Becoming a Black Rock Ranger

Becoming a Ranger is a multi-step process that involves a training and a two-phase evaluative mentoring shift on the playa.

The full process for becoming a Ranger is described on our Application Process page.

Before the Event

Until you have attended a Ranger training and completed the other requirements outlined below, you are considered a Prospective Ranger. Prospective Rangers must be at least eighteen years old— though they may turn 18 at any time before they walk with a mentor, and must have attended Burning Man at least twice (at least once in the last ten years), or have attended Burning Man once and have participated as a Ranger at a sanctioned Burning Man regional event at least once in the last three years. All Prospective and returning Rangers attend an annual training. In this training, you learn who are the Black Rock Rangers, what role they play in the Burning Man community, and how best to serve the community’s needs. You will refine conflict mediation skills, radio protocols and get updates on information specific to the particular year.

You are considered an “Alpha Ranger” once you have:

· Submitted a volunteer application through the Burning Man website (note: applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis and will be accepted only until we meet our new volunteer needs for the year).

· Received an approved Ranger handle/call sign (assigned by the Ranger Volunteer Coordinators with your input).

· Have an approved BMID photo (uploaded via the Ranger Clubhouse).

· Successfully completed the Online Training Course and signed up for In Person Training.

· You intend to pursue becoming a Black Rock Ranger.

· Attend and pass Ranger training

Once you become an “Alpha”, you may sign up for your on-playa Alpha shift through the Ranger Secret Clubhouse scheduling system. Alpha shifts are typically released in batches sometime in both July and August, so that Prospectives completing their training later in the year have an equal chance to get their preferred Alpha shift. Some Alpha slots will be reserved for Prospectives training on playa.

Ranger Handle 

All Rangers have a radio handle that becomes their Ranger community nickname.

Appropriate handles should:
  • Be 2-4 syllables long
  • Not be your legal name 
  • Not conflict with any existing Ranger handles
  • Not consist entirely of NATO phonetic alphabet characters
  • Not be confusing
  • Not conflict with handles of leadership in other departments
  • Be easily and obviously pronounceable
  • Be very unlikely to trigger a negative response from participants, staff, medical, or law enforcement personnel
  • Be easily understood in loud, windy environments or over a poor radio connection

Alpha Shifts

On-playa Alpha shifts are conducted Saturday through Tuesday of the event. Please don’t attempt to do your Alpha shift immediately after arriving on the playa, but do try to complete it as early in the week as possible.

The Day of Your Alpha Shift

Alpha shifts start promptly at the designated time—you should arrive 30 minutes early to sign in at Ranger HQ located on the Esplanade near Center Camp.

  • Bring everything you need to be self-reliant for a very long day, including layered clothing (especially for the swing shift), comfortable walking shoes, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, lunch, snacks, water bottle (water refills available at Ranger HQ and the outposts), and most importantly, a pen/pencil and small pocket-sized memo-pad of paper. The Rangers will only provide you with a radio and an Alpha vest that identifies you as an Alpha.
  • Allow sufficient time between your arrival on-playa and your Alpha shift to acclimate to the harsh playa conditions.
  • The entire on-playa mentoring process takes about 10 hours.  If you pass, you will be able to sign up for your Ranger shifts on playa at Ranger HQ.

Alphas must pre-register in the Secret Clubhouse scheduling system for their Alpha shift, and come on time to their Alpha shift, or risk losing their Alpha status. Alphas may not “walk on” to shifts they are not scheduled for.

The Alpha Shift

The Alpha shift is divided into two phases: a two-hour orientation and a modified dirt shift.

Phase One: During Phase One of the Alpha shift, you will spend approximately two hours completing an on-playa orientation. Small group instruction and evaluation will remind Alphas of basic Ranger communication, radio skills, and protocols. This is also an opportunity for Alphas to decide if Rangering is really something they are fully committed to pursuing.

Phase Two: Phase Two involves walking modified dirt shifts with a group of other Alphas and Mentors. These short shifts are designed for Mentors to get an idea of how Alphas interact, both with participants and with each other, and how Alphas orient and handle themselves within Black Rock City. This is also an opportunity for the Alpha to practice applying real Ranger skills.

  • Some of the skills your Mentors will expect you to be able to demonstrate include FLAMEing difficult situations, knowing the Must-Reports, ability to use the radio appropriately to communicate with Khaki, locational and situational awareness, ability to appropriately engage participants, good partnering skills, and displaying the burner spirit (rather than being a hall monitor).
  • The Alpha shift is not training — you’ve already been trained! This shift is intended to see whether Rangering is a good fit for you, and whether you’re a good fit for Rangering.
  • Do not rely on your Mentor to tell you what to do. Your Mentor will provide feedback, but it is up to you to walk the shift as a Black Rock Ranger. However, feel free to ask your Mentors for pointers and tips on how you can improve your skills, or how a particular interaction could have been done differently.

At the end of Phase Two, your Mentors will meet as a team to discuss your shift. They will re-emerge after about an hour to inform you if you passed or not.

Possible Outcomes of Your Alpha Shift

Outcome 1: You are invited to join the Rangers (“passed” your shift). You may receive some advice from your Mentors on things to work on during your Ranger shifts.

Outcome 2: Your Mentors do not feel that you are a good fit for the Rangers, either for this year or in general (referred to as “bonked” in Ranger jargon). Your Mentors should explain what led them to this decision.

Outcome 3: You realize, over the course of your Alpha shift, that volunteering as a Ranger is not how you want to spend your time at Burning Man (sometimes called “self-bonking”).

Regardless of the outcome of your Alpha shift, we really appreciate that you came out and gave Rangering a try!

If you pass, please stick around: you will be issued your Ranger shirt and hat and can sign up for shifts at the Ranger HQ window. You are also encouraged to attend the Rebar Ceremony later in the week, during which the new Rangers are welcomed into the Ranger community.

If you did not pass, your Ranger Mentors will explain to you why they made the decision that this wasn’t your year to join the Rangers. Remember that Ranger Mentors are instructed not to pass someone unless they are absolutely sure they’re a good fit and are ready to Ranger immediately. Feel free to ask them questions about your experience. Think about what your Mentors cited as reasons for being bonked, and consider trying again next year. Finally, enjoy your time in Black Rock City! There are lots of ways to volunteer and participate, and we hope that going to a Ranger training and walking with a Ranger Mentor will add to those experiences.

If you have not passed your Alpha shift twice in back-to-back years and have been advised to receive additional training or experience on playa before trying again, you must take a year off before re-applying to join the Rangers. Go enjoy being a Burner for a bit (it’s fun out there!) or explore other volunteer opportunities. If, after taking a year off, you return and do not pass Alpha shift again, you will need to take yet another year off before making further attempts to join the Black Rock Rangers.

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