Ranger Shift Structure and Expectations

Ranger Shift Structure

Rangers patrol Black Rock City 24 hours a day, during, before, and after the event. A Ranger’s day is organized into four six-hour shifts:

  • Grave: 00:00-06:00
  • Morning: 06:00-12:00
  • Afternoon: 12:00-18:00
  • Swing: 18:00-00:00

Graveyard and morning shifts are often hard to fill, while afternoon and swing shifts fill up easily. Also, shifts later in the week tend to be harder to fill than shifts earlier in the week. If you can work a graveyard or morning shift, or shifts later in the week, please do so.

Signing Up for Shifts

Returning Rangers should sign up for shifts in the Ranger Secret Clubhouse scheduling system. Ideally, your schedule should be finalized before you hit the playa. If you need to adjust your schedule or want to add some more shifts, you can do this on playa at the HQ window, at the ROC kiosks, or via the Clubhouse if you have internet access. Please do any schedule adjustments at least an hour before your shift begins. Note that some shifts may already be filled, in which case you will be asked to choose other times when we have a greater need for your assistance.

Alphas cannot sign up for regular dirt shifts until they have passed their Alpha shift, which means they will need to sign up for such shifts at the HQ window while on playa.

Upon arrival in Black Rock City, set up your camp, get acclimated, meet your neighbors, relax— you have probably been traveling for some time. Do not sign up for a shift two hours after your expected arrival, as this may result in added pressure on the road or upon your arrival.

Once situated, check in at the Ranger HQ in Center Camp. Check the information boards at Ranger HQ at least once a day, even if you are not working a shift. Ranger meetings may be scheduled as needed during the event and will be posted at HQ. Schedules for daily shifts are posted at Ranger HQ, along with any changes in protocols or procedures.

Once you have signed up for a shift, keep your commitment. You must be sober, well-rested, and have your food, water, and clothing needs for your shift met or planned for before checking in for your shift. Including check-in and check-out time, Ranger shifts are generally 6 1/2 hours long. Show up at HQ at least 20 minutes before the scheduled start of your shift to check in, get a radio, find a partner, and attend the shift briefing.  You should also expect to stay in the dirt 15-30 minutes after the shift is over while the next shift is briefed and sent out.

Who’s Khaki?

Khaki is the collective radio call sign of the Ranger Shift Command Team (the on-duty Ranger Shift Leads). There are usually between two and eight Shift Leads on at any given time, so expect to hear a number of voices answering to that call sign. The Ranger Shift Command for any given shift can be found at the ROC (Ranger Operations Center) behind HQ. Khaki will generally be available after the end of the shift if you would like to debrief. This is a great practice to get into, and a great time to ask questions and get advice.

Almost all operational radio traffic will be between you and Khaki. If you need something while on patrol, call Khaki on the radio. If Khaki needs something from you, Khaki will call you on the radio.

Cruise Direction

At the beginning of every shift one or two of the Shift Leads performs a process called Cruise Direction. This is where Rangers are paired, assigned a section of the city, and sent out on patrol.

Rangers always patrol in pairs, never alone. Your safety and your partner’s safety are always your top priority. Use your time at HQ before shift to meet somebody new and partner with them for your shift. Partnering isn’t a necessary step — Khaki will make sure all Rangers are partnered as part of cruise direction, and sometimes you may end up with a new partner in the moment—it’s Burning Man, anything can happen.

It’s very helpful to Khaki to have Rangers bring bikes on shift, so that they can respond to situations more quickly. During cruise direction, we will generally ask bike-mobile Rangers pair with other bike-mobile Rangers and foot-mobile with foot mobile.

Rangers are especially encouraged to walk a shift with a Ranger you don’t know. Remember from the training, our diversity is one of our strengths, so take advantage of the opportunity to make a new Ranger buddy and learn.

Each Shift Lead performs Cruise Direction in a slightly different manner. Typically it begins with a short shift briefing, in which Khaki introducing the other on-duty Shift Leads (Khakis), Troubleshooters, and Green Dot Leads, and lets the Rangers know about any ongoing issues of which they need to be aware. Khaki sometimes has special projects and coverage needs, which will be assigned during Cruise Direction.

Cruise Direction is usually very fast-paced, so it’s important to pay attention and take notes as necessary. The goal is to get the oncoming shift partnered, prepared, and out on patrol, and to get the previous shift back to HQ as quickly and efficiently as possible, with minimal interruption in the coverage Black Rock City. Other goals include ongoing mentoring of less-experienced Rangers, so often 1-3 year Rangers are paired with more experienced Rangers. It’s best to stay flexible during this process. Just because you start doing one thing in Black Rock City doesn’t necessarily mean, you’ll be there at the end.

