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2022 The ART of Green Dot Rangers
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 The ART of Green Dot Rangers

Last Update: 4/17/22

Please Note:

This is a living document and a work in progress. It’s going to change a lot over the season but is presented here as a resource for our Green Dot Rangers. No policy statements in this document should be taken as accurate, timely, up-to-date, or even actual policy.

What's this all about?

“Green Dot” situations revolve around participants who feel overwhelmed by grief, disorientation, fear, confusion, sensory or psychedelic overload, and a wide range of related states that are fueled by the intense and challenging nature of Black Rock City. 

The Black Rock Rangers, who pursue the Green Dot path have developed experience in the successful navigation of these states over many years of practice.  Those skills are grounded in and are an extension of the core Ranger skill set that all Rangers have experience with.

This is a compilation of our best material in Green Skills over the last several years. There is a lot of it!

Relevant Links and Documents

Art of Green FLAME Supplement

Published Version 2022 ART of GDR 

(Ch. 1) Foundations

Why "Green Dots"?

A little history ...

In the mid-90s the department that is now Emergency Services was a function within the Rangers.  It was useful at the start of a shift to quickly identify Rangers with specialized skills for certain situations.  Those who had volunteer fire experience got a red sticker dot on their laminates; those who had wilderness first responder medical certification or above got a blue sticker on their laminates; those who had sufficient peer counseling experience to feel comfortable talking to the wackiest people at burning man and to see to their safety got a green sticker.

In the late 90s a structure called Sanctuary was established behind Ranger HQ. It is a shelter to provide participants, with no other place to go, a safe space to find rest, care, and to collect themselves.

In 2001 the “Red Dot” and “Blue Dot” functions were extracted to ESD, and parallel structures were instituted for Green Dot peer counselors within the Rangers, and mental health professionals in a Crisis Intervention Team in ESD (“CIT” -> now also the call-sign for the active team of the Mental Health Branch, “MHB”).

In the late 2000s, the role of Green Dot Long was created to be  available at all hours throughout the event to handle critical escalations and provide continuity.  T The role that had been called a Green Dot Shift Lead was aligned with other Ranger teams’ terminology as the Green Dot Short. Today, these roles are handled by the “Green Dot Lead”.

Green Dot Ranger Mission and Goals

To reduce mental and psychological harm through peer counseling without getting in the way of someone’s personal experience.

GDR Team Purview

Sanctuary Basics

Green "FLAME"

Find Out  for yourself what the situation is. 

Listen let them know they are being heard by someone trustworthy.

Analyze what will make the situation better?

Mediate help them find their own solution.

Explain … Communicate, communicate, communicate.

The Green Dot Flame is not a checklist of to do’s, for the most part the Green Dot will do several steps of the Flame at the same time. For example, finding out involves listening and often analyzing at the same time.

1. Find Out …

...  for yourself what the situation is (or isn't)

Evaluate  Mental, Emotional Distress / Chemical Distress / Medical Condition

Scene safety and situational awareness

Start Safe.

Assess the situation and the scene before stepping in. 

Stay Safe.

Always know who is directly watching your back before interacting with someone who is distressed and disoriented.  Hunter S. Thompson, an author who wrote about his experience living and riding with the Hells Angels Motorcycle gang, said “You can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug.”

Coordinate with your Ranger partner to ensure basic safety protocols are being followed. If the Green Dot call requires privacy, make sure you have a plan BEFOREHAND so your partner knows how to best support you, and vice versa.

Keep an eye out for medical needs

Any doubts about their ability to keep breathing require immediate resources -- an emergency must-report like any other.  Inability to speak should similarly be evaluated by a professional.   The most difficult to catch of the important medical needs are diabetes, stroke, and epilepsy.  When in doubt, get them checked out.  It’s often good to ask if there are any medications they normally take, and if they have taken them recently.  When did they last have food?

Don’t take someone else’s diagnosis

Most of us and many of our peers are nowhere near as accurate at telling one crisis or drug from another as we think.  There’s no need to pin down the particular sources at this stage anyway.  Observe their behavior, demeanor, and speech and avoid preconceptions about the root causes.

Learn any details that will help identify them in the future, and reintegrate them in their home communities

“What can I call you?”, “Where is your camp?”, “What do your friends and family call you?”, “Where are you from?” are all good questions - just don’t badger them with all of them at once.  As details emerge, follow up for specifics.

Ask if they’ve had previous interactions with the event staff or emergency services.  We see a lot of frequent flyers, and are often seeing only a small part of the puzzle.  If they’ve had medical support, or a run-in with Law Enforcement in the last few days, those are valuable pieces of context that can quickly inform what they really need now. You can ask Khaki for relevant information if available.

2. Listen …

… let them know they are being heard by someone trustworthy.

The most important Green FLAME skill is Listening

Participants in crisis often have an acutely keen sense for immediacy and sincerity. You need to bring your full authentic presence and focus to the situation. Balancing that with your Ranger radio skills can be the hardest part of the job - when you can, let your partner monitor the radio while you work with someone in crisis. This is a good thing to decide before you engage with the participant if you can.

Encourage participants to describe what's going on

Have them describe what they see, hear, and feel.  Let them draw or write to help them get it down and all out of their system.  If they are with another person, ask them if they feel comfortable having that person remain with them, a question which is best asked in private.

Let them know they are not alone

This is the most powerful thing you can do in a crisis.  The simple fact of another person’s compassionate, attentive presence can make a world of difference.  Don’t commit to outcomes, but do reassure them that you’re happy to be listening to them.  E.g. “We take turns going out to the edge to see who needs help; you found us tonight, we were just waiting to see who would come by.”

Be compassionate  

Offer observations, not judgements.  Dig deep for your own patience.  Remain aware of your own breathing.  You can’t tell someone to calm down, but your own performance of calm can reassure them.  Put yourself in their shoes by asking  what it would be like to be experiencing that kind of confusion within?  Be glad you can help from the outside.  It may not be obvious how much your attention means to someone having a bad day.

