A holiday message from the ghost of oil spills past

 

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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!

Curt

Second Oiled Wildlife Specialist Training is a Success!

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!

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–Nancy

The Team is Away, and a New Website is Underway

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 gather around a specimen.

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!

— Kristin

With Gratitude…

thankful

As we approach Thanksgiving we wanted to express our gratitude for the incredible network of organizations and greater than 1,200 responders that support the mission of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. We are grateful for your continued dedication to ensuring we remain in a constant state of readiness.

FDD SD 2018 Group Photo

Sending you our best wishes for a memorable holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving!

~The Oiled Wildlife Care Network Management Team

 

 

 

Smoke

Throughout much of the state air quality is poor, and many people are suffering the effects of living and working in the smoke from the wildfires. Many of you are working outdoors rescuing or caring for wildlife at rehabilitation centers, or assisting with animals impacted directly by the fires. OSPR’s industrial hygienist, Jeff Westervelt, compiled some information on the effects of smoke and what we can do to protect ourselves while living and working in areas impacted by smoke from the wildfires. We wanted to share that with all of you. Thank you for all the work that you do. Be safe.

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Satellite view of the Camp Fire smoke plume

From Jeff:

Much like crude oil, smoke is a complex mixture of compounds that can number in the thousands. However, the particulate matter from wildfire smoke is the greatest concern for us members of the general public.  Particulate matter is a generic term for particles suspended in the air, and they can be a mixture of both solid particles and liquid. Also, the size of the particles affects their potential health hazard. Particles larger than 10 micrometers do not usually reach the lungs, but can still irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. (For purposes of comparison, a human hair is about 60 to 75 micrometers in diameter.)  Smaller particles however, also known as PM2.5, can be inhaled deep into our lungs, and typically represent a greater health concern than larger particles.

It’s especially important for you to pay attention to local air quality reports during a period of heavy smoke if you are:

  • a person with heart or lung disease, emphysema or asthma.
  • an older adult.
  • caring for children, including teenagers, because their respiratory systems are still developing, they breathe more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults, they’re more likely to be active outdoors.
  • a person with diabetes, because you are more likely to have underlying cardiovascular disease.
  • a pregnant woman, because there could be potential health effects for both you and the developing fetus.

It’s important to do what you can to limit your exposure to smoke, especially if you are at increased risk for particle-related effects.  Paper “dust” masks or surgical masks will not protect your lungs from the fine particles in wildfire smoke.  Scarves or bandanas (wet or dry) won’t help either.  Particulate respirators, such as N-95, R-95 or P-100 respirators will help, but they must fit well and be used correctly. The PM2.5 particles can get through the gaps the hair creates between the respirator and your face, so those of you with facial hair will not be able to achieve the seal these respirators need to offer protection.

Try to keep particle levels inside your home lower too. When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors even though you may not be able to see them. Try to avoid using anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces and candles.  Even vacuuming can stir up particles already inside your home.

So, now you’re thinking, what’s the hazard from the smoke right now, and what can I do to protect myself, right?  To help answer these questions, I have some resources for you.

This first link is to the California Smoke Blog.  It has a ton of information on smoke, current air quality, health effects, and protective measures.  On the right side banner of the home screen you’ll also find links to get air quality information for locations throughout California.  To better understand what the air quality numbers found there mean, and what protective actions you should take, I’ve attached an air quality activity guide to this email.  (One thing I’d also like to point out is some people have been looking at numbers from the purple air site.  The purple air monitors are available for “home enthusiasts”, and don’t necessarily have the kind of accuracy obtained and provided by Sac Metro AQMD, US EPA, the Air Resources Board, etc.  So, stick with the profession numbers folks.)

Anyway, here’s the link:

http://californiasmokeinfo.blogspot.com/

This next link is to the US EPA air quality site, Airnow:   https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.main

The third link I have for you is to the CDC wildfire smoke page:

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/wildfires/smoke.html

Drills, Drills and More Drills!

You may not know that in addition to the annual OWCN Full Deployment Drill, that OWCN staff attend several in person industry sponsored drills per year. On top of that, on average, we facilitate 1-2 drills per week by phone. During the spring and fall drill “seasons”, this number can increase to 4-5 per week. It definitely keeps us busy!

It also keeps us on our toes, especially now that at least half of the drills occur at inland sites. It’s always interesting to work with the Responsible Party’s representative on the other end of the phone. While some are old hats, many have never had to call the OWCN Hotline before. It’s so gratifying to introduce these folks to the OWCN and then collaboratively formulate a plan to address the current drill scenario.

As you will see in the example provided below of the form that we fill out for drills, we not only collect detailed information, we also dive into the exercise of deploying the resources needed to respond to each drill’s unique situation. These types of drills are a wonderful learning opportunity for all involved and, just as they are designed to be, they test the OWCN’s readiness to respond to the wide diversity of wildlife that is at risk of oiling in the very large state of California.

–Nancy

Example OWCN drill form page 1

Example OWCN drill form page 2

Communicators train, too

OWCN staff photo taken in Seaworld

Eunah (that’s me!), Mike, Lavonne and Pam at a Full Deployment Drill in San Diego

As one of the Public Information Officers (PIOs) for OWCN, I usually remain at our home base in Davis while our readiness team leads training sessions throughout California, and acts as first responders to spill reports.

I’ve traveled for full deployment spill drills and Oilapalooza, but for the most part, my role is to stay at my desk, monitoring and sharing news on social media. Two weeks ago, however, my fellow OWCN PIO Kristin Burns and I had the chance to go out “in the field” (anywhere other than Davis for us!). Along with OWCN Director Mike Ziccardi, we  met with our PIO counterparts at the CDFW OSPR offices in Sacramento, Steve Gonzalez and Eric Laughlin, as well as Greg McGowan, program manager for response technology, and Holly Gellerman, wildlife branch director.

Our agenda for the meeting: discuss and plan communications strategies for future spills. Similar to our wildlife-handling colleagues on the OWCN and OSPR teams, the PIOs must be prepared at all times to respond quickly and effectively in the event of an oil spill.

While handlers are primarily responding to wildlife, the PIOs are responding to—or at least interacting with—the media and the general public. As you might imagine, there is a lot of interest from both groups in the event of an oil spill, and a lot of questions about the animals affected. With a lot of moving parts in a response, there can also be the potential for misinformation. At this meeting we discussed a workflow that would help guide future joint communications, allowing us to present timely, accurate official information to our audiences.

It was a great experience meeting face-to-face with our partners in oiled wildlife response. I look forward to future discussions on communications response.

-Eunah