On May 5th I gave Mike a night off from blogging by writing my perspective while still at home preparing to leave and respond to the current spill event in the Gulf. At that time I waxed philosophical about what might be happening. Well I’ve been in Mississippi for the past 6 days and can now share a little more insight.
When I worked for the OWCN we always told volunteers to only talk about what they know so I’ll focus on what I’ve been doing since I arrived. So far we’ve been working long hours planning and building a facility for rehabilitating oiled birds and any terrestrial mammals that might be affected. I say we because I’ve been lucky enough to work with a great team of folks. Erica Lander, Wendy Massey and I are the rehabilitation staff. Steve Hoogland provides logistical support – which means he spends most of his time trying to find and buy supplies and equipment, make sure the contractors get paid and also see that we get fed. We’ve also got some great local talent working alongside us. They’re people like our construction contractors, Larry and Lisa; our plumbers, Jose and Carlos; our electrician, Derrick; and even security guards like Addie.
I mention the local people here in Mississippi because I’ve been impressed with their desire to do whatever it takes to protect and care for their natural resources. It’s something I thought I should mention because as things begin to ramp up, and those of us from outside the state want to rush to their aid, remember to give them a chance to do what they can and don’t be discouraged if you’re asked to wait a while before coming in. This has the potential to be a long and grueling marathon so try thinking of it like a relay race. Let the local folks take the first leg and then begin passing the baton. I have a feeling there will be plenty of work to go around.
Now as far as providing more details goes, we haven’t gotten any oiled birds yet. Some of the other facilities have begun to receive the first of the affected animals, but not us. We’re the last facility to come online and are still busy with preparations. This is a luxury many oiled wildlife responders aren’t used to because typically we’re trying to build facilities at the same time we’re caring for birds. Even so, this doesn’t mean everything goes as smoothly as planned. But that’s part of the challenge, fun and frustration of emergency response. Making order out of chaos, creating something that is much more specialized and complex than most people realize – and doing it in a warehouse that is simultaneously being evacuated by the former tenant is interesting to say the least. Tomorrow morning I get to travel to the land of the Crimson Tide and then to Gator Country to check on the birds at two of the other centers. It’ll be interesting to swap stories and see how things are going for them.
To close, I want to say now that I’m here and getting much less sleep than when I wrote my last post, I’m very impressed with Mike’s ability to be creative and funny at the end of a long day. I’m sure it’s only partially due to the massive quantities of caffeine he ingests.