You may not see the effect of your compassionate presence in their immediate presentation, but we are social creatures, and do not fail to notice when another human gives us their focused attention. If that attention is genuine and benevolent without attempting control, the internal effect can be powerfully reassuring

Be genuine

This is no time for games.  People in crisis can be acutely sensitive to false fronts.  If you can’t remain engaged with a particular participant, hand them off to someone who may connect better.  Be aware of how they see you, and make use of that.

You donʼt need to “talk them down”, and attempts at manipulation usually backfire. Neither confront nor confirm their unrealistic perceptions. Instead, keep your own center and make your heart available to them. Reflecting how their situation seems to a sympathetic and balanced peer back to them is often immensely powerful.

Be grounded

Reflecting to them what is their external reality helps them distinguish for themselves the difference between their  inner world and the one they’ll later wake up in.  A reality-anchor who is attentive, compassionate, and genuine is all many people in emotional crises need.  Let them know, slowly, that they have that in you.  E.g. “I don’t think you are in immediate danger. How do you feel?  Would you like to go somewhere more safe with me?”

Those in an emotional crisis or mentally overstimulated by some substance often reach out towards anything they see as "solid" in order to reorient themselves with the world.  They may vary their behaviors in an effort to cause you to react: they'll alternately be babbling and then silent, test your boundaries with friendly overtures and then be stand-offish, or even act spiteful towards you.  

Your job as a good conductor of emotions is to remain “solid” -- that is, to remain of the common reality, not theirs.  You are the bridge between their unaltered perceptive self and their current altered perceptive self.  Be engaged, but don't try to act as though you are there with them.  If the participant is experiencing the distorting or confusing effects of a particular substance, provide continuous assurance that the experience is temporary.

The simple fact that someone safe, sane, and sensible is paying close attention to them provides a powerful anchor in their internal turbulence. It can be hard to remain focused there, but compassion and patience are critical.

They may try to test you, or even entrap you, in the confused structure of their world.  You don’t need to play along to remain engaged with them.  You may be more “solid” and valuable if you don’t, without rejecting them.

Don’t accept false dichotomies: when presented with an either/or question, it’s often a great idea to give them  answers that are part-some / part-the-other. You can say things like “You feel strongly about this. I hear you.”  or “There are so many perspectives about this”  and then follow up with a question that moves the conversation forward and in a different direction that is non-confrontational.

Listen Actively

Listen to the participant in front of you.  Listen.  Don't interrupt.  Wait until the end of a story or a pause in the story to ask a question, clarify a point, or consolidate information.  Participants in emotional crises want an opportunity to talk at length about what they're thinking and feeling.  Give them the time.  Be aware of body language and gesture; this can provide important clues to a participant's actual state of mind.  Be open, but not coercive or overtly directive.  Let the participant tell the story in their own time and style.  

Give the participant an opportunity to talk in private if desired, away from significant others, friends, and/or campmates.  Be aware of whether the participant may want to speak to a Green Dot Ranger of a particular gender.  This is especially true if sexual assault is a factor.

Of course, your first goal in listening is to provide emotional support to the participant. But another important goal is to gather information that may be helpful as we figure out how to care for them. This could include information like what happened, who else was involved, where they are camped, whether they have friends on playa, and pre-existing medical or psychological conditions, etc. Some of these things you may be able to verify, some you probably won't. Take notes so that this information can be shared with other Rangers and care providers.

Don't assume you know where the situation is going

Even if you think you know where things are going, continue to act and respond as though you don't (up to a point) or the participant will feel patronized. It’s their experience, let them lead it.

Don’t contradict

If they make strange or patently impossible claims, don't argue with them; instead ask them questions in a calm way to help them find their way back to a consensual reality.  Allow them to elaborate upon possible meanings; respond to questions in a way that gives them more room to explore their trip and their emotive and experiential state.  If the participant becomes agitated, remain calm; they will be looking to follow your example and may be testing you, their “solid” object.  This is normal behavior for participants in this state of mind.

Listen to yourself 

Be aware of your own emotions.  Your feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, or happiness are often the first clue that a participant is communicating an important emotional message or getting to the heart of a problem.  

Remember that if you feel yourself emotionally unavailable to the person, the responsible thing is to kick it sideways.

Avoid the trap of quickly acting on your emotions or becoming fixated upon your own response.  For example, if you find yourself feeling angry, don't tell the participant you are angry; instead use your feeling of anger as a cue to find out more about what the participant is saying.  Remain focused on the participant at hand.

Reflect back to them

Reflect thoughts, feelings, and behavior.  Reflection here means re-stating what a participant has said using their own words and phrases.  Reflection tells the participant that you are listening and care, giving them permission to discuss sensitive topics; it allows the participant to listen to their own thought processes and stories, heightening their self-awareness; and it allows them to confirm, correct, or amplify upon your understanding of what you have heard and seen.

3. Analyze ...

… what will make the situation better?

Plan for reintegration

The goal is to get them reintegrated with a supportive community. This is a catch-and-release game.  What do they need before they can safely return to participation without Ranger support?  We just need to support them through their crisis; hold the space in which they can find ground and participate in the collective reality. We don’t try to “talk them down” to a baseline that much of the City may not share anyway, nor to maximize the value of the experience.

Get advice

Your partner is a great resource.  So are any available Green Dot Rangers, senior Rangers, or Troubleshooters.  Just call Khaki if you don’t know what to do, and briefly describe the core of what you need.  Other departments and playa communities may help.  Being engaged in finding a solution doesn’t mean you need to come up with it yourself.

Care for the body is to care for the mind

This is the most quick and powerful “magic” in the kit - if their body knows it’s not dying in the desert, their emotions can wind down and their train of thought will settle down with them.  You don’t need special “talk” to settle a disordered mind - see to the person’s warmth, hydration, and ability to relax and rest, and most mental crises will unwind themselves.  Don’t try to get fancy with mental games. Offer the participant water, a place to sleep or simply stretch out if cots are available.

