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Hazardous Materials – Emergencies

Placeholder Alaska Other

9.7.1 – Emergency Response
Guidebook (ERG)

The Department of Transportation has a guidebook for firefighters, police, and industry workers on how to protect themselves and the public from hazardous materials. The guide is indexed by proper shipping name and hazardous materials identification number. Emergency personnel look for these things on the shipping paper. That is why it is vital that the proper shipping name, identification number, label, and placards are correct.

9.7.2 – Crashes/Incidents

As a professional driver, your job at the scene of a crash or an incident is to:

  • Keep people away from the scene.
  • Limit the spread of material, only if you can safely do so.
  • Communicate the danger of the hazardous materials to emergency response personnel.
  • Provide emergency responders with the shipping papers and emergency response information.

Follow this checklist:

  • Check to see that your driving partner is OK.
  • Keep shipping papers with you.
  • Keep people far away and upwind.
  • Warn others of the danger.
  • Call for help.
  • Follow your employer’s instructions.

9.7.3 – Fires

You might have to control minor truck fires on the road. However, unless you have the training and equipment to do so safely, don’t fight hazardous materials fires. Dealing with hazardous materials fires requires special training and protective gear.

When you discover a fire, call for help. You may use the fire extinguisher to keep minor truck fires from spreading to cargo before firefighters arrive. Feel trailer doors to see if they are hot before opening them. If hot, you may have a cargo fire and should not open the doors. Opening doors lets air in and may make the fire flare up. Without air, many fires only smolder until firemen arrive, doing less damage. If your cargo is already on fire, it is not safe to fight the fire. Keep the shipping papers with you to give to emergency personnel as soon as they arrive. Warn other people of the danger and keep them away.

If you discover a cargo leak, identify the hazardous materials leaking by using shipping papers, labels, or package location. Do not touch any leaking material–many people injure themselves by touching hazardous materials. Do not try to identify the material or find the source of a leak by smell. Toxic gases can destroy your sense of smell and can injure or kill you even if they don’t smell. Never eat, drink, or smoke around a leak or spill.

If hazardous materials are spilling from your vehicle, do not move it any more than safety requires. You may move off the road and away from places where people gather, if doing so serves safety. Only move your vehicle if you can do so without danger to yourself or others.

Never continue driving with hazardous materials leaking from your vehicle in order to find a phone booth, truck stop, help, or similar reason. Remember, the carrier pays for the cleanup of contaminated parking lots, roadways, and drainage ditches. The costs are enormous, so don’t leave a lengthy trail of contamination. If hazardous materials are spilling from your vehicle:

  • Park it.
  • Secure the area.
  • Stay there.
  • Send someone else for help.

When sending someone for help, give that person:

  • A description of the emergency.
  • Your exact location and direction of travel.
  • Your name, the carrier’s name, and the name of the community or city where your terminal is located.
  • The proper shipping name, hazard class, and identification number of the hazardous materials, if you know them.

This is a lot for someone to remember. It is a good idea to write it all down for the person you send for help. The emergency response team must know these things to find you and to handle the emergency. They may have to travel miles to get to you. This information will help them to bring the right equipment the first time, without having to go back for it.

Never move your vehicle, if doing so will cause contamination or damage the vehicle. Keep upwind and away from roadside rests, truck stops, cafes, and businesses. Never try to repack leaking containers. Unless you have the training and equipment to repair leaks safely, don’t try it. Call your dispatcher or supervisor for instructions and, if needed, emergency personnel.

9.7.4 – Responses to Specific

Class 1 (Explosives). If your vehicle has a breakdown or accident while carrying explosives, warn others of the danger. Keep bystanders away. Do not allow smoking or open fire near the vehicle. If there is a fire, warn everyone of the danger of explosion.

Remove all explosives before separating vehicles involved in a collision. Place the explosives at least 200 feet from the vehicles and occupied buildings. Stay a safe distance away.

Class 2 (Compressed Gases). If compressed gas is leaking from your vehicle, warn others of the danger. Only permit those involved in removing the hazard or wreckage to get close. You must notify the shipper if compressed gas is involved in any accident.

Unless you are fueling machinery used in road construction or maintenance, do not transfer a flammable compressed gas from one tank to another on any public roadway.

Class 3 (Flammable Liquids). If you are transporting a flammable liquid and have an accident or your vehicle breaks down, prevent bystanders from gathering. Warn people of the danger. Keep them from smoking.

Never transport a leaking cargo tank farther than needed to reach a safe place. Get off the roadway if you can do so safely. Don’t transfer flammable liquid from one vehicle to another on a public roadway except in an emergency.

Class 4 (Flammable Solids) and Class 5 (Oxidizing Materials). If a flammable solid or oxidizing material spills, warn others of the fire hazard. Do not open smoldering packages of flammable solids. Remove them from the vehicle if you can safely do so. Also, remove unbroken packages if it will decrease the fire hazard.

