Getting to Know Your 2024 ERG

Getting to Know Your 2024 ERG

By Chris Pfaff, Hazmat and Rescue

With spring finally in full swing and it being 2024, we are on the cusp of one of the biggest highlights in the response community — the very anticipated release of the 2024 Emergency Response Guidebook. As you read this, copies of this little orange book are being distributed across North America, and other versions are being released worldwide.

Although the chemistry of materials has not changed in the nearly 50 years since its first publication, our knowledge of chemistry, common chemical uses, and increased knowledge of toxicology has increased dramatically.

Also Read: How to Teach the ERG

This leads us to a standard update of these materials on a continuing four-year basis, and there are undoubtedly some significant updates to the new edition of the ERG. Let’s go over a general review of the updates for the 2024 ERG and do a quick reminder on how to use this informative book, which should be more than just ballast on the fire engine. And yes, hazmat techs, this is important for you as well.

Let’s start with the most important part. The framework of the ERG has not changed in more than 20 years, and it remains the same in the 2024 edition. So, for those who learned to use the ERG, how you navigate this ERG will be no different. However, the information contained within and the locations where to find some information have changed.

Here’s a dive into each section.

White Pages

The ERG begins and ends with White Pages. These provide valuable information on how to use the ERG, placard and container identification charts, pipeline information, terrorism information, standoff distances, a glossary, and finally, contact numbers for response centers.

Updates for 2024 include:

  • Removal of a few placards (Old 5.2 and Marine Pollutant).
  • Addition of descriptive text for some containers, as well as adding a cryogenic tank car image.
  • Considerations on whether to evacuate or shelter-in-place.
  • Quality information on how to perform liquid spill control.
  • Additional considerations on how to address an electric vehicle or lithium-ion fire. As this is still an emerging hazard with changing technologies, be aware that this portion may become dated more quickly than other portions of the ERG.
  • A specific criminal or terrorist response section, with specific symptoms and chemicals listed under CBRN lists. One very important item to notice in this section is an isolation chart. The size of a release is significantly different from the rest of the book (less than 4.4 pounds and up to 55 pounds).
  • An expanded glossary with 14 new items.

Yellow Pages

Now we get into the work of the ERG. These pages provide a numerical list of chemicals via the four-digit UN identification number. This number is the best way to identify a chemical to use with the ERG.

Some of the reasons include the ease of saying these numbers over the radio quickly as opposed to multi-syllable chemical names, other vital sections of the ERG are arranged by the UN identification number, and writing down or remembering a UN identification number is typically more manageable than trying to spell or remember an extensive chemical name. There will be limitations for research and other considerations if only using the ERG. But once again, for this book, the UN identification number is the most effective use to get to a successful outcome.

Blue Pages

This is the only section in the ERG that is arranged alphabetically, and it contains the same information as the Yellow Pages. If you only have the name of the chemical, this is where you will begin your search. As you find the guide page, if the product is highlighted, or has a P (polymerization) marking, be sure to write down the UN identification number for possible further use within the ERG.

As both of these sections (Yellow and Blue Pages) have the same information, we will review the updates to these sections simultaneously. Updates for 2024.

  • Moved 19 materials to a different Orange Guide Page.
  • Added P to UN3302.
  • Added 11 new materials listed in the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods.
  • Deleted out-of-date materials based on UN recommendations.
  • Removed chemical and biological warfare agents.

It is important to note the final update. Previous editions of the ERG had CBRN items within the Yellow, Blue, Orange and Green Pages. Over the past few years, there have been updates on this as UN identification numbers have been removed, and they always seemed to have an odd home within the ERG.

This new edition moved these materials to the White Pages to give CBRN items their own home, with more specific figures, volumes and response distances. This is a huge improvement with this edition.

Orange Pages

This section has historically been the meat and potatoes of the ERG, which is still true in 2024. The changes in the general makeup and some specific pages are critically important for responders.

The changes listed below will change the navigation of the ERG during a response. More importantly, it should streamline a response. There are now general actions for all chemicals, which can be trained on more effectively and assist with the creation or updates of SOG/SOPs.

  • Added a General First Aid section found before Guide 111.
  • Only provides specific first aid information for the chemical family in each of the subsequent guide pages. There is still a reference to the General First Aid section. We hope future printings of this book will identify the exact page where this will be found.
  • Guide 140 (oxidizers) followed the Australia and New Zealand ERG and updated information to provide guidance on ammonium nitrate events. For example, ammonium nitrate fertilizer can detonate in extreme fire events. Recall the Beirut explosion in October 2020 and the catastrophic West, Texas explosion in 2013.
  • Guide 147 (lithium ion and sodium ion batteries) is significantly updated, as the original only addressed consumer items (cell phones, laptops, etc.). Now there are specific comments for EV fires, small battery fires and large battery fires.
  • Just as with the EV and lithium ion battery firefighting comments in the White Pages, be aware that this changing technology may quickly prove these response options to be inappropriate as more knowledge and technology become available.
  • Guides 128 and 130 added alcohol-resistant foam to these sections.
  • Guide 151 added response guidance to emergency response/spill leak for solid materials.
  • Guide 131 added potential health hazards specific to UN2295 and UN2643.
  • Guide 166 revised guidance regarding the use of water.
  • Guide 115 (LNG and vaporization/explosion), Guide 156 (indicates the use of CO2 or dry chemical for UN1716) and Guide 171 (delayed activation and projectile risk for safety devices on UN3268 and UN3559) received added caution sentences.
  • Guides 118 and 136 new highlighted Green Pages references.
  • Guides 138 and 159 lost highlighted Green Pages references.

