Does Everyone in BWB Do Disaster Response?

While BWB was born from disaster response, we continue to evolve, and our members participate in ALL KINDS of civic actions in addition to direct disaster response. Our main goal as a network is to create communities of practice, and there are plenty of ways to do that when your community is not experiencing an immediate disaster. In fact, the right time to prepare is before disaster strikes. Our chapters use civic impact projects to practice working together, so when a disaster happens: they are ready to work as a team and organize for a rapid response. Prepared communities of practice can (and have) activated disaster response in the form of: distribution hubs, demolition services, search and rescue missions, power and infrastructure, and more. Whether you are working with other community members to solve real problems, or hosting workshops/opportunities to densen your local network and learn new skills, by developing a local community of practice you are building community resilience.

How and what kind of support can I get from BWB during a Disaster?

BWB is not a civilian army, and we don’t “dispatch” crews to respond to crisis. We support groups and leaders standing up in their own initiatives and communities so that we can amplify and support the work that’s already happening in the extended burnersphere. In the world we live in, there are disasters happening every day. We know that at this point the question is not if, but when a disaster will strike in your area. The best way to respond to a disaster is to prepare before it hits. That’s right- if you’re reading this and things are going well- NOW is the time to start preparing with your community of practice.  *Be mindful that not all help is created equal in the wake of a disaster. Taking a moment, stepping back and evaluating what the greatest need is in your community and working to address that can go a lot farther than diving in with passion but no concrete data about how to have a real impact.

If there is a disaster that is directly affecting you or your nearby community:

      • BWB’s ability to help during an active disaster is limited, however we encourage you to reach out and research global and local disaster relief organizations, mutual aid networks, and community hubs in the area. There are probably people nearby activating in the area who can use your help. Start small- the fastest groups to arrive on the scene are usually local civilian groups. Someone near you has probably started a distribution center. Find them and see if you can help. 
      • If you’re a part of a mutual aid network, onsite and assessing needs, or coordinating direct services in your community: email with as much information as possible and we’ll use you as an on-site contact to funnel volunteer interest/community resources when it’s appropriate. 
      • Stay safe, follow all evacuation mandates and do not try to be a hero! If you don’t have a crisis skillset, please keep yourself safe (you don’t want to become another person that the emergency services need to rescue). There will be time to help after the immediate crisis moment has passed. 
      • Once it’s time for “recovery mode” BWB is able offer resources in the form of: 
        • helping connect local initiatives, burner groups and volunteers in an area 
        • working with our partners and affiliates to see if there are resources we can help arrange
        • connecting and amplifying the work burners are doing out to the global network
        • Advice, consultation, and mentorship if you have an appropriate project/initiative that you need support in implementing well

If there is a disaster right now, and it’s NOT directly affecting you:

Pause, take a breath, and read this article from BWB co-founder Tom Price. Save your energy for when the real work begins, which will probably be weeks or months from now! The instinct to help is strong in the immediate media blast, but now is not the most useful time to help. Unless you have specialized skills/are invited with a local group, now is not the time to send yourself or donations (besides cash) to a disaster zone.  You can start now by keeping yourself informed about the disaster, and trying to connect with folks on the ground who will have a real understanding of needs in the months to come- but if the disaster is still active then have some patience- the people you’re hoping to help are probably not ready for your help yet. Join the BWB Volunteers Worldwide facebook group, we will share out any relevant calls to action as soon as it makes sense.
Following the 2005 Burning Man event, several participants headed to the Gulf Coast to help survivors rebuild their devastated communities. While the rest of the world’s attention was focused on New Orleans, the small group decided to head towards Biloxi, which had been hit just as hard but was receiving little help. The group named themselves the Temple to Temple Crew since many of the volunteers had built the Temple at Burning Man.   As the volunteer numbers grew, they focused their initial efforts on rebuilding a destroyed Vietnamese temple. After several months and a job well done, they moved to another needy Mississippi community, Pearlington, to continue to work hard — gifting their time — to help those in need.  And a new name, Burners Without Borders, was born.   Over the course of eight months, BWB volunteers gifted over $1 million dollars worth of reconstruction and debris removal to the residents of Mississippi due to the donation of a brand new front loader and excavator.  BWB was the only volunteer group on the Gulf Coast to receive a donation of heavy machinery, which enabled them to put Pearlington three years ahead of the relief effort in their region.   But, we did more than just clear people’s homes, we started burning sculptures made from the debris we gathered while doing our work. Soon, the community began bringing their own sculptures and many experienced a powerful, cathartic moment as they were finding the courage together to let go of the past and rebuild their futures.   After Katrina-From Disaster Response to Civic Engagement   After witnessing the incredible creativity that the Burning Man community brought to Katrina, Tom Price and Carmen Mauk returned to San Francisco with a desire to continue to grow BWB beyond the scope of natural disasters. They wondered what would be possible if  the kind of participation and creativity they experienced in Katrina could be turned into our every day lives in communities around the world.   As a first step in encouraging community participation, they decided to host a beach cleanup at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, on May 5th. By engaging  the Burning Man network and former Katrina volunteers, this cleanup spread to five countries  and the first annual Cinqo de Playa cleanup was born. This program ran for seven years and continued to grow to more than twenty cities around the world.