When you and your partner are assigned to a particular area, please don’t “re-assign” yourself or chase calls that are outside of your designated area of the city. If you feel that you may be more valuable in another area, state your concerns to Khaki and understand that they may need you to stay where you are.

Zoned and Unzoned Shifts

Usually, one shift lead team will manage the entire city. On particularly busy shifts, Khaki may need to split the city into two or more sections in order to handle radio traffic and command functions effectively.

If that happens, Khaki will provide details at the shift briefing and might ask some Ranger pairs to switch to a different radio channel for the duration of shift.

Shift Summary and Responsibilities

When on shift, you are not off-duty until released by Khaki. Circumstances may dictate that you remain on shift for a short period beyond a scheduled shift change.  At the end of your shift, Khaki will call all Rangers back to HQ to check out. This is a chance to debrief with other shift Rangers and with Khaki, check out of your shift at the HQ window, and get a meal pog.

Khaki will be available post-shift, if you need to debrief, ask questions, or just say “hi”.

Incident Reports

If you had a particularly gnarly event happen on shift, or if you’ve encountered a situation that you think might come up again, please submit an incident report. This can be as simple as a sheet of notepad paper that you hand to the Operators, or a typed report at the IMS kiosk at the ROC.

Good incident reports should include the “Big Picture“ elements such as:

    • Background, what lead up to the incident?
    • What happened
    • Real and playa names of participants and staff involved
    • Where and what time did this happen?
    • What actions you and others took
    • Where things were left (e.g., if promises were made to check in on the camp in 24 hours or any arrangements or agreements made)
    • Descriptions of individuals involved, if relevant (e.g. assailants)
    • License plate or mutant vehicle tag numbers, if relevant
    • Law enforcement officer names and vehicle numbers, if relevant

Your report should be succinct and cover the relevant facts. Stay factual and avoid assumptions and speculations.

    • Write as you normally speak, do not use fancy words or language
    • Whenever possible, write the report in chronological order. A timeline is helpful for longer incidents: “At 10:07 we arrived at scene. At 10:45 LE arrived.”
    • Imagine the parties involved looking over your shoulder.  How would they react to what you wrote?
    • Consider what you write to be part of a legal doc / evidence trail – because it is!

If you need help, ask your partner, an Operator, Troubleshooter, RSCI, Shift Lead, or OOD to help you!

Leaving shift early or extending a shift:
Occasionally, from illness, physical exhaustion, or other causes you may need to go off duty during a shift. If you need to go off duty before your shift time has ended, contact Khaki.

If you have completed your shift and still have the Art of Rangering flowing through your heart, you may volunteer to stay on duty. If you do, your extra level of commitment is appreciated. Tell the Shift Lead your specific time commitment so they can plan accordingly, and be sure to let Khaki know when you have gone off shift.

Things you might do on shift:

    • Mobilize medical, law enforcement, fire response, or other life-safety services.
    • Assist participants in acclimating to the Black Rock City environment and community.
    • Help out agitated and disoriented participants.
    • Mediate situations and/or disputes between participants.
    • Address and report any instances of non-consensual physical or sexual assault.
    • Prevent vehicles from endangering pedestrians, bicyclists and campsites.
    • Keep roads clear for pedestrians, bicycles and emergency vehicles.
    • Inform participants of potentially hazardous weather situations.
    • Observe interactions between participants and outside agencies.
    • Maintain safety perimeters and scene control as needed.
    • Provide other non-confrontational mediation and safety activities as needed.

We’ll talk about some of these in the “Situations You’ll Encounter” section later.


While on patrol, meet and greet your fellow participants. This is important. It will not only melt away the walls of “us and them,” allowing a greater sense of community, but will also allow you to get a better sense of city dynamics and potential problem areas. If a problem occurs in your patrol area, you may have already developed a relationship with the citizens involved or their neighbors. Keep in mind that every interaction is a chance to improve our social capital and educate participants about what Rangers do and why we do it.

As you move through the city, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, pay attention and follow up. If you think that an intervention may be necessary but are not sure, contact Khaki. Remember, always err on the side of safety—yours and the participants’.

