“The Org Shows Its True Colors Once Again”: Staff Ticket Scandal

A post from Cranky_Monkey at Reddit:

The Org shows its true colors once again.

Fucking greed. Pure, unadulterated greed.

The Org has once again oversold the event, after coming within 60 attendees of the pop. cap last year. But as they say, actions have consequences:

This time the Org pulled earned tickets from departments. As in, people they bargained free labor last year in exchange for a ticket this year are being told AS THEY DRIVE IN to turn around and go home. These are people that were submitted on staff lists months ago. I’ve personally seen the confirmation emails from two list submittals to the Org.

Evidently, last Thursday the Org notified departments of their “oversight” and that they would not be honoring many staff tickets. DPW, Gate, ESD among others were all affected. Hundreds of workers for the event left holding the bag, many while enroute.

Keep it classy, Burning Man. First you hoodwinked so many to work for free, now you’re actually costing them money lost to preps, fuel, etc for an event they’re not even allowed into. To work. For you. For free.

What a fucking joke.

Feel free to give Event Director a piece of your mind: charlie.dolman@burningman.org

EDIT: No, I cannot share emails and texts. Most are coming from participants, and the emails they would share come from their department leads. Sharing them would immediately out them to their department.

You shouldn’t ONLY listen to me, but if you know anyone from any of the departments listed, feel free to reach out and ask “Hey, heard something is up with tix for staff & volunteers in Org departments” and see what they say.


This was then confirmed by tistrue1:

Completely true. The ORG oversold the event and now they are not honoring staff tickets and credentials earned last year. If your WAP/ticket was put into TicketFly in a timely manner and you have an e-mail from them; then you are good. If your department manager or the person they instructed to put the info into TicketFly didn’t for whatever reason (dropped the ball!) then you’re screwed. Even if you told them you would be attending and they confirmed.

I personally know at least 20 Gate personnel this affected. They are/were on their way to the event and were told to go home.

Here’s the e-mail from the personnel manager of Gate sent yesterday (8/21) at 3:30pm.
This is a tough message.
It is very hard to say this but very important to get the word out. Last Thursday every department at Burning Man was told that there were no more tickets of any kind available. This includes staff credentials, reduced price tickets, and gift tickets. Over the past few days we have been trying to see what kinds of resources we could muster to address the shortfalls we know we have. In most years we are able to continue issuing credentials and tickets up to the day before the event opens, and we can catch the persons that fell between the cracks.
Please check to see if you have an email confirmation from Ticketfly that has the words STAFF CREDENTIAL in it. If you can’t find one it is quite possible you do not have a ticket to Burning Man this year, and for that we are very sorry to disappoint you and break the promises we have made. This is the hardest message I have ever had to put on announce, and I fully expect to hear about it and will field all questions about this.


some other comments:

Help the Helpers

Humboldt General Hospital’s Emergency Medical Services department is the primary medical services contractor to Burning Man. We’ve covered them before, in our story Behind The Danger.
Employees of Humboldt General Hospital staff  a comprehensive on-site medical clinic and an elite high performance ALS ambulance service over the course of the week long event. Each year, they require 300+ temporary employees. Physicians, nurses, paramedics, EMTs and non-clinical support staff treat nearly 3000 injured and ill event participants – almost 5% of the population. The ambulance is called out more than 50 times per day.
burning-man-ambulance_11219452
Humboldt General Hospital is currently recruiting potential employees to staff the 2014 event.
What sort of perks do you get?
  • Humboldt General Hospital maintains a camp area (Theme Camp) available to HGH staff 
  • Employees working three or more shifts will be provided lodging during their “shift cycle”
    (lodging will not be provided once all shifts worked, or during non-scheduled days).
  • In addition employees will receive a shower pass.
  • Work 3+ shifts: 3 meal vouchers a day, per shift worked.
  • Work 6+ shifts: 3 meal vouchers a day, per day spent on playa.

You can find out more here.

