2000 Emergency Response Guidebook

The 2000 edition of the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) is being distributed to emergency response organizations throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico.


The 2000 edition of the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) is being distributed to emergency response organizations throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Designed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Transport Canada, and the Mexican Secretariat of Transport and Communications, the...


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The 2000 edition of the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) is being distributed to emergency response organizations throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Designed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Transport Canada, and the Mexican Secretariat of Transport and Communications, the ERG is intended for the use of first-responding emergency personnel to a hazardous materials incident.

This guidebook should be used only during the initial response phase of an incident (first 30 minutes). For the guide to be the greatest benefit to responders, they need to become thoroughly familiar with it before it is used during an emergency. Within the guide are white pages that explain how the book is organized, and includes first-response tips for emergency agencies.

Terrorism Response

The 380-page ERG is divided into four major color-coded sections: yellow, blue, orange and green. It contains a placard chart; numerical and alphabetical listings; action guides; protective action distances; water-reactive materials; protective clothing; a glossary; and miscellaneous information. New sections covered in the 2000 ERG include railroad car and highway tanker identification charts, Intermodal Container Hazard Identification Codes and Criminal/Terrorist Use of Chemical/ Biological Agents sections.

The new ERG is 26 pages bigger than the 1996 edition. Three pages of information on chemical and biological agents that may be used during terrorist incidents have been added. The yellow and blue sections each contain three new pages. The yellow section, which starts on page 25, contains a numerical listing of United Nations four-digit identification numbers. These numbers are located in the center of placards on vehicles transporting bulk quantities of hazardous materials. Once the four-digit number is located in the yellow section, a reference is made to an action guide in the orange section. This action guide is identified with a three-digit number that appears at the top of the page.

Some three-digit numbers in the yellow and blue sections of the guide may be followed by a “P.” This indicates that in addition to any other hazards the material may pose, it may undergo polymerization, which can be a violent explosive reaction. Polymerization information is the same for both the blue and yellow sections.

If a placard or label is displayed, but the four-digit number is unavailable and the name of the material is unknown, refer to the table of placards on pages 16 and 17. The table shows some new placards used under the DOT regulations that were not shown in the 1996 guidebook, along with some placards used in Canada and Mexico. In a circle next to each placard is an action guide number from the orange section. When a “Dangerous” placard is used, turn to guide 111 for mixed loads or unidentified cargo.

Orange action guides are grouped by hazard class and any special circumstances surrounding the shipment. A list of hazard classes is on page 13. This list corresponds with the placard table. Some classifications differ from what responders may be used to. For example, the Canadian system uses a fourth compressed-gas subdivision, 2.4 corrosive gases; DOT’s placarding and labeling system only identifies the most severe hazard of a material as determined by the agency, so the placard shows only one hazard class.

Almost all hazardous materials can present more than one hazard. Responders should be aware of this and prepare for “hidden hazards.” (The author of this column has designed a “Placard Hazard Chart” that lists potential hidden hazards of placarded and labeled materials. See the contact information at the end of this column.)

Identifying Cargoes

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