Arriving on Scene
The first Ranger on scene will often be in the best position to start defusing the situation. Usually, the very first thing to do is NOTHING. In Rangering, “doing nothing” is a verb. It is not a passive acceptance of a situation unfolding. Rangers often see a situation and see nine different ways that it might be resolved right off the bat. However, based on the way the situation unfolds, dictated by the participants involved, a tenth resolution can be divined that everyone involved can agree to.
Time is on your side. Observe, listen, and get a feel for what is going on. Assess the situation: is the scene safe? If medical assistance is needed, or if there is a safety issue, notify Khaki. If safety is not at issue, the first step of dealing with a critical situation is cooling things down.
FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY AND THE SAFETY OF OTHER PARTICIPANTS, IF YOU SUSPECT THAT YOU ARE ENTERING A POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS SITUATION, OR RESPONDING TO A VIOLENT ACT THAT HAS JUST TAKEN PLACE, YOU MUST REPORT TO KHAKI BEFORE ENTERING THE SITUATION.
The Ranger, who may look from the outside like they are “doing nothing” is actively engaged in re-framing the situation by being aware, empathic, creative, and honorable.
“Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” – Winnie the Pooh.
Bringing things to a lower intensity level, a more casual sort of interaction, sets the stage for resolution. Applying additional pressure rarely facilitates a quick and calm outcome. Protect the involved individuals and the scene from uninvolved participants. If necessary, advise Khaki, and additional Rangers will be sent as available.
Approach those involved in the incident slowly, visibly, and without getting too close. In most situations, one Ranger will stay back and monitor radio traffic, while the other Ranger moves in to take the lead in interacting with the affected participant.
Stand slightly to one side, rather than face-to-face. Introduce yourself (“Hi, I’m Ranger Hubcap”). Not all participants know who Rangers are or what we do, so you may have to explain this. Explain all of your actions before you take them. When entering someone’s camp, ask permission: “Hey, is it okay if I come in?”, “Do you mind if I take a seat?”, “Can I take my pack off and stay awhile?”
Respect the participants’ personal space. Feeling trapped evokes a stress response. Be aware that entering their personal space could cause an uncomfortable or violent response. Be aware of your positioning skills and body language as discussed in the Ranger Training. Speak calmly and casually. Often people resort to agitated or violent behavior when fear leads to feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Slow down the pace: this will help to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed. Defusing tense situations is a core Ranger skill. Slowing the situation down is one of the best ways to help overwhelmed participants calm down.
Tips for Being on Scene in a Conflict
If two participants are yelling at each other, consider asking them to separate; you can talk to one, and your partner can talk to the other. Once separated, keep your partner in sight at all times.
Ask the person if they feel okay. If the answer is no, then ask them where they would like to go, or what they would need to feel okay. Try to accommodate them. If necessary, use your radio to clear the location you want to move to. We have a number of resources at our disposal (including Sanctuary) where an individual can go to be alone or talked to, listened to, etc. Remember that in most cases a participant’s own camp and friends may be a better choice.
Allow the person to say “No” to any offer you make, including food or drink. Allow the person to maintain as much control as they can over themselves and the interaction. Generally the more in control a person feels, the better they are at coping with the situation.
One-on-one interaction with the person is important. One Ranger speaking with one participant at a time is less threatening. Introduce new Rangers into the situation carefully and by their Ranger name. Keep bystanders away, especially from behind the participant involved.
One of the worst actions a Ranger can take when entering a situation, whether on first contact or as back up, is to run in and try to take over. Also counterproductive is multiple Rangers arguing about the resolution of the situation or what to do next. While you are arguing, nothing gets done, and no one is really paying attention to the situation, which may be escalating while you bicker.
Defer to a more experienced Ranger, Troubleshooter, or a Shift Command Team member if requested. They are there to help; we are all on the same team with the same goals.
Whenever dealing with a naked participant in a crisis or compromising situation, a Ranger of the same gender as the participant should be present. If you need a Ranger of another gender, ask Khaki to send someone to your scene.
If a participant is making things worse, try to get them off the scene. If they won’t back off, emphasize that you are trying to cool things down. Ask the antagonist questions, such as “Am I making sense?” but don’t get involved in a fight.
IF THE SITUATION ESCALATES, DON’T HESITATE TO CONTACT KHAKI FOR ASSISTANCE AND SUPPORT. NEVER FORGET TO MAKE YOUR SAFETY AND YOUR PARTNER’S SAFETY YOUR TOP PRIORITY.
Special Circumstance: Law Enforcement
It is generally better not to approach Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) when they are involved with participants unless LE has invited you into the conversation. Why?
- You don’t want to interfere with them doing their job.
- For your own safety—surprising someone with a sidearm is probably a bad idea.
You can remain in the general area of the scene in order to be available for LE, in case they want assistance, or to wait for a good time to ask for their attention if you believe you have pertinent information.
Stay well back and be visible, so you are not too close, in case they get spooked by anything.
If you have concerns about an interaction between LE and participants, do not approach any officer(s) on scene. Instead, call Khaki and request advice. Depending on the situation, Khaki may call in Troubleshooters, LEAL (Law Enforcement Agency Liaisons) Team members, Shift Leads, OODs (Officers of the Day, who oversee 24 hours of operations), or the Ranger Operations Manager (who oversees all Ranger operations).
If you witness a LEO drawing a firearm, report it to Khaki immediately and take no other action.
Any Ranger who encounters a situation where a law enforcement presence would be helpful or is requested by a participant should call Khaki and request LE at their location.
Intervention and Escalation
We talked about “first do nothing.” But sometimes we need to do something. In general, we start with the least intrusive intervention (unless it’s an emergency) and move to more direct interventions if/when it becomes necessary.
There is a spectrum of intervention techniques, from less intrusive to more intrusive like this:
- Do nothing, say nothing, quietly observe.
- Say hi and/or introduce yourself. (This can be a very subtle intervention; just by calling attention to your presence you can influence things.)
