Getting Out: Exodus

Q. Why does it sometimes take so long to get out of Burning Man? What can be done to make it better?
A. Here’s the dealio:  There are a finite number of vehicles that can get out of Burning Man and onto Highway 34 per hour. This is a fixed number, and probably won’t change any time in the near future. In our current configuration, the ONLY THING that can make the wait shorter is to have fewer vehicles leave BRC at the same time (i.e., people spread out their departures and leave at off-peak times).

When most people try to leave BRC on the same day, it creates long lines to get off the playa. This usually occurs when the weather is great or the Temple is awesome.

We most often see this on Monday of Exodus, though this doesn’t happen every year. It tends to go in a biennial cycle….a great year followed by a bad year, followed by a great year, followed by…you get the point.

Reducing the overall number of vehicles by carpooling and Burner Express, along with spreading out departures, are the best ways to achieve shorter lines for Exodus. Eager to beat the rush? Leave before the Man burn. Have some extra time for MOOPing? Leave Tuesday morning.

Make a departure plan for your camp, whether you are a camp of just a few people or a few hundred. Create an internal schedule that spreads out the departures of each vehicle over multiple days and times, especially during non-peak times if possible.

Above all, keep that playa vibe with you! Pack water, snacks, instruments and anything else to make the wait more fun. Have a one hour dance party and meet your neighbors in line. Consider a designated driver just for Exodus so you start the drive on the highway fresh.

Q. When is the best time to leave if I want to avoid the line?
A. Every year is a little different, and some years are so unpredictably different that we hesitate to make a solid suggestion. While Sunday and Monday afternoons used to be the busiest times, we have seen some of the heaviest traffic in recent years in the late night after the Burns. If you really want to avoid the line, leave on a day other than Sunday or Monday.

So how do you pick a time? Listen to the community. If everyone you talk to says they are staying to watch the Temple burn on Sunday night, then Monday is going to have very long wait times. If there is a major storm predicted for the weekend (as was the case in 2010), then a bunch of people will probably leave on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Tune into BMIR 94.5 FM for wait time updates at the top of every hour beginning Saturday.

Q. What is this Pulsing thing I keep hearing about?
A. Pulsing is a system of moving vehicles at regular intervals toward the highway on Gate Road to avoid the long slow creep forward that challenges the sanity of even the most patient among us.

With Pulsing, vehicles are allowed to stop and turn off their engines (from 15 minutes to about an hour depending on how close you are to the front), then are “pulsed” forward all at once. We generally implement Pulsing during the peak driving hours on Sunday and Monday.

The explanation as to how it specifically operates gets technical, but if you are interested in how we make it work, see HERE.

Q. Does Pulsing get me out quicker?
A. Nope! The length of time it takes to get out is dictated by the number of cars and the carrying capacity of Highway 34. Pulsing does nothing to affect either of those factors.

Pulsing does accomplish two objectives:

  1. It makes Exodus more enjoyable for the masses since they are allowed to take a break and mingle with their neighbors during stopped periods. Instead of creeping along, you get to stop for an hour at a time and create ONE HOUR NEIGHBORHOODS! (See a participant’s explanation of this idea HERE.)
  2. It saves fuel.

Q. What are you doing about lane changing during Exodus, and unfairness along Gate Road?
A. On Fairness:  We work very, very hard to set up fair systems on Gate Road and back into BRC. We use mathematical modeling to ensure merge fairness, load balancing, and system stability. And 95% of the time, things work as planned. Occasionally something weird happens:

  • A vehicle breaks down and instead of traffic deciding to go around the vehicle, they merge with the lane next to them.  BAD!
  • Someone moves some cones and starts an unauthorized merge.  BAD!
  • Someone gets out of their vehicle and tries to set up a system that they think/feel is fair.  BAD!

We try to enforce the system with signage. We constantly monitor traffic patterns for irregularities. We quickly remedy problems. But we cannot be everywhere at once, and well-intentioned people sometimes subvert our systems.

On Lane Changing:  Years and years of driving experience tells drivers to change into the lane that is moving faster or is open. And in a normal traffic system, this is what you want drivers to do to ensure system balance. Unfortunately, on Gate Road when a vehicle is stopped and the line behind is not going around them, people from adjacent lanes fill the void left in front of the stopped vehicle.
So what can you do?

  1. Use all available lanes on Gate Road until you hit the back-up. If you see that there are 8 lanes (which there are), but see only 6 lines of cars and 2 lanes completely open, USE THEM. All lanes on Gate Road during Exodus are outbound lanes, always, always, always.
  2. Once you are in the 8-lane-wide back-up, if the vehicle in front of you is stopped or broken down, and traffic in front of it has moved on in a Pulse, go around the stopped vehicle. Do not change lanes! Do not merge into the lane next to you. Go around the stopped vehicle, and stay in your same lane.
  3. If a lane is open next to you because a vehicle is stopped or broken down, despite your inclination, do not fill into it unless an Exodus staff member directs you to. That open space is for the people behind the stopped vehicle! If you merge into an open lane in the back-up, you are making the system unfair and are being a jerk.
  4. Ultimately we must rely on the community to police itself and ensure their fellow participants are respecting the process. If you see people cheating the system, say something! There is no way for us to monitor all of Gate Road for lane changing…nor do we want to be the traffic police. YOU can help make it fair by informing people about the process and making sure they follow it.

Q. Why can’t you guys just make another exit so we don’t have to wait so long?
A. The answer is simple…all roads lead to the same two-lane Nevada Highway 34/447. All that traffic still has to merge somewhere. Having more exits would not affect how many cars can travel on the one lane out of town, and therefore it would not make your trip faster. It would also be more dangerous to have the merge on the highway when it is not under the control of our Flaggers and staff. Our stipulations with the BLM dictate what the entry/exit point is, and they only allow for one.

Q. Can you allocate a different exit for people going north on Highway 34, and also for people heading north on Highway 447?
A. Currently there is only one BLM authorized exit off the playa. No other exits are allowed by our stipulations. The logistics and staffing requirements to implement an alternative exit for folks headed north on Highway 34 would cost us more than the benefit realized; an extremely small percentage of traffic leaves via 34 North. Our energy and resources will have a greater positive effect on a greater number of people if we focus them on other issues.

Additionally, if we could create a Highway 34 Northbound exit, we run the risk of people abusing it by starting up 34 North, making a U-turn, then heading south. The incentive for them to be dishonest would be large (they would skip the entire Exodus line) and it would actually slow down the Exodus for everyone else because we would have to stop all cars leaving Gate Road to allow them to pass through on Highway 34 South. Folks intending to go Highway 447 North toward Cedarville, Oregon and Washington still have to use Highway 34 like everyone else. There is no benefit to the system in letting them out before anyone else, because they have to share Highway 34 with the rest of the traffic once off-playa (if only to Gerlach, but still the same road).

