The Emergency Response Guidebook originally was developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Transport Canada and the Secretariat of Transport and Communications of Mexico for use by police, firefighters and other emergency personnel who are the first to arrive at the scene of a transportation incident involving hazardous materials/dangerous goods. The ERG helps first responders quickly identify the hazard(s) of the materials and protect themselves and the general public during the initial response phase of an incident.
The "initial response phase" is the period following the first responders' arrival at the scene, during which the presence and/or identification of hazardous materials is confirmed, protective actions and area securement are initiated, and assistance of qualified personnel is requested.
The DOT distributes copies of the ERG to emergency responders throughout the U.S. The goal is to have one available to every emergency responder in the country. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Environmental Protection Agency regulations require that first responders be trained on the use of the ERG.
So why do I need one?
To increase the likelihood that emergency response information will be available to first responders at the scene of a hazardous materials incident, the Hazardous Materials Regulations require that emergency response information accompany most shipments of hazardous materials. (Emergency response information is not required for hazardous materials that do not require shipping papers or are classified as an ORM-D.)
The emergency response information can be provided in several ways:
- It can be entered on the hazmat shipping papers; or
- It can be provided in another document, other than the shipping paper, that includes the basic description (and technical name if appropriate) of the hazardous material. A Material Safety Data Sheet is an example of this type of document; or
- It can be provided in a separate document, other than the shipping paper, that cross-references the description of the hazardous material on the shipping paper with the emergency response information contained in the document. The ERG is an example of this type of document.
Carriers that transport hazardous materials must maintain the emergency response information the same as they do shipping papers. The emergency response information must be readily available to, and recognizable by, authorities in the event of an incident or inspection.
Although not the original intended use for the ERG, keeping an ERG with the hazmat shipping papers is an easy way to comply with the emergency response information requirements in the Hazardous Materials Regulations. Many carriers play it safe and carry an ERG in their vehicles to cover any hazmat load/situation they may encounter.
The ERG is updated and issued every four years by DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The next edition, the 2012 ERG, is anticipated to be released in early 2012. Anyone who works with hazardous materials will want the new 2012 ERG to be sure they have the latest emergency response information.
Thomas Ziebell is a senior editor, Hazardous Materials Transportation for J.J. Keller & Associates.
From the December 2011 issue of HDT.