What We Do


Mission Statement

To provide the public and the Burning Man organization with an emergency response resource, while also providing outside agencies a professional interface with the Emergency Services Department and the Burning Man Project.

About Black Rock City Emergency Services Department

The Emergency Services Department (ESD) coordinates all professional emergency resources on the playa, 24 hours a day, including requests to outside agencies via the state-of-the-art emergency dispatch center. ESD responsibilities cover all responses in the field to reports of fire, medical, or psychiatric emergencies. ESD’s highly trained professionals volunteer long hours to ensure the safety and well-being of Black Rock City.

ESD provides four branches of service—Fire, Medical, Communications, and Crisis intervention—and employs the Incident Command System (ICS), providing a basis for smooth integration with outside and allied agencies to maximize safety and security for participants, volunteers, and Emergency Services personnel. ICS also gives new ESD volunteers a familiar framework and increases our overall operational efficiency.

Origins & History

The Emergency Services Department was formed in 1998. It was initially a function of the Rangers at a time when the event was smaller—and the need for organizational complexity was minimal. As the event grew, it became apparent that the missions of the Rangers and ESD were distinctly different. To allow a tighter focus on priorities, ESD became a sub-department of the Rangers.

By 2002, the ESD members were wearing separate uniforms to distinguish Emergency Services professionals from the volunteer Rangers in the field. By 2003, it was acknowledged that there was a significant difference between the Rangers and the ESD, and the ESD was granted department status.

Though both the Rangers and the ESD are unified in providing public safety services to the event, the manner by which these departments serve the event is different. Today both departments are approximately equal in size and continue to work closely both at the event and throughout the year-round planning cycle.


Pre-event and Post-event ESD Operations

In 2002 the operational timeline for ESD was significantly expanded when the Black Rock City Department of Public Works (DPW) realized the value in having on-site occupational health and emergency resources to support its crew as they built the city. The ESD service timeline was expanded from the week before and after the event to approximately six weeks on either side of the event. As playa operations ramp up, ESD resources grow to accommodate the numbers of DPW and other Burning Man staff working on-site. Once the event is over the process is the same but in reverse—until ESD only has two to three medical staff remaining to support the playa restoration team.

Throughout this pre and post-event period, ESD is on-call 24 hours a day with normal event operations beginning the week before the event starts.