Emergency Contact

This page contains info about two kinds of emergency contact: how to contact people on playa about an off-playa emergency, and how to “call 911” inside Black Rock City.

Sending Emergency Messages to People on Playa

Q: What if friends or family at home need to reach me for an emergency?
A: Unfortunately, given the nature of the event, finding a participant on the playa is usually quite challenging. Cell phones don’t work, and people don’t generally have satellite phones. There is but limited internet access. Now add the fact that addresses on the playa are inexact even if you do know where you’re camping ahead of time, and finding a person’s camp can become very difficult. Preparation will help you stay in touch in an emergency.

Q: How can friends or family send me a message?
A: Emergency messages should be sent to 911@burningman.org. The message will be passed to the Black Rock Rangers, who will do their best to deliver it. We will also make the message available at Playa Info in Center Camp, so if you’re awaiting news or expecting emergency transmissions, you might want to plan to check in each day.

Q: What details should be included in an emergency message?
A: The message should include first and last name, as well as any known nickname that you might go by around camp. It should also include the name of your theme camp or other affiliation (volunteer team, etc.), and its location if known, along with your vehicle make/license plate and any other unique features that will help with the search (such as, “camp has a 20-foot inflatable duck,” etc.)

Q: What can prevent me from getting the message?
A: Just a few of the variables that can get in the way: your camp relocates, or nobody’s ever in camp when we come seek you out; your camp spot is obscured from view by other camps; the 20 foot inflatable duck deflates due to a leak; there are three camps with 20-foot inflatable ducks, and none of the neighbors know anyone named “Chris” because you have been introducing yourself all week as “Captain Underpants, Lord of the Duck People!” You get the picture.

In other words, you’re heading to the middle of the desert, and there is no guarantee that we’ll be able to deliver a message in an emergency; it’s important to weigh that before you leave home. If you are awaiting news, you can actively check in at Playa Info, and in truly dire circumstances, you can find a ride into Gerlach to use the pay phone there.

Any further questions can be addressed to 911@burningman.org.

“911” Service in Black Rock City
If you have an emergency in Black Rock City, the fastest way to get help is to flag down a Black Rock Ranger, a member of law enforcement, any other event staff or volunteer with a radio or send someone to fetch help at a Ranger Outpost or ESD Station. Cell service in BRC is spotty at best, and if you are able to connect via 911, it will take time for them to contact law enforcement on the playa.

That said, there is a way to directly call for help. The Emergency Services Department’s on-site emergency dispatch center monitors a designated emergency channel that is available for your personal radios. NOTE — this is a change from the past years in which the MURS (Multi User Radio Service) radio band was used. MURS will not be monitored for emergencies, which gives participants access to all five channels for their needs.

  • You can purchase your own radio to contact BRC 911. Large camps or villages might choose to make a radio part of their planning efforts and store it in a public place for emergency use. You might also be able to rent a radio from your local radio rental shop.
  • Program your radio to 451.9000 MHz with a CTCSS/PL tone of 91.5 and 12.5 kHz spacing to reach the Black Rock City 911 Dispatch. This is limited to 4-watt power output (typical limit of most handheld radios). Please refer to your user manual to see how to program your radio. We are developing a generic programming guide and of course, our wonderful Burning Man community is full of people with a desire to help.
  • FOR ALL RADIO USERS: you are responsible for following FCC rules regarding programming. Not all radios meet FCC regulations for this specific frequency. This channel is licensed to Burning Man and you are being granted access to use this channel as an emergency reporting channel only. Unauthorized use could face fines imposed by the FCC.

This radio channel is referred to as “BRC 911 Alt”. To contact Emergency Services on this radio channel be sure there is no one speaking and press your PTT button to call out to “Emergency Services.” We recommend that you test your radio before you need it in an emergency.

If you don’t want to buy a radio for this purpose, you can contact your local two-way radio rental service in your area and inquire about renting a radio for this purpose (and they would program it for you as part of the rental, making configuring the radio hassle free if you’re not tech savvy).

Learn more about BRC Participant Emergency Reporting including details for programming a radio here.

If you have further questions, please contact 911@burningman.org. and don’t forget to check the eplaya forum.