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Press Releases

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    • Friday, Sep 01, 2023

    As 70,000+ People Congregate for Burning Man, 100 Miles Northeast of Reno, Renown Health’s Emergency Teams and Hospitals Prepare to Serve

    Burning Man is an annual event inspired by the values reflected in the Ten Principles and united in the pursuit of a more creative and connected existence in the world. As over 70,000 congregate this week, between Aug. 27 to Sept. 4, in the high altitudes of the hot and windy Black Rock Desert, Renown Health’s emergency and clinical care teams are ready to care for Burners who may find themselves ill and in need of additional urgent, emergent care or hospitalization. This year, people from across the world are expected to make the journey in RVs and cars brimming with tents, food, water, artwork, and costumes, temporarily turning Black Rock into the state’s third largest city. “The Burning Man Project has done an excellent job preparing participants to have a safe, healthy, and wonderful time building Black Rock City and living on the playa for nine days to nurture the distinctive culture emerging from that experience. However, bringing over 70,000 people together in a high altitude, desert environment with limited access to water, food, and sanitary conditions- always presents a challenge,” says Brian Erling, MD, MBA, president and CEO of Renown Health and an experienced emergency medicine physician. “Having excellent care on the playa and plans in place back here in Reno helps to mitigate that risk and ensure the health and safety of all participants.” “We welcome every Burner to northern Nevada,” says Bret Frey, MD, the board-certified emergency medicine physician who heads up the largest Emergency Department at Renown Regional Medical Center; which has the highest-level trauma center for 100,000 miles, located in Reno, NV. Dr. Frey has 23 years of experience in the medical field, and 23 years of experience treating people who have experienced Burning Man. “Burning Man is a fascinating event, and most people have a great time. However, if things go wrong, they are fortunate to have the BlackRock City Emergency Services Department, 24/7, to help. Back here in Reno, we serve as their ‘back up,’ providing care as needed, for the ill and injured and supporting clinical teams when they’re feeling overwhelmed.” Renown Health is home to three 24/7 Emergency Rooms that provide the highest level of emergency and trauma care in the region: Renown Regional Medical Center is the only Level II Trauma Center between Sacramento and Salt Lake City. Located near downtown Reno, this Emergency Room has several helipads and ambulance banks for patients requiring emergency and trauma care. Renown Children’s Hospital at Renown Regional Medical Center is home to the only Pediatric Emergency Room  in the region designed just for kids. This location is staffed by pediatric specialists and provides child-sized equipment and family-friendly areas. Renown South Meadows Medical Center includes South Reno’s first 24/7 Emergency Room. Located just off I580, this location is designed to treat patients who need immediate attention for emergencies.  These locations are designed to assess and care for emergency situations, including: Heart attack symptoms Stroke symptoms Broken bones Shortness of breath Seizures Severe bleeding Head injuries Chest pains Severe pain Venomous stings and bite All of Renown’s emergency rooms are staffed by Northern Nevada Emergency Physicians, including pediatric specialists and physicians who have completed fellowship training in specialty areas such as sports medicine, ultrasound and emergency medical services. A few interesting medical conditions (Playa Foot and Playa Lung), are associated with Burning Man. The Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada is part of the lakebed of the ancient Lake Lahontan, a deep lake that existed 15,000 years ago. Lake Lahontan left fine sediments on the lake bottom to form the extremely flat surface. Playa dust is made of both larger and smaller particulate matter. The Playa dust is in the air, on the ground, and on everything in Black Rock City. People combat the dust with masks, bandannas, and colorful respirators to keep the chalky dust out of their mouths and nostrils, but the effort is often futile. Playa Foot is a malady unique to the Black Rock Desert caused by the alkali dust that makes up the desert. It is, in essence, a chemical burn. The best prevention is keeping feet covered as much as possible, applying a moisturizing skin lotion before bed and wearing socks and closed shoes each day on the playa. “Playa Lung, where the particulate is breathed into the lungs, may cause coughing, throat pain and loss of voice in the short-term,” says William Graham, MD, a specialist in Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care Medicine at Renown Health. “The dust can cause health issues for smokers, children and elderly and people with pre-existing conditions like asthma and COPD. The best prevention is to get a mask that’s comfortable with n99 filters, wear the mask as much as possible and change the filters often. Be sure to drink lots of water and take protection from windstorms. A doctor visit is recommended if any effects of breathing in dust persist beyond a week or two.” Dr. Derek Beenfeldt is the Chief Medical Officer for Renown’s not-for-profit insurance arm HometownHealth, and has been a frequent participant in the Burning Man experience over the years. In the interest of wanting every person to have a wonderful experience while here- especially since over half of the participants live outside the U.S. health care system, he reminds people of the number of free and low-cost on-site health care and testing resources provided on the playa at Black Rock City. “It is important for Burning Man participants to know that without US health care insurance coverage, the costs can be significant for transportation off the playa for a medical evacuation, hospital emergency department care or hospitalization. Even for people who have insurance, in the past, some have faced some significant out-of-pocket expenses for the flight or transportation to Reno-area hospitals or emergency departments.” He shares the following information; On Site Medical Response A community of EMTs, paramedics, nurses, medical students, and physicians are on site at Black Rock City in RVs to provide emergency response and urgent care to participants as needed. Local Hospital Response Since 2011, the Burning Man organization, has contracted with Humboldt General Hospital in Winnemucca, Nev., to staff and equip Rampart Urgent Care, a field hospital that offers X-rays, ultrasounds, a hand-held head scanner, lab tests and a pharmacy. The single-room wooden structure is easily seen- it is painted pink and yellow. The hospital’s 40 beds are located in adjoining tents. At Rampart, when possible, patients are treated on site. EMTs, medics and nurses are empowered to practice medicine to the fullest ability their licensing and credentialing allow. Patients are not charged for Rampart Urgent Care services, which is covered as part of their ticket fee. The Nevada State Health Division, Bureau of Health Protection Services is also on the playa. You will know them by the Nevada State Health Division logo on their shirts. All Renown’s physicians remind people that if they are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, they should go to the closest emergency room (ER) to get needed medical care. Delaying care for a medical emergency, such as a heart attack or stroke, can be life threatening or lead to serious complications. About Renown Health Renown Health is the region’s largest, locally governed, not-for-profit integrated healthcare network serving Nevada, Lake Tahoe, and northeast California. With a diverse workforce of more than 7,000 employees, Renown has fostered a longstanding culture of excellence, determination, and innovation. The organization comprises a trauma center, two acute care hospitals, a children’s hospital, a rehabilitation hospital, a medical group and urgent care network, and the region’s largest, locally owned not-for-profit insurance company, Hometown Health. For more information, visit

    Read More About As 70,000+ People Congregate for Burning Man, 100 Miles Northeast of Reno, Renown Health’s Emergency Teams and Hospitals Prepare to Serve

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