How Not To Die At Burning Man

Fest300 is a web site that aims to become the Fortune 500 of festivals. It was founded by Burning Man Project Director Chip Conley, a prominent gay entrepreneur who is also on the Board of hippy favorites the Esalen Institute and Glide Memorial Church.

Fest300 today published an article “How Not To Die At Burning Man”, by Joseph Pred. Pred used to be Burning Man’s chief of emergency operations, until he stepped down in 2013 after new operations director Charlie Dolman was brought in to run the Nevada event.

From Fest300:

fest300 safety tips burningman-shorter

image from Fest300

There are some good tips here, like capping rebar – tennis balls work great and are easier to see in low-light conditions.

Almost 60% of patients are there for basic first aid – bring a first aid kit and be radically self-reliant, Burners. Your camp should have at least one fire extinguisher too.

Although it says do not leave fires unattended, there are more rules than that if you want to have a fire at Burning Man.

Sexual assaults probably occur without being reported. Here are the ones that were reported:

2009    5

2010    4

2011    9

2012    10

2013    7

As far as I know, this information has never been made public before. We covered this issue in The Dark Side of Burning Man – Rape on the Playa.

We’ve also looked at injuries on the playa before, in our post How To Get Hurt At Burning Man.

One Medical physician and Veteran Burner Dr Michelle Rhee has 10 Tips for Staying Healthy at Burning Man:

 nurse1. Plan for at least one gallon of water per day.

You’ll be walking, biking, and dancing in desert conditions during the day and night, so Rhee suggests you “double or even triple the amount of water you’d normally drink at home—at least one gallon per day.”

To make sure you’ve got water on you at all times, Rhee recommends a CamelBak. “I love my CamelBak.  It is always on my back and much more difficult to lose than a water bottle,” says Rhee. “My CamelBak Mule holds 3 liters, and I go back to camp at least one to two times to replenish.”

You should also watch carefully for signs of dehydration, including feeling dizzy, weak, or hyperthermic, decreased urination, and increased heart rate. “You are in the danger zone if you stop urinating and have really weak pulses,” cautions Rhee. “If this happens, go immediately to the medical units to get IV fluids. This is the quickest way to hydrate.” On the way over, she recommends that you start drinking coconut water or something that has sugar and salt in it to help keep the fluids in your blood vessels.

2. Bring a spray bottle to mist yourself.

When it comes to sun and heat protection, Rhee also suggests that you bring a spray bottle with a fan or a mister. “Spraying yourself with cool water with a fan will actually cool you down quicker than dousing yourself with a bucket of water,” says Rhee.

Also watch carefully for heat-related distress—if people start acting delirious, they stop sweating or are unconscious, seek immediate help.

3. Pack a basic first aid kit.

While the medical clinics at Burning Man are well stocked with things you might need (Rhee even had a friend get an EKG onsite!), she recommends you that you bring:

  • Band aids of all sizes (and antibiotic ointment like Neosporin)
  • Sports or paper tape with non-adherent pads for larger cuts and wounds
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • An ace bandage for sprains
  • Tylenol/ibuprofen or pain killer of your choice
  • Sudafed/Benadryl for congestion
  • Emergen-C packets for hangovers
  • Tryptophan 500 to 2000 mg or Melatonin 5 mg to help you sleep
  • Inhalers if you are asthmatic or prone to asthma-like reactions
  • Saline drops for your eyes
  • Saline nasal spray for your nose

4. Anticipate UTIs and yeast infections.

Given the very dry and often less-than-hygienic conditions, women may be more prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections on the playa (in fact, One Medical often sees a spike in UTIs immediately following the event). To prevent lady troubles, Rhee recommends that you take a daily probiotic and cranberry tablets and drink plenty of water, as well as urinating after having sex, always wiping from front to back, and wearing loose, breathable materials like cotton.

“Just in case, I would bring some boric acid (for bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections), Monistat or oral Diflucan (for yeast infections), Azo (for dysuria), and possibly a UTI treatment such as Cipro or Macrobid, if your provider OKs it,” says Rhee.

If you do get a UTI on the playa and you don’t have medication on hand, visit one of the medical clinics—they should be able to help you, says Rhee.

And don’t forget that when you get home, you can use the One Medical mobile app to treat UTIs without an appointment. Like www.fhatscasino.co.za tend to create the need for a larger way to accomodate a marketplace cellular apps.

5. Prepare for dust storms.

Dust storms are a fact of life in the desert, so most people wear goggles and some sort of scarf or bandana to protect their face and nose. If the dust gets to be too much, Rhee recommends flushing your nose/sinuses with a Neti pot and irrigating your eyes with cool water followed by saline drops.

Dust storms can also be disorienting. Rhee suggests bringing a compass to help you know which direction you’re facing… and also keeping a close eye out for vehicles that might not be able to see you. “Accidents are the thing I am most concerned about when it comes to dust storms,” says Rhee. “People still operate their bikes and art cars in the dust storms and can come at you when you least expect it, so be extra vigilant when you’re walking around in a storm.”

6. Avoid “Playa Foot” by keeping feet clean and moisturized.

“Playa foot” is a condition caused by the alkali dust that makes up the desert—essentially, it’s a chemical burn on your feet.