Use limited resources carefully

Some people need the shelter of Sanctuary for a few hours, and it’s only available and useful to them if it isn’t packed with others who are less appropriate for it.  It’s a big playa and city out there - there are many places to sleep if they’re just tired and lost, or drunk and medically stable.  Demonstrate the generosity of Burner camps for them when you can.  Additional costuming is easy to find in places like Black Rock Boutique and Kostume Kult.

Contemplate yourself

Reflect on how they see you, and the character of that interaction.  Would your partner or someone else be more successful in gaining their trust?  What aspects of yourself are useful in this situation’s chemistry?  How can you use those characteristics to send the scene in a useful direction? Are you starting to feel emotions about the interaction?

4. Mediate …

Help them find their own solution.

Narrate your own actions in advance

Give them a sense of predictability that they can see your actions coming.  Be polite.  E.g. “I’m going to sit down now, and get a bottle of water from my pack for you.  You can open it yourself.  Would you like some food too?”

Use plain language

Keep your language simple, and appropriate to their emotional understanding.   If they (or you) are worried for their medical safety, tell them that you’ll call for “a medic”, rather than using more complex terms like “ESD” or “medical professionals”.  The less they have to react against, the easier it is to include other resources.  Other Rangers can usually be introduced simply as “my friend” (as in “I need to call my friend”, to take a break for a radio call).  That helps extend their trust in you to the rest of the team.

Let them choose

As with most participants - involve them in the decisions of what to do whenever you reasonably can: if they have chosen something, then they’re in control of at least part of their lives, and won’t have a reason to resist you.  Guiding them to choices that are helpful is better than making those choices for them.  However, don’t offer open-ended choices if it really matters which way they’ll pick and you’re not sure of it.  Leave them space to be humans with self-respect, without encouraging them toward any further danger.  Distraction can still help lots if they’re not focusing on the solution.

Report Must Reports

For Must Reports - use your partner to call in as soon as you can, and return your focus to the participant.  We don’t need to mediate the legal process for them, and shouldn’t make things harder for other services on-playa.  If, for example, you come to think from their on-going story that a recent sexual assault may be causing their level of distress, you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) dig into that with them nor give them advice around it.  You do need to get your partner’s attention, and say something like “Tell Khaki we need a face to face for this situation.”, then return to providing a comforting presence for them in the immediate situation.  It always is helpful to talk about specific gestures and signals with your partner at the start of the shift. These calls can emerge from other emotional crises later along the way. {See detailed “Must Report” procedures.}

Use other departments

The solution may involve multiple departments.  If the situation becomes violent, back out and get Law Enforcement.  If their medical condition gets worse, call Khaki for ESD or CIT.  Likewise, recognize that those other departments will want to hand participants off to us to see them safely home.  Give and expect professional courtesy and plenty of details in those handoffs, and stay aware of the shifting responsibilities and capabilities in an evolving situation. The Green Dot can also act as an advocate for the participant in these situations.

Participants can often solve their own problems

As you explore possible solutions with participants, you can have them try out a scenario of what each solution might look like. Be generous but truthful as to your own opinions regarding these solutions. Always ask the participant about what they realistically think the outcome of their proposed action will be, and whether it will be helpful to the situation at hand. If the participant doesn't know what to do about their situation, suggest some possibilities or engage in a little brainstorming. Remember, we are trying above all to help identify options for people so they can solve their own entanglements.  

If the participant suggests behavior or solutions that are bizarre, detrimental, or violent, don't disagree; instead ask them what the chain of consequences from the proposed behavior might be, and whether it will really solve their problems or improve their situation.

Use patience

Be patient, even if the participant rambles. Rambling is common for many of the participants assisted by Rangers.  They're using the time to organize and process events, emotions, and memories.  There is often substantial repetitive mental processing going on, which does not necessarily lend itself to coherent, linear trains of thought. People have been going to the desert for centuries to find this type of experience; however, not all those who have such experiences planned on having one.

Reframe the situation

Who are we?  Happy people with friends who love us! 

People in crisis are very focused on what they perceive to be their immediate problems, and what they’re currently feeling. Changing that focus to a wider view can be very helpful.

We tend to color our perception of reality, disproportionately, with most recent events.  For example, if you’ve been arguing with a partner this morning, you might find yourself thinking “We always fight!” But when asked to describe how things were yesterday, you might remember ‘We went for this amazing walk, marveled at how often we think the same things about a piece of art, and ended up at a random sunset tea, gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes.  We are so in love!’  Don’t like the weather?  Wait 24 hours.

Ask the participant things like: Can you describe yourself as you were before the contentious event? What do you feel in your body right now? Would you be willing to release your worry about this event?

These questions can
help people remember that the problems and confusion of this moment are temporary and only a small part of who they are.

5. Explain ....

 … what just happened?

Close the loop with the participant

Re-narrate your understanding of their situation in brief gentle terms to them as part of your farewell.  They may have trouble tracking the whole thread of the crisis on their own - this wrap-up gives them a stable transition, and helps frame how they’ll look back on it. “Explain” for an altered participant may also mean telling them why you think they’re at a point where you can leave them, or reaffirming with the participant that the place they’re at (physically and/or mentally) is supported enough that they feel comfortable continuing on without you.

Check in

Check back in with Khaki or other Rangers who are looking out for you.  Let them know that the situation is resolved safely and where you’re headed next.

Write down details

Get as much detail as you can and write it down - you can usually get Green Dot Field Report forms from HQ, or otherwise get the useful details into the IMS.  When a repeat customer comes along later in the week, identifying who they are and what we learned about them last time can be the key to solving even more sticky situations later.  Even if you escort them to Sanctuary, make sure that whatever you learned about them gets into an IMS record that people can search later.

