Emergency Services Division (ESD)

Lead: John Scorsine - 2015

Key Documents

The e-mail below is from Apogaea's ESD director.

From: "John Scorsine" joenscorsine@apogaea.com

Subject: Introduction and Let's Meet

Date: January 14, 2015 at 1:17:04 AM MST

Welcome to the newly constituted emergency services division for Apogaea.  I am John Scorsine and last November [2014] the Board ratified my selection by Nic as the Director of this new consolidation of BAMF, Rangers, and other safety and emergency functions.  The purpose behind this e-mail is to share with each of you some of my very initial planning, based upon what information I have been provided.  When it comes to the finalization of plans, my intent is that we will foster consensus – that does not mean that we will all necessarily be in agreement with every aspect of operations, but everyone will have an opportunity to be heard and we will as a group strive to make the best decisions for the Burner Community in Colorado.  


That said, let me provide you with some key aspects of the philosophy I bring to this event, beyond that of the ten principles that Larry Harvey authored in 2004.  Now, I certainly subscribe to the view that there should be an emphasis on radical self-reliance, communal effort,  and civic responsibility.  However, participants will under plan and under provision.  And, even for the most self-reliant participant “shit happens” that will exceed their ability to cope.  That threshold will differ for every participant.  Our role is to have the necessary prowess to be able to provide the safety net for participants and in doing so, this Division of Apogaea more so than any other, will ensure its continued success. Burning Man is built on the premise of Radical Self-Reliance – the philosophy encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.  Emergency Services are not meant to replace this fundamental view of Burning Man culture.   It is meant to provide a safety net for participants and the event.  Just as at home, each participant should be prepared to self-rescue; self-heal; self-evacuate; etc.  Participants should be self-sufficient.  We are there when they are not.  For the participant those events are disasters.  For an individual, a disaster may be an illness or a broken bone; for the collective event, it may be a rapidly approaching wildfire.  To each their calamity is a disaster and we are there to respond and to mitigate its effects.


My outlook for Emergency Services, which I hope that you will share with me, is that as leaders in an organization which is meant to prevent, respond and mitigate disasters, we will always focus on safety.  While for the balance of the organization it may be “Safety Third”, for those of use that have to respond to emergencies safety must be the predominant consideration.  Safety of our emergency  personnel is No. 1.  Safety of the participant is second.  And, the safety of our neighbors and the Park County community in general is our third concern.


Attached to this note are two documents.  The first is an organizational chart for the new and improved BAMF and Rangers consolidation.  It has formally been called the Emergency Services Division – but in my mind we are “the Masters of Disasters”.  It uses the general organizational structure of the incident command system to organize us.  For those of you in the fire service, it should not come as any great shock.  There are some tweaks to ICS in the organization, so if you are an ICS purist you may have some heartburn.  But, overall I think an outsider that looks at the chart will see it for its clarity and adherence to general principles of ICS.  Feel free to comment on it – it is a draft.


The second is a document that puts names to positions.  I have tried to locate all the personnel that have committed to a leadership role and have slotted you against an ICS entitled position.  Again, this is a draft.  There are some new faces, pending board approval.  Nate Synder, a highly qualified paramedic and firefighter with experience in the most dangerous and austere of environments is my recommendation for the medical lead.  Also, to bring more depth to fire services, I have asked Chief Hart Wright to join our crew.  The Chief of the SW HWY 115 Fire Department, Chief Wright is a highly regarded executive officer of the fire service.


You may wonder “Why” this new formulation and changes.  The answer is simple.  Apogaea in several areas has been out of compliance with federal, state and local law and regulations.  For example, under State rules, any mass gathering of over 500 persons must have a medical director.  Apogaea has never had a medical director.  And, beyond these regulatory requirements, there are industry best practices that are published by FEMA and other governments and organizations.  Issues about the level of care that an event is required to provide to participants; matters concerning the proper mitigation of HAZMAT spills; and, a host of other criteria.  We need to bring our support of the event up to these standards. To fail to do so is negligence and will level the organization open to significant liability. Some compliance will be required immediately; other standards we may be able to achieve incrementally.  But, for Apogaea to survive we must be in compliance with the regulatory environment and with the best practices for mass events and gatherings.  We will discuss that further when we meet.


There is a lot to discuss and debate.  I am hoping that we can begin that dialogue and the planning process.



