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 take the bus into Gerlach to use the pay phone there.

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

“911” Service in Black Rock City
There is very limited cell phone service in the area surrounding Gerlach. If you’re lucky enough to have a signal in Black Rock City, please do not call 911 for problems within the event site. The dispatch center you would eventually reach doesn’t manage the available resources on playa. It’s far faster to flag down anyone with radio or send someone to fetch help at a Ranger Outpost or ESD Station. That said, there is a way to directly call for help since ESD’s on-site emergency dispatch center monitors a designated emergency channel on the license-free MURS (Multi User Radio Service) radio band.

MURS is a service similar to FRS (Family Radio Service, the frequencies that Motorola Talkabouts and similar inexpensive radios use) though MURS operates at a higher power output for greater range. FRS channels are extremely overcrowded, and they’re used by thousands of participants during the event. Reasons to choose MURS:

  • If you’re part of a large Theme Camp, it’s a good investment to have a MURS radio around to call ESD emergency dispatch for your group, especially if you have members who have known health issues or the risk of injury is of special concern.
  • Large art projects working out on the open playa will be able to get help faster.
  • Camps that are on the outer-rings of the city are far from a Emergency Services station don’t have to send runners for help when an emergency arises.
  • The other four channels on MURS can be a great way to communicate among your campmates.
  • It’s the only way for the public to contact Black Rock City’s emergency dispatch directly.

To call ESD on a MURS radio: Set your MURS radio to channel 5 (154.600 MHz, CTCSS/PL 97.4) to reach the Black Rock City Emergency Services Dispatch.

PLEASE NOTE: Each brand has its own labeling system, so please refer to your user manual to see how CTCSS/PL 97.4 is labeled. Using any other “privacy codes” on channel 5 will interfere with ESD. Instead limit your personal use to channels 1-4.

FOR ALL MURS USERS: We ask that all Burning Man participants respect that channel 5 will be used for official use only. While the other MURS channels are fine for personal use, we want to stress that channel 5 on MURS please be kept open for emergencies and not used for any other purpose.

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 VHF 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).

If you have further questions, please contact us for more information.