Ranger Survival
Lessons learned the hard way.
Desert Survival
Exposure and dehydration are constant risks in the Black Rock Desert. Daytime temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees and the humidity is extremely low, which rapidly and continually wicks moisture out of your body. Because the atmosphere is so dry, you may not feel particularly warm, but you'll be steadily drying up. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. Carry a water bottle with you at all times. If you are out and active during the hot part of the day, you should be drinking water every 15 to 20 minutes. The color and volume of your urine is a direct indication of your water consumption. Dark urine is bad, light urine is good. One gallon per person per day is the rule of thumb. Users of alcohol, caffeine and other drugs are particularly at risk for dehydration, and should pay extra attention to their water intake. Dehydration can cause headaches, stomach cramps, abdominal pains, constipation, or flu-like symptoms. It exacerbates both heat-related and cold-related conditions (i.e. both sunstroke and hypothermia), and makes it difficult for the body to mend itself. If someone you know complains of these symptoms, or shows signs of either severe overheating or (worse) a case of the chills under the mid-day sun, get them to shade immediately and contact medical help. As a Ranger, it is particularly important to stay on top of your water intake, both to maintain your own health and to set a good example for others. Be on the lookout for people who are walking around without carrying water. Let them know in a friendly way.
Shade structures should be made of canvas or other fabric, as plastic tarps are very noisy during windy conditions. Try to position your tent to present the smallest possible profile to the wind. Prevailing winds are from south-southwest to north-northeast. Weight the interior corners of your tent; stakes which are 12-inch or longer are recommended. Lengths of re-bar make excellent stakes, but all exposed ends must be capped (empty 1-liter plastic soda bottles will do the trick) to prevent foot/leg injuries. Driving your stakes below ground level, then attaching the guy ropes and covering the hole is the most effective safety measure. Ropes or cable used to secure tents should be flagged, preferably with a white or reflective material because they will be hazardous to pedestrians at night.
Beating the Heat (and the Cold)
Make sure you bring some kind of shade for your camp and try to be less active during the hottest part of the day. (Save your strength for the night.) Use sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and drink lots of water. When the sun drops over the horizon, temperatures will begin to decrease. Overnight lows in the 40's can seem exceptionally cold after all that daytime sun, so you'll want a warm jacket and a good sleeping bag.
Accident Prevention
Preventative care and reasonable safety precautions are crucial. You can exert a positive influence on the community and help cut back on the number of emergencies by encouraging people to be safe and responsible. When you see unsafe or survivally-challenged behavior, it is your responsibility to bring it to that participant's attention. If a campsite is poorly built and presents a safety hazard to the public, whether it is unflagged guy wires, unprotected tent stakes or just a general likelihood to have something blow away, let the pople there know that they need to correct it. Tent stakes should be driven below the surface to prevent foot injuries or at least capped with a protective device.
Most Common Medical Problems
    •    Dehydration (lack of water in the body)
    •    Sunburn
    •    Foot and leg wounds from unprotected stakes and other objects
    •    Burns from playing with fire
    •    Heat exhaustion
Fire Art
Fire art is a traditional part of Burning Man and Rangers should not intervene except under certain conditions, e.g.-- intoxicated fire artists who may be out of control and posing a risk to bystanders or campsites. Fires should not threaten nearby structures unless planned to do so. Large scale works of art may be burned within designated areas and precautions should be taken to ensure a reasonably safe burn. Every participant has the right to experience flame. Falling into fire is not FATAL as long as the exposure time is limited. However, burns are physically painful and scarring. Restrictions to fire activities should be balanced against possible dangers and available medical resources.
After water, the thing your body will need most is sleep. Good sleep is difficult in a city where activity and sound continues nonstop. Reducing the sound level with a good pair of earplugs is essential to acquiring enough sleep. Always wear your earplugs when sleeping in Black Rock City. Sleeping at night is best with a sleeping bag in a warm, enclosed place such as a tent or vehicle. Sleeping during the day is best under a shade structure and on a cot which allows air flow underneath.
Wind & Storms
The Black Rock Desert can be subject to sudden bouts of fierce and unpredictable weather. Storms cells, fed by rising thermals that stream upward from the surrounding mountains, may arise in the late afternoon or evening and bring high winds, lighting and (sometimes) rain into camp. Likewise, dust storms can prowl the playa in packs or sweep, in a broadened front, across the plain. They may suddenly produce instant "white-outs". Seek immediate shelter and stay there. No vehicle should be allowed to move during this condition. If you're caught outside of shelter during this condition, simply sit down, cover your face with your shirt and wait. Note: using a wet shirt or cloth as a breathing mask is a great way to cool off. However, during a dust storm, it will quickly clog and reduce your air supply. Use a dry face covering.
Storms may appear from any direction, but generally follow the prevailing winds out of the south-southwest. Since they often come with little or no warning, you need to keep your camp battened down at all times. Secure objects at your campsite (paper products, clothing, tarps, everything) against the wind. Occasional high winds which may reach 60 mph, will flatten most tents and carry away objects as large as sleeping bags, chairs, card tables, and empty ice chests, unless they are weighted or tied down. If your tent is not properly staked and/or weighted, it may end up miles away. Generally, very severe conditions rarely last more than an hour. Rain falling on the Black Rock Desert is usually brief and the playa dries quickly. If you are on a bicycle when a rainstorm approaches, you should quickly return to your campsite, as bike tires will quickly clog with the sticky playa mud after a rainstorm. Heavy rain storms, which are very rare during the summer, can make the playa impassable for most vehicles for several hours. The best thing to do is stay within the community during adverse weather conditions.
The fine playa dust is an integral part of the Black Rock Desert experience. It will cover your clothes and get into your food. It will find its way into every crevice of your vehicle and belongings. Months later, when you open a door, hood, or trunk, it will appear like an old friend to remind you of your Burning Man experience.
Severe weather, severe hazards. Learn how not to do this.