How to read the Emergency Response Guidebook color meanings.
Learn how to effectively reference the ERG in a hazardous material incident.
As an emergency responder, it’s crucial to understand how to use the emergency response guidebook (ERG) before an incident ever happens. This book is your go-to manual for determining how to quickly deal with hazardous materials incidents and develop emergency plans and evacuation procedures.
Let’s review how to read and interpret this book, so you know how to use it when it counts the most.
The color and meaning of each section.
In the presence of a hazardous spill involving the transportation of dangerous goods, you’ll need to be able to reference the ERG and understand how to best respond. The guidebook is divided into five color-coded sections to help you respond quickly. These sections are:
- White: This section shares general information on placards, rail cars, pipelines, and trailer identification. It also breaks down the classification of all hazardous materials.
- Yellow: The yellow section helps you identify the specific chemicals that are part of the incident. Each hazardous material has a 4-digit United Nations (UN) number.
- Blue: The blue section identifies chemicals in alphabetical order — you’ll use this section to identify a chemical if you can’t easily find it in the yellow section.
- Orange: Once you gather information from the previous sections, you’ll refer to this orange section to understand how to deal with the particular chemical. This section includes information about personal protective equipment (PPE), evacuation procedures, first aid, and spill and fire control measures.
- Green: This section contains information regarding inhalation hazards and water reactivity for small and large spills.
Every four years, the U.S. Department of Transportation updates the ERG. Depending on your job, you may need to take a refresher course or sign documentation stating that you’ve reviewed any new information. Staying on top of current documents can help you feel informed and prepared on the scene, whatever the incident may bring.