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How to Get Help on the Playa

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The Civilized Explorer

When you are trying to leave

When Exodus hits and it is time to leave Black Rock City, many people find that their battery has died, the engine has died, the vehicle has died. There are many ways for your motor vehicle to die on the playa. Lucky people will drive by broken down vans, trucks, buses, and cars in the exit lanes before they even get to the blacktop. If you are unlucky, you may be one of them. Or you may not even have gotten the car to start in the first place.

Do not despair. Even with the tens of thousands of people leaving you behind, there are still thousands of people left who can help. Playa Info stays open even while they are closing. Locate Playa Info during the event before you need them. If your car will not start or you have lost your keys, go first to Playa Info and ask for the locations of camps that provide help for people such as you. There are Burners who are locksmiths who can get you into your car if the keys are inside or who can cut you new keys if you have lost them. Other Burners provide jumpstarts for dead batteries. If the breakdown is mechanical, Playa Info can get you in touch with towing companies.

If you see a Black Rock Ranger, a BLM ranger, or a county sheriff, flag them down and ask for assistance. They can communicate with people who can arrange to help you. If you have a MURS radio, you can program it to 154.600MHz, with a PL tone of 97.4; this should be Channel 5 on your radio. The Burning Man Emergency Services Department monitors this frequency for emergency use, requesting that Channel 5 not be used for personal communications.

If the Burning Man radio station is still active, ask there for help. They can broadcast an appeal for you.

Ask the people around you for help. There is an amazing variety of people in the community, and there may be someone who can provide direct help; there will be someone who can get you to someone who can get you to someone ... and eventually you will be helped.

If you are a member of AAA, the American Automobile Association, your tow will be covered to some extent, perhaps completely. We have spoken with people waiting for a tow, and the wait is always several hours. This is the nature of having an area as sparsely populated as Nevada suddenly experience hundreds of demands for a tow truck. You may as well settle down for the wait.

I cannot tell you if an auto association of other countries have reciprocal arrangements with the AAA; if you are a member of your auto association, confirm this before you leave if you are renting a vehicle. Because of the very long distances involved, uninsured towing will be very expensive. Some drivers may have no way to accept credit cards, by the way.

Hanneman Towing in Fernley is the closest AAA towing company. They request that you get your vehicle out to the pavement so that they don't have to search the city to find you. Hanneman said they think Burning Man provides some assistance with this. [Editor's note: good luck with that.] AAA members should call AAA at (800) 222-4357. Otherwise, call Hanneman directly at (775) 575-2345. They charge $50 for the load and 5 cents a mile for a minimum of 160 miles. If you ask them to take you only to Gerlach, you still have to pay for the entire 160 miles. At night, it costs $70 for the load.

Bruno's Texaco in Gerlach will also tow you to town. He is not part of AAA, but if he can fix your car, it might be more convenient. Call Bruno's directly at (775) 557-2272. If he can't fix your car, you'll probably end up calling Hanneman.

When you are in Gerlach

If you are in Gerlach, you are in luck. Stop at Bruno's restaurant, have something to eat, have something to drink, talk to other people. Cell phones work in Gerlach, just be sure to keep your phone charged. I have seen a couple on their cell phone talking to AAA while in Bruno's restaurant, but others inform me they get no cell service in Gerlach. I'm trying to find out what service worked there.

The 2010 JRS says the following services work "along parts of State Route 447, Gerlach or State Route 34": Nextel, AT&T and Verizon.

When you are in the hospital

Here's a quote from the2010 JRS:

So you wake up and you realize you are in a hospital bed. Then you remember that you didn't put any money or your mobile phone in the pockets of your fun fur outfit you wore out to the party by the trash fence. Worse yet, now you are being told you are going to be discharged in 24 hours. How do you get back to the playa?
Your friends on the playa of course! But how to get a message to them? Simply call (866) 580-5350 and follow the instructions to leave a message. Instantly your message gets transmitted to Playa Info, the Rangers, Emergency Services and the Gerlach Burning Man office. If anyone contacts us looking for you at any of these places, we'll be able to relay a message to the parties looking for you so they can send a rescue party to pick up you (and more beer) in Reno.
Please note, if you have access to email please contact us that way instead of via a voice mail as we have no easy way of calling you back at the hospital, especially if they discharge you.

The email address is 911 at burningman dot com - sorry for obscuring it, but that's so it doesn't get bogged down by skimmers.

On the road after you have left Empire

"Certified" towing companies have no connection with Burning Man's organization. If you break down on the road and a tow truck pulls up behind you, deal with that person with caution.

The Civilized Explorer Portal offers news and weather reports, currency conversion, links to aiports and airline flight information, and a Web site where you can upload a photo and have a postcard created and mailed from the US.

This is not the official Burning Man site. That Web site is located at The Burning Man Project.

Copyright © 2008, The Civilized Explorer