High Winds in Black Rock City Friday Night and Saturday

Playa Tornado, 2006 (Photo by Bowen Johnson)

Playa Tornado, 2006 (Photo by Bowen Johnson)

Nope, never a dull moment here in Black Rock City. The weather report tells us to expect sustained high winds beginning midnight tonight (Friday), peaking 10 a.m. Saturday morning, and continuing through 6 p.m. Saturday evening.

Winds are expected to gust up to 45 mph. Right, so what does that mean to you? Get ready and batten your stuff down! Like:

  • Batten down everything that could potentially blow away (furniture, camp chairs, folding tables, tents, shade structures, etc.)
  • Secure art pieces
  • Always travel with goggles and a dust mask
  • Use headlights and prepare to stop driving/riding in a whiteout

If you’re planning to come in tonight (Friday), definitely try to arrive before midnight.

If you’re planning to arrive on Saturday, consider postponing your arrival until later Saturday afternoon or evening. The way these things tend to go, your camp construction might be delayed due to the wind.

Keep an eye on the Voices of Burning Man blog, Facebook, Twitter, BMIR and IHeartRadio, cuz that’s where we’ll keep you updated.

Consent and Sexual Harassment at Burning Man: What You Can Do to Help

[This is the third in a series of blog posts addressing sexual assault, sexual harassment, and the importance of consent in the Burning Man community. It was compiled with the invaluable assistance of Bonnie Ruberg, a six-year Burner, university instructor and a queer community organizer in the Bay Area, and Gigi-D L’Amour, a founding member of and volunteer coordinator for the Bureau of Erotic Discourse.]

Black Rock City is a place where we go to be ourselves. We travel to the playa to feel “at home” in our community, our experiences, and our bodies.

Unfortunately, sometimes the public spaces in BRC don’t feel welcoming or even safe for some Burners because they receive unwanted sexual attention when they walk down the street. Sometimes they get catcalled. Or poked and prodded. People on bullhorns shout at them to take off their tops for bacon and get surly if they refuse. Moments like these are unfortunate but they happen — probably more often than you think.

What is sexual harassment? At its most basic, sexual harassment can be defined as unwanted sexual advances or sexually-charged remarks made toward another person. It can happen to all types of people, and it can occur between friends and acquaintances as well as between strangers. Sexual harassment is harmful because it makes those who are harassed feel targeted and vulnerable. Harassment that doesn’t seem sexual can still make a person feel uncomfortable in their body. Remarks about someone’s gender, race, age, body type, physical ability, etc. also have the potential to be deeply hurtful.

And harassment doesn’t just happen to women. LGBTQ folks and folks who are transgender or genderqueer also often find themselves on the receiving end of hurtful comments and inappropriate behavior. Men can be harassed, too. Everyone deserves to feel welcome and respected in Black Rock City. That’s what Radical Inclusion is about — that’s what Burning Man is about.

Making Black Rock City a more welcoming and respectful environment is a responsibility we all share. Here are some simple guidelines you can follow to help prevent sexual harassment on playa. (more…)

We Lost Spoono Today

Burning Man announced today the loss of beloved Department of Public Works staff member Scott “Spoono” Stephenson. Spoono passed away overnight on the playa, in the city he loved most.

Stephenson was in his late 50s and died of apparent natural causes, according to Pershing County officials. Stephenson had been in Gerlach and on the playa since April supporting construction of Black Rock City. His passing will have an enormous impact on the Burning Man community. (more…)

Bugs on the Playa: Don’t Believe the Buzz

(Image maybe made by j0k3rCPG, maybe by elizabeth, but this is the internet, so who the hell knows?)

If you’ve been keeping up on the latest rumors flying around the internet, people are in a bit of a frenzy about an alleged bug infestation of plague-level proportions on the Black Rock Desert this year. We understand the eagerness to swarm around this click-worthy story, as the media most certainly has. We’re here to dispel the rumors (bless you, internet), provide some facts, and hopefully calm some nerves.

So are there bugs in Black Rock City? Yes. Due to unseasonably wet weather, the grass on the hills is unusually verdant, and that’s resulted in more bugs showing up in the desert than usual. There are green beetles called stink bugs (so-called because they emit a coriander-like odor when disturbed), mosquitos, and gnat-like seed bugs called Nysius. One entomologist reports that they might be causing skin irritations not because they’re biting, but because they’ve likely been eating mustard seed, which has been proliferating in the region recently, and the mustard oil irritates the skin when the bugs are smashed.

But despite the rampant rumors, these bugs are more of a mild nuisance than a full-blown infestation that should cause any major concern with Burning Man participants.

We’re hoping that continuing hot weather and a huge swarm of Burners descending upon their Black Rock Desert home sends them packing before long, but we can’t say for sure that’ll happen. So here’s how you can prepare (y’know, Radical Self-reliance and stuff) …

We’re told that these types of bugs are particularly attracted to bright lights (sorry, artists burning the midnight oil) and dark clothing (sorry, Death Guild), so if you’re concerned about getting bugged, wear light-colored clothing that provides good coverage. For the mosquitos, some mosquito repellent will do the trick. That’s the word from the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health.

