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 (Special Form / Low to High Level External 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 external radiation exposure, and much higher external exposure if contents (source capsules) are released.
  • Contamination and internal radiation hazards are not expected, but not impossible.
  • 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.
Radioactive sources may be released 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.
  • 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.
  • Radiation from the package contents, usually in durable metal capsules, can be detected by most radiation instruments.
  • Water from cargo fire control is not expected to cause pollution.


  • Packagings can burn completely without risk of content loss from sealed source capsule.
  • Radioactivity does not change flammability or other properties of materials.
  • Radioactive source capsules and 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.
  • Delay final cleanup until instructions or advice is 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.



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)

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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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