BRC Event Operations (BRC) oversees the Burning Man event in Black Rock City, NV. In 2014 Black Rock City required thousands of staff and volunteers to run safely and efficiently — collectively this amounted to over a quarter of a million person-hours.
This workforce is coordinated through multiple series of meetings starting at the individual team level and moving up through departments to the Event Leadership Team briefing, which includes top level managers from all departments and takes place daily on the playa. In 2014 this process was integrated with a new Unified Command function which joined all the bodies together, ensuring safer management in the event of major incidents. This system was tested thoroughly during the rain at the beginning of the event, proving at that time to be highly effective for event operations emergency management.
The City infrastructure is created by an array of teams including Camp Placement, Plumbing, Roads, Tech, Housing and Construction. All of this infrastructure is planned out in advance of the event in cross-departmental meetings and is designed to meet the needs of the participant population and some very significant public safety requirements.
Increases in demands on key departments like Power and Shade in 2014 – in part due to new contracts related to provision of the BLM Operations Center – caused some stress, and the teams should be praised for coming out on top despite the hurdles faced.
The DPW worked closely with a nationally-recognized vendor to install over 1,600 porta-potties in Black Rock City and provide trucks and servicing for them. More than 30 trucks canvas the city 24 hours a day, ensuring the units are clean and suitable for use.
Following feedback in 2013, the vendor increased provision of services directly to participants and we intend to improve on this again in 2015.
Our Planning Department increased the diameter of the inner playa open space from 2,300’ to 2,500’, which reduced the density of activity on the Inner Playa. Additionally we increased all but the 0:15 and 0:45 streets to a width of 40’. This resulted in an increase in city camping space of about 4%, or a gross increase from roughly 721.5 acres in 2013 to 752.34 acres in 2014.
As has been the trend in recent years, the 9 o’clock side of the city was busier than the 3 o’clock side and filled up earlier. BRC Rangers, Placement, Greeters, BMIR and Gate-Perimeter-Exodus (GPE) all worked together to help mitigate this situation, including broadcast media messaging, flag fencing, foot patrols, physical signage and verbal communications.
Black Rock Station, located about 20 miles northwest of the playa, is the year-round home of all BRC’s infrastructure. This includes some 120 vehicles, more than 300 containers, 30 semi trucks and countless tools and other useful stores. The Station is also a base for the participant container storage program where BRC provides space for participant-owned containers stored year round. Membership in the program also ensures delivery of the container to and from the playa. This program was expanded by 31 containers (to 120) in 2014 and we hope to increase this further in the coming years. [Note: as of this writing, the program is full. Watch for announcements should openings become available.]
Ticketing & Box Office
We contracted with a new ticketing vendor, TicketFly, in 2014 to support our online pre-event ticket sales as well as on-site operations such as Box Office and ticket scanning. While it came with some challenges, it was a good first year and the online sales and on-site scanning operations were significantly smoother for participants. One of the areas that was most challenged was the on-site Box Office, which had a range of issues in 2014 that resulted in overly long wait times for tickets being picked up at Will Call. An in-depth analysis of the contributing factors has been conducted and a strategic plan to mitigate these issues for the 2015 event is well underway.
Department of Mutant Vehicles
In 2014 the Department of Mutant Vehicles licensed more than 600 Mutant Vehicles (art cars) for day and night use. DMV also issued driving passes to disabled users and managed delivery of the new BRC driving sticker program for those working in the city.
In 2014 there was a fatality involving a large Mutant Vehicle. BRC is conducting a full investigation into this incident and will be updating Mutant Vehicle safety guidelines accordingly for 2015. Safety is paramount for the event, and this work has the support of all parties including DMV and the Mutant Vehicle community.
Gate, Perimeter and Exodus (and Traffic)
2014 Gate operations ran from 5 am August 5 through 6 pm September 5. Extending gate open times greatly helped traffic run smoothly during ingress and egress this year. During the rain storm on Monday of the event, the Gate was closed and the staff had excellent support from the cooperators in managing participants stuck on Gate Road.
2014 saw some great wins for the the Gate crew: working in concert with the Rangers, they were successful in intercepting a delivery van attempting to sneak participants into the event. New radar equipment meant the perimeter team had significant success intercepting people trying to break into the event, catching just under 100 people.
Public health and safety at Burning Man requires the cooperation of multiple key stakeholders and entities including law enforcement, medical, fire and rescue operations, BRC Rangers, Event Operations, BRC Communications, DMV, DPW and numerous county, state and federal government agencies.
In 2014, new initiatives around public health and safety on playa included implementation of a Unified Command, daily on-site meetings between law enforcement and BRC Rangers, a new BRC Event Safety Officer role, new fuel vendors with Mutant Vehicle and theme camp fueling programs, focused disease prevention meetings with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, and new burn management teams.
Black Rock Rangers
The Black Rock Rangers are Black Rock City’s eyes and ears on the ground, responding to the daily needs of citizens city-wide in their non-confrontational mediating role. The Rangers fielded more than 600 volunteer staff in 2014, a significant increase from the 500 fielded in the prior several years. This growth was a proactive effort to expand routine patrols of BRC, to increase emergency staffing capacity, and to cover new initiatives including growth in pre/post event operations, stationing Rangers in Gerlach to support the town, and Leave No Trace compliance efforts.
The safety of minors remains a top priority for the Rangers. For the third year in a row the Rangers operated the Family Unification Network (FUN), which allows parents to register their children and obtain wristbands for them at Ranger HQ. These wristbands can facilitate faster unification of children separated from their families.
Black Rock Rangers were the first responders at the vehicle fatality, providing CPR, calling in medical and law enforcement, establishing a perimeter at the scene, and tending to the needs of people present at the accident.
Law Enforcement / Government Relations
BRC has relationships with Federal, State and County agencies including Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Highway Patrol, NDOT, Washoe and Pershing County Sheriff’s offices, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, and Nevada State Health amongst others. BRC works year round with these agencies to ensure compliance and public safety at the event and in 2014 undertook joint training and table-top exercises to further align operational process and interagency communication.
Emergency Services in Black Rock City include volunteer first responder services provided by the BRC Emergency Services Department (ESD), ambulance and advanced life support (ALS) services provided by Humboldt General Hospital (HGH), fire and rescue services provided by the ESD Fire Department, crisis intervention and mental health support, and dispatch services provided by ESD Dispatch BRC911.
2014 saw ESD Medical and HGH treat more than 6,100 patients between them. ESD Fire responded to 31 calls, mostly investigation, hazmat and rescue; and 911 dispatch logged over 4,500 interactions.