BRC Event Operations (BRC) oversees the Burning Man event in Black Rock City, NV. For 2015 a special emphasis was put on safety and BRC worked closely with multiple external agencies to inspect and review all the working processes of the event. BRC’s operations shined, passing all the inspections, even in the whiteout conditions that reduced visibility to zero for many hours on some days.
Giant and heartfelt thanks must go to the thousands of volunteers and personnel who put in over a quarter of a million person-hours to deliver a safe and secure event in Black Rock City.
The City infrastructure is created by an array of teams including Power, Plumbing, Roadworks, Technology, Housing and Construction and many others. All of this infrastructure is planned out before getting to the playa in cross-departmental meetings. The system is designed to meet the needs of the participant population and the staff working the event as well as public safety requirements. In 2015 BRC revisited the joint planning process and began a multi-year process of combining efficient and equitable use of resources together with managed growth. This work will continue into 2016 and beyond as BRC looks to secure a stable future for itself.
Of note there were new teams in place for Water, Housing and Power. All these teams worked well, had the tools they needed, and saw a high level of operational success. The DPW worked tirelessly behind the scenes, and our city would not keep moving without them.
BRC worked closely with a national vendor to install over 1,600 porta-potties in Black Rock City and provide trucks and servicing for them and the many thousands of RVs in the city. Significantly increasing numbers from 2014, BRC had more than 50 trucks to patrol the city 24 hours a day, ensuring the units are clean and suitable for use.
Primary additions for 2015 included new banks in deep playa for large mutant vehicle events. These units appeared to solve the problem of defecation on the playa and will be continued in 2016. Participant feedback from the 2015 event focused on the condition of some of the units and United Services will be addressing this in 2016.
The city plan did not change at all in 2015. With only slight population growth, there was no need for more space.
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 in the event week. BRC Rangers, Placement, Greeters, BMIR and Gate-Perimeter-Exodus (GPE) all worked together to help mitigate this situation, including BMIR messaging, flag fencing, foot patrols, signage and verbal communications.
For 2016, BRC will be examining the issues around vehicle parking (camp space being taken up with cars and then people parking in other people’s space) and ways to help alleviate some pressure on camping space.
The BRC Work Ranch, located about 20 miles northwest of the playa, is the year-round home of all BRC’s infrastructure. This includes 120 vehicles, more than 300 containers, 30 semi trucks, workshops, countless tools and other useful stores.
This ranch is entirely off-grid and 2015 saw an overhaul of communications equipment, as well as water and power supplies.
Ticketing & Box Office
2015 was the third year BRC worked with the ticketing vendor Ticketfly and many of the bugs and glitches from the first two years were minimized or resolved completely. On the ground, the new Box Office allowed for quick and efficient processing of all participants, and wait times never got over 30 minutes even at peak ingress.
BRC will continue to improve on this process, specifically for the systems for staff and volunteer tickets, ensuring that our hard-working crew can get into the city quickly and easily.
Department of Mutant Vehicles
In 2015 the BRC DMV set about strengthening safety standards on the playa, including regulations about trailer guards, fuel storage and art car spotters. These regulations were created together with the art car community and nearly universally adopted. BRC will continue this education of the Art Car community and the event community at large in 2016 and beyond.
BRC also limited where large art car camps would be placed to eliminate the need for larger cars to drive through main city streets. All major art car camps were placed within one direct block distance of the edge of the city. As with the other guidelines, some vehicle operators had to be reminded of the new regulations.
Gate, Perimeter and Exodus (and Traffic)
The 2015 Gate operations ran from 5 am August 10 through 6 pm September 10. Gate Operations in all areas ran well, and the main challenge was Sunday’s traffic congestion on the main road SR447 during ingress. This traffic was very heavy. Traffic was smooth on all other days.
The team tweaked the Gate area layout for 2015 which, in concert with the new Box Office, resulted in quicker participant processing times once on the playa.
BRC is working closely with external agencies and traffic consultants to understand how to mitigate the major safety issues resulting from too much traffic in too short a time period.
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 and Public Information Officers, DMV, DPW and numerous county, state and federal government agencies.
In 2015 the Event Safety team introduced a control program for drones and a ban on hand-held lasers; both of these programs were a success, with drone flights being better managed and hand-held lasers disappearing almost entirely from the community.
A BIG thanks to the Safety team and also the Burning Man community — after a significant incident occurred in 2014, the request to eliminate hand-held lasers was taken very seriously and was near universally adopted.
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 in BRC and Gerlach in their non-confrontational mediating role.
Rangers grew their volunteer base to over 700 people in 2015. This growth is part of a year-by-year plan to be prepared for the future, and to build robust redundancy into an operation that is growing ever more complex and more demanding as the community grows in size and variety.
Rangers once again assisted in a variety of incidents including auto theft, RV fires, stray animals and stray humans, and ensuring the new DMV regulations were being followed.
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 legal compliance and public safety at the event. In 2015, BRC led joint training and table-top exercises to further align operational process and interagency communication.
Also in 2015 BRC updated the Unified Command to a Tier 1 management process, joining all the bodies (both event and agency) together, ensuring safer management in the event of unplanned incidents. This system was tested thoroughly during the repeated whiteout conditions of 2015, and proved to be highly effective for event operations emergency management.
In this “year of safety”, the event Emergency Services worked extensively with multiple state, county and federal agencies. BRC personnel once again stepped up to the plate on all fronts, the department invested in new equipment, and after multiple drills and tabletop exercises the department ran smoothly throughout the range of operations undertaken.
Of note in 2015, BRC partnered with two new vendors for major contracts including the event advanced care clinic (Rampart) through CrowdRx and the event radio infrastructure through Bearcom. ESD personnel worked hard to ensure both partnerships were integrated seamlessly into the larger operation.