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.

RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS (Low to High Level Radiation)



  • Radiation presents minimal risk to transport workers, emergency response personnel and the public during transportation accidents. Packaging durability increases as potential hazard of radioactive content increases.
  • Undamaged packages are safe. Contents of damaged packages may cause higher external radiation exposure, or both external and internal radiation exposure if contents are released.
  • Type A packages (cartons, boxes, drums, articles, etc.) identified as Type A by marking on packages or by shipping papers contain non-life endangering amounts.
Partial releases might be expected if Type A packages are damaged in moderately severe accidents.
  • Type B packages, and the rarely occurring Type C packages, (large and small, usually metal) contain the most hazardous amounts. They can be identified by package markings or by shipping papers.
Life threatening conditions may exist only if contents are released or package shielding fails. Because of design, evaluation and testing of packages, these conditions would be expected only for accidents of utmost severity.
  • The rarely occurring Special Arrangement shipments may be of Type A, Type B or Type C packages. Package type will be marked on packages, and shipment details will be on shipping papers.
  • Radioactive White-I labels indicate radiation levels outside single, isolated, undamaged packages are very low (less than 0.005 mSv/h (0.5 mrem/h)).
  • Radioactive Yellow-II and Yellow-III labeled packages have higher radiation levels. The transport index (TI) on the label identifies the maximum radiation level in mrem/h one meter from a single, isolated, undamaged package.
  • Some radioactive materials cannot be detected by commonly available instruments.
  • Water from cargo fire control may cause pollution.


  • Some of these materials may burn, but most do not ignite readily.
  • Radioactivity does not change flammability or other properties of materials.
  • Type B packages are designed and evaluated to withstand total engulfment in flames at temperatures of 800°C (1475°F) for a period of 30 minutes.


  • 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.
  • Priorities for rescue, life-saving, first aid, fire control and other hazards are higher than the priority for measuring radiation levels.
  • Radiation Authority must be notified of accident conditions. Radiation Authority is usually responsible for decisions about radiological consequences and closure of emergencies.
  • As an immediate precautionary measure, isolate spill or leak area for at least 25 meters (75 feet) in all directions.
  • Stay upwind.
  • Keep unauthorized personnel away.
  • Detain or isolate uninjured persons or equipment suspected to be contaminated; delay decontamination and cleanup until instructions are received from Radiation Authority.


  • Positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and structural firefighters' protective clothing will provide adequate protection against internal radiation exposure, but not external radiation exposure.


Large Spill
  • Consider initial downwind evacuation for at least 100 meters (330 feet).
  • When a large quantity of this material is involved in a major fire, consider an initial evacuation distance of 300 meters (1000 feet) in all directions.



  • Presence of radioactive material will not influence the fire control processes and should not influence selection of techniques.
  • Move containers from fire area if you can do it without risk.
  • Do not move damaged packages; move undamaged packages out of fire zone.
Small Fire
  • Dry chemical, CO2, water spray or regular foam.
Large Fire
  • Water spray, fog (flooding amounts).
  • Dike fire-control water for later disposal.


  • Do not touch damaged packages or spilled material.
  • Damp surfaces on undamaged or slightly damaged packages are seldom an indication of packaging failure. Most packaging for liquid content have inner containers and/or inner absorbent materials.
  • Cover liquid spill with sand, earth or other non-combustible absorbent material.


  • Call 911 or emergency medical service.
  • Medical problems take priority over radiological concerns.
  • Use first aid treatment according to the nature of the injury.
  • Do not delay care and transport of a seriously injured person.
  • Give artificial respiration if victim is not breathing.
  • Administer oxygen if breathing is difficult.
  • In case of contact with substance, immediately flush skin or eyes with running water for at least 20 minutes.
  • Injured persons contaminated by contact with released material are not a serious hazard to health care personnel, equipment or facilities.
  • Ensure that medical personnel are aware of the material(s) involved, take precautions to protect themselves and prevent spread of contamination.

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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