What you should always try to include in your notes are:


When handing off with other services, give a concise summary, and expect the same when receiving a handoff.  They will be filling out reports - get them into the groove with the basics, even if they could see them for themselves, then proceed to the most important nuggets of information, including anything practical you’ve done for them, and keep it short and focused.

E.g. “Hi I’m Ranger Bucket. This is John. He also goes by SaberKitten. He seems to be in his early thirties and has a European accent. He hasn’t been taking his Klonopin, but has taken some GHB and vodka, and his breathing is getting slow. I’ve given him a bottle of water, but he doesn’t remember the last time he had water before that. He’s camped at Opulent Temple.”  That kind of focused communication is not only good for the participant, it builds respect and trust between departments.

Use your partner as a second point of reference as well. Recap with them, repeating the information to ensure both of you have the same understanding of what just happened.


These can be emotionally intense calls, and swallowing them all alone is more foolish than heroic.  We all have home camps, rangers we respect, and the Green Dot Team are happy to help Rangers find their own inner footing before it becomes a crisis.  Your Green Dot Lead is also a resource - check in with them after a call and let them know if you could use some support processing. Give yourself time to sit down and run through the parts that bug you with someone else.  These can be complicated.

Maintain privacy

Privacy matters, as usual, but the participants' names are almost never the part that you’ll be chewing on later anyway.  Don’t do all that work alone.  We all get into tough calls from time to time, and are there to help each other back into our various Ranger grooves when we come out the other side of them.  Being there for one of the biggest nights of someone’s life can be quite an honor, and quite exhausting too.  Respect the work you’ve done, and allow yourself some support.

( Ch. 2) Green Dot Practices

GDR Mindset

Specialized Knowledge

Levels of Intervention

Below, in order of increasing levels of intervention, are the resources on playa that can support altered and distressed participants.

1. Participants, artists, theme camps, and other Burning Man staff departments may encounter altered participants and often will be able to handle them on their own. In the spirit of Radical Self-Reliance, minor issues not requiring Ranger or Medical intervention can be managed within the camp or department when they occur. Camp mayors, artists running large projects, and department managers must be aware of how to deal with altered participants and when such issues may need to be escalated.

2. Dirt Rangers and ESD Medical Staff de-escalate minor issues with a focus on returning the participant to the safe environment of their camp and campmates. If a situation is a must-report , such as sexual violence (SV), domestic violence (DV), or abuse (child or elder), staff must report it via their chain of command (Khaki or ESD Manager) and escalate appropriately.

3. Green Dot Rangers provide crisis peer counseling for participants who do not require medical care, and who present with minor mental health issues that do not require CIT intervention. This short-term peer counseling (a solid dose of “time and kindness”) usually takes place in the field, but may include taking participants to a community resource known to be quiet and calm such as Zendo or to Sanctuary, a quiet, safe environment used to re-acclimate participants before they return to or leave the event.

4. ESD Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) staff respond to serious mental health crisis, including sexual violence (SV), domestic violence (DV), any child-related issues including the child respite center (CRC), involuntary psychiatric holds (Legal 2000), and other mental health issues requiring significant intervention that are outside the scope of the Ranger Green Dots or the ESD Medical staff.

5. Rampart (Main Medical) works in concert with ESD CIT, Rangers, and/or LE as necessary to deal with issues requiring medical attention in addition to being altered and distressed. Rampart is the only resource able to chemically restrain participants.

6. Law Enforcement (LE) is integral in any cases that includes a crime, including but not limited to sexual violence (SV), domestic violence (DV), involuntary psychiatric hold (Legal 2000).

GDR Skills

Being Grounded

Individuals undergoing overstimulation or emotional crisis often reach out towards anything they see as "solid" in order to reorient themselves with the world.

Being Mindfully Present

Being 100% present is about all of you being engaged with whoever you’re with – and being in the moment. It is NOT necessarily a 100% focus on the person you’re with at the time. This may drive them away or creep them out. It IS about learning how to calm and soothe yourself.

You can:

For exercise, try these:

Belly Breathing

This is a pretty basic breathing exercise that’s good for calming a person down.  You can use it when you feel yourself getting tense, or  losing focus. You can also offer to teach it to other participants who might need a redirect or some calming too.

Rectangular Breathing

Expressing Empathy

How to “Hold Space”

Holding space is a term we bandy about all the time.  But what do we actually mean?  It has strong components of other things we know to do as rangers, It’s not about you, Situational Awareness, being present, self monitoring, Agency.

We keep saying that we’re not “Guiding”.  Guiding can assume the person *can’t* find their way out of their situation.  With Holding Space, we try to sit in the calm faith that they certainly can.   It’s holding the calm, the confidence, the patience, that things will work out fine, that you are solid enough to hear whatever they have to speak, or sit for hours without speaking.  

Over the course of living a life, we each get tangled up in our brains sometimes.  It can be wonderfully helpful to sit peacefully as they figure it out; unbothered by their messiness, their imperfection.  You’re not going to be pulled down by their attempts to pull themselves up, and you radiate quiet confidence that they can, in fact do it (whatever ‘it’ is)  

They can relax into their own process, safe in the space created, any pain they need to share is consensual, (expand on this) any rude turn of phrase is understood to be venting.  They can explore free from having to worry about being judged, controlled or changed.  (They might still worry you’re judging.  If this seems to be the case, you can say something like, ‘We all have stuff to process.  You’re safe here, now.  Go for it.’  The words likely don’t matter as much as the way in which they are conveyed.)

Self Monitoring / appropriate empathy

Don’t allow their trauma to become your trauma.

You don’t join them in the emotions they’re feeling.  Some people have rarely experienced this, and might mistake it for lack of interest or lack of empathy.  They might have gotten used to ‘level of upsetness in a partner correlates with level of caring’.  This is a nasty fallacy.  

While it’s not about you, it is wise to set yourself up some safeties when holding space.  Perhaps visualize the worst of it rolling off, or passing through you, perhaps give yourself little pep talks along the way, and remember, you might need to clear yourself of it after.  

