The ESD Communications Branch operates the Emergency Services dispatch center, and establishes the on-playa communications infrastructure for the entire Burning Man organization. This is accomplished by the three function groups of the Communications Branch: Technical, Dispatch, and IT. The Dispatch Group is responsible for dispatch operations while Technical and IT Groups respectively handle technical aspects of building and maintaining the radio or computer equipment that is required to make the communications system and dispatch system function.
The dispatch center functions as a fully staffed, 24-hour public safety answering point. It operates as a Unified Command Post, coordinating all emergency responses within Black Rock City for the ESD and allied agencies, such as Black Rock Rangers (BRR), Rampart (CrowdRx), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Pershing County (PCSO) law enforcement. The continual flow of information between BLM, PCSO, BRR, and the ESD dispatch center allows all of the event’s public safety agencies to provide improved service and safety to participants.
All Burning Man departments depend on reliable two-way communications in order to make the event happen and the ESD communications infrastructure provides the means for this function. Utilizing a network of two-way radio repeaters both on-site and at remote locations, the Communications Branch Technical Group ensures that the system has fail-safe and redundant technologies in order to cope with the harsh conditions of the Black Rock Desert. This critical precaution supports all functions of the Burning Man event because any department that loses its ability to communicate loses its ability to do its job. Engineers and technicians work year-round to ensure the integrity of the system. These engineers perform hundreds of hours of work before the event, and hundreds more on-site every year to make sure the communications system functions as designed. For year-round communications for the Department of Public Works (DPW) and other staff use, the Communications Branch maintains a series of radio towers. Since cell phones generally don’t work in the area, the towers are essential both to enable work to happen in an effective manner and for the safety of the staff in the event of incidents such as vehicle breakdowns or injuries.
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