Safety Committee


This year marked the second year that Humboldt General Hospital (HGH) integrated into the Emergency Services system at Burning Man. Building on the success of their inaugural year, they continued to deliver excellent values driven care to our participants and have proven to be an invaluable partner for ESD. We want to acknowledge and appreciate their contributions for making Burning Man an innovative leader in providing emergency services for temporary mass gatherings.

Medical Branch

ESD and HGH together logged 5,748 patient contacts in 2012, 439 (8%) fewer patients than in 2011. Most of these patients were walk-ins with minor medical issues.

Of the 5,748 patient contacts, 1,831 presented themselves to Rampart for medical care while 762 required emergency response units from ESD and HGH to respond in the field, a 3% increase over 2011. This total averages to one EMS call in the field approximately every 19 minutes.

Approximately 31.3% of the total patient volume involved minor injuries such as blisters or cuts. Common patient categories included lacerations (9.4% of total patients), wound rechecks (7.3%), orthopedic injuries (6.5%), dehydration (6.4%), and eye problems (5.1%). Other medical care categories included rash (3%), UTI symptoms (2.7%), and extremity pain (2%). All other chief complaint categories were below 2%. The numbers for alcohol- and drug-related patients continue to be low for an event of this size. In 2012 ESD and HGH treated a total of 35 drug related patients (0.61%), and 55 total alcohol-related patients (0.96%). These numbers do not necessarily represent drug and/or alcohol overdoses, only patients for whom drugs or alcohol were the primary reason for seeking medical care.

Of the 29 patients transported to Reno hospitals for additional care in 2012 (a decrease of 13% from 2011), 24 were stable patients transported by ground ambulance, and 5 (no change from 2011) were deemed critical enough to be flown out by helicopter.

Communications Branch
The ESD Emergency Dispatch center handled 1462 calls for service in 2012, an increase of 27% from 2011. Call types include everything from requests for traffic control or public assistance to fire and emergency medical calls, including dispatching HGH EMS units in the field. This averages as one new logged dispatch incident once approximately every 10 minutes during the event operational period. In addition to new calls, dispatchers have the task of managing initial requests for Black Rock Ranger or Law Enforcement response, all 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
The Mental Health Branch had the busiest year on record, responding to 66 calls in 2012, which represents a 85% increase over the average year. The breakdown by case type includes 31 psychiatric clients, eight cases related to domestic violence, ten sexual assault cases and nine ‘Legal 2000’ evaluations (to determine if there is a danger to self or to others as a result of a mental illness). Two of the sexual assault cases merited evidence collection exams in Reno and three Legal 2000 warranted transport to a facility in Reno. The Mental Health team coordinates these transports and works closely with law enforcement, the sexual assault response team in Reno, and other agencies to support clients once they leave the playa. The remainder of the calls were follow ups and miscellaneous call categories and there was one post event follow-up.

As a result of community concern about misinformation provided in a sexual assault case by outside agencies, ESD is in conversation with the Burning Man community group ‘The Bureau of Erotic Discourse’ to explore a more collaborative relationship to help raise awareness and provide information to participants in 2013.

Fire Branch
The Fire Branch responded to 24 fire-related calls for service in 2012, 19% lower than average.

New for the Fire Branch in 2012 was the operational integration of the “Silver Suits.” Formerly of the Art Department, these team of volunteers wear aviation crash rescue gear to endure the tremendous heat produced by the man burn. Their mission is to assist with safety in the hot zone with a variety support tasks. Integrating them into ESD Fire allows both teams to work together as one. Given that the next layer of safety beyond the Silver Suits are ESD Fire Fighters, the ability to communicate and coordinate has obvious advantages.

The most significant fire response during the event occurred on Sunday with a fully involved camping trailer and multiple additional trailers in the exposure area. Fire engine response from ESD and JTT was prompt considering emergent response limitations within the city. Fire attack from hose-lines was well directed, ICS used to manage the incident, and all responders in the hazard zone were in full PPE. The small capacity type-VI fire engines were fully depleted of on-board water and ESD dispatch had water tenders in route, however the larger size of the tenders experienced delays in navigating streets (pedestrian traffic). Also of note, a DPW hyster responded to the fire with a supervisor; this resource is a wise choice to bring to the incident as it could have rapidly moved any of the exposure trailers to a less hazardous distance very expediently. Explicitly, the propane tanks mounted on the trailers in close proximity to the fire were a significant hazard.

For more information about ESD please refer to the ESD page.