The following statistics are presented for each branch of the ESD in order to give our participants, the media and cooperating agencies useful information on the volume and types of emergencies that occur during the course of each year’s event cycle.

Medical Branch Statistics

ESD and Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA) together logged approximately 4,461 patient contacts in 2009 with a peak combined patient volume of 602 patients seen on Wednesday, September 2 (equivalent to 25 patients per hour combined at all three medical stations in Black Rock City). Most of these patients were walk-ins with minor medical issues. It is notable that the “Wedge” slide was a cause of hundreds of minor injury patient contacts. Of the event-total patient contacts 508 were significant enough to require an ESD EMS unit, REMSA ambulance, or other ESD first response which translates to an average to one EMS response every 28 minutes during the event.

Approximately 57.7% of the total patient volume involved minor injuries such as blisters or cuts. Other common patient categories included dehydration (10.1% of total patients), wound rechecks (9.5%), and eye problems (7.3%). The remaining 15.4% of the total patient volume was comprised of all other medical categories, including urinary tract infections (4.5%), abdominal pain/diarrhea (1.9%), burns (1.5%), allergies/insect bites (1.3%), and lacerations requiring sutures (1.2%). All other chief complaint categories are at or below 1%.

The numbers for alcohol- and drug-related patients continue to be remarkably low for an event of this size. It’s worth noting that for 2009 we are including a broader definition of both types of patients, which accounts for some of the increasing numbers for this year. In 2009 ESD and REMSA treated a total of 43 drug related patients (up 62.5% from 2008), and 43 total alcohol-related patients (up 307% from 2008). These numbers do not necessarily represent overdoses, only patients for whom drugs or alcohol were the primary reason for seeking medical care.

Of the 32 patients transported (a decrease of 12% from 2008) to Reno hospitals for additional care in 2009, 20 were stable patients transported by ground ambulance, and 12 were flown out by helicopter.

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

Communications Branch, Dispatch Group Statistics

The ESD Emergency Dispatch center handled 803 calls for service in 2009, an increase of 8.1% from 2008. Call types include everything from requests for traffic control or public assistance to fire and emergency medical calls. This averaged as one new logged dispatch incident once every 18 minutes during the event. In addition to new calls, dispatchers have the task of managing initial requests for Black Rock Ranger or Law Enforcement 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.

Mental Health Branch Statistics

The Mental Health Branch responded to 39 calls in 2009, which is a 69.5% increase over the total calls for service in 2008. The breakdown by case type includes 14 psychiatric clients, five cases related to domestic violence, five sexual assault cases and eight ‘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 six other calls for evaluations or client follow-up.

Fire Branch Statistics

The Fire Branch responded to 25 fire-related calls for service (a 16.6% decrease from 2008), none of which were significant responses. Call 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.

Follow up on recommendations from 2008

Updates for 2009 discussed in the 2008 post-event debriefing process included adding more staff to assist pre-event. The existing number of staff was proving to be inadequate to meet the increasing demand to provide both medical and logistical support prior to the opening of the event and so a decision was made to expand coverage. A new manager was promoted for this operational group and there was an increase in the numbers of medical and non-medical staff to pull together ESD logistical resources, including the medical stations throughout Black Rock City. Despite the increased logistical demands, the dedicated pre-event medical staff continues to provide emergency and occupational medical care to staff. This increase in pre-event staffing made 2009 the first year the medical stations were 100% in place on the Friday before the event opens, which is ESD’s first planned day of normal operations. A need was also identified for an additional 24-hour supervisor to provide breaks to the regular on-duty Medical Supervisors, facilitate training of arriving volunteers, and act as an extra resource to address high acuity field calls and surges in patient activity at the stations.

Another successful year

Each year our department looks for opportunities to be more operationally effective on playa. And each year our devotion to excellence manifests in small and large changes that have ultimately transformed the quality of care we provide and the experience of both our volunteers and the participants. Working for the Emergency Services Department requires expertise, compassion, and a willingness to work long hours in an environment that is often fast-paced, challenging, and occasionally in the worst of white out conditions. A minor success of note is that our operational planning has stabilized to the point where our last pre-playa management meeting that used to take many hours in earlier years took less than one in 2009. Additionally the daily on-playa operational briefings were attended by nearly all of our supervisors and chiefs even if they were off duty that day, and each meeting was highly productive and packed with thoughtful input. Volunteer staff was fully present, enthusiastic, and exuded professionalism as well as devotion to the Burning Man ethos. Following the 2009 event, the management team “sat back” post-playa and smiled at the achievements realized by the years of work towards our collective commitment to the ESD core values: commitment, communication, integrity, and support.

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

Submitted by,
Joseph Pred