On another bug-related note, there have been recent reports of West Nile Virus showing up in mosquitoes in Northern Nevada this summer — one in South Meadows (south of Reno), and one at Rye Patch Reservoir (near Lovelock) — and abatement procedures are underway. None have been found within proximity of Gerlach or the Black Rock Desert this year. Here are the most recent reports from Pershing County and Washoe County health departments. While of course there’s the remote possibility of exposure (to provide some perspective, here’s a map of all the current West Nile Virus activity in the US), we believe that this is extraordinarily unlikely to affect Burning Man participants.

In the end, we’ll remind you that Radical Self-reliance is a thing. We tell you every year to be prepared for damn near anything, and this time? We’ve got a new, interesting challenge. Welcome to it. We’ll see you on playa.

Harm Reduction: Take a Smart Approach to Drugs and Alcohol

The Zendo (Photo by Philippe Glade)

The Zendo (Photo by Philippe Glade)

Burning Man takes place on federal land. All local, state and federal laws apply in Black Rock City, and they are enforced by law enforcement officers at the event. Drugs, whether legal or illegal, can be dangerous on their own, and, like any city, Black Rock City is not immune to the dangers of intentional assault involving drugs and alcohol. Given these realities, Burning Man and its organizational partners in health and safety, including law enforcement, believe in the importance of harm reduction when it comes to drugs and alcohol on the playa.

Avoiding the Dangers

The highest priority of harm reduction is to mitigate the dangers of assault or accidental overdose. Even doses of drugs that are not physically dangerous, including legal prescriptions, can be psychologically harmful or overwhelming if taken unknowingly. Here are some important points to remember:

  • Bring your own water wherever you go.
  • If you don’t know what’s in something, it’s best not to drink or eat it.
  • There have been very few incidents of intentional dosing with intent to assault — sometimes referred to as “date rape” — at the event. But, it is important for all participants to be aware of this risk and exercise appropriate caution.
  • If you do feel yourself becoming ill, tell a friend what you’ve taken so they can share that information with medical personnel.
  • If you feel like you have been dosed without your knowledge, immediately call for help or call for a Black Rock Ranger.
  • If you see someone who appears to be overly intoxicated, ask them if they need help. If they do, or if you don’t think they’re in a state to answer safely, get help. Black Rock Rangers can be easily identified (they wear khaki) and are prevalent in all parts of BRC — they are always willing to help. You can also ask anyone wearing a radio.
  • If you or someone you’re with is feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. There are lots of services in Black Rock City to support you. The Sanctuary team of the Black Rock Rangers and the Emergency Services Department (ESD) mental health team are trained to help people going through challenging emotional or psychological processes. There are also participant-run camps providing trained volunteer support, such as the Zendo Project located at 2:45 & A and 9:15 & D (download this sweet flyer and spread the word). These groups offer safe spaces around Black Rock City for people going through such experiences. Seek them out.
  • Call law enforcement for assistance or to report a crime. Wave down a law enforcement vehicle, or go to the substation on the Esplanade at 6:30.

Remember, Black Rock City is our community, and we need to look out for each other.

BRC Street Plan Design Competition: Cool, but Totally Unofficial


We recently caught wind of a Black Rock City Street Plan Design Competition hosted by an experienced group of participants calling themselves the Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning (BRCMUP). The Burning Man organization has nothing to do with it, but we thought, hey, this could be fun to watch. And then an architecture blog called ArchDaily wrote about the competition on August 16 without doing its journalism homework, so now we have to clear a couple things up.

Burning Man is not involved with this competition, and we aren’t “select[ing] a winner”. The BRCMUP organizers never said we were, either. They say they’ll present their winner to us, and then it’s up to us what we do with it. So the ArchDaily blog post was in error, and it has since been corrected.

As for the contest itself, the official description is worded pretty strongly:

“The final choice of design will rest with bmorg [sic] based on a combination of popularity, logistics and space considerations (including the option to retain the current city plan).”

We love the ingenuity of Burners and are curious to see what they come up with through this competition. We will certainly take a look at all the top designs in this competition, not just the winner, out of curiosity and admiration. The ideas generated by this competition could also be useful to Regional Events, which are in various stages of growth and planning, each with their own location’s design challenges, and we think that’s great. But there are no plans to redesign Black Rock City.

Thanks to BRCMUP for starting an interesting conversation, and we look forward to seeing what comes of it.

(Photo by Ron Lussier)

Announcing the Burning Man Ticket Transfer Tool!

