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New Emergency Response Guidebook Can Be a Lifesaver

Article-New Emergency Response Guidebook Can Be a Lifesaver

The Emergency Response Guidebook, commonly known as “the ERG,” is published every four years by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) as an essential reference for first responders during the initial phase of a Dangerous Goods/Hazardous Materials transportation incident.

The ERG helps the user quickly identify the material (or materials) that may have been released during an incident, recognize the possible hazards associated with those materials, and respond to the situation safely and appropriately. Those trained in the use of the ERG are prepared to protect themselves and the public from any possible dangers and are better able to assist emergency response teams when they arrive at the scene. Such knowledge can keep an accident from becoming a worst-case scenario – and even save lives.

Such benefits underscore why it is critical for anyone who might be in position to respond to a Dangerous Goods incident to have the most current source of information. The publication of the 2016 ERG, available in early 2016, will provide just that with the latest data on regulations, products and technology, new research, and valuable input from emergency responders across the country.      

Those who need to view the ERG as the go-to manual include firefighters, police, emergency medical services personnel, and all other officials who protect the public’s safety across our highways, rails, waterways, and airports. The PHMSA supplies the ERG to all of these government agencies.

Truck drivers and railroad personnel should have the ERG at their fingertips as well. In fact, Section 172.602 of the Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations requires anyone who handles or transfers Dangerous Goods to provide emergency response information appropriate to those materials. The ERG can be one source for information of this type.

Many others who may become the “first line of defense” between a Dangerous Goods incident and the public should also have access to the ERG. This may include pipeline workers, maritime personnel, pilots and freight handlers, and freight facility and warehouse personnel.

User-Friendly Features
The book is organized to enable users to easily identify the hazardous materials and to facilitate quick action. The 2016 ERG covers approximately 3500 materials and features 62 separate guides for describing what to do when different categories of hazardous materials may have been released. Features include:

•    Tabular data arranged by color code, identifying chemicals by proper shipping name or UN identification number
•    A direct reference from these tables to the emergency response guidance pages assigned to each chemical
•    A separate color-coded section dealing specifically with poisons by inhalation (based on their unique dangers in transport)
•    Additional sections covering diverse topics such as identifying chemicals based on vehicle types, personal protective equipment, and potential terrorist-based scenarios

New for 2016
Because speed often is vital in a transport incident, the 2016 ERG replaces some written instructions with flow charts that guide users more quickly and accurately through the book.

In total, some 10 sections of the ERG have been added, revised, or expanded. Those enhancements include:

* Expanded and updated information about placards, markings and labels
* Expanded identification charts for railroad cars, truck tanks and trailers
* Added information about the new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) markings for chemicals
* Updated toxic inhalation hazard tables based on new data and reactivity research
* Updated pipeline emergency response information
* Updated lists of UN Identification Numbers and proper shipping names
* New and updated information about Canadian ERAPs (Emergency Response Assistance Plans)

The ERG has been available since 2008 as a downloadable PDF, and since 2012 as a mobile app. These digital versions are convenient, but most Dangerous Goods veterans insist on having a hard copy handy. For those who do not receive the ERG directly from PHMSA, firms such as Labelmaster sell the new edition, often at discounted rates.

Ensuring accessibility to such vital information described here is why 13 million copies of the ERG have been distributed to public first responders since 1973 and millions more have been purchased by businesses. When faced with the potential dangers of a hazardous materials emergency, first responders and private workers need to know what to do, how to act, and where to turn for help.

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