A User’s Guide to 2004 U.S. DOT

The 2004 edition of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) has been published, marking its first revision since 2000. Designed by the DOT, Transport Canada and the Mexican Secretariat of Transport and...


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The 2004 edition of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) has been published, marking its first revision since 2000. Designed by the DOT, Transport Canada and the Mexican Secretariat of Transport and Communications, the ERG is intended for use by first-responding emergency personnel to a suspected hazardous materials or terrorism incident.

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Photo By Robert Burke
Baltimore City firefighters reference the 2004 U.S. DOT Emergency Response Guidebook during an emergency involving a chemical release at the University of Maryland. The ERG is designed to help first-in emergency responders quickly identify specific or generic hazards of materials and protect themselves and the public during the initial response phase of a suspected hazmat or terrorism incident.

To obtain the greatest benefit from the ERG, responders should become thoroughly familiar with it before it is needed during an emergency. The ERG is divided into four major color-coded sections: yellow, blue, orange and green. It includes a placard chart; numerical and alphabetical listings; action guides; protective action distances; water-reactive materials; protective clothing; a glossary; and miscellaneous information. For the new edition, information has been added or revised in the Road Trailer Chart, Intermodal Container Hazard Identification Codes, Toxic Inhalation Hazard (TIH), Isolation and Evacuation Distances, Who to Call for Assistance, Hazard Classification System, Table of Placards, Glossary, Emergency Response Telephone Numbers, and Criminal/Terrorist Use of Chemical/Biological Agents sections. The page section covering Criminal/Terrorist Use of Chemical/Biological (CB) Agents is designed to provide 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 354-357.

Once on a suspected hazmat or terrorist scene, first responders have four basic responsibilities: recognition, notification, isolation and protection. Most importantly, response personnel must protect themselves before taking any action. When they determine that a hazmat or terrorist event has occurred, they should access the ERG.

New pages were added to the 2000 edition of the ERG with silhouettes of rail cars and road trailers. The 2004 edition has one new addition to the Road Trailer Section, the DOT 407 vacuum-loaded tank. There are a wide variety of rail cars and road trailer vehicles that transport liquids, compressed gases, liquefied compressed gases, refrigerated liquids, flammable solids and molten solids.

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Photo By Robert Burke
Chemical names stenciled on containers or found in shipping papers or other sources can be researched in the blue section of the ERG.

Only when a four-digit ID number is not available and the name of the material is unknown, should responders refer to the table of placards in the front of the book on pages 16 and 17, for placards and labels displayed on containers and transportation vehicles. The placard table shows new placards used under the DOT regulations that were not shown in the 1996 guidebook, along with additional placards used in Canada and Mexico. In a circle next to each placard on the table is an action guide number from the orange section, which is used for materials displaying the placard shown. Several placards have been added or removed from the placard table in the 2004 edition. When a “dangerous” placard is displayed, guide 111 is used for mixed loads or unidentified cargo.

If the nature of the spilled, leaking or burning material is unknown, additional information must be obtained as soon as possible. Orange action guides in the ERG are grouped by hazard class and special information surrounding the shipment. A listing of hazard classes is on page 14. This listing corresponds with the hazard classes represented on the placard table.

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