Q. Why can’t you use both lanes (both directions) on 34 to speed things up?
A. If we used both sides of Highway 34, there would be no way to get vehicles (especially emergency vehicles) from Gerlach to Black Rock City (and to points north of BRC). Besides, those two lanes would need to merge to one at some point (we can’t run side-by-side all the way to Reno!), which puts us right back to where we started. It wouldn’t save time…it would just move where the final merge happens. Remember, there are local residents in the area who still need these roads. It isn’t all about Burning Man!

Q. Is there any way to speed up how fast vehicles get on to the highway?
A. There are a few. The best way is to have positive control of the intersection of the gravel top of Gate Road and Highway 34. We control that intersection on Sunday and Monday with Nevada-certified Highway Flaggers. With their stop/slow paddles, they make it possible for vehicles to enter the highway without stopping to check if it is clear…it is always clear because Flaggers stop all other traffic.

The second way is to run two lanes of traffic right up to the edge of the highway, then quickly alternate them out onto the highway. We do this about 50% of the time…if we did it 100% of the time, we would exceed the carrying capacity of the highway. The speed limit through Gerlach is 25 mph, so if we allowed vehicles to exit the playa more quickly the resulting backups would move from the playa into town, and that could lead to additional traffic issues. This would be bad.

Q. You should set up a system where people can register for a departure time and give them an “express” lane (or some version of a priority/regulated system). Those who miss their window or don’t register would have to wait longer.
A. This suggestion has made its way to us every year for many, many years now. And on the surface it looks very attractive. But, as is usually the case, the devil is in the details. Here are the primary reasons we have not implemented a reservation-based Exodus system:

  • Such a system takes a lot of people power (e.g., people to verify departure times, people to direct traffic, people to enforce the system) and a lot of resources (e.g. a registration system, building secure lanes for five miles of Gate Road that would prevent people from jumping into the wrong section); more than we currently have.
  • Verifying registration would require slowing traffic before Gate Road, which will in turn slow down the rate at which people can get onto Gate Road. Without a significant redesign, traffic inside BRC could become gridlocked.
  • One thing we have learned about Burning Man is people rarely stick to their intended timeline. Camp clean up took longer than planned, you stayed up really late the night before, it took a while to track down your passengers, you couldn’t find your car keys, you just had to visit the ashes of the Man one more time, or myriad other possibilities that are so very common to the Burning Man experience. To get 70,000 people to stick to a specific window of time may very well be the most difficult part of this idea to solve.
  • Another thing our Gate experience tells us is that verifying Exodus registrations and enforcing rules will not be a simple process. We will no doubt hear many stories (traffic to get from my camp at 2:00 was worse than I thought, but I really did leave in time! My campmate burned my registration slip in an offering to the Man but this really is my time window! I have a flight that leaves in a few hours, please I need to get out faster!). Each vehicle that pleads their case in turn holds up traffic for everyone else, and this ultimately will cause significant inefficiencies in the system.
  • Remember how we said this type of system would require a lot more people power? Despite our calls for help from the community, we continue to struggle to find enough people to manage the bare basics of Exodus (e.g. highway flaggers). We understand most people are tired by the end of the event, and many need to get home. However, in order for us to continue to evolve the Exodus process, we need YOUR help. We need volunteers to help run all parts of this process. Everything that happens in BRC is created entirely by its citizens, including Exodus.

Some of the above issues could be overcome, but taken all together a system like this in an environment like Burning Man would be complex and expensive to implement and considerably more difficult to run efficiently. We will continue to look at options and consider your feedback.

Q. What happens if I just decide to head across the playa and find my own exit?
A. Any vehicles found outside the perimeter of BRC or Gate Road are in violation of the Event Closure Area. Closure Area violations are ticketed by the BLM. They really are out there watching and you will be ticketed. Then you will be returned to the back of the Exodus line. Sounds fun, right? Also, some areas of the playa are thick mud hidden by a seemingly dry surface. Every year vehicles get stuck in that muck trying to escape the line. We laugh and point at the cheaters.

Q. You need to have more people out there during Exodus! Are you guys too busy partying or did you already catch an airplane ride out? (we’ve gotten some snarky feedback over the years, so it seems you want to know about staffing issues)
A. Oh yeah? Well… come on out and join us as a volunteer! Or did you party too hard during the week to come help with Exodus?

All snarkiness aside, staffing during Exodus is a major challenge for us. And it is for the reasons you are thinking. It’s the end of the event. Everyone is exhausted and just wants to go home and take a shower. No one wants to stand out in the sun and the dust. And yet, Exodus can’t run without volunteers. So, sign up and come out. It’s actually quite a fun job with a great crew.

The Exodus & Traffic group is actually one part of the larger Gate, Perimeter and Exodus/Traffic department. It’s managed by the same crew that has been out on the playa for weeks, running a 24-hour operation. So no, we were not partying.

Q. The road out during Exodus was really bumpy. What’s the deal?
A. That’s what happens to the playa when thousands of vehicles drive on it, especially at speeds over 10 mph. We do try to maintain the surface with watering, but watering has its limit. The slower you drive coming into and going out of the event, the less Gate Road is torn up.

Q. What can be done about all of the dangerous lane passing on the highway?
A. We do a lot to educate people of the dangers of passing on Highway 447. And we refuse to believe people who are doing the passing do not know it’s dangerous. They know. They have to. All we can do is keep telling people. Maybe next year we will print a billboard with the image of one of the terrible accidents that occurred on Highway 447 after the event, as a graphic reminder to those who would risk everything to get to Reno 10 seconds earlier. Do you think it would work?

Q. Is there a place I can dump my trash on the way home?
A. There are many authorized locations that will happily take your trash and recycling for you. See HERE!

As tempting as it may seem, you may not dump your trash in privately-owned dumpsters or dumpsters at stores and commercial centers. Every year we get complaints from local citizens about this issue. And if you dump your trash on the side of the highway you are ultimately making others in your community clean up after you, and that is truly unprincipled and lame.

Q. Why do I see trash along the side of the highway after the event?
A. We encourage participants to secure their loads properly. Many do. A small percentage do not. And a small percentage of 30,000+ vehicles is still a lot. Please act responsibly and make sure to pack your loads, including trash, securely!

Burner Express Bus

In an effort to reduce traffic and limit the environmental impact of the Burning Man event, Burning Man organizers are offering the Burner Express bus service for the 4th year in a row with pickups in San Francisco and the Reno Airport to Black Rock City and back. This service offers faster arrival, speedier entrance, reserved camping, and quicker departures.

Burner Express is ideal for participants flying into the event and for Burners involved in art projects and theme camps who are having their gear hauled in by campmates.

