AFTERBURN REPORT 2003
The Black Rock Rangers first and foremost are members of the Burning Man community.
Our cadre of volunteers -- identified by our khaki-colored shirts and white hats -- represent a large cross-section of society. More importantly, our members reflect the myriad unique individuals who venture to the desert each year to participate in our novel and challenging exercise in temporary community.
Black Rock Rangers are not law enforcement personnel. However, because Black Rock City stands at the intersection of several legal jurisdictions, represented on the playa by their own personnel, we are at times required to interface with law enforcement officers when permit obligations require it. Black Rock City defines its own peculiar rules -- our no vending policy, our prescribed speed limits, or our ban on firearms, for example -- but participants are also subject to the same laws that govern public conduct in any city. We work cooperatively with law enforcement groups to deal with criminal conduct. As a non-confrontational mediating agency, and as first responders, we often effectively mediate disputes and promote interpretations of our city's rules in ways that avoid larger and sometimes negative results. Without this intervention, some situations might result in more negative consequences for the individuals or groups involved.
Many Rangers worked throughout 2003 to prepare for our week (or two) on the playa. Coordination, communication, training, and face-to-face meetings during this time assured that each of us was ready to play our various roles almost immediately upon arrival on the playa. In fact, the bulk of planning and coordination was done by our volunteers earlier in the year. The Ranger Ops (operations) team and the Ranger Council worked in tandem to ensure that all bases were covered before anyone ever arrived on the playa. These plans included mandatory trainings, which began in late spring and continued through the summer. Trainings took place in San Francisco, and regional trainings took place in Seattle, Sacramento, New York, Texas, Maryland, and Southern California. Other sites and venues may host trainings for 2004.
Note: If you would like to be a Black Rock Ranger at Burning Man, you must attend one of the trainings. Dates and locations will be posted on the Ranger web site in the near future. Also, be aware that we require previous attendance at Burning Man at least once prior to your training for a role as a Ranger.
In 2003, the Black Rock Rangers experienced one of their most challenging -- and successful -- years on the playa. We established a highly effective modular training program, as mentioned. Our volunteer outreach increased this year, aided by our own tech team and the completion of our web site, Sanctuary, Black Rock City's medical-related communal chill space, had more room to do its work; although it was needed more than ever, it was ready to serve. Echelon finished its second year and reached its goal of acting as support staff for all Rangers, while benefiting other departments, as well. The Ranger headquarters staff developed a new radio check in/check out process and trained more staff than in previous years. They also worked to develop a playa-ready database in conjunction with the Ranger tech team. Our mentoring program grew and became more successful, putting out great ranger after great ranger. Coordination with other event groups (DPW, Gate/Perimeter, Greeters, Playa Info, and law enforcement agencies) was better than ever.
Events in 2003 ultimately illuminated several weaknesses that we're dedicated to improving for 2004. Among some of the larger problems we encountered:
- unapproved/unlicensed vehicles (golf carts, ATVs, scooters, motorcycles, go carts, and automobiles) driving through the city and on the open playa
- reckless driving and speeding by both licensed and unlicensed vehicles
- sound issues from many camps exceeding designated noise limits
- theft of personal property and public art
- vandalism of public art pieces
- vehicle-related injuries
- crashes involving private aircraft
- structural questions involving large public and private camp pieces
- multiple complaints of bicycle theft
- physical altercations involving spousal abuse and domestic violence
- sneak-ins and stowaways (i.e., gate crashers)
- injuries involving medical transport to Reno
- lost persons
- the tragic death of a participant.
The Black Rock Rangers have continued to learn to deal with the challenges put before us, and 2004 will be no different. With a solid core of experienced and dedicated volunteers, we are committed to addressing and effectively dealing with the challenges at hand to ensure that this year's event will continue to provide all participants with the best possible experience. We are currently working with the BM Board and Senior Staff to develop the appropriate resources and infrastructure to address each of these issues.
Ray Russ, aka Badger