Decompress by talking to a Green Dot, write it out and burn it, or whatever works for you.  You’re a guide rail, not a safe deposit box.  Also remember, this is a practice.  If you find yourself unable to hold down this safe ground after a while, maybe because of the subjects that have come up, maybe because this person is altered, and you’ve been going for 9 hours now with no end in sight, whatever.  It is ok to hand them off.  Of course, not by drop kicking them sideways, but by gently transferring them to another Ranger.  If you realize you need to do that, and you do it well, you haven’t let them down, you’ve held them safe.

Reality Anchor

Human brains are really good at reading into a situation. It's a great trait, and it can lead us to make up what's happening.

Inviting a participant to describe only the bare facts can sometimes help them to realize there might be additional interpretations of a given situation.  

Ask things like:

You can use this to describe what the situation looks like to you from the outside. E.g. “I’m dying!” “The medic just checked you out, I think you’ll be with us tomorrow. Would you like to get checked again? I can see you’re concerned. You’re breathing well.

Practice Self Care

- Apply oxygen to self before helping others

- Primary Needs

- Decompressing

How to Hold Space for Yourself

Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project

Conversing with the Altered - “Looping”

Looping in the participantʼs train of thought and speech is quite common. They are processing a set of considerations linearly, but the complexity of the processing leads them to take repeated “passes” through the set of considerations, and so they end up saying the same thing over and over (and over again).

Do not be surprised, nor distressed, that the conversation is looping - this is actually a powerful advantage when you notice it. It allows you “rehearsal” time internally - when you see the same thread coming around again, you can reflect on other ways to respond to it, and keep trying variations in your approach till you find one that helps.

Also, the length and complexity of the loop can give you indications of the direction their mental integration is proceeding: if they are losing the capacity to communicate, their cycles will become shorter, tighter, and more urgent; if they are gaining mental and expressive capacity, their cycles will become longer and contain more complex material. In the former case, be prepared to escalate their level of care; in the latter, you have the opportunity to help them find perspectives that lead them back to reintegration.

Verbal Handoffs

There is an art and a learnable skill to describing a situation in a clear, concise manner to someone who has just arrived at the scene, whether it is another Ranger or someone from another department.

Deliver a brief narrative that gives them a sense of what’s going on. Get to the point quickly and clearly, in a few good sharp sentences. Think of it as speaking in bullet points rather than in paragraphs:


This is Bobby. Bobby is 39 years old.

He was brought in this afternoon at three o’clock by his friend Joe.

He thinks he’s taken some mushrooms about five hours ago.  

He’s been having a pretty intense experience, but has calmed down and has been sleeping for about 20 minutes.

We gave him some water and a little bit of jello.

His friend says they’re camped at Camp GeoDucky at 9:45 and C, and that he’ll come back in about an hour to check in on him.

Be clear and to the point, like a radio transmission.

Be respectful. If you are doing the handoff within earshot of the participant, try to acknowledge their presence and include them as appropriate. Don’t talk over them as if they weren’t there or unable to understand.

Don’t dehumanize. No medicalese.

(Ch. 3) Green Dot Situations

Some things you might do on a Green call

Remember that Ranger calls are NON-LIFE-THREATENING, and Green Dot calls include

If there is any reason to think that it could be a life-threatening situation, kick it to the right team by calling Khaki and requesting whoever’s appropriate - ESD, CIT, LE

List of GD Situations

Alcohol Effects

Mental Health Concerns


        Schizophrenic break

        Bipolar episode

Medical Emergencies

        Blood Sugar (Diabetes)

        Electrolyte Imbalance





Must Reports

        Suicidal Ideation (Harm to Self or Others)

        Domestic Violence

        Sexual Assualt

Emotional / Psychological Support


What do you do with a drunken burner?

"[Alcohol] causes "a state of shortsightedness in which superficially understood, immediate aspects of experience have a disproportionate influence on behavior and emotion." Alcohol makes the thing in the foreground even more salient and the thing in the background disappears. That's why drinking makes you feel attractive when the world tells you otherwise: the alcohol removes the little constraining voice from the outside world that normally keeps our self-assessments in check. Drinking relaxes the man watching football because the game is front and center, and alcohol makes every secondary consideration fade away. But in a quiet bar his problems are front and center - and every potentially comforting or mitigating thought recedes. Drunkenness is not disinhibition. Drunkenness is myopia."

from Malcolm Gladwell's article "Drinking Games" The New Yorker, Feb. 15 & 22, 2010

In the hyper-sensory world of BRC, this disconnect about the effects of alcohol can be especially problematic.  People overindulge because it is what they imagine is expected or necessary to fully enter the intensity they are seeking or the less-inhibited self they are searching for. Instead, they frequently confront their problems, which come to meet them against one of the biggest examples of solitude they have ever encountered. No wonder many folks are undone by alcohol consumption on the playa, especially when dehydration, unfamiliar food schedules, and high expectations are added to the mix.

So, what to do with a Drunken Burner? (No, put the Sharpie away...) If the problem appears to be exclusively alcohol-related, don't bring them to Sanctuary! The primary thing that helps someone deeply into their cups are distraction and sleep (with water in either case).

In the intensely introspective atmosphere of Sanctuary, the mental myopia induced by alcohol actually may become worse. They may also pose a difficulty towards any other mental work going on in the dome - if the drunken person is excessively weepy or belligerent, they can become a real distraction for others who are in a very emotionally malleable state.

Sanctuary beds are a limited resource, it is better if they are taken up with someone who can benefit from the introspective vibe of the dome. If the person is simply in need of sleep, a suitable place should be found. Ideally, this should be in their camp. If at all possible, their camp should be located and campmates enlisted to help the ailing citizen. (The finding of the camp can be enlisted as a distracting game of sorts if done right...) If this is impossible, another place to sleep should be sought, preferably in a low-traffic area that is open to the public at large with couches or hammocks.

 What to do?

