How to “SPOT” Trucks Carrying Hazardous Materials on Highways during Road Trips?

October 1, 2014

(Image compliments of dreamstime royalty free photos)

I travel to NJ by car frequently for long weekends. This past summer, I took a long road trip from Northern Virginia to New England.   This large span of highway took me close to ten hours in my personal vehicle without traffic delays or any traffic-related accidents.

On these trips I often encounter the now familiar visions of red brake/tail lights in front of me, and hear the screeching of brakes coming from somewhere around me and hope/pray that the other vehicle is not near me. Sometimes these massive slow-downs are a result of a car fire, a traffic accident with multiple vehicles, or bumper-to-bumper traffic due to people viewing a recent incident on the other side of the highway.

While I am sitting at a stand-still, I often wonder how the policeman that arrives while I am sitting in traffic know whom to call to clean the roadway to make it safe for others?   When we are allowed to move forward and get closer to the incident, we have all seen them – those responders, that are in their “special” suits and masks called in to deal with cleaning up this roadway mess, an image that may look similar to this one:

(Image compliments of US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration website)

(Image compliments of US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration website)

They often arrive after the incident has taken place. Aside from their sense of smell, how do they know what type of hazardous material is on the roadway? Are all chemical spills treated the same way?

According to the Department of Transportation (US DOT), Federal Highway Administration’s publication targeted at First Responders titled “Traffic Incident Management in Hazardous Materials: Spills in Incident Clearance”. The Federal Highway Administration’s mission is to “Keep America Moving”.

Traffic Incident Management (TIM) and spill management are two of the tools in the “resource toolbox” that focus on reducing congestion.

050-000-00596-8[1]The purpose of this document is to report practices regarding the clean-up of incidental spills and to explain the use of the United States Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG). This document also describes techniques and strategies that can be used to handle hazardous material spills at traffic incidents.

Volume of Hazardous Material Shipments

(Image compliments of dreamstime-copyright-free images)

(Image compliments of dreamstime-copyright-free images)

Current research indicates that hazardous materials traffic in the U.S. now exceeds 800,000 shipments per day.   When you think about how many trucks you see while driving on the highways and airplanes flying overhead daily, that is an abundance of hazardous materials being transported!

The largest tank volume is the saddle tank (normally 70 gallons) on a semi-truck. Depending on the number of tanks on the truck, the maximum capacity for fuel for a commercial vehicle can be as much as 350 to 420 gallons!

Types of Hazardous Materials

(Image compliments of U.S. Department of Transportation website)

(Image compliments of U.S. Department of Transportation website)

Under the DOT’s Hazardous Materials Regulations notations included in this guide, (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) hazardous materials are categorized by analysis and experience into hazard classes and packing groups. Each shipper is required to classify a material according to these hazard classes and packing groups and communicate the material’s hazards. The shipper repetitively communicates the hazard through the use of package labels, shipping papers, and placards on transport vehicles.

The DOT has broad jurisdiction to regulate hazardous materials that are in transport, including the discretion to decide which materials shall be classified as “hazardous.” These materials are placed in one of nine (9) hazard classes based on their chemical and physical properties. Therefore, it’s important for response personnel to understand the hazard classes, their divisions, and reclassified materials so they can assess the situation and respond, accordingly.

Here is an image of a sampling of the types of placards that you may be able to recognize on trucks traveling the US highways with you:

(Images compliments of Wikipedia)

(Images compliments of Wikipedia)

You can find this Transportation Incident050-001-00345-7[2] Management in Hazardous Materials Spills in Incident Clearance print book available at the US Government Printing Office Overstock Sale here.

While supplies last, you can check out all the titles in our 50% Off Overstock collection here.

GPOVERSTOCK-SALE-BannerOur Overstock Sale includes an assortment of print and eBook titles discounted by 50% from the list price ranging in topical categories from military history …. to transportation …. to health resources ….. to childcare …… check out this clearance sale today!


About the Author – This week’s blog contributor is Maureen Whelan, Senior Marketing Team Leader for GPO’s Publication & Information Sales division  in Washington, DC.  Maureen oversees print and digital content dissemination strategy and manages third party free and paid content distribution vendors such as Apple iBookstoreGoogle Play eBookstoreEBSCOhostOverdrive, and more.


Celebrating National Safety Month: Resources and Publications

June 19, 2014

2014SafetyMonth-FeatureJune is National Safety Month. The National Safety Council (NSC) sponsors this month-long event for calling attention to key safety issues, showcasing safety resources, and raising awareness for the prevention of safety concerns and hazards.

The NSC provides access to a variety of educational National Safety Month materials, available on their Web site for free to NSC members. If your organization isn’t already a member, you can join right from their site. They also provide access to many free materials for the general public. Anyone can sign up to receive the free materials via email.

The National Safety Month Web page also provides access to a free Home Safety Checklist to help you identify common risk areas within your home.

