Burn Perimeter Protocol

All Rangers are encouraged to sign up for at least one Burn Perimeter shift, as this is one of our biggest needs.

Rangers support the Man and Temple Burns (Saturday and Sunday of the event), major art burns (generally, Wednesday-Sunday of the event), and several smaller art burns. Sign-ups are available through the Secret Clubhouse, though the smaller burn sign-ups may not appear until closer to the event.  

Basic Burn Perimeter Protocol

While on perimeter, you may be standing (or kneeling) in the same place for up to four hours (or more)! If you are unable to kneel, let your Quad Lead know before you are deployed. They will find a standing or walking role for you. That new role may be in a different quad or elsewhere in the perimeter.

What To Bring

  • Long sleeved cotton Ranger shirt, Ranger hat
  • Jacket/warm layers. Note: Artificial fibers melt, so stick with natural fibers like cotton
  • Comfortable, insulating, protective footwear, like an old pair of boots
  • Clear goggles
  • Full water bottle
  • High intensity flashlight. Leave your mini-mag at camp.
  • Dust mask
  • Small food items (optional, but recommended)
  • Kneepads (optional, but you’ll be glad you did)

Please make sure you are on time, fully fed, hydrated, rested, sober, and ready to be standing in one place for hours after sundown without any chance to head to the portos. You can’t swing by your camp on this shift.

Overall Structure

The Rangers organize a burn perimeter by quadrants, centered around the effigy. You will be assigned to one of these quads under the oversight of an experienced Quad Lead, who will normally have a helper, called a Second.

All communication goes through your Quad Lead or the Second. If you have an event radio, leave it on, but do not transmit. Your Quad Leads will be feeding you information about the burn as they receive it. If you need their attention, turn on your flashlight and point it at them.

Your Quad Leads will walk you out to the Burn and assign you to a position. Once you are set on the perimeter, stay there. If you need to leave the line for any reason, tell your Quad Lead or Second.

At Your Position

  • Engage participants one at a time, as they come. Do that Ranger thing. Get to know them. Be a good host. Ask them to sit down and scoot together. Don’t order anyone around.
  • Be entertaining, informative, and approachable.
  • Educate participants about who we are and why we are holding the perimeter.
  • Try to get the front row to help in establishing the perimeter.
  • Get the crowd seated on the playa for at least 5 rows deep, preferably 10+.
  • No one without a burn laminate gets past the perimeter.
  • Handheld laser pointers are not allowed at Burning Man. 
  • Keep tripping hazards out of the first five rows. Get bikes 100 feet out if you can. Photographers will be trying to set up tripods right on the perimeter; use your judgment with those. Small tripods that don’t block the view of the crowd are fine. If someone is reluctant to move one of these items and doesn’t seem a good sport, get one of your Quad Leads involved.

Pro Tips for Dealing with Your Crowd:

There are many, many creative and interesting ways of engaging your crowd that individual Rangers have developed over the years, from sing-alongs to trivia contests to simply chatting honestly and making new friends. Here are a few common pro tips:

  • You aren’t a cop or paid security. Don’t act like it. Social capital is our currency.
  • Engage everyone near the front personally. Be warm and welcoming.
  • Ask for what you need from the crowd. Empower them to be part of the solution.
  • Maintain situational awareness while engaging your section. Don’t get tunnel vision.
  • Explain to your first few rows that they are the perimeter, not the tape and cones. They are helping keep everyone behind them safe and happy.
  • Check in regularly with the Rangers next to you. Be brief and professional.

Once the Festivities Start

At some point the effigy will catch fire. Don’t look at the fire; look at your crowd.  What you are watching for is runners or the crowd starting to surge forward.

  • Take one knee as soon as the fire starts. This gives the crowd a good view and allows us to move rapidly.
  • Don’t sit all the way down, as you might need to stand in a hurry.

Handling Runners 

If you suspect someone is going to break through the perimeter:

  • Be aware that someone is approaching the perimeter (which you should be, since you’re watching the crowd!)
  • Be creative: try waving your arms, asking politely and calmly, or just pointing back at the crowd.
  • Make the people on either side of you aware that someone is moving in. The nearest Rangers on the line should move closer in, making it more difficult for the runner to push through, should they attempt to do so.
  • Hold out your hands, palm-outward, and loudly and clearly ask the person to return to their seat.
  • Exercise your discretion to take the most appropriate action that you feel comfortable with, up to and including:
    • Simply stepping out of the way, or
    • Using your body to block their path forward, and placing your open palm where it will intercept the forward movement of the person attempting to cross the perimeter line.
  • DO NOT physically engage the runner if you are uncomfortable doing so.
  • No matter how comfortable you are engaging the runner, DO NOT tackle them or go beyond blocking their way with your body or your open palm. 
  • If the person breaks through the perimeter, do not give chase or leave your assigned perimeter location — this will leave a hole in the perimeter that could just tempt more runners.
  • Stay in place and spotlight the runner with your flashlight. The Sandmen will take it from there. Keep the beam trained on the runner, not the Sandmen.

Winding Down

  • If/when the perimeter breaks, get yourself out of the way! Your safety comes first.
  • Wait until given the “all clear” by perimeter leaders and then proceed directly to the pre-determined rally point.
  • If you have problems finding the rally point, wait for the crowd to thin and listen for your quad mates to start calling for you. Use your radio sparingly if you have one. 
  • No one can leave until everyone checks in. If you fail to check in, your entire quadrant will be stuck until you are located.
  • Once everyone is accounted for, your Quad Lead will release you to clock out at HQ. If, at that point, you decide you want to stay on and do a dirt shirt, let Khaki know! 

You can find more information about the Man and Temple burns in the Burn Perimeter Briefer.

If you have any questions about Burn Perimeters, email the Ranger Burn Safety Cadre: ranger-burn-safety-cadre-list (at) burningman.org.

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