OWCN goes on the road to Santa Cruz for drill

On Wednesday the entire OWCN crew headed down to Santa Cruz for a tabletop drill held with the MWVCRC (Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center) and OSPR (The Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response, California Department of Fish and Game). The main goal of the 1-day drill was to test out existing and newly drafted response protocols for oiled sea otters.

The initial DRILL scenario (NOT a real spill) was a collision between a cruise ship (1.5 million gallons of fuel oil) and a 58’ sardine boat (3000 gallons of diesel) that occurred just off the breakwater in Monterey Harbor at 6 AM. The sardine boat was sinking and most of the diesel was presumed to be in the water. No fuel was observed leaking from the cruise ship. Since this drill was modeled to occur right in the heart of sea otter country, where otter densities are highest, the drill achieved its goal to test our protocols for any weaknesses during worst-case scenarios.

After an initial organizational meeting, Drill Attendees split out into Groups & Units as described by the Incident Command System (ICS) that is used by OPSR to organize oil spill responses. We limited our drill assignments to the Wildlife Branch of the ICS structure. The following positions were filled: Wildlife Branch Director and her support staff, Recovery & Transportation Group Supervisor, Care & Processing Group Supervisor and her support staff (Administration, Facility Volunteer Coordinator, Facility Coordinator, Facility Manager), Field Stabilization Unit Leader, & Care Unit Leader who supervised the Intake & Processing Team, Pre-wash Care Team, Wash Team, Post-wash Care Team, & Support Staff. It takes a lot of people to respond to an oil spill, even if its only a drill!

The drill was a great opportunity for the staff of OWCN and the sea otter experts at MWVCRC and DFG to collaborate. The teams worked together to fine-tune current oil spill response protocols. OSPR sent down a contingent of staff and their knowledge and familiarity with ICS and large spill protocols was greatly appreciated. Working closely with such dedicated and experienced professionals was a great experience. Plus the people that routinely work with wildlife are just fun!

My only complaint was that while we were just a few hundred yards away from the ocean, we worked so hard that none of us got outside to watch any waves or seabirds, much less sea otters!

Care & Processing Group Members discuss readiness during an oils spill drill at MWVCRC: from left to right: Barbara VanGilder (UC Davis Senior Veterinary Student Extern), Hannah Nevins (MWVCRC), Chris Fiorello (OWCN) & Melissa Miller (MWVCRC)

Recovery & Transportation Group discusses plans for capturing oiled otters during drill at MWVCRC: from left to right: Colleen Young (MWVCRC), Mike Ziccardi (OWCN), Kyra Parker (OWCN)



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