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Volunteering FAQ


How can I volunteer to work with ESD?

Go to the Burning Man website and complete a Burner Profile and the Volunteer Questionnaire. Be sure to place a checkmark next to the branch and/or sections you are interested in volunteering with. You will receive an email from the Volunteer Coordinator from the identified branch or section.

Applications to volunteer with ESD are reviewed starting in January until around late July.

What if I want to work at the main urgent care clinic and get paid instead?

ESD volunteers aren’t paid to provide basic level care throughout the city- our service is our gift and one way we honor the Burning Man Principles of Gifting, Decommodification, Civic Responsibility,  Communal Effort, Participation, and Immediacy.

We contract with an outside vendor to provide advanced life support care on the playa and they do pay their employees.  You can get information on joining their team here.

First Time Volunteers

Question: Will I get fed while I’m at Burning Man? Do you provide my water?

Answer:  You do get meals and liquid refreshments while you are working, but you are responsible for your own food and water during the rest of your time on playa. If you are interested in participating in one of our ESD Camps, you may have access to a paid food plan if one is available in the camp you choose.

Question: Will you provide a place for me to sleep?

Answer: No. You will need to bring your own tent, RV, dome, or whatever to sleep in. We do offer limited quiet, air-conditioned spaces for our crews to rest in before or after a shift.

Question: Do you provide transport to and from Burning Man?

Answer: No. If you want to come to Burning Man, you will need to find your own way in. Many people take the Burner Express buses and planes that will land you right in Black Rock City.

 Question:  What is the general application process for ESD?

Answer: Once you have completed a Burner Profile and Volunteer Questionnaire, you will receive an acknowledgment from one of the ESD Volunteer Coordinators (VCs) that we have received your application (although the VCs generally don’t respond to applications between the event and about January of the following year). If you are accepted into ESD, you will then receive a message from the branch VC detailing the next steps to get started with that Branch. This might include a phone interview, sending in your credentials/licenses, or being referred to one of the other branches. Keep in mind that all of these steps take some time, the VCs are volunteers too, so please be patient with the process.  You will hear from us!

Question:  I have applied to the Emergency Services Department in the past and was not invited that year. What do I need to do to increase my chances of being invited?

Answer:  Each year we get hundreds of new applications for a limited number of openings. Unfortunately, we do have to eliminate some applications just as in any application process. That being said, not all volunteers return, and as Black Rock City expands, so must we. Try again! You may also contact the VC for the branch/section you are interested in on the Contact Us page in the toolbar above.

Question: I have never attended Burning Man and would like to work during my first year. Is it possible to volunteer my first year?

Answer:  With a few exceptions, we do not accept volunteers if it’s your first year of attending Burning Man. As cliche´ as it might sound, Burning Man is an intense experience. We have found that first-year burners who try to also work may have a difficult time finding the right balance among all the demands. This is true even for those people that have “heard all about it” or are “camping with veteran burners”. Additionally, many of our volunteer roles require a person know their way around Black Rock City and be familiar with key landmarks. That level of familiarity requires at least one year in the city under your belt (it’s a big place!).

Question: What things do the branches look at in evaluating the applications?

Answer: Each Branch has different criteria for the selection of new volunteers. In general terms, they look at your experience in the default world, your experience with Burning Man in the past, and the Branch needs for that particular year.

Question: How will I know the status of my application?  

Answer:  Each of the ESD branches do things slightly differently. However, during spring and summer, you can expect communication from one of the volunteer coordinators within a week or so of applying. Our branch volunteer coordinators take a few months off between the end of the Event (the first week of September) and January or so. If you apply during that time you will likely not receive a reply until February.

Question: Do I need to reapply each year?

Answer: No. If you have applied in the past you do not need to start all over again. Your application remains on file and you can reapply by contacting the ESD Branches on the Contact Us page.

Question:  Can my Wife/Husband/Partner/Child/Significant Other and I fill out one application for all of us?

Answer:  No. We need a separate application for each person. The applications are the beginning of the process of becoming a volunteer with the Burning Man organization. As you can imagine, each person has different information that needs to be captured.

Question:  I REALLY want to go to Burning Man this year. Should I apply to every “department” on the application to increase my chances?

Answer: No. We understand that Burning Man is an amazing event and life-changing experience and that you want to be a part of Burning Man.  We have all been in your furry boots in the past. The Emergency Services Department of Burning Man is a highly trained and skilled group of professionals. If you are one of these people, go with your strengths and showcase them in your application.  We see a lot of applications that seem to list everything that the person can do as opposed to those skills that we need.  Every EMT/Paramedic can take vital signs and splint. Every firefighter can put the wet stuff on the red stuff.  The ESD does not need many cooks, mechanics, carpenters, etc. We have a lot of multi-talented people in our ranks and those “jobs” are filled from within.

Question: Burning Man is a party! Does ESD party too? 

Answer: ESD has six staff camps and fun can be had! Parties and hilarity abound! However, if getting completely tossed and pulling all-nighters is your thing, ESD probably isn’t the place for you. We need to be able to function at 100% when on shift.