AFTERBURN REPORT 2008
GATE AND PERIMETER
In 2008, the Gate, Perimeter, and Exodus team was better prepared than ever before. We had a record number of staff and all the tools necessary to do the job, including much-needed new office digs, and a humming rental fleet of trucks for Perimeter patrols and staff transportation. Logistically, we were the most prepared yet. This year was to be a piece of cake.
And that is how it started. The Early Arrivals process went smoothly save for a couple technical glitches that will be remedied in 2009. We held the Gate opening time to Monday at 12:00am, as has now become our status quo.
During our busiest times we became aware of a couple areas that could use some improvement, such as: more and larger signage to make it clear to participants where they needed to go (with the larger lots, navigation could sometimes be confusing), and some minor tweaks in lot design and organization to insure that the first to enter the lot are always the first to leave (barring any serious infractions).
Overall, things began very smoothly. Then it hit. We knew the winds were coming, but Mother Nature unleashed her fury on the Gate and those entering Black Rock City - winds the likes of which haven't been seen during the event since the year 2000 wreaked havoc on our operation.
In such situations, safety is always our number one concern. We had to keep traffic from backing up on the highway so that, if needed, emergency vehicles could make their way in. We succeeded in this. At times, traffic slowed to a crawl as cars turned onto the gravel, but never stopped. The whiteout conditions made it unsafe for cars to travel into the city, so we loaded them into our lots and even improvised a new lot to accommodate the heavy traffic.
Our mostly volunteer staff did an incredible job, working above and beyond the call of duty, staying on well after their shifts ended because they were needed. The job sometimes became dangerous, as the lack of visibility made for several close calls. Fortunately, serious injury was avoided.
Participants arriving at the Gate during this time were often - understandably - frustrated after having driven for hours or sometimes days only to be told that they would have to wait in the lots for an undetermined amount of time before they could safely enter the city. In general, the participants made the most of a difficult situation. A few were even deputized on the spot and stayed on to help out well after they were free to go in.
It's always hugely appreciated when participants speak words of understanding and appreciation to the Gate staff. The work the Gate does is crucial to the success of the event, yet generally thankless, so a few kind words now and then or the occasional gift of an ice cold water or energy drink went a long way in keeping the staff's spirits up. Thanks and much gratitude to those who gave their appreciation and support. The behavior of the participants is as integral to our success as the performance of the staff.
The Gate has a long and colorful past. We have people on staff that have been doing this for 10 years or more and have seen the many changes along the way. It has grown from a small anarchic group to a well-organized (sometimes anarchic) department.
We strive to expedite the participants' entry into the city in a safe, professional, and (mostly) courteous manner, together with a bit of surly theater. All reasonable and courteous participants should expect reciprocal treatment in return from the Gate staff. In the instance that somebody feels that they were treated unreasonably, they can visit our Gate page for information about how to report an incident. While these reports are rare (not even a handful), we take them very seriously and will do everything possible to resolve these matters. In 2009, we will be launching a campaign to get this information out to all participants. It is our sincerest hope to put an end to these incidents once and for all.
It was not a particularly eventful year for our Perimeter staff. In that, it was a (now) typical year. As the (founded) rumors of our high-tech gadgetry are spread through the community, along with stories of being caught, fewer and fewer people try to sneak in. Our technologies, combined with our seasoned staff make most sneak-in attempts futile. Participants on the whole realize that it's just not worth the hassle.
We are always looking for ways to improve our operations. We have had professional consultations and it is generally agreed that we are performing at the peak of our capability with the current limitations (a two-lane highway turning off onto a narrow gravel road). That said, the team welcomes any constructive and creative suggestions for improvement. Please send any serious ideas to gate (at) burningman (dot) com.
Thanks to all of the Gate, Perimeter, and Exodus staff for their hard work, dedication, and sense of humor in the most trying of situations. They have an extremely difficult job and manage to have fun doing it. It's the quality of their character that made possible another successful year for our department. And thanks to the participants for their understanding, support, and patience that greatly contributed to our success.
May 2009 be the best year yet.