Class 6 (Poisonous Materials and Infectious Substances). It is your job to protect yourself, other people, and property from harm. Remember that many products classed as poison are also flammable. If you think a Division 2.3 (Poison Gases) or Division 6.1 (Poison Materials) might be flammable, take the added precautions needed for flammable liquids or gases. Do not allow smoking, open flame, or welding. Warn others of the hazards of fire, of inhaling vapors, or coming in contact with the poison.

A vehicle involved in a leak of Division 2.3 (Poison Gases) or Division 6.1 (Poisons) must be checked for stray poison before being used again.

If a Division 6.2 (Infectious Substances) package is damaged in handling or transportation, you should immediately contact your supervisor. Packages that appear to be damaged or show signs of leakage should not be accepted.

Class 7 (Radioactive Materials). If radioactive material is involved in a leak or broken package, tell your dispatcher or supervisor as soon as possible. If there is a spill, or if an internal container might be damaged, do not touch or inhale the material. Do not use the vehicle until it is cleaned and checked with a survey meter.

Class 8 (Corrosive Materials). If corrosives spill or leak during transportation, be careful to avoid further damage or injury when handling the containers. Parts of the vehicle exposed to a corrosive liquid must be thoroughly washed with water. After unloading, wash out the interior as soon as possible before reloading.

If continuing to transport a leaking tank would be unsafe, get off the road. If safe to do so, contain any liquid leaking from the vehicle. Keep bystanders away from the liquid and its fumes. Do everything possible to prevent injury to yourself and to others.

9.7.5 – Required Notification

The National Response Center helps coordinate emergency response to chemical hazards. It is a resource to the police and firefighters. It maintains a 24-hour toll-free line listed below. You or your employer must phone when any of the following occur as a direct result of a hazardous materials incident:

  • A person is killed.
  • An injured person requires hospitalization.
  • Estimated property damage exceeds $50,000.
  • The general public is evacuated for more than one hour.
  • One or more major transportation arteries or facilities are closed for one hour or more.
  • Fire, breakage, spillage, or suspected radioactive contamination occurs.
  • Fire, breakage, spillage or suspected contamination occur involving shipment of etiologic agents (bacteria or toxins).
  • A situation exists of such a nature (e.g., continuing danger to life exists at the scene of an incident) that, in the judgment of the carrier, should be reported.

National Response Center

(800) 424-8802

Persons telephoning the National Response Center should be ready to give:

  • Their name.
  • Name and address of the carrier they work for.
  • Phone number where they can be reached.
  • Date, time, and location of incident.
  • The extent of injuries, if any.
  • Classification, name, and quantity of hazardous materials involved, if such information is available.
  • Type of incident and nature of hazardous materials involvement and whether a continuing danger to life exists at the scene.

If a reportable quantity of hazardous substance was involved, the caller should give the name of the shipper and the quantity of the hazardous substance discharged.

Be prepared to give your employer the required information as well. Carriers must make detailed written reports within 30 days of an incident.


(800) 424-9300

The Chemical Transportation Emergency Center (CHEMTREC) in Washington also has a 24-hour toll-free line. CHEMTREC was created to provide emergency personnel with technical information about the physical properties of hazardous materials. The National Response Center and CHEMTREC are in close communication. If you call either one, they will tell the other about the problem when appropriate.

Do not leave radioactive yellow – II or yellow – III labeled packages near people, animals, or film longer than shown in Figure 9.10

Radioactive Separation
Table A

Transport Index

Minimum Distance In Feet o Nearest Undeveloped Film

To People
Or Cargo Compartment Partitions

0-2 Hrs.

2-4 Hrs.

4-8 Hrs.

8-12 Hrs.

Over 12 Hrs.








0.1 To 1.0







1.1 To 5.0







5.1 To 10.0







10.1 To 20.0







20.1 To 30.0







30.1 To 40.0







40.1 To 50.0






Figure 9.10

Classes of Hazardous Materials. Hazardous materials are categorized into nine major hazard classes and additional categories for consumer commodities and combustible liquids. The classes of hazardous materials are listed in Figure 9.11

Hazard Class Definitions
Table B


Class Name




Ammunition, Dynamite, Fireworks



Propane, Oxygen, Helium



Gasoline Fuel, Acetone


Flammable Solids

Matches, Fuses



Ammonium Nitrate, Hydrogen Peroxide



Pesticides, Arsenic



Uranium, Plutonium



Hydrochloric Acid, Battery Acid


Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials

Formaldehyde, Asbestos


(Other Regulated Material-Domestic)

Hair Spray or Charcoal


Combustible Liquids

Fuel Oils, Lighter Fluid

Figure 9.11