Client’s Challenge: A Unique Event in the Desert – and Many Security Challenges Unlike Those Elsewhere

If you haven’t been there, don’t even try to imagine the Black Rock Desert at the end of August. As a spontaneous, eight-day long community of over 50,000 participants, Burning Man is unlike virtually any other mass-gathering event in the world – which also means a unique set of challenges. Keen to target and achieve exceptional practices in security and safety – in line with its approach to almost every other aspect of major event planning – its Board of Directors authorized and commissioned Hillard Heintze to conduct an independent and comprehensive assessment of the public safety and security planning for the Burning Man 2010 event.

Our Solution: Assessing the Event and the Top Risks to Participants

Over the next several weeks, Hillard Heintze leveraged its Risk Assessment Framework to analyze 28 types of incidents and identify the top risks to both Burning Man and the event’s participants. The firm’s experts then attended the event, interviewed internal and external administrators and decision makers and conducted a rigorous evaluation of (1) all internal security and safety operations, (2) liaison and information-sharing practices with external law enforcement and public safety organizations; (3) all public safety- and security-related policies and expenditures, (4) after-action reports from public safety agencies, and (5) compliance with national standardized emergency planning and response frameworks.

Impact on the Client: An Excellent Report Card – and New Alignment with the NIMS/ICS System

The Burning Man board credited the Hillard Heintze report – and its extensive key findings and recommendations with helping to build consensus and buy-in from all participating public safety and security agencies – at all levels of government – and advancing proactive and effective working relationships. Among many other enhancements, Black Rock City was also able to significantly improve its compliance with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS), as well as establish more cost effective event security strategies. As for the two senior Hillard Heintze members who led this assessment on the ground in the desert, don’t bother asking them if they’d ever seen anything like this event before. You’ll get a smile. And a short answer: “We’re still recovering.”

Unplugged: The Project Manager's Post-Engagement Perspective

“Strategic integration is vital.  Burning Man’s participants are guided by ten principles – including civil responsibility and communal effort.  And these tenets are just as important for those running the event.

As it is for any large-gathering event, the single most significant safety and security issue – and greatest opportunity – is the critical need to take a centralized approach to improving the strategic coordination and integration of all external and internal security, safety and law enforcement capabilities and resources.

And today, Burning Man addresses this in a remarkably savvy and effective manner.”

Related Case Studies
View All