Look for a distraction to point the person toward, and some friends, old or new, to keep them focused upon something exterior to themselves and drinking water. Moving and walking can also help by being a focus point and keeping the metabolism up. If at all possible campmates or other friends should be enlisted in this venture, if they are unknown, enlist the help of the community.

If the participant is ready to go to sleep, make sure they are with people that can and will help them find a place to sleep.  As a reminder: As many of us know all too well, drunken myopia can make a person very suggestible. Exercise good judgment in leaving a drunk in the company of new folks: we don't want anyone taken advantage of in any way.

A space like Center Camp Cafe is unsuitable for sleeping - the staff there will regularly wake those who seem to be using the place as a personal campsite, causing a new call for the Rangers.

If a person seems to be suffering in a very bad way - unable to walk and/or completely disoriented, then you should call Khaki and request a medical response.


What it’s Like inside a Depressed Person’s Head

Hyperbole and a Half: Adventures in Depression

Robot Hugs: Nest

Medical Emergency - Case of Mistaken Identity

If there is ANY reason to think that the participant has a medical issue, do not hesitate to call Khaki and request a Medical Response.

There are a number of medical conditions that can be mistaken for pharmacological use. If you see signs of any of these, call for a medical response.

Green Dots are peers helping participants. As such we can not make a diagnosis. That being said, with practice you develop a sense of when someone is acting drunk, high or belligerent could mean “get a professional medic here fast”.  

If you suspect any of these causes or anything that leads you to believe that medical help might be needed, call for Medical immediately. It is much better to call for Medical response and then cancel, than to wish you had called ten minutes earlier.

Blood Sugar Levels

Diabetes  People in an insulin crash may look like belligerent drunks, and on-playa the usual sweat-signs may not be evident.  Some clues that this is the real problem include their campmates saying how unlike themselves they are acting; the “drunkenness” keeps increasing quickly, even though they obviously aren’t still drinking; medical bracelets / necklaces are a great clue; if you offer them sweet or carbohydrate snacks and their mental state improves quickly.  In any of these cases, including improvement with food, get them checked out medically.  You can also ask them (or their campmates) - “Do you have any history with diabetes?”  Prompt medical care can avoid serious problems.

Electrolyte imbalances

Participants come to the playa for the event in various states of preparation.  With the overwhelming amount of art, activities, and participatory opportunities, participants often forego sleep and food.  Add in the wide range of temperatures and the stress associated with the desert environment, weather, building and maintaining camp, and interpersonal issues, and some participants are already predisposed to emotional challenges even before they consider consuming alcohol or other substances affecting mental state.

Electrolyte balance is a physical factor of which all Rangers need to be aware at a high level.  For the reasons listed above, electrolyte imbalances are very common on the playa.  These imbalances can cause significant emotional swings. Electrolyte imbalances can lead to abnormal conditions of the mind, and, in severe cases, death. Notably, alcohol abuse is a common cause of many electrolyte imbalances.

A little about the water-electrolyte balance:

“Electrolytes play a vital role in maintaining homeostasis within the body. They help to regulate myocardial and neurological function, fluid balance, oxygen delivery, acid-base balance and much more. Electrolyte imbalances can develop by the following mechanisms: excessive ingestion; diminished elimination of an electrolyte; diminished ingestion or excessive elimination of an electrolyte… The most serious electrolyte disturbances involve abnormalities in the levels of sodium, potassium, and/or calcium… ”  

For more detailed information than most will need, see the full text at

What do I as a Ranger need to know?  Overhydration and dehydration.

Overhydration – the condition of too little salt in the body.  It typically arises from drinking too much water too quickly.  Overhydration can result in death within four hours, so always drink electrolyte-balancing fluids such as Gatorade or Emergen-C, or take salts (in the form of chips or other salty foods) when drinking substantial quantities of water.

Dehydration – there is not enough water in the body.  Typically the body regulates this through thirst.  However, longer-lasting drug states where the participant does not or cannot for whatever reason ingest water—particularly when compounded by heat or exertion—can result in hypernatremia (think Ecstasy and raves without water).

If there is any question about whether a participant is seriously dehydrated or overhydrated, call immediately for Medical assistance.


Epilepsy  The effects of a seizure can be hard to read - they may just seem very withdrawn and “out of it”, not thrashing nor twitching.  There is no great way to recognize this source in the field, but they or their friends may be able to answer “Do you have any history with epilepsy?”  Medical should be called to check out someone experiencing a seizure.


Stroke  If they have any difference between the left and right sides of their body: weakness, drooping, a crooked smile that doesn’t stop, different pupils, or like that - get medical attention immediately.  Those are signs of brain injury, and fast treatment is critical.

Psychedelic Crisis

Psychedelic Crisis Frequently Asked Questions

Manual of Psychedelic Support


Stress Continuum Model

The Voices in my Head

(Ch. 4) GDR Team Logistics and Operations

Green Dot Rangers At Black Rock City

Ranger Videos: 

Burner Service Announcement #3: The Black Rock Rangers

Ranger Love Project

Rangers are encouraged to develop their skills in handling emotionally and psychologically charged calls, which we are calling “Green FLAME”.

If a call becomes more challenging than a Ranger thinks they can handle they are encouraged to call for "Green Dot Support" rather than just for “a Green Dot Ranger”.

Team Organization

GDR Operations

Sanctuary Operations


What is Sanctuary?

Sanctuary is a space where participants can find safe haven for reflection, re-integration within the self after a shattering or emotionally harrowing experience, and peer-to-peer support. While the experiences within Sanctuary are personal, specific, and subjective, the following adaptation of Egan’s Helping Model provides an overview of the working with participants within Sanctuary.

Particularly sensitive Sanctuary guests may be housed in the adjacent tent.

Exploring the Present State of Affairs

Developing a Preferred Scenario

Commitment to Action

The Sanctuary dome can be a complicated place to work - preparing and managing space for the participants most in need of emotional shelter can be intense work.