Sometimes, Khaki will dispatch an experienced specially trained Ranger called a “Troubleshooter” to check in with you. Troubleshooters may either provide advice on how to handle a situation or, if the situation warrants it, may assume command of the scene. If a Troubleshooter is dispatched, you or your partner should brief the Troubleshooter on the situation so far, and follow the Troubleshooter’s instructions.

If you think you made a mistake, telling Khaki about it as soon as you realize will go a long way toward making it right. A mistake you report is a learning opportunity for all of us; a mistake we find out about through other channels is a problem for all of us.

Developing awareness

In approaching any situation, a Ranger’s initial default action is DO NOTHING (which is an active process in which you evaluate scene safety, whether the situation requires a response, and if so, what the response should be). If you decide that your presence would be helpful, engage by helping participants solve their own problems. If they are unable to do so, try to solve the problem for them. If the situation still needs attention, call Khaki.

Attempt to get the big picture: an awareness of the situation dynamics, safety issues, resources you have vs resources you need, and what the situation might need from you. Work with your partner to develop a mental overview of where the other teams assigned to your area are and what they are involved in, adjusting your patrol pattern for maximum area coverage.

Awareness also applies to your partner and to radio traffic. Do not lose sight of your partner during your shift (with the obvious exception of using the “blue room” facilities), and always pay attention to radio traffic (including your partner’s name). Practice listening to the radio while being aware of the city at the same time.

Ranger Uniform

In a city where clothing and costuming explodes with color and variety, the tan colored Ranger uniform stands out by blending with the playa. New Rangers will be issued a wide-brim hat, a khaki shirt with Ranger insignia, and a Burning Man ID (BMID) laminate upon passing their Alpha shift. These clothing elements, along with your shift radio, make up the Ranger uniform which serves to identify you to the citizens of Black Rock City as a Ranger resource. Rangers must be in uniform (hat, logoed shirt, BMID, and radio) while on duty.

Feel free to add ornamentation such as patches, pins, cloth, and other objects to make your Ranger gear unique. Accessories that are utilitarian or display humor and/or art are encouraged. When adding ornamentation to your outfit, please avoid zebra stripes and leopard print as they denote special Ranger teams (LEAL and Mentors, respectively)

You are welcome to add your own items of clothing, as long as your hat and shirt (and jacket, if you’re wearing one) are khaki-colored and display the Ranger logo. Long-sleeved shirts provide protection from the sun during the day and additional covering for warmth at night. Pockets that have button or zipper closures will carry smaller items safely. Cotton clothing is comfortable and durable (and non-meltable) in the Black Rock Desert. If you are wearing a backpack or hydration pack, you must modify it to display a Ranger logo when viewed from behind.

Clothing or accessories that send a message of hostility or aggression are discouraged. Any article of clothing or accessory that might cause participants to confuse us with law enforcement, military, or security personnel (e.g., camouflage) is not appropriate. Rangers on duty should not dress in a sexually provocative manner: it’s not about you.

While in Uniform: A Ranger in uniform, visibly displaying Ranger logos on their person or property (e.g., vehicle), or otherwise representing themselves as a Ranger, has a duty to act in a manner consistent with Ranger Department policies, including the reporting requirements described later. If you wish to shed your responsibilities, or know you will be unable to meet the expectations of being a Ranger (for example, if you are intoxicated), be sure to shed your visible affiliation with the Rangers as well.

Note that the ability for Rangers to be effective  relies on the social capital they build, both as a group, and individually. If you act in a way that significantly damages your social capital in your community, whether on or off duty, it is likely to impact your standing with the Rangers.  Please don’t be a chooch.

When you offer your time volunteering for Burning Man, you make the event possible. You also accept the responsibility that comes from being part of something greater than yourself. For some people, their only interaction with Burning Man staff will be with YOU.

Having an official department logo on your back is a visible symbol and implies authority. This marks you and your behavior as role models for Black Rock Ranger and Burning Man staff behavior. We do not take this responsibility lightly, and neither should you. (see “Social Capital”)

We are not more important than the participants. An “us and them” attitude is unprofessional and does not help or represent the Rangers—especially if it leads to outbursts that make us look strung out on authority and makes huge withdrawal from our Social Capital.

No level of stress or tension is worth misrepresenting yourself to participants or your Ranger family. Take a break before taking it out on someone else, and help those around you do the same.

Intoxicants in Uniform
All Rangers must be sober while on duty. When off duty and in uniform, there is no specific policy regarding indulging in intoxicants. However, it is important to remember that the Ranger uniform is a key identifier to participants that you are there to help; if you are unable to help, then it is time to change your shirt. We trust your judgment. We admire your discretion.