- “Sorry to bother you, are you doing ok? Do you need any help?”
- “Hey, could you do me a favor?” (A very polite request; makes it clear it’s strictly optional for them to comply. It’s a favor, after all.)
- “You should know that if you do this…” (Explain consequences)
- “Please don’t do that.” (Directly request action)
- “I need you to stay back / slow down / not drive here.” (Demand action)
- STOP!” (Urgently demand action in a dangerous situation)
- Physical intervention for safety if necessary and all else fails.
It is imperative that you maintain radio contact with Khaki, as your radio is your link to the rest of the Rangers. Your safety and your partner’s safety are always your top priority. Do not put yourself in harm’s way. In hazardous situations, backup will be sent if requested (including law enforcement personnel if required). Most likely, Khaki will ask you to simply stand at a safe distance and observe/report while Khaki coordinates the response. However, if you become unable to step back from the situation due to sudden changes in circumstances, report that you have become involved and then move in and attempt to address the situation.
Before leaving the scene, make sure that all parties understand the resolution. You might need to keep Rangering in order to arrive at an ending place.
If you have called the incident in, remember to advise Khaki when you are done and what the outcome was: call it in, call it out.
Must-Reports — Situations that Must Be Called in Immediately
Black Rock Rangers are entrusted with considerable flexibility in how they handle the situations they encounter in Black Rock City. Rangers are trained to rely on their own judgment and abilities, and to escalate matters (generally to Khaki who is part of the Shift Command Team) for assistance when appropriate. There are, however, situations in which the Ranger Department requires that Rangers report what they observe to the Shift Command Team immediately.
The requirement to report is in place to ensure that the Burning Man organization is aware of events that are critical to maintaining agreements we have in place with other departments and agencies, our internal reporting metrics, or legally required or advisable record keeping and reporting.
It is important to note that this policy only requires that a Ranger escalate required information to the Shift Command Team. The Shift Leads will then follow up with appropriate actions, which may be as simple as noting the event in the shift log, or may include further escalation. It is not the individual Dirt Ranger’s responsibility to contact LE or medical.
- Any Non-consensual violence
- Any situation that is likely to put a participant in non-consensual grave danger
- Any situation that is likely to put a Ranger in harm’s way
- Child or elder abuse
- Domestic violence
- Sexual violence
- Lost or found child
- Medical emergencies
- Psychiatric emergencies
REPORTING REQUIREMENTS APPLY AT ALL TIMES TO ANY RANGER WHIILE ON DUTY IN ANY ROLE WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT AND ANY OFF DUTY RANGER IN UNIFORM, VISIBLY DISPLAYING RANGER LOGOS ON THEIR PERSON OR PROPERTY (E.G. VEHICLE) OR OTHERWISE REPRESENTING THEMSELVES AS A RANGER.
How to Report
All reports begin by calling Khaki on the radio.
In the case of a medical emergency, request medical response and give a quick description of the nature and severity of the injury to Khaki. If you believe someone to be dead, call it in as a medical for an “unconscious and not breathing” person and request an immediate face-to-face with Khaki.
In the case of a lost or found child, report the details per the lost child protocol. In the case of a sexual or domestic violence incident, follow the appropriate protocol.
In all other cases, use plain English to clearly explain what the situation is, and, if you know them, what resources you think you need. Khaki may send other resources as well, and may roll to your location for a face-to-face.
If you are not sure whether something falls into the above categories, go ahead and report what you see. Let your Shift Leads figure out whether any follow up action is required.
FAILURE TO REPORT A MUST-REPORT SITUATION IS A SERIOUS INSTANCE OF UN-RANGERLY BEHAVIOR AND CAN RESULT IN DISCIPLINARY ACTION, UP TO AND INCLUDING PERMANENT REMOVAL FROM THE RANGER DEPARTMENT.
Lost and Found Children
It is often said that nobody is really lost in Black Rock City until the event is over, but when a child is lost in Black Rock City, finding that child becomes our first priority. This is a very important issue to the parents, the child, the Rangers, and Law Enforcement. Note that a child is anyone under the age of 18.
Protocol For Reporting A Lost Child
- Immediately call in that a child is missing. Use “break break break” to interrupt other radio traffic if necessary.
- While Khaki is notifying other departments on different radio channels, gather essential information from the reporting participant:
- Name, age, height, weight, eye, hair, and skin color and clothing worn
- Location and time last seen
- Names of parent/guardians and their camp location (if known)
- Relationship of reporting participant to child (if not a parent/guardian)
- Wait for Khaki to request info. Khaki will do so after contacting LE and Gate; in most cases the gate will be closed to outgoing traffic.
- Clearly and slowly transmit essential information to Khaki.
- Stay with the parents/guardians and stay available on the radio for Khaki.
- All other Rangers should keep the channel clear except for emergencies.
- All other Rangers should write down the info and look for the child.
- After the child has been located, Khaki will arrange for Rangers with the child to meet with Rangers with the parents, and with law enforcement.
- Rangers may not release a child without the okay of a Ranger Shift Lead and Law Enforcement on scene.
Rangers encountering a child who is unsure of where their parents or guardians are should call in the incident to Khaki as a “found child.” A found child is less urgent than a lost child, but is still a serious incident.
Not every unaccompanied minor in BRC is a found child. Examples of situations that require intervention: the unaccompanied child appears to be lost, frightened, confused, or around something inappropriate for minors (sexuality, alcohol, etc).
Examples of situations that do not generally require intervention: children in groups, children who appear happy and healthy, children moving with clear purpose, children engaged in structured activities. Use your best judgment, and always err on the side of making sure younger participants are having fun at Burning Man.
Try to gather the following information from the child:
- Names of parent/guardians
- Description of parent/guardian
- Name and location of their camp
- Location and time they last saw their parents
You can attempt to help the child find their parents, but be sure to check with Khaki before you do this.