Sanctuary Roles

Sanctuary Lead

Sanctuary Mentee

Sanctuary ESD Medic

8 hour shifts from 1400-2000 and 2000-0600

Coming to Sanctuary

Only Green Dot Team members should bring participants into Sanctuary. Others can bring participants to Ranger HQ and call for a Green Dot Team member to evaluate whether the participant is appropriate for Sanctuary’s mission and capacity.  

After checking with the Green Dot Lead and/or Sanctuary Rangers, Green Dot Team members may make the decision to take someone back to the Sanctuary dome.  Experienced Rangers may anticipate that decision correctly most of the time, but a Green Dot Ranger near HQ should be the one to walk them back into the Dome, or send them in that direction with a Ranger after a field consultation.

When to use Sanctuary:

Sanctuary is a limited resource – most situations can be and should be handled outside of Sanctuary.

Remember, a very important function of Sanctuary and Green Dots in general is to provide support to volunteer staff across all departments who may have participated in a traumatic or difficult event and would like to talk about it, who are experiencing volunteer burn-out, or who just want to vent or share. This includes you.

Leaving Sanctuary

We don’t detain anyone there.  

Transportation will usually be available through the Green Dot Lead to get participants to or from the Sanctuary dome. If it is not an emergency situation, remember that it may take some time for transportation to become available.

Must Reports

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a must-report.

As a Ranger, you might arrive at the situation before, with, or after the critical response team.  

MHB will generally do an immediate response and evaluation of the situation, but may not stay very long.

As a Green Dot Ranger, you might not be needed after MHB clears the scene, or you might be needed for a few hours or across multiple shifts.

You might also be responding to someone who is in a violent relationship off-playa.

For more detailed Information see “ART of Green FLAME Supplements”

Sexual Assault

When caring for the victim, some tips:

You can help with basic needs such as getting a friend from their camp to remain with them as they go through the rest of the process. Do they need clothes to wear into town?  Would they like a follow up conversation later in the week?  Let them know that Washoe county has some resources, and that wherever they’re from likely does too.  

Often MHB is for short duration, urgent counseling only.  They’ll come right when you report it, hang out while LE is there, ride into Reno if the trip is needed, then probably go.  If you feel like you have a good rapport with the victim, you can offer to follow up with them later in the week, or the next day.  Tell them about other resources including Sanctuary too.

In response to some Ranger frequently asked questions, we have a few additional answers:

Not all sexual assaults create the kinds of forensic evidence that a sexual assault forensic exam (aka ‘rape kit’) is used to collect, so not all victims of assault end up going to Reno for an exam. If the assault merits an exam, and the participant agrees, either ESD, MHB, or LE will transport the participant to Reno and back.They may bring along a friend or family member for support and will be accompanied by a MHB team member.

In Nevada, exams must be administered by a SART (sexual assault response team) nurse at an approved facility. The nearest one to the event is usually in Reno. Another reason for this is that there are additional resources and state support the Reno SART team can provide that isn’t available at Burning Man.

Let the participant know that if they do choose to go to Reno, they can get back into BRC free. MHB should let them know this, but the participant should know to ask too. MHB will provide an in/out pass for them (and remind them that they need to bring their ticket with them); this will allow the participant to re-enter the city for no charge upon their return.  If they don’t need an ambulance ride to and from Reno, they should also ask for an in/out pass for their friend who drives them too.

Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights NV


B.E.D. (the Bureau of Erotic Discourse – is now a part of ESD’s Mental Health Branch. This provides B.E.D. with resources and access that they didn’t have before and allows increased community outreach and messaging around issues relating to sexual assault."

Suicidal Ideation

Appendix A - Green Dot Ranger ARG

Available positions:

Green Dot/Sanctuary Mentee

Green Dot Ranger

Green Dot Rangers are Rangers who work out of Sanctuary and in the field acting as peer crisis counselors and peer support for participants and fellow rangers.

Green Dot Mentor

Green Dot Mentors act as troubleshooters in the field and take GD Mentees on ride-along shifts to offer their experience and advice to help Mentees determine if they’re a good fit for Green Dotting.

Green Dot Trainer

Green Dot Trainers run the annual Green Dot Ranger Trainings off playa at ROMs or individually and on playa during the event.

Green Dot Lead Intern

Green Dot Lead Interns act as an Assistant Green Dot Lead and Green Dot Troubleshooter in the field,  and help with managing Sanctuary and tracking Green Dot incidents.

Green Dot Lead

Green Dot Leads work within the Ranger Shift Command team and are responsible for tracking and logging Green Dot incidents as well as managing Sanctuary.

Green Dot Cadre

The Green Dot Cadre works off playa year round to update documentation and respond to changes to Ranger policies and practices. They are also responsible for the Green Dot budget, After Action Report items, staffing levels, and organizing set up and tear down of Green Dot facilities.

Appendix B - The Green Dot Ranger Qualification Process

RFC: Green Dot Ranger Qualification Process

Other Stuff

It's not about you

Some ideas on approaching a participant: We know to ask to touch them. We can also ask if they'd like some company, like to talk;  ask how they'd like us to be with them, as a listener, a sounding board, peer advisor....

Primary Needs

Caring for the body of the person in crisis is often the most effective way to change their experience.  The usual assumption is that the mind is a mystery, and its train of thought drives the emotions, and the body then reacts to the emotional impulses and situations the mind directs it into. Our experience is that the reverse is often a more accurate and effective perspective: the health of the body in its situation drives the emotions toward a fight/flight/freeze response when it feels that our survival is in jeopardy, or relaxation when safety is assured. The mind then reacts to the emotional tone with a thought process of either crisis response (often ineffective), or introspection, philosophy, joy, or slumber when we have the freedom to explore those more pleasant modes.

Useful Expressions

Keep in mind, this isn’t useful expression bingo.  You probably won’t want to use all of them.

But most have been used, to great effect, by Rangers at some time.

Navigating a GD Incident

Where and When?

Ideally, try to handle the situation at the participant’s camp, where they have a familiar atmosphere and, with any luck, supportive friends and campmates.