Behind the Danger

hgh emsBurning Man is a dangerous place. People die there, get robbed and raped, get injured. Whistleblowers report major safety issues. BMOrg can’t afford to do anything about it other than give us some health hints, even though now the party is taking in $25-50 million per year. And the cops don’t seem to be able to do much to help the safety of Burners, even though their take from the party is now upwards of $2 million/year (plus citation revenues).

Luckily we have an experienced, dedicated, mostly volunteer crew of Emergency Services and medical professionals out there to help us. Medical care on the Playa is free, covered by insurance that comes with your ticket. If you want more coverage, you can also buy special Burning Man insurance.

The Humboldt County EMS team sees half as many people in a week at Burning Man, as they do in an entire year. They manage the staffing of 300-350 employees, who see around 3200 patients in a week from almost 400 ambulance calls. Pat Songer from Humboldt General Hospital EMS, NV, shares some of the stories behind the scenes at Burning Man:

From EMS World:

IMinolta DSCt’s difficult to to schedule 20 people on a spreadsheet, calendar or whiteboard.  Imagine trying to schedule hundreds of people with one of these  antiquated methods of scheduling.  Large scale events require a great deal of support personnel…including security, food service, volunteers, and EMS staff. How to manage, schedule and keep track of all these people is a huge undertaking.

Each year, the last Monday of August signals the start of largest outdoor art festival in North America…Burning Man. A “city” covering seven square miles is built each year in the Black Rock Desert about 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada. Burning Man has been referred to as the largest, planned, mass casualty event in history.

Humboldt General Hospital, in nearby Winnemucca, is the contractor for the massive medical and EMS requirements for Burning Man. “We provide a mobile hospital, a mobile medical unit, and a full ALS ambulance response system for the event. There are about 70,000 participants in the city for the one week festival and we provide all the medical care. We see about 3,200 patients each year at Burning Man so we staff anywhere from 300-350 temporary employees. It’s an enormous scheduling issue dealing with how we schedule the people out there. We use EMS Manager at Humboldt General Hospital and we use it to coordinate all the physicians, administrators and EMS staff at Burning Man.  EMS Manager provides online access so the contract workers can place their availability right from their home months before the event and then we manage the system from our location.  Staff can also login to EMS Manager at the event to pick up more shifts due to no-shows or when people drop shifts.  EMS Manager is excellent.  It’s a very efficient tool for us,” explains Pat Songer, Administrative Director, Humboldt General Hospital, Winnemucca, NV.  

Others responsible for large functions choose to use staff from neighboring EMS agencies.  Scheduling personnel from various agencies and coordinating them into a cohesive team for the duration of the event is a challenge.

Biggest problem? Blisters and cuts. Followed by Dehydration, exhaustion, heat stroke. OK, they have free bandaids. Some Burners didn’t bring enough, or didn’t have them in their pockets when their boo-boo happened. But, can someone explain this to me? Why sell ice and boiled water (coffee/tea), but not sell drinking water? Or, provide water fountains for the public, like most cities do. How much load on the medical system do we need to have, is it going to take someone dying, before BMOrg decides it makes sense that people in a party in the desert should have clearly visible water stations they can go to? We’re human beings, water should be free to begin with.

Although the EMS system can’t help with waters, or sexual assaults, it’s great to know there are so many professional medical people at Burning Man, rostered on to keep us safe. It seems incredible to me, that they have 350 trained medical personnel on the Playa, and at least 130+ Federal and Pershing County Law Enforcement officers – and yet, we are supposed to believe that not one of those nearly 500 is able to use a rape kit on a patient? The nurse or doctor just needs to hand the sealed rape kit to a police officer, thus keeping the chain of evidence sufficiently intact if a case ever went to trial. Is this because it’s the Wild West out there – there are so many crimes being committed, everywhere by everyone, cowboys and sheriffs – that, hey, what’s a few more? Or is it just that this EMS system needs to be improved to schedule in some SANE nurses ? If there aren’t enough trained medical personnel for a city of 70,000, then maybe BMOrg can invest some of those tens of millions into the 40-60 hours of training required by nurses. Seriously: train one nurse, what’s the big deal? Or, even better, train all 350 medical personnel.