When handling a found child episode, a Ranger must never be alone with the child. Make sure that the child is always with a pair of Rangers; if you don’t have a partner (are off-duty, separated from partner momentarily, etc.), enlist a nearby participant to hang out with you until you can get a Ranger partner.
You may encounter situations in which:
- A participant tells you that they are the victim of on-playa domestic violence
- A participant tells you that someone else is the victim of on-playa domestic violence
- You have reason to suspect that someone is the victim of on-playa domestic violence
Any of these are must-report situations.
The two defining characteristics of domestic violence are:
- Violence or force has been used, and
- A domestic relationship exists, or has existed in the past, between the parties
The definition of domestic relationship is very broad. Two people are in a domestic relationship if they:
- Are or were ever married, living together, sleeping together, or even dating, or
- If they are family, or
- Are or have ever been roommates.
You will likely need to gently ask some questions to determine the above..
If you suspect a domestic violence situation but are not able to make a positive determination, call Khaki and say that in plain English. Likely this means a Shift Lead or Troubleshooter will come to you to help you make a determination.
Once you have satisfied yourself that you are dealing with a domestic violence situation, then, after making sure that the scene and the victim are safe, you must follow these steps:
- Ask if anyone needs medical attention.
- Call Khaki and ask for a Domestic Violence or DV response at your location: “Khaki, I need domestic violence response at <location>”. If you believe that participants on scene might be freaked out by hearing you say “domestic violence,” you can call it in as a “Delta Victor” or “DV”. You must report a DV to Khaki whether or not the participant wants you to call it in.
- Request medical if needed.
- Ask if the victim is comfortable telling you about their assailant. If they are, begin gathering any information regarding the alleged perpetrator that the victim may have, such as their name (default and/or Playa), description (physical and clothing), current location, and camp location.
- Do not ask the victim to tell their story, as that can be traumatizing. If the victim *wants* to tell their story, listen and take notes.
If you are at the scene where the incident occurred, do not touch or disturb the scene.
- Khaki will activate the domestic violence protocol, which will result in a member of Shift Command, SAT (Survivor Advocacy Team), Law Enforcement, and medical (if requested) rolling to our location.
- Make sure the scene is safe and stay with the victim until all resources arrive and you are properly relieved. You may be asked to stay on scene to continue to provide support. Consider requesting Green Dot support for the friends or campmates of the victim.
Remember that ANY physical assault is a must-report situation, whether or not a domestic relationship exists.
For reporting purposes, Sexual Violence is any unwanted, forced, or coerced sexual act. It includes inappropriate sexual contact or fondling, acquaintance rape, date rape, stranger rape, child sexual abuse, and incest, whether or not there was penetration.
You may encounter situations in which:
- A participant informs you that they have been sexually violated,
- A participant reports that someone else has been sexually violated, or
- You have reason to suspect that someone has been sexually violated
Any of these are must-report situations. In such situations, after making sure the scene and victim are safe, you must follow these steps:
- Ask if anyone needs medical.
- Ask if the victim would like to speak with Law Enforcement.
- Let the victim know you would like to bring a member of the Survivor Advocacy Team (SAT) to the scene.
- Call Khaki and and request a Sexual Violence or SV response at your location: “Khaki, I need sexual violence response at <Location>”. If you’re not sure whether this was an SV, you can request advice or say “potential” sexual violence. If you believe that participants on scene might be freaked out by hearing you say “sexual violence” you can call it in as a “Sierra Victor” or “SV”.
- Request medical if needed, and Law Enforcement if the participant would like to speak to them.
- Do not ask the victim to tell their story, as that can be traumatizing. If the victim *wants* to tell their story, listen and take notes. If you are at the scene where the incident occurred, do not touch or disturb the scene.
- Khaki will activate the sexual violence protocol, which will result in a member of Shift Command and the Survivor Advocacy Team rolling to your location, as well as medical and Law Enforcement, if requested.
- Make sure the scene is safe and stay with the victim until all resources arrive and you are properly relieved. You may be asked to stay on scene to continue to provide support. Consider requesting Green Dot support for the friends or campmates of the victim.
Signs of potential sexual assault that you might encounter on playa could include signs of physical abuse (bruising, cuts, pains) or torn or missing clothing.
When caring for the victim, some tips:
- Be sensitive and use appropriate language.
- Be careful not to stigmatize the victim by speaking loudly or calling unnecessary attention to the victim in any way.
- Offer the victim a blanket or something to cover themselves to keep warm.
- Make no comments implying that the victim “asked for it” or is lying. Let the victim know that they are believed, that the assault was not their fault, and that they did not cause it to happen.
- Reassure the victim that only the perpetrator is to blame for an assault.
Any of these are situations you must report to khaki, whether or not the participant wants you to call it in.
Rangers who encounter participants having medical difficulties on playa should engage the participants and call Khaki to request medical response, or help the participant get to a medical station. Rangers do not provide medical care (regardless of their off-playa certifications), ESD does . Think of calling for medical as if you would call for 911 in the default world. If a participant can walk to a medical station (escorted or otherwise), they don’t need medical rolled. Use your judgment on whether or not to call it in. Medical emergencies are Must-Reports, but not all medical events are emergencies. As always, when in doubt, call it in.
If ESD is called, stay with the participant until ESD arrives and releases you and your partner from the scene. In any situation involving medical response, there are three points at which you should call Khaki:
- When you arrive and assess that medical is needed on scene.
- When medical arrives.
- When medical has released you and you are ready to continue your patrol.
Rangers must call ESD to the scene or help the participant get to a medical station if the injury is anything more serious than what might normally treated at home (band-aid, etc.).
Rangers may administer first aid until medical arrives at the scene, and will not terminate care, but will hand over care to medical. CPR and rescue breathing are considered first aid. So in an emergency situation, while waiting for a medical response team to arrive, you can provide these services if you’re trained to do so.
When calling Khaki to requesting medical, the focus of your radio call should be your location and nature and severity of complaint. This allows emergency services to send the right response at the right priority level.
