Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG)

This is an online version of the 2008 Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) which is produced by the USDOT for first responders during the initial phase of a Dangerous goods/Hazardous Materials incident. Have you ever wondered what those four digit numbers on the placards on the side of trucks and rail cars mean? Our online ERG will give you your answer.

SUBSTANCES - WATER-REACTIVE (Emitting Flammable Gases)



  • Produce flammable gases on contact with water.
  • May ignite on contact with water or moist air.
  • Some react vigorously or explosively on contact with water.
  • May be ignited by heat, sparks or flames.
  • May re-ignite after fire is extinguished.
  • Some are transported in highly flammable liquids.
  • Runoff may create fire or explosion hazard.


  • Inhalation or contact with vapors, substance or decomposition products may cause severe injury or death.
  • May produce corrosive solutions on contact with water.
  • Fire will produce irritating, corrosive and/or toxic gases.
  • Runoff from fire control may cause pollution.


  • CALL Emergency Response Telephone Number on Shipping Paper first. If Shipping Paper not available or no answer, refer to appropriate telephone number listed on the inside back cover.
  • As an immediate precautionary measure, isolate spill or leak area in all directions for at least 50 meters (150 feet) for liquids and at least 25 meters (75 feet) for solids.
  • Keep unauthorized personnel away.
  • Stay upwind.
  • Keep out of low areas.
  • Ventilate the area before entry.


  • Wear positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).
  • Wear chemical protective clothing that is specifically recommended by the manufacturer. It may provide little or no thermal protection.
  • Structural firefighters' protective clothing provides limited protection in fire situations ONLY; it is not effective in spill situations where direct contact with the substance is possible.


Large Spill
  • See Table 1 - Initial Isolation and Protective Action Distances for highlighted materials. For non-highlighted materials, increase, in the downwind direction, as necessary, the isolation distance shown under PUBLIC SAFETY.
  • If tank, rail car or tank truck is involved in a fire, ISOLATE for 800 meters (1/2 mile) in all directions; also, consider initial evacuation for 800 meters (1/2 mile) in all directions.



Small Fire
  • Dry chemical, soda ash, lime or sand.
Large Fire
  • DRY sand, dry chemical, soda ash or lime or withdraw from area and let fire burn.
  • Move containers from fire area if you can do it without risk.
Fire Involving Metals or Powders (Aluminum, Lithium, Magnesium, etc.)
  • Use dry chemical, DRY sand, sodium chloride powder, graphite powder or Met-L-X® powder; in addition, for Lithium you may use Lith-X® powder or copper powder. Also, see GUIDE 170.
Fire involving Tanks or Car/Trailer Loads
  • Fight fire from maximum distance or use unmanned hose holders or monitor nozzles.
  • Do not get water inside containers.
  • Cool containers with flooding quantities of water until well after fire is out.
  • Withdraw immediately in case of rising sound from venting safety devices or discoloration of tank.
  • ALWAYS stay away from tanks engulfed in fire.


  • ELIMINATE all ignition sources (no smoking, flares, sparks or flames in immediate area).
  • Do not touch or walk through spilled material.
  • Stop leak if you can do it without risk.
  • Use water spray to reduce vapors or divert vapor cloud drift. Avoid allowing water runoff to contact spilled material.
  • DO NOT GET WATER on spilled substance or inside containers.
Small Spill
  • Cover with DRY earth, DRY sand or other non-combustible material followed with plastic sheet to minimize spreading or contact with rain.
  • Dike for later disposal; do not apply water unless directed to do so.
Powder Spill
  • Cover powder spill with plastic sheet or tarp to minimize spreading and keep powder dry.


  • Move victim to fresh air.
  • Call 911 or emergency medical service.
  • Give artificial respiration if victim is not breathing.
  • Administer oxygen if breathing is difficult.
  • Remove and isolate contaminated clothing and shoes.
  • In case of contact with substance, wipe from skin immediately; flush skin or eyes with running water for at least 20 minutes.
  • Keep victim warm and quiet.
  • Ensure that medical personnel are aware of the material(s) involved and take precautions to protect themselves.

Data Source for our online 2008 ERG

This information was compiled from the 2008 Emergency Response Guidebook (2008 ERG) which is produced by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

(Data last updated/verified: Oct. 2, 2011)

Related Resources


WARNING: These pages are for general reference and educational purposes only and MUST NOT be relied upon as a sole source to determine regulatory compliance or where matters of life and health are concerned. This site and the author do not warrant or guarantee the accuracy or the sufficiency of the information provided and do not assume any responsibility for its use.

To ensure regulatory compliance when transporting hazardous materials or dangerous goods, one must receive proper training and certification from a qualified instructor and refer to the current year's Code of Federal Regulations Title 49 (49CFR) or your country's shipping regulations. In matters regarding workplace safety, refer to current OSHA regulations (29CFR) and NIOSH guidelines or your own country's health and safety regulations. No one should ever enter into a hazardous environment without proper training from qualified instructors.

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