Hazmat Studies: 2012 ERG: A Vital Resource For First Responders

T he 2012 edition of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) has been released, featuring new information about gases, placarding and responses to incidents involving boiling liquid expanding vapor explosions...


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T he 2012 edition of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) has been released, featuring new information about gases, placarding and responses to incidents involving boiling liquid expanding vapor explosions (BLEVEs) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Copies of the ERG are being distributed free of charge to designated state coordinators, which will forward them to emergency response organizations. A list of state coordinators is posted at www.dot.gov. Copies also are available from the U.S. Government Printing Office and private suppliers for a charge.

Designed by the DOT, Transport Canada and the Mexican Secretariat of Transport and Communications with the collaboration of CIQUIME (Centro de Informacion Quimica para Emergencias) of Argentina, the ERG is intended for the use of first-responding emergency personnel during the initial phase of a hazardous materials or terrorist incident, which is generally before the arrival of a hazardous materials team or other technician-level personnel. It is not intended to be used during the mitigation phase.

While hazmat teams may find some of the information in the guidebook useful, such as isolation and evacuation distances, it is intended to help first responders quickly identify the general hazards of materials involved in incidents and protect themselves and the public. The ERG is only one source of information. Others include the 24-hour contacts CHEMTREC (1-800-424-9300), National Response Center (NRC) (1-800-424-8802), CHEM-TEL (1-888-255-3924), INFOTRAC (1-800-535-5053), 3E Company (1-800-451-8346), National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222), shipping papers and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

To gain the greatest benefit from the ERG, responders should become thoroughly familiar with using the book before it is used during an actual emergency. U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (29 CFR) 1910.120 and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (40 CFR) Part 311 both require that first responders be trained on the use of the ERG.

The 2012 ERG is divided into four major color-coded sections: yellow, blue, orange and green. Major sections include 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; a new Table 3 Initial Isolation and Protective Action Distances for Different Quantities of Six Common Gases; protective clothing; a glossary; information about terrorist response and miscellaneous information. Also, three new placards have been added to the Placard Chart and additional information is provided in the Pipeline Transportation section.

Within the front and back of the ERG are white pages that explain how the book is organized and include first-response tips. White-page information has been reorganized from previous editions and fire- and spill-control measures have been split into two separate sections starting on page 363.

The Fire Control section in the guide’s white pages features a new BLEVE chart and a new two-page BLEVE information section. Major headings in this section include Main Hazards and Safety Precautions.

The five-page section covering Criminal/Terrorist Use of Chemical/Biological (CB) Agents is designed to provide information to responders 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 368-372.

New for the 2012 edition is an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Safe Standoff Distance Chart. It provides 10 threat descriptions for explosives and provides an Explosives Mass (TNT Equivalent), Building Evacuation Distance and Outdoor Evacuation Distance for each type of threat. The second part of the chart provides information for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) containers that may be used by terrorists. The chart provides five threat descriptions for LPG, LPG Mass/Volume, Fireball Diameter and Evacuation Distance. This chart could also be used by first responders for non-terrorist incidents involving LPG.

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