Things you absolutely need to mention:
- Severe bleeding
- Difficult, uneven, or no breathing
If you don’t say any of these things, it will be assumed that the participant is conscious, breathing, and not bleeding heavily. ESD needs to know this in order to roll the right resource (i.e., golf cart or ambulance).
Use “I need X at Y for Z.”
“Khaki, Khaki, Bucket”
“Bucket, go for Khaki”
“I need medical at 7:00 & Golf for a leg injury with severe bleeding.”
“Copy, rolling medical to 7:00 and Golf for a leg injury with severe bleeding.”
Occasionally, the radio can get so busy, that you can’t get through. If this is the case, and if Khaki is not responding to you on Control 1, please switch to BRC 911 to request Medical directly from Black Rock, the ESD dispatcher.
After you make the call on BRC 911, remain on that channel until Medical arrives, and have your partner handle traffic on Control 1. Then let Black Rock know that you’re returning to Control 1, as per normal radio protocol.
Here’s how the conversation on BRC 911 would sound:
Bucket: “Black Rock, Black Rock, Ranger Bucket on 911.”
Black Rock: “Go ahead, Ranger Bucket.”
Bucket: “I need Medical at 4:20 and Bravo for a participant complaining of chest pain.”
Black Rock: “Copy, rolling medical to 4:20 and Bravo for a participant complaining of chest pain, Ranger Bucket on scene.”
Bucket: “Ranger Bucket clear, going back to Control 1.”
You MUST stay with the participant until help arrives and you are cleared from the scene by both ESD and by Khaki. At night, wave a flashlight in a circle to help ESD find you. Inform Khaki when ESD arrives on scene. Medical personnel may request that Rangers on scene provide a perimeter to keep onlookers at a distance while they work. Stand so that you can easily see the crowd, the medics, the patient, and your partner. Recruit participants to help you with your perimeter: two Rangers is a weak perimeter, but two Rangers plus five participants is a strong one.
Be mindful of the environment around you. Make sure that the same thing that injured the participant doesn’t injure you, and that well-meaning participants don’t make the situation worse. Describe what is happening in terms of symptoms (dry skin, lowered level of consciousness, burns) rather than making diagnoses (dehydration).
Other Situations You’ll Encounter
Oh, the places you will go! You will come upon many different situations as you wander Black Rock City as a Ranger. The following pages describe some of them, and in some cases, describe specific Ranger Protocols which MUST be followed. In other ;situations this section offers guidelines for how to handle them. Please remember the guidelines are, for the most part, only guidelines: we cannot give you a cookbook or flowchart on how to handle every situation. Rather, we expect Rangers to use their creativity and best judgment in any given situation. Moreover, two different Rangers might handle the same situation differently, and that’s a good thing: our diversity is our strength.
Blocked Streets and Intersections
All streets in Black Rock City are fire lanes and need to be clear at all times for emergency vehicles. Vehicles and piles of bicycles blocking the street need to be moved. This has been a particular problem with some of the larger theme camps and sound camps, where participants often drop their bikes in the street outside before entering. It is the responsibility of participants to stow their bikes appropriately, and of theme camps to ensure that the streets outside their camps are clear. If you come upon a street blocked with bicycles, Ranger the situation to determine how best to proceed. In most cases, education of participants is all that is needed. In the case of theme camps, also politely educate the theme camp leaders about their responsibility to keep the streets clear. If the theme camp has a sound system, getting the DJ or camp mayor to use it to request participants to clear the street is a great strategy.
Vehicles blocking streets may be subject to towing (see section on Captain Hook).
When dealing with blockages, always call the Operators and ask them to log the incident, so we can track repeat offenders.
Breakdowns and Lockouts
We are often asked by participants to assist with broken down vehicles (e.g., flat tires, jump starts) and lockouts. Generally speaking, Rangers don’t provide these services. Instead, encourage the participant to get assistance from their community or use the radio to request assistance for the participant on the Lockout/Tow channel on the Ranger bank. Since a response may take some time, we may be able to make an exception if it’s an emergency (e.g., if a participant has locked critical medications in the car). In such situations, call Khaki and explain what’s going on.
In the unlikely event of a really big bad thing (e.g. unplanned explosion or large fire, massive earthquake, plane crash), we’d like off-duty Rangers to go to the nearest Ranger facility (HQ, Tokyo, or Berlin) to check in. This is both to let us know you’re OK, and also to find out if the Rangers have any extra staffing needs. Obviously, if you’re on duty when the big and bad thing happens, Khaki will tell you what to do.
Distressed and Disoriented Participants
One of the most powerful things you can do for someone in a crisis is to let them know they are not alone. Your compassionate and attentive presence can make a world of difference to someone in emotional pain. This is just like what we do in “normal Rangering” except that we may have to do more of it with a disoriented or distressed participant. Through your Ranger skills, determine if the participant is in an okay place, or if you can get them to one. Are they in a safe place with folks who can take care of them? Are they bothering anybody? Do they have a support system back at their camp? Finding out the answers to these questions will likely present you with the best resolution for the participant.
One thing that is really useful to do when dealing with the severely distressed is “holding space.” Holding space for someone just means:
- Being with them—and making it clear that you want to be there
- Creating a safe space for them
- Not judging them
- Allowing them to have whatever experience they are going to have
Another important concept is “being grounded.” Participants in crisis often reach out to anything they see as “solid” in order to reorient themselves in the world. By being attentive, calm, genuine, and present, you become that person’s solid object or anchor, which is all that many people in emotional crisis need. Be patient. All of this listening and holding space and being grounded will take time. These calls often necessitate spending more time than you might normally expect to. Let Khaki know if it looks like you’re going to be dealing with a situation for more than 30 minutes or so. Remember that someone who is distressed or disoriented might not perceive reality or boundaries the way that most people do. Be friendly and kind but aware.
Sometimes these situations present an opportunity to slowly work through your Ranger skills. When dealing with these participants, use the Ranger skills. Finding out and Listening become incredibly important.
