At 9:18 am Monday morning the OWCN Senior Team received a heads-up text from Julie Yamamoto at California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) alerting us to an accident involving a tanker truck earlier that morning at Dutch Flat on I-80. As you might imagine whenever we get a text that includes “this is not a drill” the adrenaline spikes. At 9:19 the whole OWCN Management team here in Davis looked down as our phones beeped for a Group Me message from Mike Ziccardi with the information from Julie and instructions to confirm we have received it. (How does he type so fast?)
Immediately those of us who don’t know where Dutch Flat, CA is headed to Google Earth or Maps to get an idea of the location, topography and access roads and then check the temperature and weather at the site.
Kyra led a quick informal discussion with the some of the Readiness and Field Operations staff who were working at the Boneyard and came up with a contingency plan to be ready to immediately deploy an initial Wildlife Recovery team directly from Davis if we were activated.
At 10:21 CDFW Cal Spill Watch tweeted a report of the incident and a photo of the wreckage. As we waited for more news, we discussed potential species impacts, wildlife survey recovery methods in steep terrain, equipment needs, and potential care operations locations as we celebrated a staff birthday with lunch out.
Just about the time our burgers and fries arrived, so did an update tweet from Cal Spill Watch detailing efforts in the investigation and the plan to construct a barrier to contain the spill and keep it from the nearby creek when the rain (forecast for later in the day) arrived.
As the day went on and our lunch digested with no call to activate or even formally stand by, our blood pressure and heart rates settled back to normal. While the efforts to remove the truck and clean up the environment continued, we stood down and went back to the daily work of our team. Checking and maintaining equipment, replacing or improving, arranging trainings, and doing all the little things that make it possible to be ready to roll when the call or text lets us know that “this is not a drill”. Waiting for that next jolt of adrenaline those words bring to responders of all kinds including us here in Davis and all of the Member Organizations up and down California.
PS Later Monday night we learned that the driver of the truck died in the crash. Although it appears at this time that the damage to the environment was much less that it could have been, we recognize that for the family and friends of the driver it could not have ended worse. Our thoughts are with them today.
There is nothing quite like the exciting beginning of a fresh year. I personally enjoy using the calendar as an excuse to reflect upon the last year, relishing the high points, learning from the low and forming a vision of hopes and goals for the year to come.
2019 is in its infancy, and for our OWCN Management Team here in Davis, we have new team members and a revived energy to enhance our readiness, extend our outreach, strategize novel research initiatives and remain ready to respond. But as one of my favorite John Wooden quotes states “Nothing will work unless you do”, so our team met last week, rolled up the sleeves, and reviewed our 2018 efforts while also building our 2019 goals.
As of 12/31/18, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network boasts 43 Member Organizations, with over 1,300 registered responders in our database. If you are curious about what that distribution looks like throughout the state of California, see the graph below (click here to learn more about CDFW Regions)
The primary goals of our team meeting were to assess the status of the Network to assist in developing our 2019 training calendar, as well as evaluating our training program to identify key revisions we plan to tackle this year. Our discussion covered Member Organization engagement, online training webinars, in-person trainings (24hr HAZWOPER, Basic Responder Training, and Oiled Wildlife Specialist), large events such as the full deployment drill and Oilapalooza and even a brainstorm session on the top tier of the pyramid – Manager Training.
While we didn’t solve every riddle, the meeting was an overall success as we closed the 2018 chapter, and created a revitalized and unified vision for 2019. Keep an eye out for the 2019 OWCN training calendar and other important key dates to consider, which will be finalized and posted in the next couple weeks!
We are starting off a new year with a brand new hire for the OWCN team – meet Jennie Hawkins, our new Field Ops Specialist! Jennie was born and raised in Davis, CA, and after a hiatus to get her undergraduate degree at Colorado State and get her feet wet with various wildlife experiences, she is back home and started today as our newest Team member. Jennie has a diverse wildlife background, doing field work in a variety of locations, including Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and Idaho.
Jennie enjoys teaching people about wildlife, ecosystems, and the natural world, but she is also quite the sporting enthusiast. Jennie is an active member of the triathlon and cycling communities and was on the USA Triathlon Age Group National Team and competed in Rotterdam last year. So next time you are at an OWCN training (or maybe a spill – quick…knock on wood!), look for Jennie.