You can also follow the NSC’s safety chat on Twitter at #NSM14.

The U.S. Government Printing Office’s U.S. Government Bookstore offers an entire collection of publications devoted to safety issues: the Emergency Management and First Responders collection. Many of the publications in this collection have been highlighted in previous Government Book Talk posts, like this one from January 2014 that focused on preparing for extreme cold and other natural and man-made disasters and showcased the publication, “Are You Ready? An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness.” Also highlighted in the post are some books for kids on safety preparedness: “Ready…Set…Prepare! A Disaster Preparedness Activity Book for Ages 4-7,” “Ready…Set…Prepare! A Disaster Preparedness Activity Book for Ages 8-11,” and “Watch Out – Storms Ahead! Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency also has tons of resources on their site to help the public prepare for disasters of all kinds.

In addition, Federal depository libraries nationwide provide the public with free access to Federal Government publications on a wide variety of topics, including safety and emergency management and prevention. Locate a library in your area!

017-033-00508-7One publication in this collection is particularly interesting, especially in light of the frequent and tragic mine accidents we hear about on the news. “When Do You Take Refuge? Decisionmaking During Mine Emergency Escape – Instructor’s Guide and Lesson Plans” is an interesting booklet created by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services. The training program was designed to help trainees practice correct decisionmaking skills during an underground mine emergency. It actually consists of three parts: a computer-based training that includes scenario simulation (included as a CD-ROM), the instructor’s guide and lesson plans, and an evaluation (both included in the booklet).

The material was designed for underground coal miners, but it is fascinating for anyone who wants a glimpse into this hazardous occupation. The lesson plan portion of the training is filled with real-life examples of emergency scenarios and “summary teaching points” to highlight the lessons. This interesting look into the life of a coal miner brings to light the need for strict safety measures in any occupation. National Safety Month reminds us that safety should be everyone’s priority, both at home and on the job.

How can I get this publication?

Shop Online Anytime: You can buy this and other publications mentioned in this blog (with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide) from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore website at

Shop our retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.

Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. You can find the records for most titles in the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications or CGP.

About the author: Our guest blogger is Kelly Seifert, Lead Planning Specialist for GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Library Program.

“Are you Ready?” for Extreme Cold and Other Natural and Man-made Disasters

January 23, 2014

Image below: Graph depicts how variations in the polar vortex affect weather in the mid-latitudes. Courtesy: National Science Foundation

Polar-vortex-fall-to-winter-chartAs the United States shivers under the Arctic Express, Polar Vortex, Polar Cyclone, Polar Low, Circumpolar Whirl or whatever name you call it (I just call it FREEZING!!!!) with snow, ice, and some of the most extreme cold conditions in decades, Americans will be happy to know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has help available in the form of its extremely useful new disaster preparedness guide, Are You Ready?: An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness.

FEMA Are You Ready?: An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness ISBN: 9780160920745Intended as both a reference source as well as a step-by-step manual, this easy-to-follow guide has been designed to help Americans “learn how to protect themselves and their families against all types of hazards”.

According to the FEMA authors:

The focus of the content is on how to develop, practice, and maintain emergency plans that reflect what must be done before, during, and after a disaster to protect people and their property. Also included is information on how to assemble a disaster supplies kit that contains the food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity for individuals and their families to survive following a disaster in the event they must rely on their own resources.

The guide advises on planning before a disaster, responding during a disaster, and recovering after a disaster and is organized into the following sections: Why Prepare, Part 1 Basic Preparedness, Part 2 Natural Hazards, Part 3 Technological Hazards, Part 4 Terrorism, and Part 5 Recovering from Disaster.

Each chapter has specific tips on preparation, what to do during the particular disaster, instructions for what to do afterwards, and where to go for more information, including links for free publications.

Disasters and emergencies cover the gamut in three areas:

a)      Natural Hazards, including: Floods, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Thunderstorms and Lightning, Winter Storms and Extreme Cold,  Extreme Heat, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Landslides and Debris Flow (Mudslide), Tsunamis, Fires and Wildfires;

b)      Technological Hazards, including:  Hazardous Materials Incidents, Household Chemical Emergencies, and Nuclear Power Plants

c)      Terrorism, including: General terrorist threats, Explosions, Biological Threats, Chemical Threats, Nuclear Blast, and Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD).

Are You Ready?… for Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

FEMA-Are-You-Ready_page-80-Winter-Storms-and-Extreme-ColdAs I was concerned about the extreme cold, I turned to Part 2, Natural Hazards, Section 2.5 Winter Storms and Extreme Cold.

In the preparation part, I found useful terminology such as the difference between sleet and freezing rain, protective measures and supplies to gather, tips on how to winterize my car (e.g., have you cleaned your car battery terminals and used gasoline additives to keep water out of your fuel lines?) and how to dress for the winter weather (did you know mittens are warmer than gloves?).