Here are a few things that are particularly important to find out:
- What is causing the participant’s distress?
- Is it emotional? Drugs or alcohol? Psychological issues? Something medical?
- If they are coherent, ask them if they have any underlying medical conditions or if they are taking any prescription meds.
- Maybe ask if they are actually taking the meds they are prescribed.
- If they’ve taken recreational drugs, try to find out what kind, when, and how much.
- There may be any number of underlying causes for situations like this
- Emotional distress
- Mind-altering substances
- Underlying psychological issues (e.g., schizophrenia, depression)
- Someone who is off their prescription medication
- Underlying medical issues (e.g., diabetes, dehydration)
If you don’t feel safe, or if after trying, you don’t feel like you are able to handle the situation, we have your back. Get on the radio and tell Khaki that you would like Green Dot support at your location.
Green Dot Rangers may give you some advice, work with the participant at your location, or walk them back to a dome behind Ranger HQ called Sanctuary that provides a quiet space to distressed and disoriented participants.
If the situation seems to be related to a medical or mental health issue (e.g. someone has decided to stop taking their medications), the emergency services department is there to support you.
- Call Khaki and request medical. If it’s a non-emergency, and you just want to consult with medical, you can request a medical consult.
- State the nature and the severity of the situation. If the participant is unconscious, bleeding heavily, or having difficulty breathing, make sure to mention this.
- Don’t say “drugs” over the radio. Use “disoriented.”
- Remember, if it’s an emergency and you can’t remember the right words, just say it like it is.
Only registered drones may fly during the event. Permitted drones will have a bright tag on the drone, on the controller, and on the operator’s person. If you see a drone operating in what you believe is an unsafe or unapproved way, start by contacting the operator. Permitted operators should have an approved safety and operations plan and should be able to explain it to you.
If you encounter a drone operating in an unsafe manner, report it to Khaki. If you encounter a drone flying without a permit, educate the participant about this year’s drone protocols and do your best to convince them to put the drone away for the rest of the event. If they aren’t cooperative, report it to Khaki
If you have a safety-related interaction with a drone operator or interact with an unpermitted drone operator, call it in to Khaki so that we can note it in the Incident Management System. Permit numbers, operator names, and location and nature of the incident or concern are all useful information to collect.
It’s important to report drone-related Ranger interactions to Khaki, so that we can gather data as we respond to and refine our policies around these important safety issues.
Occasionally, a situation arises in which participants are removed from the event. This occurs only when a participant acts in a way that directly contradicts or blatantly disregards the community standards. An eviction is a last resort and is not undertaken lightly.
Dirt Rangers should never threaten a participant with eviction. In the event of extraordinary or ongoing violations or blatant disregard of community standards, Khaki should be notified.
Khaki may mobilize a special team of Rangers called “007s,” who are the only group in Black Rock City empowered to evict participants. (Evictions of staff members, vendors, or volunteers go through separate processes involving their own department managers.)
Some examples of such situations in the past have included repeated instances of vending, or participants repeatedly losing their children. There have been instances of individuals and groups attending the event with the sole purpose of trying to see how long they can act against the community standards before getting evicted.
Once Khaki is notified, the Ranger Shift Command Team will work with the Rangers on scene to re-evaluate the situation. If the RSC team decides that all normal mediation efforts have been exhausted and the situation may require that a participant be evicted, two 007s will be called to FLAME the situation.
007s being called does not mean that an eviction is in progress. When 007s arrive on a scene, they FLAME the situation with a fresh perspective. Should the 007 team be unable to craft any other workable solution to the issue and they both agree that the only (or best) solution is eviction from Black Rock City, the participant will be evicted.
We field a surprising number of “found animal” calls every year, and we have specific staff resources to deal with them. Please note that not all animals need rescuing: there are a number of critters native to the playa, and flying animals (e.g., birds and bats), unless they are in distress, are quite capable of relocating themselves. There are also some animals belonging to staff that have specific authorization to be on playa. Animals that have been captured by participants can be taken to HQ if they are in a secured container. If you are not currently vaccinated for rabies (and you would not usually be, unless you are a veterinarian or an animal researcher), do not handle any wild mammals. Found animals should be called in to Khaki before taking any action.
Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Spectrum
By using problematic language you hurt real people and allow others to think it’s ok. That’s what keeps the cycle of violence going. Terms like tranny, she-male, he-she, it, trap, hermaphrodite, T-girl, and boi are generally derogatory or imply that someone isn’t “real.” That includes prefixes like real, bio, genetic, natural, or bornwoman/man. Don’t use them.
Be an Active Bystander: When you hear others saying things in hurtful ways, making a joke, snickering, or fetishizing trans people, start a conversation. Share what you know and how it affects you and people who matter to you. Let others know you don’t want to live in a world that makes it ok to demean groups of people. Share options about other language to use.
Names: The name a trans person gives you IS their real name. Questioning it takes away a person’s agency and buys into the myth that trans* people are deceptive. Some people don’t want to be called Jimmy if their name is James. Give everyone that same courtesy.
Pronouns: They replaces a person’s name when talking in the third-person. You have pronouns too, we all do! You might prefer cake to pie, but a person’s pronouns are not up for debate. Even if they are new to you. Even if you were taught different grammar rules. While pronouns imply something about gender, they don’t declare someone’s gender identity. Introduce yourself with your name and your own pronouns. This makes it safe for others to do the same. Someone’s pronouns might be different than what you assume, so it’s best to ask, “What pronouns should I use for you?” Then use that pronoun and encourage others to do the same if you have permission.
Outing: Trans people have lost homes and jobs, friends and family, and have been assaulted and murdered when others revealed their trans status. Remind others who ask or gossip about a person they know or think is trans. Get permission before sharing information about a trans person. Just because they trusted you does NOT mean they want to disclose their identity, name, pronouns, medical choices, etc. to anyone else.
