While the sinking of the Tenyo Maru and resultant oil spill off Washington's Olympic Peninsula in July 1991 was tragic, it fostered the birth of a cooperative effort by federal and state agencies to train volunteer responders prior to another oil spill. This effort, under the auspices of an Oregon nonprofit group known as SOLV (Stop Oregon Littering and Vandalism), is known as the SOS (SOLV Oil Spill) Steering committee. The purpose of the group is to train volunteer responders to aid federal, state, and local agencies in future oil spill cleanup activities. For the first time in the nation, governmental agencies have joined with corporations and environmental organizations in coordinating educational programs involving citizens in oil spill remediation efforts before the advent of a major spill that could affect coastal areas or inland waterways.

Free classes meeting federal and state hazardous waste training criteria are offered quarterly to citizens interested in either volunteer wildlife rehabilitation or beach cleanup. The four-hour course was developed by the U.S. Coast Guard, Oregon State Department of Environmental Quality, and Oregon OSHA. Topics covered include agency responsibilities, site safety plans, general safety, toxicology, material safety data sheets, personal protective equipment, decontamination, heat stress, helicopter safety, and wildlife safety.

In addition to course materials, participants receive a certificate and identification card verifying their training. A 1–800 number, computer data base, and newsletter are used to maintain contact with graduates. So far more than 600 volunteers have been trained and are ready to assist should the need arise.

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Author notes

1 Opinions or assertions expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. government, U.S. Coast Guard, or Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.