The medical staff at Burning Man certainly seem extremely competent to me. Let’s wrap up on a more positive note, with a story about how they saved the life of a guy who had a heart attack out there.

Black Rock City operates as a functional geopolitical entity with fire, police and EMS systems. Each is dispatched from a manned communications center that’s constructed and deconstructed annually.

stretcher patientIn 2011, Humboldt General Hospital EMS in Winnemucca was contracted to provide medical care for Burning Man. Medical care included a fully staffed and operational EMS system, as well as a field hospital called Rampart General and two BLS aid centers.

A total of 2,307 patients were treated. Three-hundred and eighty-two requests for ambulances were made, with 185 patients being transported to Rampart General. Only 33 patients were transported out of the desert for care. The following highlights one of those cases that took place during the event.

On the final day of the Burning Man event, EMS is summoned to a chest pain call in a trailer within the encampment. On arrival, paramedics find a 60-year-old male in acute distress. He’s pale and diaphoretic and in extremis. The patient describes the pain as “tearing” and can’t get into a comfortable position. The EMS crew extricates him from his trailer and moves him to the awaiting ambulance for a more detailed assessment.

He becomes unresponsive shortly after they place him in the ambulance. Paramedics check his pulse, take a quick look at the monitor, and note the patient is in a non-perfusing v tach. On a hunch, they administer a precordial thump, and it works. The patient converts to a sinus rhythm. He’s transported to Rampart General in Black Rock City. Once the patient arrives at the field hospital, the emergency staff rapidly assesses him. He’s alert and oriented, but his blood pressure is undetectable. He’s writhing in pain on the stretcher. IV fluids are given, and his blood pressure is finally detectable at a systolic pressure of 72 mmHg and then up to 76 mmHg. He remains mildly tachycardic. He receives IV fentanyl for pain. Rampart General has X-ray capabilities and a stat chest X-ray is obtained. The emergency physician notes that the mediastinum is wide at 10.5 cm—consistent with a thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection. A medical helicopter is summoned and the patient is closely monitored and stabilized by the emergency staff.

As soon as the helicopter arrives, the patient is moved to the aircraft and transported to a major medical center about 150 miles away. Once he arrives, he undergoes a computed tomography angiogram (CTA) that confirms the suspected aortic dissection. The patient is emergently taken to surgery where the aneurysm is repaired. The operation is successful, and the patient is moved to the intensive care unit (ICU). Following surgery, the patient suffers a second cardiac arrest and is taken to the cardiac catheterization lab for evaluation and subsequent stenting of a coronary artery lesion. He’s returned to the ICU and remains stable. He’s discharged home with appropriate provisions for follow-up. Despite his ordeal, he’s already planning his next trip to Burning Man.

First, this is not a true “case from University Medical Center” because it didn’t happen at UMC. However, emergency physicians, emergency medicine residents and medical students from the University of Nevada School of Medicine provided much of the medical care at Burning Man. As you can tell, this patient had all the cards stacked against him. He had a critical thoracic aortic dissection, and he was in the middle of a Nevada desert more than 150 miles from a medical facility with cardiothoracic surgery capabilities. Furthermore, he suffered a cardiac arrest. Yet despite all of this, he survived.

“Radical Self-Reliance” doesn’t really capture the essence of Black Rock City. We rely on each other. A big thank you to all the volunteers and contractors who provide the medical, fire, and physical safety for us out on the Playa. BMOrg, buy ’em some freaking radios.

