Two National Wildlife Federation staffers called the Deepwater Horizon Response hotline yesterday to report oiled wildlife. Neither came away hopeful at getting much of a response.
The call center is located more than 400 miles away from the spill site in Houston, TX -- not coincidentally, where BP America is headquartered. The operator's distance from the disaster & seeming unfamiliarity with it made relating the incidents nearly impossible.
Here's the first story from one National Wildlife Federation staffer:
Hotline Operator: "Deepwater Horizon Response"
NWF: "Hi, I'm out in Barataria Bay, and I'm calling to report an oiled brown pelican that we found."
Hotline: (pause) "This is the Deepwater Horizon Response official hotline."
NWF: "Yes, this is the oiled wildlife hotline number given on the website? I'm calling to report oiled wildlife."
NWF: "I am on a boat, out in Barataria Bay, and we found oiled wildlife. Isn't this the oiled wildlife hotline number that people are supposed to call to report oiled wildlife?"
Hotline: (pause) "Ohhhhh okay.....Can I get your name?"
Spelled my name for her and she repeated it back to me.
Hotline: "Can I get your telephone number?"
That went fairly successfully.
Hotline: "And how can I help you ma'am?"
NWF: "I'm on a boat. I'm in Barataria Bay, looking at Queen Bess Island, and I see an oiled brown pelican. Can I give you the GPS coordinates and can you dispatch someone to recover it?"
We give the GPS coordinates, and she repeats them to us.
Hotline: "Where are you now?"
NWF: "I'm sitting on a boat in Barataria Bay, at Queen Bess Island, at the GPS coordinates I just gave to you."
Hotline: "And what is your mailing address?"
NWF: "Why do you need my mailing address?"
Hotline: "Ok, what is the nearest major intersection?"
I was tempted to tell her "The Gulf of Mexico and land." But I didn't.
NWF: "Ma'am there is no intersection, I'm out in a boat, in a bay, looking at an oiled pelican at the GPS coordinates I gave you, and I'm going to have to go because it's about to start raining and we need to get off the water as soon as we can."
She asked me three times what the nearest intersection was. Three.
Hotline: "Can you hold for my supervisor?"
I told her I would, but that she had all the info I could give her- name, phone number, and GPS coordinates. I held for 3 minutes and then basically hung up.
But not before she asked me at the end of the call what state I was in. And what my name was again.
I hope others haven't had similar experiences, but this was very discouraging.
And, by the way, we watched the pelican for a while, but it eventually flew away.
Here's the National Wildlife Federation's Maura Wood with an eerily similar story:
For all the latest news on how the oil spill is impacting the Gulf Coast's wildlife & to learn how you can help, visit NWF.org/OilSpill.