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 - TOXIC and/or CORROSIVE (Combustible / Water-Sensitive)



  • Combustible material: may burn but does not ignite readily.
  • Substance will react with water (some violently) releasing flammable, toxic or corrosive gases and runoff.
  • When heated, vapors may form explosive mixtures with air: indoors, outdoors and sewers explosion hazards.
  • Most vapors are heavier than air. They will spread along ground and collect in low or confined areas (sewers, basements, tanks).
  • Vapors may travel to source of ignition and flash back.
  • Contact with metals may evolve flammable hydrogen gas.
  • Containers may explode when heated or if contaminated with water.


  • TOXIC; inhalation, ingestion or contact (skin, eyes) with vapors, dusts or substance may cause severe injury, burns or death.
  • Contact with molten substance may cause severe burns to skin and eyes.
  • Reaction with water or moist air will release toxic, corrosive or flammable gases.
  • Reaction with water may generate much heat that will increase the concentration of fumes in the air.
  • Fire will produce irritating, corrosive and/or toxic gases.
  • Runoff from fire control or dilution water may be corrosive and/or toxic and 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 enclosed areas.


  • 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.


  • 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.



  • Note: Most foams will react with the material and release corrosive/toxic gases.
Small Fire
  • CO2, dry chemical, dry sand, alcohol-resistant foam.
Large Fire
  • Water spray, fog or alcohol-resistant foam.
  • FOR CHLOROSILANES, DO NOT USE WATER; use AFFF alcohol-resistant medium expansion foam.
  • Move containers from fire area if you can do it without risk.
  • Use water spray or fog; do not use straight streams.
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).
  • All equipment used when handling the product must be grounded.
  • Do not touch damaged containers or spilled material unless wearing appropriate protective clothing.
  • Stop leak if you can do it without risk.
  • A vapor suppressing foam may be used to reduce vapors.
  • FOR CHLOROSILANES, use AFFF alcohol-resistant medium expansion foam to reduce vapors.
  • DO NOT GET WATER on spilled substance or inside containers.
  • Use water spray to reduce vapors or divert vapor cloud drift. Avoid allowing water runoff to contact spilled material.
  • Prevent entry into waterways, sewers, basements or confined areas.
Small Spill
  • Cover with DRY earth, DRY sand or other non-combustible material followed with plastic sheet to minimize spreading or contact with rain.
  • Use clean non-sparking tools to collect material and place it into loosely covered plastic containers for later disposal.


  • Move victim to fresh air.
  • Call 911 or emergency medical service.
  • Give artificial respiration if victim is not breathing.
  • Do not use mouth-to-mouth method if victim ingested or inhaled the substance; give artificial respiration with the aid of a pocket mask equipped with a one-way valve or other proper respiratory medical device.
  • Administer oxygen if breathing is difficult.
  • Remove and isolate contaminated clothing and shoes.
  • In case of contact with substance, immediately flush skin or eyes with running water for at least 20 minutes.
  • For minor skin contact, avoid spreading material on unaffected skin.
  • Keep victim warm and quiet.
  • Effects of exposure (inhalation, ingestion or skin contact) to substance may be delayed.
  • 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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