Green Pages

This section historically consisted of two tables, one for evacuation and shelter-in-place, and one as information. After 2012, a third table was added; it was one of the most significant updates to the ERG in this century.

The current framework consists of:

  • Table 1: Protective actions for Toxic Inhalation Hazards (TIH)/Poison Inhalation Hazards (PIH).
  • Table 2: List of chemicals released when product is spilled in water.
  • Table 3: List of six most common TIH/PIH transported, with specific protective actions based on type of container and wind speed.

For 2024, chemical warfare agents were removed from Table 1, as these are now located in their new home in the White Pages.

How to use it

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration states that this guidebook is useful for only the initial phase of an incident. Historically, this has meant the first 30 minutes of a response. All responders and dispatchers must understand the use, navigation and, most importantly, the limitations of this guidebook.

One recommendation is to head on over to Hazmat and Rescue for online continuing education on the ERG, which is branched into four short videos that take no longer than 45 minutes to complete. But you don’t even need to go that far.

Just go to the first White Page in the ERG’s back section directly after table three. Here, you will find the ERG User Guide. This multi-page resource should be looked at least annually. Most responders will most likely only need to use this book at most a few times throughout their career — and when they need it, they need to know it.

The real-world use of this guidebook falls within the high risk, low frequency category as instructed by Gordon Graham and Lexipol. The efficient and effective use of this book will absolutely assist in determining the outcome of your response, so crack that book open every now and then to know what you’re looking at.

For those who refuse to heed the previous warnings, there is the procrastination option — although this is not recommended. The first page has a flow chart to assist with the use of this guidebook. This resource should be used even if you are well versed in using the ERG.

The UN identification number is the most effective means of obtaining and passing along information. If you have this, you can easily go through the steps. The shipping name works as well. But once again, be sure to obtain the UN identification number when looking this information up in the Blue Pages.

If the product is highlighted green, go directly to the Green Pages to identify the proper protective actions; some chemicals require extreme distances for evacuation or shelter-in-place. This will take time, coordination and significant logistics to properly execute.

In these events, it is always good to work with the local emergency management and public information officers to conduct these actions effectively. After these steps are started, the fire and health hazards can be assessed within the Orange Guide pages. This is where we want to eventually land, but we are getting ahead of ourselves right now.

If the product has a capital P next to it, this means that the product can possibly polymerize. This means a monomer reacting to become a polymer. In essence, one becomes many — in other words, a bad and severe chemical reaction that will increase pressure in a sealed vessel. An increase in pressure equals an increase in heat, and a runaway chain reaction can result.

This can lead to a catastrophic explosion, releasing flammable and toxic products, as was the case in the 1972 Houston fire event, which led to the death of four firefighters, or more recently was one of the decisions to conduct a vent and burn tactic in East Palestine, Ohio. Additional concerns about possible polymerization events can include the product adhering to equipment permanently and harming individuals who come into contact with products undergoing polymerization.

Now that we have our UN identification number — the identification of whether it is a TIH/PIH or if it poses a polymerization hazard — we can get to our main course, the Orange Guide pages. Each of the guide pages is arranged with a chemical family and provides the hazards presented in general, as well as response options.

Down and dirty, I consider the left page the awareness page. This provides hazards for toxicity or fire, and whichever one is listed first is the primary hazard. After this is PPE considerations; if you see two bullet points (SCBA and firefighter turnouts), a responder can conduct a line-of-sight rescue. Any other PPE bullet points must be addressed with extreme caution. After this are initial isolation and evacuation distances.

For all products except explosives, the initial isolation is 75 feet for solids, 150 feet for liquids and 330 feet for gasses. With minor exceptions, the evacuation distances can also provide the knowledge of possible Head Induced Tear hazards versus Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion hazards. Those are ½ mile and 1 mile, respectively.

Consider the right page as the operations page. It is broken down into three response objectives. What to do for fire, spill or leak, and first aid. Remember that there is a new General First Aid section in the front of the Orange Pages. You will also see specific requirements for decontamination listed in the first aid section.

Use this as a reminder that decon is a form of first aid, and all of the legal issues involved with providing medical aid apply with decontamination. In other words, you cannot force decon on unwilling participants. To see the legal results of this, refer back to the University of Michigan incident in 2002.

At this point, you may ask, what if I don’t have a UN identification number or proper shipping name? Well, go back to Page 1 and use the White Pages as a reference.

Now, things get really vague here. Using only a placard or container shape will get you on the board, but you need to hit the bullseye. However, it still is more than nothing. If you don’t have any of this information either, this is where you will go to the “punt page” or Guide 111, for unknowns. This guide will get a start but will not provide any specifics on response.

Remember that the CBRN items have been moved to the White Pages, and there are more specific response options for evacuation versus shelter-in-place and for providing spill control effectively. As for the three tables in the Green Pages, the main source of protective actions are listed in Table 1. Table 2 is informational only and can be a great resource to hazmat technicians. Table 3 provides specific distances for the six most commonly shipped TIH/PIH.

To illustrate this, look at the amounts of these products shipped. Currently, anhydrous ammonia accounts for approximately 74% of TIH/PIH shipped in the United States, and Chlorine is an additional 22%. This leaves the other four and all of the different chemicals in Table 1.

As always, continue to train and research this amazing reference. If you are still limited on the 2020 ERG, use that as it is still better than nothing. Understand, however, that the 2024 ERG is now available in print, online and app form, so download that app, bookmark the page and get the book just to be safe.

Original post – Copyright © 2024 Externally linked references may hold their own independent copyright not assumed by HazmatNation

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