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AFTERBURN REPORT 2004

Ranger Operations

The Black Rock Rangers first and foremost are members of the Burning Man community.

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Rangers are the traditional guardians of our desert community. We ride the edge of chaos while assuming a civic responsibility for the general safety of participants, the preservation of community standards, and the realization of the Burning Man Project's core values. Our group of volunteers -- identified by our khaki-colored shirts, white hats, and Ranger laminates -- represent a large cross-section of society. More importantly, our volunteers reflect the diversity of individuals who journey to the desert each year to participate in this unique and challenging experiment in temporary community.

Many Rangers worked throughout 2004 to prepare for our operational time period on the playa. Coordination, communication, training, and face-to-face meetings throughout the year assured that all were ready to play our various roles immediately upon arrival on the playa. The Ranger Ops (Operations) team and the Ranger Council worked in tandem to ensure that all planning and coordination needs were covered before arrival at Black Rock City. This preparation included mandatory training sessions for all Rangers, beginning in late spring and continuing through the summer. Training took place in San Francisco, and regional outreach took training to Seattle, Sacramento, New York, Texas, Maryland, and southern California, as well. Other sites and venues may host sessions for 2005.

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All this training is necessary, because a Black Rock Ranger must possess a delicate and complex set of skills. If you would like to be a Black Rock Ranger at Burning Man, you must attend one of the training sessions. 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.

The Ranger Logistics team had perhaps its best year yet on the playa. The setup of Ranger HQ and the Ranger Outposts went like clockwork and was completed days ahead of schedule. The facilities were better than ever, and in our spare time, we made progress toward maintaining, improving, and weatherproofing our materials for the future.

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The Dirt Rangers did a great job of patrolling and doing what they do best: helping their fellow participants solve their own problems, calling for medical assistance as necessary, and providing information to the general population. The Rangers further refined our modular training program, expanded our training team, and trained several regional trainers to conduct Ranger training in their own local area. Our efficiency at tracking equipment and keeping records at Ranger HQ improved this year, aided by our new database. The previous database didn't meet our needs, so we had to start from scratch. Luckily some people with good technical skills stepped forward and met the challenge.

Sanctuary, Black Rock City's chill space for those in crisis, did a great job once again at handing the many psychological issues that tend to arise in a fast-moving and constantly changing place like Black Rock City. We experienced some minor issues with our reporting procedures, and a newly revised system for reporting incidents will be in place by 2005.

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The Ranger Echelon finished its third year on playa as a component of the Logistics branch. It was completely successful in the role of supporting Ranger Operations and provided important benefits to other Burning Man departments. Our 'new Ranger' mentoring program continued to grow and to enjoy success. The importance and effectiveness of the mentoring model is becoming visible in the Ranger organization as a whole, as the quality of the individual Rangers becomes more evident. Overall coordination with other Departments (Department of Public Works, Gate/Perimeter, Greeters, Playa Info, etc.) was better than ever. Several weaknesses in our 2003 playa operations were effectively addressed this year by Ranger Intercept, a new shift patrolling the inner playa with vehicles and bicycles. The new team addressed issues with:

  • 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
  • vehicle-related injuries

We received some reports of perceptions (mostly among staff) that Rangers working on Intercept took their flashing amber lights everywhere, and that enforcement reached excessive levels. This criticism counterbalances past complaints that no one worked specifically on vehicle safety. The Intercept team used rotating amber lights to keep track of each other and to establish a visible presence as a deterrent to speeders or reckless drivers. Having made good progress on vehicle safety in Black Rock City this year, and having established that Rangers will indeed take on this role, Intercept will take a more low key approach in 2005, as we may no longer need such a visible presence.

In 2004 the Department of Mutant Vehicles (DMV) developed a database tool to keep track of licenced mutant vehicles. Unfortunately, the Rangers did not have the right equipment to establish wireless links to access the data. This equipment is a budget item for 2005.

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Another issue mentioned in the 2003 AfterBurn report was sound volume. In response, the Rangers purchased decibel meters. Our system for handling sound issues on the playa was complaint driven, but sound volume did not become an issue in 2004. Also listed as an issue in the 2003 AfterBurn was lost people. This year, Rangers very successfully addressed the issue, in separate incidents locating at least six lost children within 20 minutes of the original radio reports.

Events in 2004 did illuminate several weaknesses that we're dedicated to addressing in 2005:

  • We need more legal advice and/or research on several specific legal terms and issues.
  • Some tension arose between a few individuals from Rangers and DPW.
  • Log-keeping markedly improved from 2003, but practices still need work.
  • Rangers transported injured participants at the request of the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA).
  • Wireless network connectivity with DMV was not fully functional and still needs work.
  • Ranger HQ experienced minor computer failure due to lack of UPS backup power.
  • Finally, Rangers must work under an increased perception by participants that we are there to solve all their problems.

The Black Rock Rangers have continued to evolve, riding the edge of chaos, and learning to deal with each new challenge put before us. We plan to continue on this path, and next year will be no different. With a core of experienced and dedicated volunteers, we are committed to addressing and effectively dealing with the challenges at hand to ensure that the event will continue to provide participants with the best possible experience. Rising from the dust as we are needed, and disappearing when we are not, the Rangers will continue to serve the Burning Man community and Project. We are committed to working with other deptartments, the Board, and the senior staff to develop the appropriate resources and infrastructure to address each and every issue that arises.

Respectfully Submitted by,
   Ranger CrowEnd of page

Click here to read the 2003 Ranger Operations report