Tickets start at $83 one way from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and $123 one way from the Civic Center in San Francisco. Additional charges apply for extra luggage, for water, for a stop at a grocery store in Reno, and for bikes. Tickets can be purchased as one way or round trips to and from Black Rock City. Participants have the ability to pick up their Will Call or Low Income tickets prior to departure at the point of embarkation.

Departures begin from both locations Saturday before the event and return trips begin Friday during the event. Service to San Francisco from BRC will run through Monday after the event, and service to Reno will run through Tuesday after the event.

Burners will travel to Black Rock City on large motor coaches, enjoying a relaxing, scenic drive. Once on Playa, there will be a “bus only” lane to sidestep traffic backups at the Gate. Once through the Gate, the Burner Express Buses will proceed to the Burner Express Bus Depot located at to 6:15 and J streets for disembarkation and greeting!

Bus riders have the option of camping in HOVerlandia, a reserved camping section on the 6:15 access road or taking shuttles out to 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock along E or J Streets. Shuttles will stop on E street at 3:00, 4:30, 6:00, 7:30, 9:00; and J street at 2:30, 3:45, 5:15, 7:15, 8:15, and 9:30. Riders will then need to make their own way to camp.

For more information and to reserve tickets visit the Burner Express Bus website.

Reno Airport

Thousands of Burning Man participants from all corners of the earth migrate their way through the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RTIA) on their way to Burning Man, making this period the airport’s most popular travel time of the year. We’ve compiled information and a list of resources that will help make your travel through RTIA as smooth as possible.

Reno-Tahoe International Airport

2001 East Plumb Lane – 775-328-6400 – map

  • Flights information here.
  • Airport information here.
  • Airport Frequently Asked Questions here.
  • Lost items at the airport info here.  Items lost at a Travel Security Administration checkpoint info here.  If you believe you lost an item on an airplane, please contact the airline you flew with.
  • Wifi is freely available.
  • No showers or storage facilities at the airport. Highly recommend you clean up and dress fully before getting to the airport and on the plane as many people are from other walks of life and it’s a common courtesy.
  • Do not bring your trash to the airport or to the car-rental agencies! Go here for info on where to take your trash and recyclables.
  • There are Prohibited Items that cannot be taken on-board an airplane due to safety requirements. Propane, nitrous oxide canisters (aka “whippits”), lighters,knives, tools, fireworks, and various other liquids and gels are the most common prohibited items. Many people are also unclear on the various regulations regarding what is allowed in baggage vs. carry-on, so take a careful look at the Transportation Security Administration’s listings of prohibited items hereAnd be sure to properly dispose of them before arrival at the airport.
  • No drugs at the airport!
  • Finally, you will be treated to a showcase of Burning Man’s impact beyond the playa in Nevada. “Burning Man – Igniting Nevada’s Creative Fire” will be on display from August to October in the airports gallery space between the arrival / departure gates and the security gates. The exhibit includes photography of community events around Nevada and art made, worked on, or placed all over Nevada by Burning Man participants and artists.

Air Playa Info

Through the coordinated efforts of the Burning Man Project, the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and local and international resources, Air Playa Info was established in 2008 to provide information and resources for travelers on their way from the airport to Burning Man.

Located next to Baggage Claim inside the airport, volunteers at the Air Playa Info table help answer your questions, provide directions and maps, and share information about Black Rock City, means of transportation, and all kinds of Reno resources.

Air Playa Info will be available 9am-10pm on Friday before Burning Man begins through Thursday during Burning Man.

Finally, please Leave No Trace at Air Playa Info and the airport!

Transportation to the Playa

The various means available to get to Black Rock City from the airport include air, bus, rideshare and rental car. However you get to the playa, it really is best to have your means of transportation arranged before you begin your departure for Reno. After landing in Reno, check in at Air Playa Info, as aside from information on other resources, some of these options are coordinated with the help of its volunteers.

–  BUS TRAVEL TO BLACK ROCK CITY

In an effort to reduce traffic and limit the environmental impact of the event, Burning Man has contracted with The BusBank to offer the Burner Express. This service also offers speedier entry and departure from BRC and reserved camping for participants. Buses will depart twice daily from the airport to BRC from Saturday before through Thursday of the event. Return buses will also be available from Friday of the event through Tuesday after the event. One has the option of taking an express bus straight to Black Rock City, or one has the option of taking a bus that will make a pit-stop at the Save Mart Supermarket to get supplies. Go here for more info and here to reserve your seat.

–  AIR TRAVEL TO BLACK ROCK CITY

There are various air charters that offer flights daily between Reno-Tahoe International Airport and Black Rock City Municipal Airport before, during, and after Burning Man. Go here for the listing of approved air charters and other BRC flight information.

–  RENTAL CAR

There are several rental car agencies that operate at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Check out the listings in the yellow pages here.

–  RIDESHARE

In case you are unable to arrange means of transportation to the playa before landing in Reno, you also have a few Rideshare possibilities.

First, experience proves that for many participants, a ride to the playa is possible directly from the airport. Many fellow participants fly in just like you, and many of them rent cars and are generous when it comes to sharing a seat on their way to Burning Man. You may also be able to get some supplies with them, as most everyone flying into Reno has to obtain supplies in the region before heading out to BRC.

A few helpful tips for possibly landing a ride to the playa from the airport:

  • Check in at Air Playa Info inside the airport. Most Burning Man participants will stop by here and the Air Playa Info volunteers can be of help in figuring out your options.
  • Offering to chip in for gas is a plus!
  • Everyone in the vehicle must be wearing a seatbelt — it’s the law.
  • Be comfortable with those with whom you may share a ride.

The second location to go to in Reno for ridesharing is the rideshare base at Save Mart on Keystone Avenue. This location is a 10 minute drive from the Reno Airport, next to Interstate 80 (the primary highway Burners take to BRC).  It is also the busiest spot in Reno during Burning Man.  In case you do not have means of transportation to the playa, are unable to negotiate a ride from the airport to the playa, or want to get some supplies, this is your next best option, as the experience of previous years proves that you should be able to negotiate a ride here without too long of a wait. The Rideshare Base, where you shall please Leave No Trace, is at:

Save Mart Supermarket
525 Keystone Avenue – 775-786-2150 – map
Open 24 hours. Other store info here.

If you need to get to the Rideshare Base, you have several options:

  • Rideshare – Check in at Air Playa InfoYou may be able to negotiate a ride from the airport to the Rideshare Base (if not to the playa).
  • Taxi – A taxi should cost you around $12 to the rideshare base. MAKE SURE you tell the taxi driver to use the freeway. You can check in with Air Playa Info to find people with whom to possibly share a taxi to the Rideshare Base.
  • Regional Transportation – No direct bus routes from the airport to the Rideshare Base. If you don’t mind taking a few different buses via transfers, check out the RTC website for bus routes and schedules here.