Sexual Assualt Overflow

From US Dept. of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center

“Supportive counseling is crisis-specific and includes respectfully listening to victims express their feelings as they become ready to do so, then demonstrating empathy and concern while providing information. It is important to reassure survivors that their responses are normal, that they are not crazy and will recover (Ledray 1994). Supportive counseling encourages survivors to face their fears in realistically safe situations as soon as possible, and to openly discuss their concerns while the counselor acknowledges that any resistance to doing so is normal and understandable (Frazier and Ledray 2011).

Supportive counseling also includes meeting the victim’s practical needs related to the assault. Victims continually say that emotional support is of negligible benefit if their practical needs go unmet (Young 1993). Ledray (1996) recognizes that when these practical concerns are seen by survivors as pressing, they may need to be resolved before survivors can deal with the sexual assault. “

We think of Burners as being smart, liberal, progressive, etc.  We might think we don’t need to reassure anybody that obviously it’s the assaulter’s fault, not the victim’s...  But these messages are insidious and pervasive in our society.  Don’t assume they know this.  Be ready to say it a few times.

Phew!  That was a rough section.  A lot of people identify Sexual Assault as a psychological distress issue.  Check in with yourself and see how you’re reacting to it.  What’s coming up for you?

Now, let’s take a few breaths…

Sexual Assault overflow material

Crisis intervention attempts to deal quickly with an immediate problem. Often referred to as emotional first aid designed to stop emotional bleeding; management, not resolution, is the goal.

When providing crisis intervention either on the phone or face to face, advocates play a number of important roles, including supporting survivors however they need support;

normalizing their reactions to the trauma; helping them prioritize and solve concerns;

ensuring that they are treated respectfully; supporting their significant other(s); and

providing crisis education, referrals, and follow up contact as well as future legal advocacy, if necessary.  

We don’t do follow up contact or legal advocacy.  We can have a list of resources available for them, or just say, it varies by state.  Nevada has some victims support and funds available. It might help to ask LE if you have any questions regarding this and/or whether you have to be a resident to receive the help or  if you have to come back to Nevada for any court proceedings.

When should crisis intervention begin?

Crisis intervention should begin as soon as possible, preferably within the first few hours after the sexual assault. This can be done when the advocate meets the victim at the emergency department. It also can occur over the crisis telephone line when a recent rape victim calls trying to decide if a rape actually occurred, and to ask what to do next. It can likewise happen on a walk-in basis at the rape crisis center.

Crisis intervention theory generally suggests that the first 72 hours after a sexual assault represent the crisis period. Treatment begun during this period of emotional disequilibrium often prevents secondary trauma and facilitates healing.

Since rape victims often do not want to think or talk about the rape because it is so painful, it is important to offer counseling rather than wait for them to ask. They can always refuse help when it is offered, and their refusal should be respected; however, advocates should be sure to let them know that they can always call later. It is normal not to want to talk about the sexual assault.  

Victims often blame themselves for the rape, possibly because they did something to make themselves more vulnerable. Because of this, they may be overly sensitive to possible blame by others, especially during the initial crisis period. Sadly, victims are often blamed by those closest to them. Sometimes this is done consciously and, other times, innocent but perhaps poorly phrased comments are interpreted by the victim to imply blame.  Subsequently, it is very important for advocates to avoid blame or the appearance of blame. Victims who blame themselves become more depressed, with post-rape adjustment worse than for victims who do not blame themselves.

Provide examples of positive statements:

When working with a victim during the initial crisis period, you may need to help the victim address such issues as:

Discuss how to establish a supportive relationship. These relationships are characterized by:

Ask: How can you convey Acceptance?

Ask: How can you convey empathy?

Ask: How can you demonstrate support?

Adapted for Playa,  Making sure they have a safe place to camp, a ride to Reno if needed, free re-entry to the event, Street clothes for Reno, a shower after Reno, Etc.  What else can we think of?


Tell participants that education about sexual assault, and common reactions to it, can help victims recover.  

There is still a stigma attached to victims of sexual assault that blames or shames them and suggests that, in some way, the rape was their fault. To reduce this stigma, you must promote a view of rape as a criminal act committed against the individuals who are victims of this crime, and separate blame from vulnerability.

You can normalize the response to rape by providing information about what victims might feel in the days, weeks, even months ahead. Talk with victims about typical responses before they occur; for instance, letting them know that it is normal to get upset when discussing the rape months and even years later. Whatever they feel, they are not the first to feel this.

Avoidance may be a common response to rape but the literature clearly shows that, as a coping strategy, it is ineffective in facilitating recovery. Victims need to know this. The first step is to help them recognize avoidant coping strategies they may be using. One reason rape victims do not want to report a rape is because they want to avoid thinking or talking about it, or dealing with it in any way, including participation in the legal process.  

Cognitive and behavioral avoidance must be overcome for recovery to occur. The first step is to help victims understand that the painful process of facing their thoughts, fears and anxieties is necessary. Other well-meaning individuals in their lives may actually be encouraging avoidance. It is best to face these feelings and fears, because not thinking about the trauma does not make the memories go away. These memories will recur. If ignored, memories often come back and affect victims through nightmares, flashbacks, phobias, and other ways. By facing these memories, the victim can get used to them and lessen or eliminate their power over the emotional response. Victims can then see or hear things that remind them of the trauma without experiencing the intense anxiety and fear.

Encouraging victims to recount the traumatic event in detail is important, as is your response to their recounting. They may fear that if they tell you or anyone the gruesome details of the event, they will be seen as soiled, dirty, unworthy–much like they may now be feeling about themselves.

Thus, it is essential to show acceptance and reassure victims that, while they may have suffered a horrible, hurtful, and humiliating trauma, it in no way changes their worth as human beings. It is important to let the victims know that rape was a crime committed against them, which says a lot about the assailant’s character but nothing about theirs, and that you will do all you can to help the victim recover and get on with life.