We are so excited to have Jennie on our Team!
As we approach the close of 2018 and welcome 2019 we want to extend our sincere thanks for an amazing year. We look forward to a prosperous New Year filled with many trainings, conferences, a full-deployment drill, and many other opportunities to interact with you, our community. In the meantime, we invite you to explore our new website.
Happy Holidays to you all and wishing you a joyous New Year!
~The OWCN Management Team
In many of our training materials we talk about looking for the silver lining in the aftermath of a spill. Silver linings can be many things. For one spill it might be new methods to care for oiled wildlife, while for another it might be new legislation to increase prevention and preparedness. The Deepwater Horizon was a huge spill with many negative impacts – some of which we are still learning about. At least one of the silver linings from that disaster has been the array of scientific studies that have been done to measure impacts to wildlife, the environment and to the people who responded.
The wildlife response spanned coastal and offshore areas from Louisiana to Florida and included many of us from OWCN Member Organizations as well as from OSPR and CDFW. Eight years after the event, studies continue to be published and two came out recently that I read with interest and I feel are important to share. I share them not to scare anyone, but simply to remind us that the chemical products we work around during spills are hazardous materials, and that oil spills are traumatic events that can impact our mental health as well. The OWCN and OSPR both work very hard to ensure the safety of our responders, providing required training and annual refreshers, safety officers, safety protocols and provided PPE during response but ultimately it is up to each of us to keep ourselves informed and safe.
Both of these papers are part of the GULF Study (Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study) and a detailed discussion of both are well beyond the scope of an OWCN blog. I hope you will take a look at both of them and read them completely if you are so inclined.
One looks at mental health indicators associated with oil spill response workers including some working with wildlife and can be found here.
The second looks at lung function and association with oil spill response and clean-up work roles and found an impact in those handling oily plants/wildlife or dead animals. A summary can be found here.
As with anything else you read on the internet please do so critically. Neither of these focused on what we consider “professional” oiled wildlife responders like many of you are with the training and experience to identify the hazards and recognize how to mitigate them. I present them simply in an effort to help you stay on the cutting edge of health and safety in oiled wildlife response.
While this may not be a typical “Happy holidays” type of message, the health and safety of all of our responders (and their families) comes into true focus at this time of year. Please enjoy a safe holiday season!
OWCN Training Program
Last week OWCN staff presented the second ever Oiled Wildlife Specialist (OWS) Training. We are so pleased with the strong interest in this training. Classes were full with 31 participants, representing 10 Member organizations. As you may remember, this training is a two day in-person workshop for individuals with moderate to advanced experience working with the species cared for by their Member Organization. It is intended to give participants a deeper understanding of spill response operations, broaden the applicability of responders’ existing skills and increase consistency between responders.
The training is organized into five specialization areas for personnel to choose from:
• Recovery & Hazing Specialist: Field Operations
• Field Stabilization Specialist
• Intake & Processing Specialist
• Pre-Wash Care Specialist
• Cleaning & Conditioning Specialist
For further information regarding future Oiled Wildlife Specialist training opportunities, please refer to the “Opportunities” section of your OWCN Responder Profile.
Checkout the fun photos. We look forward to having fun with you at a future OWS training!
This week the team is operating out of the OWCN facility in San Pedro, leading oiled wildlife specialist training for responders from 11 of our 43 member organizations. OWCN’s Public Information Officers — Eunah and I — stayed behind at OWCN headquarters in the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, managing social media and working on communications projects.
Oiled wildlife specialists from our member organizations participate in training activities at the OWCN facility in San Pedro this week.
There is one project that’s been top of mind for the two of us and many months-in-progress: a new OWCN website! The new site will go live in late December, and we’re excited to share it with you soon.
The new OWCN site will look quite different from the current site, but it will continue to be a valued resource for oiled wildlife response information. Among the significant changes:
- a cleaner design featuring more of our wildlife photography
- streamlined navigation focused on the four “R’s” that guide our work (Readiness, Response, Research and Reaching out)
- page content that is pared-down and better organized
In addition, the new site architecture will give our team more flexibility to promote upcoming OWCN events and activities, and to highlight the work of our member organizations. All in all, we think you’ll find the new site easier to use and more engaging.
Stay tuned for the reveal in a few weeks!