the services necessary to facilitate the building of Black Rock City and populate it with art. For those playing at home, the total job time topped 3K hours in 2009. Jobs range from sinking ground-anchors to lifting the Man up to its place of honor as well as assisting artists and theme camps when necessary.
Fuel and Power Grid
This year by buying our logistics fuel several months in advance we were able to lock in a decent price and guard against any sudden increase like we saw in 2008. This saved us significant money and there couldn’t have been a better year for it since we’re all in a recession. This fuel is necessary for all of the heavy equipment used to build BRC, transporting equipment to the playa and keeping the infrastructure generators chugging along.
Another item of note in 2009 was the success of the Black Rock City Electric department. 2009 marks the first year that Burning Man staff was responsible for laying in the huge amount of cabling and distribution necessary to light the playa. Although we honor and appreciate everything our previous vendor brought to the playa, finances dictate that we streamline our operations and bring as much as we can of the Power operation in-house. We have embarked on a path that will allow Burning Man to more directly control assets and labor necessary for the Power Grid. Major components of the grid that most participants will recognize are Center Camp and the Cafe along with the 3:00 and 9:00 plazas. This includes major infrastructure such as REMSA, the Rangers, Playa Info, to name a few.
Matt Morgan and Palmer Parker