Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about SOS Classes

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the Science of Oil Spills (SOS) classes hosted by NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R).

When and Where

Q. When and where will the next SOS class be held?

A. On the SOS Classes page of the OR&R website, you can find the latest information about SOS classes that have been scheduled.

Q. Where are the classes held?

A. SOS classes are held annually in Seattle (at NOAA's Western Regional Center), usually in the spring/summer, and also in Mobile (at NOAA's Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center). SOS classes may also be held in other U.S. locations at other times of the year.

Q. How are SOS participants selected?

A. SOS classes are not filled on a first-come, first-served basis. NOAA OR&R tries to diversify the participant composition to ensure a variety of perspectives and experiences to enrich the class for the benefit of all participants. Class sizes are generally limited to 40 participants to allow for personalized instruction.

Q. Do you offer the class in countries other than the U.S.?

A. It is rare that the class is offered in other countries. When the class has been taught in other countries, it has normally been coordinated through a request to the U.S. Department of State.

Q. When does the class usually begin/end?

A. Begin and end dates for SOS classes can vary somewhat, depending on the class location. Recent classes have begun on Monday afternoon and ended at noon the following Friday to allow for the inclusion of regionally-specific topics. A Monday afternoon start also allows the class facilitator and instructors time to travel and set up the classroom.

Q. How long is the class?

A. Classes that begin on a Monday afternoon usually conclude at noon on the following Friday; however, some classes are scheduled slightly differently. On the SOS Classes page of the OR&R website, we post the latest information for the next-scheduled SOS class, as soon as that information is available.

Applying for SOS

Q. Are there any prerequisites for participating in SOS?

A. There are no official prerequisites for this class. SOS is designed for entry- and mid-level spill response professionals.

Q. Is the class open to international students?

A. While we give priority to U.S.-based participants, we also try to diversity our class to enrich the student experience. This may involve the inclusion of international students. If you are selected for participation in the class, we will request your passport information to provide to our security specialists as part of the approval process for international visitors to our campuses.

Q. How do I apply to the next SOS class?

A. Complete the online application form that is available during the application period for each scheduled SOS class. If you experience any problems with the submission of your application, please send us an email.

Q. How will I know if my application for SOS class has been accepted?

A. The SOS Classes page of the OR&R website is updated to tell you: (1) the application deadline for the current SOS class; (2) the date by which applicants will be notified regarding their application status.

Q. So, I might not be accepted for the SOS class I'm applying for?

A. Yes, you may not be selected for participation in the class. We normally have far more applicants for seats in the class than are available. We give priority to applicants from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), representatives from other federal agencies, and to state responders for participation in our classes.

Q. How can I be alerted when the next SOS Class has been scheduled?

A. You can follow for SOS class announcements in a number of ways:

Costs, Travel, and Accommodation

Q. What is the cost of the class?

A. There is no tuition for the class; however, attendees are responsible for their own travel costs, including flights, accommodations, rental cars, and food.

Q. Is there any funding available to support student travel?

A. No. All students are responsible for their own travel and accommodations.

Q. Does NOAA reserve a block of rooms in a hotel for the class?

A. No.  Participants are responsible for securing their own lodging.  The training coordinator may on occasion provide information regarding nearby hotels.  

Q. Is any security clearance needed at the class location?

A. This also varies by location, but typically at least a photo ID is required. Selected participants will also receive information on gaining access to the course location from the facilitator.

SOS Training Topics

Q. What is taught in an SOS class?

A. SOS classes help spill responders increase their understanding of oil spill science when analyzing spills and making risk-based decisions. They are designed for new and mid-level spill responders and cover the following topics:

  • Fate and behavior of oil spilled in the environment.
  • An introduction to oil chemistry and toxicity.
  • A review of basic spill response options for open water and shorelines.
  • Spill case studies.
  • Principles of ecological risk assessment.
  • A field trip.
  • An introduction to damage assessment techniques.
  • Determining cleanup endpoints.

Most examples provided in the class relate to oil spills that have occurred in coastal and marine environments; however, much of this information applies regardless of the spill location (e.g., inland vs. coastal).

To view the topics for the next SOS class, download a sample agenda [PDF, 170 KB].

Even more questions, comments, or suggestions? Contact us.

Go back to the SOS Classes page.