SAFETY THIRD: Sacked DPW Dispatch Manager Blows the Whistle on Safety Issues

by Whatsblem the Pro

Earlier this year we reported on a spate of firings at Burning Man, including that of DPW Dispatch manager Palmer ‘Gameshow’ Parker. Technically, Gameshow wasn’t fired; the corporation that owns Burning Man simply declined to renew his contract. The reality of the situation, though, is that a long-term Burning Man employee in a management position was rather abruptly sacked after a decade with DPW.

Now Gameshow is speaking his mind about his tenure with the Man — and the reasons they fired him — and wants to share his thoughts with all of you, along with a letter he wrote to Charlie Dolman, the fledgling Event Operations Director that the Burning Man Org hired just last December. In a nutshell, Gameshow says he was fired largely for not keeping silent about the woeful state of the radio equipment his department was forced to work with, despite the safety issues involved.

[NOTE: “EMBER reports” are after-burn reports written by managers from every department of the Burning Man Org, to document in detail every significant success or failure.]

Former DPW Dispatch Manager Palmer 'Gameshow' Parker

Former DPW Dispatch Manager Palmer ‘Gameshow’ Parker

AN OPEN LETTER FROM PALMER ‘GAMESHOW’ PARKER

Greetings, friends and Burning Man family,

As most all of you know I received a phone call last March which said, in essence, I no longer had the job of Burning Man Department of Public Works Dispatch Manager because the new BM Operations Manager desired a closer working relationship between Emergency Services Division and DPW. Since then I have spent a LOT of time thinking about what happened and why. My primary concern as DPW Dispatch manager was always safety, not politics. It still is. The result is a letter to Charlie Dolman, the Operations Manager, along with the creation of a website which consists of that letter along with past manager reports, pictures, and other relevant information.

I invite you to learn more or, if you wish, stop here. Either way, know that I feel that your inclusion in this invitation was important. You have my permission to pass this information along to others if you wish.

The letter below was sent to Charlie Dolman with cc: to Burning Man Board, Executive Committee, and DPW Council of Darkness members. This is what my intro was in the email to Mr. Dolman et al:

“My apologies for the timing of this letter, it and the creation of a website have been a work in progress for months and now is when all was finally completed. . . if you encounter any difficulty in opening the file I can resend it in Word form.

I have attempted to cc: the Board, the Executive Committee, and the DPW Council of Darkness in particular though I was not able to verify all email addresses through the Burning Man website. I am sending it to others in the extended Burner community as well.

If you do choose to read my letter and go through the website I’ve created, I have one question for you: What would you have had me do differently?”

August 20, 2013
Charlie Dolman
Operations Manager
Burning Man
995 Market Street
15th Floor
San Franciso, CA 94103

Dear Mr. Dolman:

My name is Palmer Parker, playa name Gameshow. I held the position of DPW Dispatcher for 10 years, manager for nine of those. On March 13th of this year my immediate supervisor, Playground, informed me by telephone that Burning Man’s new Operations Manager “wished a closer working relationship between ESD and
DPW Dispatch” therefore my employment with Burning Man was terminated. This effectively also fired my wife Katy from her five year position as Dispatcher and my de facto assistant manager though no one from Burning Man has contacted her directly about that. It also served to eliminate my stepdaughter Aimee’s (Paws Off) two-year volunteer position under Bettie June in Art Support Services and removed my two step-sons’ (Andrew “L’il Dog” and Benny “Rooster Tail”) two-year volunteer efforts with Shelly in the Commissary. Over the months since that phone call I have spent many, many hours – including way too many times waking in the wee hours of the morning – processing what happened and why. This letter is one result of that pondering and, for clarity’s sake, it is not an effort to regain employment by Burning Man.

To the best of my knowledge you and I, sir, have never met or communicated directly in any way prior to my writing this – I didn’t know your name until I went looking for it on the Burning Man website after that phone call. No grievance has ever been filed against me, no request for mediation has been made toward me, and no conflict resolution efforts have been initiated by anyone but me. I have never been accused of theft, lying, assault, or any other criminal act at Burning Man. I will grant you that I was accused of sending a page about a death to a Board member at a very early time one morning. As that method of relaying such news would be entirely inappropriate regardless of the hour, when I asked for proof of the page I did not remember having sent, Joseph Pred told me that the paging log was corrupted and he was therefore unable to provide that record. In truth I may not have even been on shift that night despite what the posted Dispatch schedule listed.