Food & Drink Safety
Rangers are a respected part of the city and many participants offer to share their food and drink with them. The possible inclusion of psychoactive substances creates a risk that should not be taken lightly. These offers should be politely declined. If you are so inclined, offer to come back when your shift is done. Be particularly wary of any consumable offered to you at night. Rangers should also decline when offered mists of cooling water from strangers. To be an effective team, all Rangers must “share the same reality.” Being aware of and in control of what you consume helps ensure this.

UnRangerly Behavior
The Ranger Department takes incidents of unRangerly behavior, in and out of uniform, very seriously and the Shift Lead Team and Ranger Personnel Manager will follow up on any reported incidents.

UnRangerly or questionable behavior may also result in a Ranger being removed from shift duty, or from Rangering the event. Please see the UnRangerly Behavior section for more information.

Compassionate De-Shifting
Being relieved from shift duty sometimes occurs when a Ranger (generally one that has been working multiple consecutive shifts) is told to take the rest of the shift off and go take care of themselves. This is not a disciplinary situation, and is more of a health and safety one.

Ranger Resources

Ranger HQ

Ranger HQ is comprised of several buildings and structures, including the Echelon office, a shaded area in front known as the “Hat Rack”, the Green Dot Sanctuary domes, and the Ranger Operations Center, aka the ROC, consisting of the Khaki shack, the Operator container, and the Officer of the Day office, as well as a kiosk for entering incident reports for lengthy or complicated calls. HQ is the first and last place you’ll visit during a shift. For participants, HQ is a convenient place to find Rangers. HQ is located at 5:45 and Esplanade.

Ranger Kamp Moskow
Ranger Kamp Moskow, located at 5:30 and B, is a working camp for Rangers who choose to gift enough shifts (generally 40+ hours) that being basically co-located with HQ helps them to help the department.

Please keep the noise down when going through Kamp Moskow—it’s full of exhausted workaholic Rangers.

Ranger Outposts
Tokyo and Berlin are Ranger Outposts. These are places where participants can go to find Rangers without going all the way to Ranger HQ. Each Outpost consists of a public lounge area, shade structure, burn barrels and a water supply. Outposts also have a supply of fresh radio batteries and copies of personal-use camera agreements, law enforcement feedback forms, and incident reports.

Tokyo is located at the “top” of the city at the 9 o’clock plaza, and Berlin is located at the “bottom” of the city at the 3 o’clock plaza. Both Outposts are across the street from an ESD facility. Rangers, on patrol or off, are always welcome to stop in at Tokyo or Berlin to hydrate or get some shade.

Outposts also contain camping areas. Rangers should treat these Ranger camps as they would any theme camp and should respect the private space of participants camped there.

10-7 Lounge
The 10-7 Lounge is located at Ranger Outpost Tokyo. All Rangers are welcome here, stop in after your shift, share a drink with fellow Rangers and be prepared to hear tall tales told around the burn barrel.

Bunkhouse
The Ranger Bunkhouses are located at Ranger Kamp Moskow at 5:30 & B, Outpost Tokyo and Outpost Berlin. Ranger Bunkhouses are available for Graveyard shift Rangers to get some sleep before or after their shift in a quiet cool place—bring your own pillow and blanket. Other Rangers may use the Bunkhouse, as long as space remains available for Graveyard shift Rangers, in the following priority order:

      • Rangers after or prior to other Ranger shifts.
      • Rangers needing a quick nap.
      • Rangers needing a temporary place to sleep upon arrival or prior to departure from Black Rock City.

Commissary
The Commissary is located at 5:30 & E. A meal POG (available from HQ after you complete your full 6 hour shift) and your laminate gets you a meal. Meal times are set by and posted at the commissary, or ask at HQ when you’re checking out.

Sanctuary
Sanctuary is a safe haven for individuals who need a calm place away from the high-stimulus environment of Burning Man. Sanctuary is located directly behind Ranger HQ and staffed by Green Dot Rangers. Sanctuary’s services are confidential and its staff is happy to help all participants and Rangers who need a friendly ear.

If you think a participant could benefit from some time in Sanctuary, call Khaki and request a Green Dot consult. Remember that Sanctuary is a limited resource and, in most Green Dot calls, not a necessity. Use your discretion when suggesting or accessing Sanctuary as a resource. Sanctuary should not be used as a “drunk tank.”


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