Directions to Black Rock City, NV

Here’s how to get to Burning Man from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Travel time is approximately 3 hours.

  • Upon leaving the airport you will find yourself westwards onto Plumb Lane. US-395 is about 1/4 mile ahead.
  • On Plumb Lane, get in right lane, take US-395 NORTH
  • About 2 1/2 miles north, you will see signs for I-80
  • Get in right lane, take I-80 EAST
  • There are two routes to take from here:
    • Route 1 – From Reno, Nevada, take Hwy I-80 east 28 miles. Take the Wadsworth / Pyramid Lake Exit #43. You can get gas here. Then, go north one mile to Wadsworth and turn left, staying on Hwy 447. It’s 78 miles to Gerlach, and then 8 miles north on State Route 34 to BRC.
    • Route 2 – From Reno, take Hwy I-80 east 4 miles. Take Pyramid Way Exit #18 to Hwy 445. Turn left and travel north 31 miles. At Pyramid Lake, turn right on Hwy 446 and go east 12 miles to Nixon. You can get gas here. Turn left on Hwy 447, traveling north. 54 miles to Gerlach, and then 8 miles north on State Route 34 to BRC.

Reno-Sparks Resources and Storage

We recommend checking out the thorough listing of Reno-Sparks resources found in the Reno Pages for what you may need before making the journey to the playa. Most everyone flying or driving through the region needs to get supplies and these chock-full pages are intended for you.   Also, if you are interested in storing some of your camping or other supplies for next year (rather than parting with them), check out the storage facilities near the airport here.

Traffic Info

As we have 60,000+ participants traveling to and from Black Rock City along a two-lane rural highway every year, traffic (and avoiding it) can be a significant part of the Burning Man experience. Please know that the Burning Man Organization is working year-round to analyze the problem(s): we are consulting with traffic engineering experts, listening to the best ideas from the community, and brainstorming new solutions to the traffic challenge. Each year there are improvements to our design and each year we value participant feedback.

Ultimately, it’s up to every participant to help alleviate the traffic problem by becoming educated, making sure their friends and campmates are educated as well, and planning ahead! Here are links to important information to help YOU plan, thus helping the community as a whole:

Thank you for playing your part in our event’s successful future!

Health Risks of Playa Fires

If you are going to burn your art, read about the environmental effects of burning on the playa, and how to lessen your impact when burning. Here we will describe the effect that burning on the playa can have on your health.

What toxins are produced when you burn?

What’s being burned? Everything, it seems. From building materials like PVC, rebar, and plastic to old couches and decorative objects. Many of these items can pose a serious environmental and health risk as they burn.

In order to get a good idea of the toxins produced when items like these are burned, we looked at the production of toxins from accidental construction fires and open burning of household wastes.

According to a study done by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, open household waste fires burn at low temperatures and can result in particulate emissions, heavy metal vapors, acid gases and other pollutants. Most are highly toxic and some can cause cancer.

Unlike incinerated waste, fire in a barrel or pile does not burn hot enough to destroy the poisonous substances released by burning materials. Since there are no safeguards to capture the toxins released in the smoke, they are released in a concentrated form at ground level where they are easily inhaled.

A study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows that each pound of garbage burned in a barrel emits 40 times more particulates than if that same pound of garbage was burned in a high-temperature incinerator with air pollution controls.

Another chief concern is the production of dioxin and furan. Dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals known to man; burning common household trash at low temperatures can form these compounds, both of which are carcinogenic. Benzopyrene is another potent carcinogen produced by low temperature fires. Open fire smoke contains 70 parts per million of carcinogenic benzopyrenes, about 350 times higher than cigarette smoke.

Studies of construction fires point to another major hazard of playa burning. PVC — the playa construction material of choice — is highly dangerous to both personal health and the environment when burned. PVC is one of the worst offenders when it comes to toxic substances. PVC can emit highly corrosive and toxic hydrogen chloride when burned. It is also is a source of dioxin and phosgene gas when burned at temperatures below complete combustion. Coincidentally, phosgene, an odorless gas that can damage the lungs, is one of the substances used in chemical warfare. Samples of soot taken from fires in PVC-containing buildings that have burned have been found to contain dioxins in very high concentrations. The soot, however, represents only a small part of the problem: more than 90 of the dioxins produced in a structural fire are found in the gaseous phase and escape into the atmosphere.

For these reasons, PVC should never be burned. Please make sure anything to be burned is PVC-free.

In reality, there are no materials that are safe to burn. Everything emits a wide range of toxins, some more directly lethal than others. Even plain, untreated wood contains over 100 different chemicals or compounds when burned. Some of these compounds are extremely poisonous and carcinogenic. Cancer of the skin in chimney sweeps was linked to soot as early as 1775.

How do you protect yourself?

Quite simply, keep small children away from burning piles. That goes for anyone with asthma or other breathing problems as well.

Asthmatic on Playa

FAQ – Asthma at Burning Man

Like most deserts, the Black Rock Desert is dry and hot. Add to that the alkaline gypsum dust that makes up this dry lake bed getting kicked up by winds and vehicle travel, late nights out, and trying to stay hydrated, and the playa has the potential to challenge the health of even a mild asthmatic.

Q. What is asthma?
A. Asthma is a condition in which the airways of the lungs become narrowed or blocked, impeding breathing

Q. What triggers asthma?
A. There are many triggers, but those you may experience on the playa are:

  • Playa dust
  • Stress (emotional, physical, lack of sleep, change in normal routine, etc)
  • Change in humidity
  • Cigarette smoke

Q. How can I control my asthma?
A. Different people respond to different remedies. For some, removing themselves from the irritant (dust, smoke, heat, etc) is enough. For others, medication is necessary. Most asthmatics respond well to inhaled medications that dilate the lung airways, while others need to take a maintenance dose of either inhaled or oral steroids every day. A peak flow meter is an inexpensive, portable way to objectively self-monitor how your lungs are handling the playa environment.

Q. Will my asthma get worse at Burning Man?
A. The vast majority of people living with asthma do just fine at Burning Man. Some will notice no difference, while others will notice a heightened sensitivity. That said, if you have a history of complications with asthma, especially if they have resulted in hospitalization and/or intubation, please talk to your doctor before deciding to come to the playa. Being prepared is the best way to cope with the possible complications and we recommend the following:

Q. What can I do to minimize asthma complications while at Burning Man?

  1. Always carry a dust mask or bandana and your inhaler(s). Bring at least one dust mask or bandana for each day you’ll be on the playa.
  2. Get plenty of rest and drink enough fluids.
  3. Check your peak flow frequently.
  4. Saline nose rinses at least once or twice per day.
  5. Minimize playa dust in your living space as much as possible. A trailer, or two layers of entry into your living space (a small tent inside a larger tent works well) helps to keep your space relatively dust free while you rest and sleep.
  6. Bring enough inhalers and/or medication to last your stay on the playa, plus one extra inhaler in case you lose one.
  7. Make campmates aware of your condition, and aware of how they could help you if you need help. It is also highly recommended that you wear a medic alert bracelet at all times.
  8. Be aware of where medical resources are at Burning Man. There is medical available at Center Camp and at both the 3:00 and the 9:00 plazas.
  9. You may find a portable humidifier or mister for your tent or trailer helpful.

