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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Railcars and road trailers

A wide variety of both railcars and road trailers transport liquids, compressed gases, liquefied compressed gases, refrigerated liquids, flammable solids and molten solids. While the container type may indicate the physical state of the material inside, more identification is needed concerning the product before any mitigation efforts are initiated. The information presented in the 2012 ERG is designed to give responders a very generic idea of the hazards associated with certain bulk transportation containers by the listings on the Rail Car and Road Trailer charts. Orange Guide page numbers have been provided for use depending on the type of container involved in an incident. These pages should be used only when no other information is available about the materials in the container.

 

Yellow Section

The Yellow Section, which starts on page 20, contains a numerical listing of United Nations four-digit identification numbers that are found on placards on vehicles transporting bulk quantities of hazardous materials. Once the four-digit number is located in the Yellow Section, reference is made to an action guide located in the Orange Section. This action guide is identified with a three-digit number that appears at the top of the Orange pages. Three-digit numbers located in the Yellow and Blue Sections may be followed by a P to indicate that in addition to other hazards, the material may undergo a violent explosive reaction called polymerization.

 

Blue Section

Alphabetical listings of the same materials found in the Yellow Section are in the Blue Section. This section is used only if the name of the hazardous material is known. Both the Yellow and Blue Sections reflect the addition of chemicals not contained in the 2008 guidebook.

When a material listed in the Yellow or Blue Section is highlighted in green, initial isolation and protective action distances for that chemical are listed in the Green Section. The evacuation distances in the Green Section are used only if a material is not on fire. If a material is on fire, consult the evacuation distances listed in the Orange Section.

 

Orange Section

Protective action guides numbered 111 to 172 start on page 158. 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. The Orange Section is divided into Potential Hazards, Public Safety and Emergency Response. Potential Hazards is subdivided into two sections – fire or explosion and health hazards. Whichever one is listed first indicates the most severe hazard of the material in question. Public Safety is divided into General Information for Responders, Protective Clothing and Evacuation. Emergency Response is divided into Fire, which includes Evacuation and Isolation; Recommended Extinguishing Agents; and when to use Unmanned Monitors and Withdraw from the area.

 

Green 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 290. Table 1 contains the Initial Isolation and Protective Action Distances that can be found on pages 290-343. The Green Section lists Table 1 materials by UN four-digit ID number and chemical name. Initial evacuation and protective action distances have been “tuned up,” meaning some values differ from those in the 2008 ERG. Fluctuations in the isolation and downwind protection distances occur because of improvements in the computer modeling used to determine the distances. If highlighted materials in the Yellow or Blue Sections are on fire, immediately go to the Orange Section to determine isolation and evacuation distances. A graphic showing the setup of initial isolation and protective action guide distances is shown on pages 290 and 291 of the Green Section.