"It would please me very much if you were to have this ticket." (Photo by Fazlul Bari, Creative Commons)
“It would please me very much if you were to have this ticket.” (Photo by Fazlul Bari, Creative Commons)

We’re beyond excited to introduce you to the new self-serve Ticket Transfer tool, available through your Ticketfly account. Ticket Transfer allows you to assign any transfer-eligible ticket or vehicle pass in a Will Call order to a specific person. With Ticket Transfer:

  • you can assign items in your order to different people.
  • the need for any other name change request emails or paperwork or presentation of name change paperwork at the Box Office is eliminated!
  • once an item is transferred to someone, they can pick it up with their ID at the Box Office, no need to perform an in-person “hold” at the Box Office.
  • recipients are provided more security—transfers are one-way and once transferred, the recipient is the owner of the item. The recipient can transfer items on to others as well.

Hooray! You can find full details and instructions here.

Here Comes the Rain Again — Are You Ready?

(Photo by Scott London)

(Photo by Scott London)

OK folks, so we’ve had some unseasonably late rain in northern Nevada this year. Small sections of Highway 447 were washed out last month, and in early August the DPW survey team evacuated the playa when storms swept through the area. If you remember 2014’s 12-hour Gate closure (we sure do), you’ll know why we feel it’s important to share our best tips for preparing for rain on your parade.

Probably the most important tip is, if you see rain coming, tune in to BMIR 94.5 FM for the latest news and updates on what to plan for. (You did pack a battery-powered radio, right?) Burning Man has its own weather tracking team who will be feeding the latest updates to BMIR, which will continue its no-snark news broadcasts at the top of every hour.

Here are the top tips for dealing with rain:

  • Batten down your camp. (Rain is almost always accompanied by high winds, which will blow anything unattended into the next county.) This includes tents, shade structures, lawn chairs, clothing, paper plates and napkins, beer cans, or anything else that could potentially get blown away in a sudden, fierce windstorm.
  • Shelter in place until the worst of it is over. And make sure your campmates have a safe and dry place to shelter, too. Don’t go out dancing in the rain if there is lightning.
  • Protect all food, medicine, bedding and clothing from getting wet. There is nothing worse than trying to sleep in a wet sleeping bag. Speaking of food and medicine, be sure to bring extra on the chance you may be stuck on site for a period of time if it rains during Exodus.
  • Turn off and cover generators or anything generating electricity. Also beware of extension cords and cables that run through puddles — lift them onto anything off the ground, like a wooden block.
  • Store fuel safely. Make sure any stored fuel is above ground and in some sort of secondary containment to keep it away from water.
  • Don’t climb on any structures in a severe rain storm (really, that should go without saying, because lightning).
  • Don’t drive your car or Mutant Vehicle on the wet playa — all vehicles must stop moving. Driving on wet playa destroys the road system and creates ruts. Also, it is very possible you’ll get stuck.
  • Same goes for riding your bike. Within seconds, your tires will collect wet clay and quickly seize solid with about 5″ (and 10 pounds) of thick clay-like mud making it impossible for the tires to rotate.
  • If you absolutely have to walk around, duct tape heavy-duty trash bags to your shoes to minimize what can immediately become “playa platforms” on the bottom of your shoes as the layers of wet clay accumulate with each step you take.

Lastly, in the event of extended rain, pumping trucks will have trouble servicing the toilets and the porta-potties will fill up. You’ll need your own place to go. The solution? A Poop Bucket™! Making a poop bucket is old skool Burnertastic, and super simple. You’ll want:

  • A five gallon bucket with a lid (you’ll really want the lid)
  • Heavy-duty garbage bags (compactor bags are the best)
  • Some kitty litter (or sawdust)
  • A pool noodle (if you want to get all fancy)
(Image credit: Prepper Journal)
(Image credit: Prepper Journal)

The pool noodle (cut halfway through to its center point) fits nicely around the lip of the bucket and provides some cush for your tush. Line the bucket with a garbage bag, toss in an appropriate handful of some kitty litter for odor control and absorption and keep the lid on it until you need to use again. Don’t let any single garbage bag get too full (you really don’t want them breaking when you remove them). When the first gets partially full, seal it and place the next bag on top of the sealed one and use it. Poop bucket savants thread the toilet paper roll through the metal handle of the bucket, so it’s right where you need it at all times. Some people have been known to bring a toilet seat instead of the “pool noodle”. Either way, you’ll want to be prepared for just such an emergency.

Remember you need to take that “shit” with you when you leave — do NOT under any circumstances leave this mess for others to deal with. Don’t even think of bringing ANY materials from your Poop Bucket into the commercial porta potties (the mantra: if it wasn’t in your body, don’t put it in the potty! Otherwise the pumping machines get clogged). Also, human waste cannot go in dumpsters. So dispose of your Poop Bucket materials in the appropriate location (this is why you have the bucket lid — HELLA duct tape that thing on there for the ride home).

As you can see, Burning Man is fun and all, but preparing for the playa is no joke. Please remember the desert environment can be extreme. Strong gusts of wind, high temperatures during the day, cold at night, and yes, sometimes it rains. And rain is a serious matter in the Black Rock Desert. Read and review the information above, share it with your friends and campmates, and we’ll see you out there!