A holiday message from the ghost of oil spills past



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!


Save the Date: HAZWOPER Trainings

WR team in PPE Refugio 2015 Gayle Uyehara

Wildlife Recovery Team prepares to enter the Hot Zone at the Refugio Oil Spill (photo courtesy of Gayle Uyehara)

With the New Year comes resolutions, my first OWCN blog, and the most exciting of all – in person 24 hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Training dates!  We wanted to share these dates as early as possible, so those of you out there needing to complete this training can mark your calendars.  We will be creating online activities in our responder database shortly, so that those interested can sign up.  But please feel free to spread the word throughout the Network.

As of today, we have the following 2016 dates set (all classes are 3 days in length, from 8am to 5pm each day):

  • February 23rd – 25th in Redding (exact location TBD)
  • April 19th – 21st in Bakersfield (exact location TBD)
  • May 24th – 26th in San Diego (SeaWorld)
  • August 16th – 18th in Sausalito (The Marine Mammal Center)

As a reminder, if you wish to respond within the hot zone of an oil spill, you must have proof of current 24 hour HAZWOPER certification. Once this initial class is completed, you will be required to annually refresh your certification to maintain its active status, which can be accomplished via our OWCN online 8hr HAZWOPER Refresher course.

If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Cheers to a healthy, happy, HAZWOPER filled 2016!


Last Chance to Register for HAZWOPER!

Hello all,

If you need to take the 8-hr HAZWOPER Refresher in June, you have 4 more days before registration closes.  This is the second time around that we are doing it this way – taking registrations the month before the Refresher.  This allows us to go through this list and approve the registration (if we have records of the initial 24-hr and latest 8-hr HAZWOPER taken, and if it was taken less than 2 years ago).  If we are missing any information, we will send you an email requesting you to send in either hard copies or scanned and emailed copies of your HAZWOPER classes.

To register, send an email to: kyparker@ucdavis.edu




Hi Everyone!

Just a reminder that if you need to take the 8-hr HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response) training, TODAY is your last day to register.  To register, send me an email (kyparker@ucdavis.edu).  If we are missing any information from you, I will let you know.  If you do not hear from me, consider yourself registered, and you will be receiving instructions on how to take the training.  We will NOT be accepting late registrations (after today).  The training itself will be live and available for the entire month of November.

Thank you!


Final days to complete 8-hr HAZWOPER refresher

Three days remain for those of you that need to take the 8-hr HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response) Refresher training.  The next online refresher will not be available until November, so if you are close to expiration, please complete the refresher now.  Remember that you must complete the 8-hr refresher every year, in order to be eligible to respond in the field.  If your refresher card passes its yearly expiration date, you will not be eligible to participate in recovery until you complete a refresher.  If your last refresher was two or more years ago, you will be ineligible to participate in recovery and will be required to take the original 24-hr class over again.tyvek

A couple of tips for completing the refresher last minute with a high volume of users: 1) Make sure you are using a reliable, fast internet connection, 2) If you think the presentation is frozen during loading or it is taking a long time to load, allow it to load for at least 30 minutes.  This way it fully loads before you begin, and won’t be as likely to freeze up, 3) Make sure you are clicking “SUBMIT” at the end of the exam, otherwise your score will not be recorded, 4) Do not open the presentation again after you have completed the exam.  This resets your exam score to zero, 5) Any questions, please contact me at baelias@ucdavis.edu

Finally, have a safe and fun 4th of July holiday, and as Mike always says, “Don’t spill anything”!


Last Registration Call for June HAZWOPER Refresher

We are in the final two-week stretch for those of you that need to take the 8-hr HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response) Refresher training. The OWCN offers an online and free training to OWCN member organizations and affiliated agencies twice per year (June and November).

The CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife – Office of Spill Prevention and Response (DFW/OSPR) and the OWCN work together to provide the 24-hr HAZWOPER training, which is required for personnel working in the field within the exclusion zone at a spill site.  This training is provided several times per year in various regions of the state.  However, it is important to know that the 24-hr HAZWOPER training does not end after three days.  In order to stay current and to be able to respond to a spill event in the field, you must take an annual 8-hr HAZWOPER Refresher, which is what the OWCN offers online twice per year.

Currently, if you work in a facility you are not required to be HAZWOPER-trained, although it is encouraged to take this training for people that will be filling staff roles in the facility during oil spills.

If you have already taken the 24-hr HAZWOPER training and need the 8-hr training to stay current, please e-mail me (kyparker@ucdavis.edu) and I will forward on the registration information.  You have about two more weeks to take this online training, so don’t delay, e-mail me today!

Thank you for your dedication to spill response!


Have you Refreshed Recently?

“Refreshed”, that is, in your HAZWOPER training (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response). After taking the initial 24-hr or 40-hr HAZWOPER you have to take a one-day (8-hr) HAZWOPER Refresher to stay current with this training.  The OWCN offers an online and free training to OWCN member organizations and affiliated agencies.  If is has been < or = to one year after your last HAZWOPER training (an 8-hr, 24-hr, or 40-hr), you can take the 8-hr HAZWOPER Refresher.  If it has been > 12 months (but less than 24 months) since your last HAZWOPER training and there is an oil spill, you would have to take the 8-hr Refresher before being allowed to respond in the area considered the “exclusion” or “hot zone”.  If it has been > 24 months since your last HAZWOPER training, you will have to re-take the 24-hr HAZWOPER.  So it is very important to stay current with this training.  The more people that are current with this training, the more people we have ready to respond in the event of an oil spill.

The online OWCN 8-hr HAZWOPER Refresher is made available twice per year:  in June and November and is available the entire month.  If you need to take this training, please e-mail me (kyparker@ucdavis.edu) and I will forward on the registration information.  You have about two more weeks to take this online training, so don’t delay, e-mail me today!

Thank you for your dedication to spill response!