There were no discussions of need for personal improvement plan or other HR-related activity (Charles of ESD COMM – a Burning Man contractor rather than employee – threatened on occasion that he would talk to HR about me or others who commented on the poor state of the radio system), no mention of probation or other change in my Burning Man employment status. I was directed to not speak ill of the state of radios last year and I followed that directive to the best of my ability. I was honest in my ten years of post-event manager EMBER reports. Given the very succinct presentation of the reason I was given for your firing me, I can only surmise that you based your decision on information, documentation, opinion, and/or otherwise provided by Joseph in his position as head of Burning Man’s Emergency Services Division (I find it ironic that I had, through my supervisor, requested mediation with him in 2011 and he refused). It is a sadness to me that the friendship he and I once shared has also been a victim of the continued state of radio service his department provides to DPW.

My primary concern as DPW Dispatch Manager was always safety with a close second being effective, reliable, and efficient radio service. The quality of the tools Burning Man provides to DPW Dispatch to establish the umbrella of communication creating that safety and efficiency is controlled entirely by ESD: DPW Dispatch is completely dependent on that department for equipment and programming.

Among myself and the Dispatchers who worked with me it had long been a grave concern that we would be unable to respond to an emergency because we could not hear a radio call or could not be heard when we attempted to transmit. A life lost or a serious injury is a horrible burden for a Dispatcher to bear even when equipment works as it should. And it appears to me that rather than work to solve the real problem(s) you chose, instead, to be convinced by Joseph to kill the messenger. Your action has relieved me of responsibility if someone may suffer injury or death because of defective radios but, in doing so, I believe you have taken that responsibility on yourself.

I have no idea whether you’ve read any of my EMBER reports or not. They have long included appreciations for jobs well done and concerns for shortcomings. Examples from last year’s EMBER (sort of extra-appropriate since when I added this example to my letter it was Fence Day 2013 and congrats to the crew there for this year’s record time):

  1. IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT WORKED WELL AND WHAT DIDN’T THIS YEAR

WHAT WORKED WELL:

  • 4508 (CONTAINS THE DISPATCH OFFICE) WAS IN POSITION IN THE DEPOT-TO-BE ON FENCE DAY MORNING EVEN BEFORE THE FIRST LEG OF TRASH FENCE T-STAKES WERE IN ~ THANK YOU INSANE AND HEAT!! INSANE WAS ALSO KIND ENOUGH TO TAKE US TO BREAKFAST – IN 4508 – ONCE THE COMMISSARY WAS UP AND RUNNING.
  • SUPPORT FROM THE IT DEPARTMENT WAS, YET ANOTHER YEAR IN A ROW, STELLAR ~ COMPLETE WITH NEW (FASTER) COMPUTER, NEW (IT WORKED!!) PRINTER, ALL OF WHICH, ALONG WITH VOIP PHONE, WERE INSTALLED AND OPERATIONAL BY 2PM ON FENCE DAY. IT STAFF ALSO CHECKED IN ON US REGULARLY THROUGHOUT OUR TIME ON PLAYA AND, WHEN DISPATCH CALLED WITH A QUESTION OR PROBLEM, THEY RESPONDED IMMEDIATELY. IT IS TRULY WONDERFUL TO BE SO FULLY AND PLEASANTLY SERVED AND SUPPORTED BY THAT CREW.
  • SUPPORT FROM MANY FORMERLY KNOWN AS SENIOR STAFF AND/OR DPW COUNCIL OF DARKNESS.