 

Pregnant on Playa

FAQ – Pregnant at Burning Man

Q. I’m pregnant. Should I come to Burning Man?
A. The best advice to this question comes from your provider. In general it is advised that any woman who is pregnant and planning on going to Burning Man to discuss with her provider whether or not she is high-risk (e.g. history of ectopics, diabetic, previous miscarriages, history of eclampsia, history of pre-term labor or delivery, incompetent cervix, preeclampsia, PROM etc.). All the OB/Gyn provider needs to know is the minimum about Burning Man … that is, a week long outdoor experience in the high desert with limited local medical facilities, and with the closest hospital 100 miles away. Given this basic information about Burning Man and the specific considerations for your pregnancy, they will be able to give you the best advice possible.

Q. What about all the dust and dirt? How will that affect me and my baby?
A. There is a worry that the playa environment with all its dust and lack of bathing water is bad for a pregnant person. Remember that people have been having babies in every conceivable type of environment for millions of years. The human body is a marvelous thing and if you take the care to eat well and drink lots of fluids (once you experience the thirst sensation you are already 5% dehydrated), wash your hands as appropriate, and rest when it’s time to, your body will respond by being healthy. Your baby will respond in kind.

Q. Will the desert heat harm my pregnancy?
A. The playa is a hot place. And then you have a little “oven” in your belly. The heat is a tough thing to handle when you are pregnant because you feel big and round and hot already. Our body has a thermostat though, so that when we get hot we sweat to cool down our bodies. When you are pregnant you are less able to compensate for heat because of already dilated arteries due to the higher levels of estrogen in your body. Again, drink lots of water and if you feel too warm, get out of the sun.

Q. What if I have a high-risk pregnancy?
A. Be sure to talk with your Ob/Gyn provider about the risks and considerations specific for your pregnancy. Be gentle with yourself and your baby. If you are having problems with your pregnancy, being on the playa places you several hours away from medical facilities equipped with the resources and medical experts to help you. Make wise decisions based on that fact. Pregnancy is a marvelous and natural event. Listen to your body and you will do well. But if you do experience any bleeding, cramping, or other problems on the playa, please don’t hesitate to contact someone at one of the medical outposts (3:00, 9:00, and Rampart at 5:15 and Esplanade) for an evaluation.

Q. The dust on the playa is highly alkaline. Is that bad for me and my baby?
A. We’ve researched this a fair bit. There is no evidence that we can find that the alkaline dust is detrimental to anyone, pregnant or otherwise.

Pregnancy is a marvelous and natural event. Listen to your body and you will do well. But if you do experience any bleeding, cramping, or other problems on the playa, please don’t hesitate to contact someone at one of the medical outposts (3:00, 9:00, and Center Camp) for an evaluation.

Diabetic on Playa

FAQ – Diabetic at Burning Man

Burning Man is held in one of the harshest environments on the planet. For a participant with no medical conditions, the conditions can be uncomfortable. For a participant with diabetes, it can be downright challenging. This short FAQ addresses some things you should know if you have diabetes and plan on attending Burning Man.

Q. What is diabetes?
A. Diabetes is an endocrine system disease in which the body is not able to control blood sugar levels.

Q. How is diabetes controlled?
A. Blood sugar levels are often monitored with small test strips and small blood samples. Blood sugar levels are controlled by a combination of diet, and either by-mouth diabetic medications or insulin injections.

Q. What are the challenges of managing my diabetes at Burning Man?
A. Sleep and eating schedules and activity levels are often different than you are used to keeping at home. Hydration is a challenge. If you use insulin, you are responsible for monitoring your own blood sugar levels, and for storage and administration of insulin.

Q. Will Burning Man keep my insulin refrigerated for me?
A. No. You are responsible for maintaining your own insulin supply, and for having all the test strips, syringes and needles, and anything else you will need to control your diabetes.

Q. I am prone to infections in my feet and legs. Should I be concerned about this?
A. The playa is a harsh, unforgiving environment where it is much more challenging to keep clean than it is at your home. If you are prone to foot and leg problems, wear shoes and socks at all times. Going bare foot on the playa is a recipe for undue drying, cracking, and open sores.

Q. If I have a hypo/hyperglycemic episode or get an infection or have any other complication with my diabetes, will someone be able to help me?
A. Burning Man encourages you to take care of yourself as best as you can. If you find yourself in a situation that you cannot handle, Burning Man’s medical staff can provide initial evaluation and care, and has available ambulance resources to transport you to Reno if necessary. While medical care on the playa is provided for free, you (or your health insurance) will be responsible for the cost of ambulance transportation and care provided off-playa.

Q. What can I do to minimize complications with my Diabetes while at Burning Man?

  • Get plenty of rest, drink enough fluid, and be aware of your body and what it is telling you.
  • Bring an amount of medications, supplies, and any equipment you will need that will last for the entire time you are on the Playa.
  • Make campmates aware of your condition, and aware of how they could help you if you need help. It is also highly recommended to wear a medic alert bracelet at all times.
  • Be aware of where medical resources are at Burning Man. (There is medical help available at Center Camp and at both the 3:00 and the 9:00 Plazas)

Sober on Playa

Each year, as the city grows, so does its sober community. The following is a compilation of suggestions some have found helpful in experiencing Burning Man clean and sober.

Before You Go

If you follow the 12-step program, review pages 100-102 in “the Big Book,” Alcoholics Anonymous.

If you have a sponsor, talk to them. It’s recommended that you have a serious dialogue with your sponsor before buying your ticket. You will see (or smell) people partying and drinking. The conditions are harsh and daily life can, at times, be overwhelming. Be honest with your sponsor about these things. Additionally, your sponsor should also know that there is much MUCH more to Burning Man than they’ve heard from the media. Learn as much as you can about the event so that you can describe the elements of the experience that have drawn you to it. Your decision to participate is between you, your sponsor, and your higher power.

Read the Survival Guide.

Fill Up Your Tank

When we don’t have time for meetings is usually when we need them the most. You will no doubt be very busy in those countdown days before the event. It’s easy to underestimate how long it will take to finish projects, pack, shop, and do all the things that people do before leaving town (and work) for 7–10 days. This would not be the ideal time to cut back on meetings. In fact, we suggest making time to work in an extra meeting wherever possible.

