Because of the oil spill's changing trajectory in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida faces the threat of contamination from the oil spill. Many people would like to lend a hand in case Florida is affected. Although currently volunteer and employment opportunities are limited in Florida, there are many ways to help both through community programs, county programs, and possibly through BP sponsored programs.
BP stated that only trained, paid workers will be allowed to handle oil-contaminated materials. Contact with crude oil or crude oil contaminated materials without proper training could be hazardous to your health. As such, it is advised against conducting any cleanup or recovery activities without the proper training and supervision from the authorities. To be added to BP's volunteer database, interested individuals are asked to register with BP's Volunteer Hotline, 1-866-448-5816. A local coordinator will contact you if and when volunteer help is needed.
There are also volunteer opportunities within Florida counties including reporting oil sightings, pre-oil landfall beach cleanups, fundraising, and other activities.
To view the opportunities available in your county, please visit http://www.volunteerfloridadisaster.org. Local opportunities in Pinellas County include beach and wildlife monitoring. To report oil along the shoreline, please call both the BP hotline at 1-866-448-5816 and the State Warning Point at 1-877-2-SAVE-FL.If you are not able to lend a hand, but can make a donation, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has set up an Oil Spill Emergency Fund, and donations can be made by calling the aquarium at (727) 441-1790 or visiting www.seewinter.com. Also, the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Pinellas is accepting donations of items such as towels and Dawn dish soap to treat oiled birds.
If you see an injured or otherwise distressed animal, please do not attempt to help it or transport it on your own. Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research has been contracted to handle oiled wildlife. If you find a distressed animal, please contact call 1-866-557-1401.
Lastly, for those who have boating vessels available and would like to volunteer, the Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) program provides local boat operators an opportunity to assist with response activities, including transporting supplies, assisting wildlife rescue and deploying containment and sorbent boom. Only vessel captains and employees that have completed training and meet the requirements are eligible to work in the BP Vessels of Opportunity program. The vessel owner does not need to be the operator or part of the crew. Owners and captains will receive a phone call when they are selected for hire. If interested, please call (281) 366-5511 for more information.