A little about me for those that I haven’t met.  Back in November,  a good friend of mine said I should call Nic on the Apogaea Board.  Diana and I had become acquainted after I returned last Summer from my first trip to Burning Man.   (There I volunteered with Emergency Services and worked for Rampart.)  I wanted to get involved with the Regional effort and she suggested that I work medical for the Decompression Party.  Next thing I know, I am talking to Nic about the Board’s vision for an emergency manager or as it’s become called, Director of Emergency Services.  Then, I am at a Board meeting.  And, now, I am that Director 


I have been both a career and volunteer first responder my entire adult.  I am currently a volunteer firefighter and Intermediate EMT with a small rural department east of Colorado Springs.   My “day job” is as a lawyer that focuses his practice on government contracting and national security programs.   From 1995 to 2003, I was the full-time emergency manager for the Wyoming Air and Army National Guard.  Actually, I did 22 years in the Army Reserve and Guard before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.  I have been the incident commander for events as small as a traffic accident to leading the efforts to restore electrical power to a community devastated by an ice storm and then protecting other communities from flood waters and wildfires. I commanded security forces that protected our airports and critical infrastructure after the Towers fell. For the last 10 years of my military service, I was mostly assigned to United States Northern Command and worked as a planner, legal adviser and subject matter expert on how the DoD would aid local communities in times of disaster.  I have been a fire officer, ski patrol leader, and the Wing Commander for the Wyoming Civil Air Patrol; among a host of other local, state and national offices in emergency services.


During my time in Wyoming, I taught a variety of emergency management courses for the Wyoming Emergency Management Agency, the State Fire and Law Enforcement Academies, the Emergency Management Institute and other state and federal agencies.  I am a frequent presenter on law, ethics and the emergency medical service as well.  I teach EMS related courses for Memorial Hospital, which is part of the UC Health system, including EMT, IV, ACLS, PALS, EPC, and the list goes on.


So, what is the Director of Emergency Services?  It would be great if I got to be a real-life Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones’ character in Volcano. )  But, in the satellite photos of the Apogaea site I don’t see any 22 story condominiums that I can demolish to save our event – darn.  Instead, what I am is a central point of contact for emergency and safety services.  


What are emergency and safety services?  The Rangers, Medical, and Fire/HAZMAT are the three field-centric groups in Safety Services.  They will be supported by the Communications Group and the Emergency Operations Center (now the EOC; formerly, the ICS team).  Knitting these groups together will be a system or process called the Incident Command System (ICS).  


In the past, ICS was considered by Apogaea as a genie you kept locked up in a bottle until there was a “real” disaster.  But, that is not what ICS is about.  ICS is, “…a set of personnel, policies, procedures, facilities, and equipment, integrated into a common organizational structure designed to improve emergency response operations of all types and complexities. ICS is a subcomponent of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), as released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2004."  ICS is scaleable, it functions when a single Ranger is cooling tempers in a dispute.  It grows in complexity to handle the response when a Mutant Vehicle rolls over pining and injuring participants, with a threat of fire and spilling diesel on the ground.  It serves to interact and unify efforts between Apogaea and the local first responders when a wildfire threatens our site.


To do this, will require training and the development of procedures.  This year, our Board of Directors (in, ICS, they are known as the Policy Group) along with the majority of the Ignition-level  personnel will be expected to complete ICS 100.b and ICS 200.b.  These are two free, on-line, courses about ICS.  The Personnel Section will keep track of everyone’s completion of the courses.  The courses can be found at http://training.fema.gov/is/nims.aspx.  Once you complete the course, send to the Credentials Branch Chief, in the Personnel and Admin Section,  your certificate.  Each course takes about 2 to 3 hours.  And, there is nothing magical about these courses – if you already have completed them for work or volunteer activity, just send us that certificate (you don’t have to take it again).  


ICS only works if it is trained, so we are going to develop a fun and interactive exercise schedule.  The first is a scoping meeting that will happen at the January Board meeting and take about 20 minutes in which the Policy Group (the Board) and others will brainstorm our risks and  probabilities.  From that discussion the scenarios of table tops and functional exercises will be developed.  The training will culminate in a modified Full-Scale exercise in May.


I was once told of the Four Rules of Wilderness Survival, by a Park Ranger that had a profound impact on my views (thanks, Tim); ICS and Burning Man culture fit into those rules.

1.      Always Look Good – be prepared for the event you are undertaking, have the right equipment and the right training, be ready and prepared to handle the contingencies inherent in your pursuits.

2.     Don’t Be Stupid – even though you are prepared, don’t tempt the fates.  Stay within your capabilities and resources.

3.     Shit Happens – recognize that despite the best preparation and training, a disaster may still happen and you are going to need help and assistance – now is the time to call Emergency Services, the “Masters of Disasters”.

4.     Always Bring Beer – remember the focus here is to advance the Burning Man culture and to have fun.  Let’s not get too wrapped up about the prospects of a disaster.



John M. Scorsine

5430 Murr Road

Peyton, CO  80831