Planning Your Camp

Just because your friends may party or drink alcohol in moderation outside of Burning Man, don’t expect them to be moderate while camping with you in the Black Rock Desert. Consider having a discussion with them early in the planning process. Or, consider camping in a clean and sober community like Anonymous Village and Run Free CampCamp Stella*. If you feel you can no longer camp with your friends, you’re welcome to move into these camps. This option has saved people’s sobriety in past years.

*Please note: Camp Stella and Camp Run Free combined forces back in 2018.

While Living in Black Rock City

Find a Home Meeting

In the “real world” Home Groups help us stay sane and sober for many different reasons. There are now more than 10 12-step meetings daily in Black Rock City. Pick a time and place that works for you and return to the same meeting regularly. Burning Man only lasts eight days, but seeing and hearing the same people even just a few times can be really helpful. Some Burners find it helpful to ask a new friend at an on-playa meeting to be their “Playa Sponsor” for the duration of that year’s Burn.

Remember HALT!

HUNGRY: Many people report a loss of appetite while in Black Rock City. Don’t forget to eat! You don’t want to be miles away from camp when you remember that you forgot to eat lunch. Some of us have found protein bars handy for instant hunger relief. Pay attention to the clock and eat regularly.

ANGRY: Remember, there are now about half a dozen meetings each day in Black Rock City, and “program people” are nearly always available if you need to talk.

LONELY: Ironically, some participants report that the one moment where virtually all 70,000+ citizens come together, the night the Man burns, can be the single loneliest moment of the week. Be careful not to have unrealistic expectations for this event. It is a spectacular performance by any measure, but it’s rarely anyone’s single favorite moment of the week. Usually, participants’ most-revered experiences are random unplanned personal encounters. We suggest that you go to the burn with people that you trust will be sober and stick close. Once the Man falls, it’s very easy to become separated. Every year a group of sober people from Camp Anonymous attend the Man Burn together. Listen for announcements at meetings towards the end of the week.

TIRED: Do not go to Burning Man expecting to ever get a full 8 hours of deep restful sleep. It’s possible, but unlikely. After the sun disappears over the mountains each evening is when the real magic begins. There are only 8 nights of Burning Man a year and you’ll want to get the most out of them. This means staying up as late as you can. Unfortunately, sleeping in late isn’t so easy. The unforgiving sun illuminates your tent, the temperature rises, and neighbors will be noisy as they start their day (or end it). Before you go to bed each night, put on a pair of eye shades (available at most drug stores). This will trick your body into thinking it’s still dark outside. Bring a couple pairs of ear plugs to muffle the thumping of distant rave parties. Finally, if you are hydrating properly, you will need to pee in the morning while it’s still cold outside. Women may choose to make a funnel or a jug for this purpose; guys, designate an empty water jug. Sorry to be graphic, but a quick pee in (or near) your tent may enable you to get back to bed quickly and squeeze out a few extra hours of sleep. You’ll be less likely to fall back to sleep if you have to get dressed and take a bike ride to the nearest porta-potties when it’s bright and sunny but freezing cold outside.

Allow yourself to head home early if that’s what your body is telling you to do. We are only human and there’s only so much we can do. No matter how hard you try, you will only see a fraction of all there is to see at Burning Man. Make it an early night and you might be able to stay out later the next night.

Develop a Routine

Addicts sometimes do better when we have a daily routine. This can help give us a sense of stability in a world where nothing seems normal. Here are a few ideas.

  • Go to Center Camp to read the paper each morning.
  • Have breakfast with your campmates while reviewing the days possibilities in the WhatWhereWhen Guide or while listening to Black Rock Radio.
  • Find a workshop or class to attend on a daily basis.
  • Make a daily commitment to a regular volunteer gig such as the Lamp Lighters or Recycle Camp.
  • Go to the same meeting at the same time each day.
  • Plan on having dinner with your campmates each night.
  • Remember your 11th step. There are spiritual experiences and workshops all over the playa, many of which are specifically chemical-free. But also whatever your daily practice may be at home, bring it to the playa! Add to it! Evolve it! But don’t leave it at home. The things that ground you elsewhere will also ground you in the dust.

These are just a few ideas. Having a daily routine can be really helpful, but be careful not to over commit or stretch yourself too thin.

Volunteerism

As you probably already know, nothing helps us get “out of ourselves” better than service work. We recommend making a formal commitment to volunteer, even if it’s just one shift. Informally, there are many opportunities to help out your fellow citizens. Maybe you could help a neighbor pitch their tent help or help a stranger by carrying a bag of ice.

Attending Meetings

While some see Burning Man as a big party, many see as an opportunity for growth. Going to meetings may help you get the most out of your experience. Besides, where else can you go to a meeting where people are wearing costumes or perhaps nothing at all? Black Rock City is one of the few places where baskets are not passed around during meetings. In fact, with the exception of ice and coffee in center camp, cash transactions are not permitted at Burning Man.

Following is a tentative schedule for daily 12-step meetings. Be sure to check the WhatWhereWhen Guide or visit sober camps to confirm these times.

Run Free Camp hosts a variety of 12-step meetings. Anonymous Village hosts several large “Any A” meetings, where AA, NA, OA, SLAA, and any other fellowships can support one another’s recovery together, as well as that are fellowship specific. AV also maintains a space available for non-12 step recovery programs if that is how you recover. Also, if you need a meeting, you can start one at time! Grab a friend.

Time Program Camp
7:00am Open AA Anonymous Village
9:00am Women’s AnyA Anonymous Village
10:30am AlAnon/CoDA Anonymous Village
Noon AnyA Anonymous Village
Noon Open AA Run Free
1:30pm OA/AnyF Anonymous Village
3:00pm NA Anonymous Village
4pm MWFSa Open NA Run Free
4pm TTh MA Run Free
4:30pm AnyS – SLAA/SAA/SA Anonymous Village
6:00pm AnyA Anonymous Village
7:30pm MWF MA Anonymous Village
7:30pm TTh GayA AnyA Anonymous Village
8pm Open AA Run Free

… And there are even more meetings that meet once or twice during the Burn! Check your WWW or, better, yet, drop by the sober camps when you arrive!

Gifts

Be wary of food and drink offered to you. Know what you are eating and drinking. Burning Man thrives on a Gift Economy. You will probably be offered food or beverages by well-intentioned burners. Always ask if what you are about to ingest contains alcohol or any other substances. Consider the source and use good judgment based on the answer you get. The medical tent gets cases every year of people who were dosed without their knowledge.

The Roots of AA at Burning Man

An account by Anonymous Camp co-founder Dan A.

