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The 2008 edition of the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) is being distributed to emergency response organizations across the United States and Canada. Designed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Transport Canada, and the Mexican Secretariat of Transport and Communications in collaboration with CIQUIME (Centro de InformaciÃ³n QuÃmica para Emergencias) of Argentina, the ERG is intended for the use of first-responding emergency personnel to a hazardous materials or terrorist incident.
The ERG is designed for first responders who by federal law have a limited capability to deal with hazardous materials because of limited training and lack of proper chemical protective equipment and other resources. The ERG is intended to be used during the initial response phase of an incident, usually before the arrival of a hazardous materials team. Hazmat teams may find some of the information in the ERG useful, but it is intended to help first responders quickly identify general hazards of the material(s) involved in an incident and protect themselves and the public during the initial phase of an incident. Personnel should find as much additional specific information about the material(s) involved as they can. The guidebook is only one source of information. Other sources include 24-hour contacts CHEMTREC (800-424-9300), the National Response Center (NRC) (800-424-8802), CHEM-TEL (888-255-3924), INFOTRAC (1-800-535-5053), 3E Co. (800-451-8346), National Poison Control Center (800-222-1222), shipping papers and material safety data sheets (MSDS).
In order for the ERG to be of the greatest benefit to responders, they must become thoroughly familiar with its contents before it is used during an actual emergency. OSHA (29 CFR) 1910.120 and EPA (40 CFR) Part 311 both require first responders to be trained on the use of the ERG. Within the ERG are a number of White pages that explain how the book is organized and first-response tips for emergency personnel.
The 2008 ERG is divided into four major color-coded sections: Yellow, Blue, Orange and Green. It contains 372 pages, including a Placard Chart; Railcar and Road Trailer Charts; Yellow Numerical and Blue Alphabetical listings; Orange Action Guides; Green Table 1 Protective Action Distances; Green Table 2 Water Reactive Materials That Produce Toxic Gases; protective clothing; a glossary; information about terrorist response; and miscellaneous information. Three new placards have been added to the Placard Chart; Intermodal Tanks have been added to the Road Trailer Chart; a new section on Pipeline Transportation has been added to the White pages, including examples of signage; and a new Orange Guide on page 147 has been added for lithium ion batteries. Information has been added to other sections of the book as well, and some data has been updated. The four-page section covering Criminal/Terrorist Use of Chemical/Biological (CB) Agents provides information to response personnel during the preliminary assessment of a potential terrorist incident involving chemical or biological agents. A list of observable indicators of the use and/or presence of a CB agent is provided on pages 352-355. There is no change in the total number of pages in the 2008 ERG compared to the 2004 edition.
Once on scene, first responders have four basic responsibilities: recognize, notify, isolate and protect. First and most importantly, response personnel must protect themselves before taking any actions at a hazmat incident. Information on personal protective clothing can be found on pages 348-349. When response personnel determine that a hazmat or terrorist event has occurred, they should access the ERG for assistance.
When first responders arrive at an incident, they are expected to recognize the presence of dangerous goods, protect themselves and the public, secure the area and call for the assistance of trained personnel. Those notifications can be placed into three general categories: organization/agency, emergency response telephone number and national assistance. National resources are identified on pages 10-11 and 372-373. Pages 10-11 contain information concerning whom to notify during a hazmat incident.