WHAT DID NOT WORK WELL:

  • RADIOS
    • SADLY THIS IS YET ANOTHER YEAR’S EMBER IN WHICH I’M NOT SURE WHERE TO BEGIN.
      • DISPATCH WAS EXPECTING TO HAVE UP TO FIVE MOBILE (POWERFUL) RADIOS PROGRAMMED CORRECTLY AND COMPLETELY INSTALLED ON FENCE DAY IF NOT SOONER (THE RADIOS COULD’VE BEEN INSTALLED WHEN 4508 WAS ON THE RANCH). DISPATCH WAS WITHOUT EVEN A SINGLE MOBILE RADIO UNTIL TUESDAY (FENCE DAY WAS MONDAY SO THAT’S ESSENTIALLY TWO DAYS INTO TRANSPO) WHEN I (WITH PERMISSION) WENT TO THE RANCH AND REMOVED THE MOBILE FROM THE COMMON SHOP AND MOVED IT TO DISPATCH. TWO MORE ANALOG MOBILES WERE INSTALLED ON WEDNESDAY.
      • THE RENTAL BRICK TO RENTAL DIGITAL SNAFU WAS A HORRENDOUS TIME AND ENERGY SUCK. IT SET DISPATCH BACK IN TERMS OF OFFICE ORGANIZATION, STAFF TRAINING, AND PLAYA-WIDE DISPATCH SERVICES WHICH DOES NOT INCLUDE THE AMOUNT OF WORK TIME RADIO USERS LOST IN THEIR PART OF THE SWAPPING PROCESS.
      • CHANNELS 4 (PRIMARY DPW ANALOG CHANNEL) AND CHANNEL 911ALT (FORMERLY 912, THE BRICK RADIO’S VERSION OF ESD911) WERE TAKEN DOWN WITHOUT WARNING TO DISPATCH OR OUR USERS.
      • THE MORE DIGITAL RADIO USERS THERE WERE, THE MORE DPW’S PRIMARY CHANNEL BECAME UNUSABLE DUE TO HARMONIC INTERFERENCE.
      • WHEN 4508 WAS SWITCHED FROM GENERATOR TO LIGHT TOWER FOR POWER POST-EVENT THE UNINTERRUPTIBLE POWER SUPPLY (UPS) PROTECTING THE MOBILE RADIOS WENT CRAZY. SOLUTION WAS TO BYPASS THE UPS (THERE WERE NO COMM TECHS ON PLAYA OR IN GERLACH). THAT WOULD NOT HAVE OCCURRED IF THE RADIOS HAD BEEN POWERED AS REQUESTED IN LAST YEAR’S EMBER.
      • RADIO COMMUNICATION WITH THE RANCH BECAME DIFFICULT TO IMPOSSIBLE ONCE THE SWITCH TO DIGITAL OCCURRED. THAT PRESENTED SAFETY AND LOGISTICAL SIDE EFFECTS.

If you would like to read about my history at Burning Man, view, pictures, and browse other information you are welcome to visit www.gameshow.me. If you
would like to learn more of the DPW Dispatch side of ESD/Dispatch history, I can provide that as well. I started this letter several months ago and let it sit, I’m not usually the letter-writing type in a situation like this. Much more likely, typically, to recognize the hierarchy and move on. But I keep coming back to the issue of the safety of those on the playa. I have spoken of my firing with very few in the Burning Man organization (or elsewhere for that matter except by way of explaining why I wasn’t going to TTITD to those who expected me to be gone by now). It was suggested to me at one point that a way of airing my safety concerns might be by filing a grievance myself. I thought about that suggestion for a while and decided to try that route rather than airing dirty laundry, so to speak. I called Playground and asked her what procedure there might be. She said she would get back to me in a day or two and she did, saying that there was no procedure but if I’d like to write a letter to her she would forward it to Human Resources or, if I preferred, I could write to HR directly. As I had been told in March that it was you who had made the firing decision, I have decided to send this letter to you instead with copies to the Board, Executive Committee, DPW Council of Darkness, and others in the Burner community.

You can read the entire text of Gameshow’s letter to Charlie Dolman at gameshow.me