In 1997, there was one meeting at noon next to the Center Camp Cafe on the day of the Burn. We found each other through a small ad that someone who wanted a meeting put in the Black Rock Gazette. We called ourselves the Burning Desires group. Twelve of us sat on straw bales in the blazing sun near a generator that was supposed to cover our voices. I’m not sure how successful that theory was as we had to raise our voices above the generator. From the shade of the Cafe, one would have seen a dozen people in a tight circle cooking in the sun and yelling “Hi Dan” in unison. It was probably obvious what was going on. Anyway, we talked about getting a theme camp together for the next year. We collected a list of e-mail addresses at the end of the meeting and stayed in contact.

The Clean & Sober Camp was a registered theme camp that didn’t make it to the playa in 1997 because of cascading last minute problems. The next spring, I contacted the Burning Man office and asked if they had a contact name and phone number for the Clean & Sober Camp people. Within minutes, Steve in San Francisco got a call from some guy in Minneapolis who he’d never heard of before. Soon we were talking about registering a theme camp and combined the on-playa list with a list Steve had collected of people who inquired about his camp. Thus was born Anonymous Camp.

We made our first appearance on-playa in 1998. Although most came to meetings as a result of our listing in the What Where When, many just happened to be walking by and recognized, much to their surprise, that a meeting was going on. Of all the strange things I saw and did on the playa that year, the strangest was signing someone’s court card. We’re everywhere!

Contact

If you want more information or to join their camps, you can find Camp Stella / Camp Run Free on Facebook or contact them via email: CampRunFree@gmail.com.

You can find out more about Anonymous Village over on their website.

Many thanks to the members of the sober Burning Man community for writing this helpful guide and advice.

Playa Foot

PLAYA FOOT is a malady unique to the Black Rock Desert caused by the alkali dust that makes up the desert. It is, in essence, a chemical burn. The most common cause of playa foot is exposure of your feet to the desert floor by not wearing socks and closed shoes. While this malady is not serious, it is uncomfortable. The good news is that you may easily care for this yourself.

PLAYA CARE:

  • Wash your feet well to remove all the playa dust that is embedded in the cracks of your skin. This may require soaking them in a basin of water. Many people recommend adding a small amount of vinegar to the water to neutralize the alkali. 1/4 vinegar and 3/4 water is a good mix.
  • After washing your feet, dry them well and look to make sure you have gotten all the playa dust off of them.
  • If available, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment to the soles of you feet. This isn’t absolutely necessary and should only be done if you can keep your feet covered with socks and shoes or boots.
  • Keep your feet covered with socks and closed shoes or boots. Failure to do so will only allow your feet to get worse from the accumulation of more dust on your feet.
  • Continue to wash your feet a couple times a day to allow them to heal well.

PREVENTION:

  • Keep your feel covered as much as possible
  • Wash your feet well each day and apply a moisturizing skin lotion before climbing into bed, and before putting on your socks and shoes for another day of playa life.

SEEK IMMEDIATE TREATMENT IF:

  • You see any signs of infection (redness, swelling, increasing pain, red streaks running up your legs)
  • You develop a fever
  • Your feet become so sore that you are no longer able to walk on them

Rebar Safety

Rebar 101

Each year the majority of the injuries at Burning Man can be traced to collisions with rebar. These steel rods have become the tent stake of choice because they are relatively cheap and hold up against the playa winds better than standard-issue tent stakes.

Most rebar injuries result from stubbing a toe, piercing a foot or otherwise impaling a body part on the exposed metal. Injuries generally happen at times of low visibility, such as in the dark and massive dust storms.

The solution? Covering the exposed end of the rebar with a tennis ball, doll head, plastic bottle or other padding will help prevent injuries is a step in the right direction, but the best way to prevent injury is to HAMMER THAT SUCKER ALL THE WAY IN! However, before doing so, you have to make sure you are equipped to pull it out again. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Use a length of pipe to fit over the end of the rebar to bend it into a “J” before you hammer it in. Not only will this remove sharp ends that could hurt people, it will give you good attachment for guy lines and something you can grab when you’re trying to pull it out.
  • Bring a crowbar, pipe or something to pull it out with. The keyword here is LEVERAGE. Think Archemides, a fulcrum and moving the world.
  • Use vise grips or crow bar to twist the metal a rotation or two, tap it a few times on the side with a hammer, and it should pull straight out. If you’re still having trouble, remember: your car is stronger than you. Don’t forget work gloves.
  • Stubborn rebar can be coaxed out of the ground by pouring some water into the hole. Wiggle the rebar around a bit to get the water all the way down the length of the metal. Sometimes, this is all it takes to do the trick.
  • Whatever you do, DON’T leave the rebar behind, stuck in the ground. This is a Leave No Trace event, and part of the fun is the improvisation and community that comes from solving problems like getting that bastard out. If you can’t get it out, ask someone to help you. Adapt. Be dogged and tenacious. Don’t let it win.
  • Remember that guy lines are almost as dangerous as rebar. You don’t want to “clothesline” an unwary cyclist. Make guy lines more visible by sliding a short length (3- or 4-foot) of PVC over the line before driving peg into the ground. It CLEARLY marks both the line and the location of the peg, EVEN ON THE DARKEST NIGHT. When used with candy-caned rebar, it makes securing your structure fairly safe. (Thanks to Ray Leslie for this suggestion!)
  • You can also attach bright tape, ribbon or glow sticks. In a perfect world, guy lines would be marked with EL wire or Christmas lights to prevent people from clothes lining themselves in the dark, but do what you can.

For more detail, go to Securing Your Desert Structure

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 since ESD’s on-site emergency dispatch center monitors a designated emergency 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.

Medic Alert Bracelets

Black Rock City’s Emergency Services Department highly encourages folks who normally wear a medic alert bracelet to do so on playa as well. If you don’t usually wear a medic alert bracelet but have a serious medical condition, we encourage you to wear one on playa to ensure Emergency staff can take appropriate care of you. Questions? Email 911@burningman.org.

Playa First Aid Kit

Download the first edition of the ESD Playa First Aid Manual.

Here is a list of some of the basic things everyone should have on hand in their First Aid kit on the playa. Should an injury be serious or require more advanced care, the Emergency Services Department is there to help. Otherwise, the list below should see you through most minor injuries.

Packaged in an airtight container (Ziploc, Rubbermaid, etc):

  • A box of assorted sizes of adhesive bandages, aka “Band-aids”
  • 1 roll adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • Moleskin
  • 1” and 2” Coban or similar self-adhesive bandage wrap (works better than “Band-aids” and tape in the dust!)
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic wipe packets
  • Aloe vera gel for minor burns and sunburn
  • Benadryl for minor allergic reactions, itching and a sleep aid too
  • Antacid (such as Maalox)
  • Anti-diarrheal medication (such as Immodium)
  • Laxative (such as Ex-Lax)
  • Saline eye wash solution
  • Breathing barrier (with one-way valve) ⟵ for mouth to mouth…let’s try to avoid this
  • Instant cold compress or zip lock bags to put ice in
  • Non-latex gloves (size: large)
  • Hydrocortisone ointment
  • Bandage scissors or Medic shears
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • One box sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  • One box sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  • Triangular bandages
  • Tweezers
  • Chapstick
  • Sunscreen
  • Vinegar (to mix 1:4 with water for Playa Foot prevention).