Sexual Orientation: Being gay doesn’t mean you’re trans and being trans doesn’t mean you’re gay. Sexual orientation is about who we’re attracted to. Gender identity is how we see ourselves. Trans people can identify as gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, queer, etc. just like cisgender people.
What if I make a mistake? Apologize briefly, correct yourself, and move on. Then remember it for next time. You might need to slow down while you talk so that you think first. You might also try practicing talking about a person in your head or out loud when you’re alone.
Starting with the 2015 event, personal hand-held lasers are not allowed in Black Rock City. If you encounter a participant with a hand-held laser, engage the participant in a conversation. Education is key here: let them know about the policy, and WHY we have that policy. Get them to agree to put it away and not use it anymore. Do not confiscate lasers. If they refuse, or you have doubts about their sincerity, contact Khaki.
Lasers mounted on art cars or at camps are still allowed, and will have been inspected by the Safety Team. If you have concerns about a mounted laser, by all means engage the operators in conversation. If you still have concerns, you can contact Khaki and ask for a representative of the Event Safety Team to come to your location.
Please call in any laser-related interactions to Khaki (or provide notes to the Operators on the interaction after your shift) so that we can note it in the Incident Management System.
The Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) and other agencies you may encounter in Black Rock City wear various uniforms. Some may be undercover and do not wear uniforms. The Burning Man Project and the Black Rock Rangers have historically had a good working relationship with law enforcement on the playa.
The agencies you are most likely to encounter during the event are:
- Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
- Pershing County Sheriffs (PCSO) and law enforcement personnel from other counties under contract with Pershing County. These should all identify as PCSO officers.
We may also interact with:
- Nevada Highway Patrol (not active in BRC, but active on the highway)
- Washoe County Sheriffs (not active in BRC, but active in Gerlach)
- Nevada State Health Department (enforces food safety issues)
Law enforcement often defers to the Rangers to handle situations on playa that they might otherwise handle themselves, due to the relationship that Rangers and LE have developed over the years. To maintain this relationship and allow us to manage aspects of our event as we feel appropriate, we need to keep our relationships and interactions with LE positive and constructive. Thus, when you encounter LEOs in Black Rock City, always greet them in a friendly manner. Make them feel that interacting with a Black Rock Ranger is a positive experience. If we treat them as welcome guests, they will, in turn, be much more likely to treat us as a resource they can rely upon.
If you have concerns about an interaction between LE and participants, do not approach any officer(s) on scene. Instead, call Khaki and request advice. Depending on the situation, Khaki may call in LEAL (Law Enforcement Agency Liaisons) Team members, Shift Leads, OODs (Officers of the Day, who oversee 24 hours of operations), or the Ranger Operations Manager (who oversees all Ranger operations).
If you witness a LEO drawing a firearm, report it to Khaki immediately and take no other action.
Any Ranger who encounters a situation where a law enforcement presence would be helpful should call Khaki and request LE at their location.
The Law Enforcement Agency Liaison (LEAL) team (aka “Zebras”) is the Ranger team that provides response and support for any situation that has law enforcement implications. They are experienced Rangers who are on duty 24/7, have specially marked vehicles, and are ready to interface with Law Enforcement at any time.
If you see LE on scene with participants, do not approach. They are trained to keep a scene under control and treat anyone approaching as a potential threat. Stay away from the scene, and if they need your assistance, they will approach you. If LE has requested your assistance as a Ranger, notify Khaki; after the situation is clear report your status back to Khaki and you may be contacted by a member of the LEAL team for a quick debrief.
If you believe you have information that could be useful, or if you feel there is something about the situation that triggers your “Spidey Sense” (i.e., something doesn’t seem quite right), call Khaki and report the situation. Do not request LEAL directly, just report what you see or advise that there is a LE situation that you have information regarding and suggest that either Khaki or LEAL response would be helpful.
If you believe that you are about to have a negative interaction with LE, politely excuse yourself from the scene and report your concerns to Khaki immediately. Do not try to “take on” LE, even if you feel they may not be observing protocol or law.
During the event, the Rangers need as much positive and negative information regarding interactions with LE as we can get. Make sure your Shift Lead or OOD has any pertinent information during your shift, or fill out a Law Enforcement Feedback form yourself at any of the ROC kiosks. You can also pick one up at Ranger HQ or at any outpost during the event.
Lost and Found Items
Rangers do not deal with lost property. Any inquiries about lost keys, cameras, or other items except bicycles should be directed to Playa Info.
- Most categories of lost items can be self-searched by participants 24/7 on the computer terminals.
- There is a secure night drop which can be used any time.
- Playa Info does have Embassy contact information in case of a lost/missing passport.
- Individuals who have misplaced necessary medicines should be directed to the medical tent.
Participants with found items should be directed to Playa Info, except for bicycles which should remain (or be returned to) where found.
All found items should be taken to Playa Info, including medications and passports. Generally, medications or passports are contained in something; a backpack, fanny pack, or bag of some type. The person who lost the item will come to Playa Info looking for the item their stuff was in. Participants are asked to identify the contents of the pack. It would be very difficult to identify who the pack belongs to if important items like medications or passports are removed and stored at HQ.
Media and Cameras
You can’t help but see cameras everywhere on the playa, from cellphones and point-and-shoots to expensive and sophisticated digital recording equipment. Burning Man has separate standards for Personal Use Media and Professional Use Media. Participants engaging in Professional Use Media must apply as Professional Use Media for the Burning Man event and are expected to register with the Media Mecca in Center Camp. The registration process is designed to protect the privacy and other rights of participants and to prevent commercial exploitation of Burning Man
Whether the participants are engaging in Personal or Professional Use, the photographer is responsible for respecting the participants they wish to record and seeking their permission before photographing or filming them. If a photographer is asked to stop filming, they must do so immediately. Photographers have the responsibility not to interfere with the immediate experience of other participants.