FEMA-Are-You-Ready_page-83-Winter-Dress-for-ColdDuring a winter storm, “Are you ready?” gives more advice, such as what to do if a blizzard traps you in the car and how to watch for signs of hypothermia.

[Signs of hypothermia]… include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first, and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.

Other Useful Information in “Are You Ready?”

In addition to information on specific types of emergencies, the guide includes a number of other very useful resources.

Assembling a Disaster Supplies Kit:  A whole chapter is devoted to assembling a good general disaster supplies kit for multiple locations: home, work and vehicle.

Practice Makes Perfect: Advice on how to practice and maintain your emergency plan is under Section 1.6.

General Evacuation Guidelines:  Tells what to do to prepare your home if you have to evacuate, such as utility shut-off and safety, reviewing and securing of insurance and vital records, and so on.

Special Needs: Information on how to do disaster planning to accommodate someone with disabilities is included.

Pets: Caring for pets in emergencies is not forgotten, either.

FEMA Hazard Maps: It highlights how to get free hazard maps from FEMA in your area by accessing FEMA’s Hazard Mapping Portal.

Homeland-Security-Threat-Assessments-Color-MatrixWarning Systems and Signals: The guide explains different national alert systems such as the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio (NWR), as well as the Homeland Security Advisory System with its Threat Conditions thermometer.

Quizzes: The guide even includes some quizzes such as the Terrorism Knowledge Check on page 172 that asks such questions as:

What would you do, if you were at work and…

a. there was an explosion in the building?

b. you received a package in the mail that you considered suspicious?

c. you received a telephone call that was a bomb threat?

Mental Health Issues: Tips are included on how to recognize if children vs. adults may need crisis counseling or stress management assistance as well as how to ease disaster-related stress (such as attending memorial services). For children, guidelines are included by age range of common reactions to traumatic events, along with tips on how adults can reassure children after a disaster.

For additional information about Federal mental and medical emergency resources, read our previous blog post: “Help is Just a Call, Click or Page Away: Federal Disaster Helplines & Emergency Medical Resources.”

Family Forms: The guide is customizable to you and your family with forms to fill out for your own emergency plans. Included is a form for you to use to fill out information as you collect it from your local authorities on possible hazards and emergencies in your community, the Risk Level and how to reduce your risk, along with a “Community and Other Plans” form to use to record answers from your local officials about your community’s disaster and emergency plans.  Also included is a form to draw and to record your family’s specific evacuation route and another to record your Family Communications Plan.

Checklists and Appendices: The guide also includes some handy appendices: Appendix A: Water Conservation Tips, Appendix B: Disaster Supplies Checklist, and the all-important Appendix C: Family Communications Plan.

Preparedness Websites: One is a list of Disaster Public Education Websites from both the Federal Government such as FEMA’s own site (, as well as non-Governmental sites, like the Institute for Business and Home Safety,

Disaster Recovery Assistance: Finally, advice and resources for getting disaster recovery assistance are covered in the Are You Ready? guide, too.

FEMA Are You Ready?: An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness ISBN: 9780160920745How can I get a copy ofAre You Ready?: An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness”?

Whether you live near an active volcano; in Tornado Alley or a Hurricane Zone; in wildfire, mudslide or flood-prone areas; or just want to be prepared for any emergency—natural or man-made—this guide will help you save the day!

  • MULTIPLE COPIES: FEMA recommends having a completed guide for each location for your family members: home, work or school, and your vehicle(s). Fill out the customizable sections in each copy with your relevant family, workplace and community information.
  • Shop Online: You can buy this publication from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at by:
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Digital: Find a PDF version on the FEMA site.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for it in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore ( and promoting Federal government content to the public.

Responding to Terrorist Attacks

August 11, 2010

This week’s student intern guest blogger is Phil Marcus, a rising junior at James Madison University.

The title I’m blogging about, Emergency Response to Terrorism: Job Aid (ERT), was first printed in May of 2000.  While I don’t know how well it was selling at the time, I’m sure that sales greatly rose after 9-11. 

This little comb-bound booklet goes into great detail about the steps and procedures that should be taken to deal with a terrorist attack.  Whether toxic or explosive, this publication covers it all.  As we well know, acts of terrorism can occur at any time, and without much warning. 

A very important point is that Emergency Response to Terrorism: Job Aid, goes into detail about how to preserve evidence from an act of terrorism.  This surely is an asset, because without evidence no crimes can be traced back to the responsible party.  Almost anything can be considered evidence, especially items such as the ‘black box’ from the 9-11 attacks that is carried in every airplane.   If these boxes had not been found after 9-11, much of the information we have now on the attacks would have ever been known. The ERT deals with many similar issues.

I think  the ERT is a must read for anyone interested in obtaining knowledge about how to deal with acts of terrorism – specifically how to respond, as a citizen, to an act of terrorism. Copies can be purchased on our website, reviewed at the FEMA Web site, or in libraries.

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