Make a small kit out of the above supplies to have in your pack, along with your map and water bottle. (Have this in a small zip-lock, or just stuff it all into one of the exam gloves.)

  • Moleskin
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF
  • I pair exam gloves

Optional items for a camp-sized first aid kit

  • Finger cots- these are great for keeping the dirt and grime out of wounds. Use them in conjunction with a dressing.
  • Alcohol wipes- use these to remove grease from around a wound before applying Benzoin. You can also use them to sanitize things.
  • Tincture of Benzoin- this comes in individually wrapped packages. They are swabs that you wipe on the skin around a wound (after cleaning said wound) to help the bandages stick.
  • Steri-strips- these are better than butterfly bandages for keeping wounds closed; use in conjunction with the Benzoin mentioned above.
  • Magnifying glass- to look for slivers and little tiny things.
  • Afrin- for nose bleeds

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

Recycling

Recycling in Black Rock City

Any city worth its weight in aluminum cans or two by fours has a recycling program, and Black Rock City is no exception. For a decade now, recycling has been a part of life on the playa; even though our mantra has always been “Pack it in, Pack it out” because “There is no garbage or recycling in Black Rock City.” In truth, that mantra means we must take responsibility for our own trash, including recycling — and some resources do exist to help participants keep their recyclables out of the landfill.

Burning Man, for many people, has become not so much the way they spend their lives for one week out of the year, but rather a way of thinking and acting all year round. The process of leaving no trace should be started before one even leaves their home for the desert, and should in fact carry over into one’s daily life, because the entire planet on which we live deserves to be treated with the same sense of reverence as the playa.

Landfills across the world are quickly filling up and more and more of our precious land is being taken to house the millions of tons of trash that our race accumulates every year. Studies have shown that 25-50% of this refuse is material that need not be filling up these landfills, as it is recyclable. Recycling is cheap and easy, and the benefits are immeasurable. By taking the time to minimize the amount of material that is brought onto the playa (see Trash Minimization), one can minimize the possibility of accidentally having something hit the ground. Additionally, citizens of Black Rock City are encouraged to separate and recycle their waste and to dispose of the trash and recyclable materials appropriately.

Tips and Hints

  1. Create a plan and implement it.

    Figure out the who, what, where and how before you get on the playa.

  2. A Place For Everything!

    Bring appropriate containers for all different kinds of recyclables. Burlap bags are great for collecting aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles, since they let air through.

  3. What Is This?

    Label your separate containers boldly so that, even in the dark, your fellow camp mates can easily find the burlap bag for the aluminum beer cans.

  4. The Elephant In The Room

    Set up a convenient location for your separation station. Call it something creative like that and people with talk about it and use it. Try to stick with one central location rather than multiple spots. This helps reinforce the importance of reducing how much trash we create in the first place.

  5. Stay On Top Of It!

    Manage your separation station daily. Make sure things are being properly separated. Aluminum — Steel — Glass — Plastic — Paper/Cardboard — Organics – and finally trash.

  6. Show us Your Cans!

    Take all of your aluminum cans to Recycle Camp. There you can help them crush and bag the cans. Then the cans will be delivered to Gerlach where the School organizes to get the cans recycled and they get to keep the deposit money.

  7. Got Wood?

    Instead of burning all of your leftover, used-for-a-week, perfectly good wood, why not recycle it?  Burners without Borders will be back in force this year once again recycling all usable lumber and building materials, and they need your help!

    Starting Sunday, they will have recycling stations set up near 3, 6, and 9 on the Esplanade. They expect to be open from 10am-9pm, both Sunday and Monday. There you can drop off your usable lumber (full size pieces of 2 x 4, 4 x 4, and plywood only, please; no scraps), as well as certain building materials (pipes, conduit, wiring, tools, and other re-useful non-liquid hardware items). Got some time to kill after the Burn? Help them organize, clean & sort donations!

    You can participate even before the event: make sure to design your camp and art so that it can be easily recycled. They’ll be looking for full lengths of 2 x 4, 4 x 4, and full sheets of plywood, so before you lop off that little end piece, ask yourself if you really need to? And when you’re building, use screws instead of nails — they hold better, go in easier, and also make structures easier to disassemble.

  8. Off-playa Recycling!

    There are several convenient locations throughout the region to responsibly dispose of all of your recyclables, trash, and gray water, and many of them are open 24 hours. Find them here in the Survival Guide.

For More Information on these and other tips:

Contact Blue of Recycle Camp at recycle@burningman.com
and Burners without Borders at www.burnerswithoutborders.org

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is there recycling in Black Rock City?
    The answer is no and yes. There is no recycling service in Black Rock City, just as there is no garbage service. No recycling stations, no trash cans. We ask our participants to “Pack it in, Pack it out” and “Leave No Trace”. The one exception to this rule is Recycle Camp, where you can take your aluminum cans only. They collect, crush & bag as many cans as possible in a week and then donate them to the Gerlach School. There the school organizes to recycle them and the school gets to keep the deposit money.
  2. Where do I take my plastic water bottles?
    Pack them out. There is still no camp that collects plastic in Black Rock City. Until there is, it is best to have you carry it home with you and recycle it there, or to dispose of them at various recycling locations to be found listed here in the Survival Guide.
  3. Why can’t I recycle glass in Black Rock City?
    The truth is we discourage people from bringing glass to the playa in the first place. It is heavy and typically takes up more room in your car.  It is also dangerous when it breaks, especially when it gets thrown in a fire. It makes for an annoying mess to clean up that takes hours. If you must bring it, Pack it Out.
  4. I have left over wood I don’t want to haul back home. Where can I take it? Can I burn it?
    Well, you could burn it but that wouldn’t be very smart. The smart thing to do would be to recycle it. Take it to one of the Burners without Borders wood recycling sites at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock along the Esplanade. Help BWB volunteers pull some nails, sort the wood and stack it in neat piles. You’ll feel good and your wood will have a future.
  5. Now that I am recycling, what about composting?
    There’s a whole page devoted to composting, check it out. (see Composting)

Resource Links

  1. Aluminum cans may be brought to Recycle Camp. You can volunteer to help them and ask questions at recycle@burningman.com
  2. There are several 24-hour locations in all directions to responsibly dispose of your recyclables as well as trash and gray water to be found here in the Survival Guide.

Send Us Your Ideas

Do you have information that would benefit others by being shared on this page? Send it to environment@burningman.com and we will review it for inclusion here!