“The way to do fieldwork is never to come up for air until it is all over.”
Well, it wasn’t quite that bad, but Field Operations was definitely kept busy testing out three Groups: Wildlife Recovery, Field Stabilization and, for the first time, Marine Mammal Wildlife Recovery. This was also the first time OWCN deployed a separate Transportation Coordinator to mange the logistics of moving oiled animals from the beach to Field Stabilization and to Primary Care.
Our drill scenario included a magnitude 7.5 earthquake that occurred at the Cascadian Subduction Zone 45 miles West-Northwest of Humboldt Bay at 10:34 PM on March 16, 2014. The waves resulting from the quake reached Humboldt Bay around 11:00 PM. The 6-foot tall waves caused 5 moored vessels inside the bay to collide and release fuel. Initial volume estimates ranged from hundreds to thousands of gallons of diesel. In addition, a local refinery reported a release of 50 – 100 barrels of gasoline from a terminal on the west side of Arcata Bay.
The next morning, once there was light to see, our field teams got to work right away. Wildlife Recovery Teams met at the Sprinter (the mobile office for Wildlife Recovery operations), for a briefing on paperwork, safety, and team assignments. The “injects” (snippets of information that keep the drill moving forward) came in the form of index cards in bird carriers, and the Wildlife Recovery teams were given instructions to open these at specific times.
In the meantime, the Field Stabilization (FS) team efficiently set up the MASH (Mobile Avian Stabilization Hospital) trailer and prepared to receive birds collected by the Wildlife Recovery teams. Once the birds arrived at the MASH, FS personnel gave each bird a brief initial physical examination. Then they administered appropriate supportive care such as heat, fluids, and First Aid for any significant wounds. Once birds were stable, FS staff contacted the Transportation Coordinator to arrange transfer to the Primary Care Center where they received more in depth examinations and treatments.
At the same time, the Marine Mammal Wildlife Recovery teams were out on the beach responding to calls of distressed harbor seals and even a beached killer whale. We were certainly glad that this was only a drill! In addition to marine mammals, the team was asked to rescue an oiled beaver. Luckily, we were able to contact Bird Ally X for help; they provide wildlife rehabilitation services to the Humboldt region. Their experienced staff was deployed to capture the unhappy rodent and transport him to the Primary Care Center.
As coordinators for the Field Operations, both Kyra and Nancy want to thank the Wildlife Recovery, Field Stabilization, and Marine Mammal Wildlife Recovery personnel for their enthusiasm and excellence in rescuing and stabilizing a wide diversity of animals during this drill. Personnel came from more than six different organizations and we were so impressed with how well they seamlessly merged into field teams.
At the end, we all gathered at the Primary Care Center to go over “plusses” and “deltas”. On the plus side, the field teams commented on the outstanding teamwork and organization/efficiency of the response. For “deltas” (room for improvement) some equipment requests and paperwork adjustments were identified. This “hotwash” discussion is one of the most important parts of the drill, because it allows us to identify ways to improve our response in the future.
Once again, the entire OWCN team would like to thank all the staff, volunteers, and agency personnel who participated in the drill and made it such a success. Your hard work is greatly appreciated, and we look forward to seeing all of you again (at a drill, not a spill)!
–Kyra & Nancy