Rangers may receive reports from worried participants that an adult campmate has gone missing or “didn’t come home last night.” While this may be upsetting to the participant, adults are not considered lost in Black Rock City and Rangers will not search for missing adult camp mates. Search and Rescue missions are only conducted in the outlying desert by the BLM and other public agencies.
If a participant reports that a missing adult camp mate has seriously diminished mental capacity (e.g., Alzheimer’s) or suffers from a condition that would result in serious harm if they do not return to camp, report this information to Khaki. Khaki may decide to make an announcement to Rangers on shift requesting them to keep an eye out for this person during the normal course of their shift.
Shockingly, Burning Man can be noisy. Loud music is a common source of friction between camps. To minimize this, Burning Man has some policies regarding amplified music in camps:
- Maximum amplified sound power of 300 watts
- Sound must be less than 90 dBa when measured at 20 feet
- Speakers must be elevated off the playa
- Speakers must be backed by truck, RV, or large, solid object to reduce sound going backwards
Mutant Vehicles are subject to similar standards. All vehicles must be mindful of their volume and surroundings, especially in quieter areas of the city or later at night.
Mutant vehicle sound systems can be classified into three levels:
Level 1: Normal car stereo / average living room (under 90dB at 30 ft)
Vehicles with Level One systems may play anywhere on the playa, but the operators will be told by to be mindful of their volume and surroundings, especially in quieter areas in the city or later at night.
Level 2: Dance Club or Theatre (90dB and up at under 100ft)
Vehicles with Level Two systems may only play at high volume on the open playa (not in or pointing right into the city streets) and must be mindful of where they are playing—e.g., around art pieces, burns, etc. — and turn it down when appropriate.
Level 3: Large Dance Club, Arena, Stadium (100dB or more at 100ft or more)
Vehicles with Level Three systems may only play at high volume at 10:00 and 2:00 by the Large Scale Sound Camps, with speakers pointing out to the deep playa.
The important thing here is the impact of the sound itself. The numbers (dB) are guidelines: the important thing is the impact the sound is having.
If a Mutant Vehicle gets more than two warnings about its sound system, it can lose its DMV license and the right to drive it for the rest of the event. Please write down the DMV tag number and call it in to Khaki so we can track it.
Rangers will not (generally) be measuring the sound with dB meters, nor will we be waiting for someone to make a complaint. If you encounter a mutant vehicle and the sound seems to be too loud for the circumstances, you should engage the operators in a conversation. If a Mutant Vehicle is playing sound near an art piece and it sounds pretty loud, go talk to the artist and ask if the sound is a problem. In other words, Ranger it! You should call this in to Khaki (along with the DMV number).
Rangers strive to mediate sound conflicts to avoid extreme outcomes. As with mediating any dispute, compromise is usually required from both parties.
Rangers may need to educate sound camps and vehicles about amplified sound policies and being good neighbors, and they may also need to educate the complaining camp(s) about the fact that Burning Man is a noisy place.
Rangers should avoid coming across as the “noise police.” Some Rangers have been known to carry spare earplugs to gift to participants so that they can solve their own noise issues without conflict with the neighbors.
If you have reason to believe that a noisy camp has turned down its sound system in your presence but is likely to turn it up again after you leave, call Khaki and report the situation; this will allow the Ranger Shift Command team to keep track of problematic camps.
Differences, Disagreements, and Disputes
Burning Man is intense. Tempers often flare. Some of the most common situations you will find yourself Rangering are arguments, disputes, even fights among camp mates or between camps. In some sense this is the classic Ranger scenario, the bread and butter of what we do. Please see the Conflict, Mediation, and Conflict Resolution Strategies section for more info.
Property Issues: Theft and Theft Prevention
Our primary responsibility is to people, not property. Private property is the responsibility of its owner/artists. Rangers do not guard works of art, and recognize that the quality of art may increase or decrease with interaction of, and modification by, participants. The definition of art is very broad within Black Rock City.
Participants should be aware, by reading the Burning Man Survival Guide, of the potential for property theft from vehicles and campsites. Participants should secure their campsites and valuable items before leaving the area.
Reporting theft directly to law enforcement is the best option available to participants, and participants may visit the Law Enforcement Substation trailer (next door to Rampart) to make such a report. Significant property thefts reported by participants should be reported by radio to Khaki; examples might include stolen vehicles, art projects, art cars, or incidents in which Rangers have eyes on the alleged thief.
Encourage people to get to know their neighbors and look out for each other, this is the best way to prevent property crime. Be on the lookout for individuals or small groups who don’t interact with the participants, those who just stand back and observe. As a Ranger, you can be a goodwill ambassador and introduce yourself.
People who don’t feel involved also don’t feel responsible; point out to participants that they are the people most likely to be aware of and present for incidents in their neighborhood. The time of highest risk for theft is Saturday night through Monday morning. On Sunday and Monday, when people are packing and leaving, be particularly alert for suspicious activity.
Encourage people to get to know their neighbors and look out for each other. This is the best way to prevent property crime.
All Rangers should watch for vehicles operating unsafely in Black Rock City and attempt to Ranger such situations. While we have a special team, Intercept, which is focused on vehicle safety in the inner playa, all Rangers are expected to address vehicle concerns within our bike- & pedestrian-focused city. Intercept is available to assist if needed for vehicles on the inner playa between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Our most common vehicle safety interactions generally involve speeding vehicles and those driving out of place (e.g., driving on the Esplanade or open playa). Use your best judgment in determining whether a vehicle is posing a safety hazard. The guidelines, as published by the Department of Mutant Vehicles, are:
- Only drive vehicles licensed or allowed to drive in Black Rock City
- Abide by all applicable federal and Nevada state laws, including all open container laws (no open containers within reach of the driver)
- Drive at a speed of 5 mph or less (less if kicking up dust, or in hazardous situations such as tight crowds)
- Give the right of way to pedestrians, bicycles, and emergency services vehicles
- Follow the reasonable and applicable vehicle laws for road safety
- Stop immediately upon being hailed by any BRC Staff member, Black Rock Ranger, or law enforcement officer
- No driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- No driving on pedestrian-designated streets, such as A or Esplanade (see your map for details)
- No driving during whiteouts
- No driving on wet or freshly-watered roads
- Any additional guidelines set forth by Burning Man
- Obey sound policies
- In addition to adhering to the driving rules indicated above, Mutant Vehicles must:
- Create a clear field of vision for the operator, including rear and side mirrors
- Have ground guides (walkers) if the vehicle is large, has a limited field of vision or is dangerous to pedestrians
- Have a safe access area and procedures for loading and unloading passengers
- Clearly display the Mutant Vehicle license in a location specified by the DMV
Vehicle Education and Escalation
Vehicle interactions typically go through a three-step process of escalation:
- Educate: Advise operators on the guidelines for safe operation and explain the importance of maintaining community safety.