To prevent it, Rhee recommends keeping your feet covered out on the playa, washing your feet well every day, and applying moisturizer before getting in bed and before heading out. If you do notice irritation, soak your feet in water and wash your feet extra well, being careful to remove any dust embedded in the cracks of your skin.

According to the Burning Man prep guide, soaking your feet in water with a small amount of vinegar can also help to neutralize the alkali (1/4 vinegar and 3/4 water is a good mix). When you’re done, make sure to dry your feet very well and check for any errant playa dust. Continue to wash your feet a couple times a day to allow them to heal.

If you see any signs of infection (redness, swelling, increasing pain, red streaks running up your legs), if you develop a fever, or if your feet become so sore that you are no longer able to walk on them, seek immediate medical attention.

7. Don’t wait for blisters to happen.

Walking, biking, and dancing can also take a toll on your feet. To prevent blisters, Rhee urges people to “wear shoes that you can wear all day. And just don’t buy a pair of shoes that you have never walked around in before you get there.  You need to know they are comfortable.”

If you do get a blister on a weight-bearing location, Rhee suggests moleskin cut out in a donut to fit around the blister.

8. Eat hydrating, nutrient-rich foods.

To keep your energy up and your immune system strong, eat meals that include a protein, a complex carb, and healthy fat.

“A common dish I like to make is quinoa, chick peas, green onions, spinach, walnuts, dried cranberries, and feta with a honey, grainy mustard and red wine vinegar dressing,” says Rhee.

Rhee also recommends bringing lots of “simple things you can just pull out and eat,” such as Odwallas, cut-up fruit, raw energy bars such as Kind bars, or a smoothie that has proteins, greens, and immune boosters. “I also like to bring something warm for the evening when it gets cold, such as soup with some spice,” adds Rhee.

9. Party smart.

While overindulging in alcohol and taking drugs isn’t something Rhee condones, she does acknowledge that “lots of people party on the playa.”

To avoid trouble, Rhee recommends the following:

  • Eat something that is nourishing and lines your belly before you go out.
  • For every unit of alcohol, drink 8 ounces of water. In fact, Rhee suggest you “double fist” your drinks—water in one hand and the drink in the other.
  • Before you go to sleep, drink a good amount of water with electrolytes and take some ibuprofen.
  • Always have a buddy—someone who knows you and can help if you’ve had one too many.
  • Never mix alcohol with drugs (or mix drugs).

10. Know how to get emergency help.

“If you’re suffering from serious dehydration, if you think you might have an infection, or if someone is bleeding or unconscious (or in danger of harming themselves or others), it’s time to stop the party and get professional help,” says Rhee.

Black Rock City’s Emergency Services Department (ESD) operates two medical stations on the 3:00 and 9:00 plazas, and behind the Center Cafe at 6:00. Look for the neon blue cross on top of the buildings. These stations are staffed by emergency health care providers (doctors, nurses, medics, etc.) who donate their time and medical expertise; they’re also set up to provide rapid first-response medical care anywhere within Black Rock City.

If you’re not close to one of these stations, look for a paramedic wearing a yellow T-shirt with the ESD logo—they can be found walking around some of the more popular sites. You can also get help from the khaki-clad Black Rock Rangers, who are trained to respond to emergencies and will know how to get the appropriate resources to the scene.

Be well, be safe, and see you on the playa!

Take care, Burners! Your ticket entitles you to medical insurance that covers on-Playa treatment, the situation is less certain for those who have to be medivacked to Reno.

 

8 comments on “How Not To Die At Burning Man

  1. Pingback: Humboldt General Reveals Details of Medical Split | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. These “guide lines” are ALL simple common sense things, that anyone that has any business being in the desert should already know. The Real question is, why is Mr. Chip Conley referred to as “A prominent gay entrepreneur”? Is that really relevant to ANY part of this article? IF he were straight would anyone refer to him as “A prominent HETEROSEXUAL entrepreneur”? I could care less who or what he has sex with, but it is absolutely ridiculous that it should be somehow part of his “title”. Who really gives two s**ts about who he screws?

    Like

    • He’s referred to that way because he goes out and gives speeches and interviews about it – like the one I linked to in the article.
      Just click the words that make you so flustered “gay entrepreneur” and read the New York times headline.

      If it’s not relevant to you, that’s completely fine with me. Some are interested in things like this. San Francisco is a city that is very gay friendly and Burning Man is very welcoming and accepting of the LGBT community.

      Like

  3. Just stay in your luxurious motor home and if you need some grey poupon send out the help. I mean really, isn’t this obvious? If you couldn’t think of this for yourself you’re probably just not the right kind of people!

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    • this information has been prepared by the former head of Burning Man’s Emergency Services Department, so we believe the numbers of be accurate. The numbers are for reported incidents. We have no information about convictions.

      There are no rape kits on the Playa, so anyone who reports a sexual assault who wants to pursue the matter all the way to conviction must leave Burning Man and go to a hospital in Sparks, probably in a police car. This takes hours and may have an effect on the ability to connect DNA evidence. Then the victim would have to return to Reno for any court action.

      BMOrg claims they can’t afford to send any nurses for the training required to administer a rape kit, and that it is not possible to store evidence in a legally acceptable fashion on the Playa or at their nearby ranch. Make up your own mind if they’re telling the truth or just dodging the issue.

      Like

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