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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Several hazard classes have been modified from the 2000 edition. Division 2.4 has been removed and three subclasses have been added to Division 9. They include the DOT’s placarding and labeling system identifying the most severe hazard of a material as determined by the regulatory agency. Note, however, that almost all hazardous materials can have more than one hazard. Responders should be aware of this fact and be prepared for “hidden hazards.”

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Photo By Robert Burke
YELLOW NUMERICAL SECTION

The yellow section, which starts on page 25, lists United Nations four-digit ID numbers. These numbers are located in the center of placards on vehicles transporting bulk quantities of hazardous materials. Once the ID number is located in the yellow section of the guide, a reference is made to an action guide located in the orange section of the book. This action guide is identified with a three-digit number that appears at the top of the page. Three-digit numbers located in the yellow and blue sections of the guide may have a letter P after the number. This letter indicates that in addition to any other hazards the material may have, it also may undergo polymerization, which can be a violent explosive reaction.

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Photo By Robert Burke
BLUE ALPHABETICAL SECTION

Alphabetical listings of the same materials found in the yellow section are located in the blue section starting on page 105. This section is used only if the name of a hazardous material is known. Both the yellow and blue sections reflect new additions of chemicals not contained in the 2000 guidebook.

When a material listed in the yellow or blue section is highlighted, initial isolation and protective action distances for that chemical are listed in the green section, starting on page 318. The evacuation distances located in the green section of the book are used only if the material is not on fire. If a material is on fire, responders should consult the list of evacuation distances in the orange section.

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Photo By Robert Burke
ORANGE GUIDE SECTION

Protective action guides numbered from 111 to 172 begin on page 169. Each protective action guide provides procedures designed to preserve the health and safety of the public and emergency response personnel during the initial stages of a hazmat incident. Emergency responders should become familiar with all sections of the guidebook before an incident occurs.

Once an orange guide page is identified for a particular chemical; read the entire page before taking any action. Actions taken should not exceed the level of training and equipment available to response personnel. 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.

Pages in the orange section are divided into three major sections: Potential Hazards, Public Safety and Emergency Response. The Potential Hazards section is subdivided into two sections: fire or explosion; and health hazards. Either the fire or explosion or the health hazards may appear first in the listing on the page. Whichever one is listed first indicates the most severe hazard of the material.

Public Safety is divided into three sections: General Information for Responders, Protective Clothing and Evacuation. Emergency Response is divided into three sections: fire, which includes evacuation and isolation information; recommended extinguishing agents; and when to use unmanned monitors and withdraw from the area. Also included in the orange section are spill or leak procedures and first-aid information. Several guides also contain loss-of-cooling information for materials that must be maintained at a certain temperature to remain stable. This applies primarily to organic peroxides, which have self-accelerating decomposition temperatures (SADT) and may polymerize if cooling is lost.

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Photo By Robert Burke
GREEN PROTECTIVE ACTION SECTION

Initial isolation and protective action distances for highlighted materials in the yellow and blue sections are located in the green section, starting on page 302. An introduction to the Table of Initial Isolation and Protective Action Distances can be found on pages 300-301. The green section lists materials by ID number and TIH materials, and includes certain chemical warfare agents and water-reactive materials that produce toxic gases upon contact with water.