- Escort: For repeat offenders or bad excuses, escort to the DMV for a sticker or back to camp for the night.
- Eject: Repeat offenders or serious violations of safety guidelines can earn a vehicle a trip to “Long-Term Parking” outside the city gates, where it can safely stay for the rest of the event.
Rangers do not chase vehicles. Instead, radio other Rangers with the location and trajectory of the vehicle to see if anyone else is ahead of it, or just yell ahead to participants to get them to stop the vehicle.
Remember that nobody likes to be pulled over. To maintain our social capital, try to be polite and good-humored when dealing with vehicles operating unsafely. Emphasize education and assume good intentions; the participant may be a noob and not be aware of the rules, or may simply have gotten distracted by something shiny.
The Department of Mutant Vehicles (DMV) issues stickers to vehicles which permit them to operate on the playa. These are examples of some types of stickers from past years.
DAY: permits Mutant Vehicles to operate during daylight hours only
NIGHT: permits Mutant Vehicles to operate during night hours only
Some vehicles may have both of these and are permitted to operate both day and night. Additionally, Mutant Vehicles may have other designations:
PLAYA: (written on Day or Night sticker) permits open playa driving only, no operation on the streets of the city
FLAME EFFECTS: (an additional sticker attached to Day or Night sticker) permitted to operate flame effects
TRAILER: “T” in addition to a number on EVERY trailer; all trailers need a separate license
STAFF: For staff vehicles
DISABLED: Person holding disabled registration does not have to be driving the vehicle but must be in the vehicle when it’s being driven
ART SUPPORT: The Artery issues paper permits to artists so they may service their art. These are designated either by days of the week or for all week operation. Artists are only permitted to drive to and from art installations, no joy-riding.
VENDOR: Permitted vendor vehicles are marked with a number in the upper corner of the windshield and on the back of the vehicle.
RANGER AND ESD VEHICLES WITH LOGOS: A staff vehicle displaying RANGER or ESD logo does not need an additional staff sticker to drive at the event, but should only be used for official business and should obey all BRC driving rules.
GOVERNMENT AGENCY VEHICLES WITH LOGOS: Vehicles from government agencies (including law enforcement agencies, BLM, Nevada Health Department, and others) also do not need an additional staff sticker to drive at the event. While we hope and expect such vehicles to abide by BRC driving rules, Rangers should not interfere with law enforcement vehicles. Instances of unsafe driving by such vehicles should be reported to Khaki.
Copies of this year’s stickers are posted at Ranger HQ for your familiarization and reference.
Self-Care and Responder Trauma
As a Ranger, you will see a side of Black Rock City that you never knew existed. Some of it is really cool, and some of it is very ugly. Mostly, we do nothing. Often, we do something. Rarely, we do very, very intense things. For example, we might deal with, injury, sexual assaults, violence, even death.
Mostly, that’s not a problem for the Rangers involved; sometimes, it can have unpleasant psychological effects. Having a very strong response to intensely stressful situations is common in people who deal with emergencies (EMTs, firefighters, ER docs, etc.) This is called “responder trauma.”
Be aware of the warning signs of a traumatic response:
- Intrusive, vivid memories of the situation (“flashbacks”)
- Nightmares about the situation
- Avoiding things/places/people that remind you of the situation
- Inability to remember important aspects of the situation
- Unexplained anxiety, irritability, or anger
- Being easily startled, or having trouble calming down after being startled
- “Fight-or-flight” response that doesn’t go away: sweating, shaking, nausea, increased heart rate
Responder trauma symptoms may be immediate, or you may only notice them after a few days or weeks.
What do you do if you’re noticing these signs or symptoms?
- Practice self-care: eat, sleep, exercise, meditate, have a beer, whatever works for you.
- Talk it out (partner, friends, Rangers, Green Dots).
If it’s not resolving, contact the OOD or one of the Personnel Managers, or request assistance directly from ESD. If you need help after the event, contact the Personnel Manager (Flint). There is no stigma attached to responder trauma in the Rangers: you will not get in trouble, and no one will think less of you as a result of talking about what happened. Intense situations are rare, and even very intense situations do not usually result in responder trauma. Most traumatic responses resolve on their own with time. However, if it’s not getting better, there are simple, effective counseling interventions that can help. If things get weird, we’re here for you.
Where Are the Porta Potties?
The above notwithstanding, the reality is that life as an on-duty Ranger is often pretty mundane. You will do an awful lot of walking or bicycling around Black Rock City, meeting and greeting colorful characters, checking out fabulous and not-so-fabulous artwork, and answering lots of questions—the most common of which will be: “Where are the porta-potties?”
Enjoy this time! Give a hand to folks who need help setting up camp. Feel free to ask if you can join participants and borrow some of their shade. This is a huge part of our job as Rangers, functioning both as Ranger ambassadors as well as the eyes and ears of the community. (And, for the record: Porta-potties are located on every radial street between C & D and between H & I. The exceptions to this are 6:00, which has banks at E, as well as between G & H and J & K, and 3:00 & 9:00, with banks at D. There are also banks on the open playa on either side of the Man and along 2:00 and 10:00, and in the DMZ