General Guidance

This guidance provides definitions as further useful information related to each section of an ERICard.


Ambient temperature: The temperature of the environment in which any chemical event occurs. Normally accepted as 20°C.

BLEVE: Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapour Explosion, likely to occur when an external fire impinges on a tank/barrel above any liquid level causing weakening of the metal and consequential rupture from increasing internal pressure.

Reactive: The property of a substance to react quickly either on its own or by an external source, producing a chemical change with the release of energy by polymerisation or decomposition, which can be caused by heat, water, oxygen (air), physical shock etc.

VCE: Vapour Cloud Explosion, caused by the ignition of a cloud of flammable gas/vapour mixed with air in an unconfined environment e.g. in the open air.

Personal Protection

It is emphasised that no chemical protective clothing will afford protection against all chemicals.

Depending upon the respective hazards of substances, levels of protection advised in individual ERICards are divided into five categories.

  • Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) with chemical resistant gloves.
  • SCBA with a chemical protection suit only where personal (close) contact is likely.
  • SCBA with a chemical protection suit.
  • SCBA with a chemical protection suit but gas-tight suit when close proximity to the substance or its vapours is likely.
  • Gas-tight suit

The gas-tight suit represents the highest level of chemical protective clothing. Such suits may be manufactured from neoprene, vinyl rubber or other materials and are used with SCBA. Protection will be afforded from many chemicals but not all. If in any doubt, specialist advice should be sought.

For incidents involving deeply refrigerated and many other liquefied gases where contact will cause frostbite and severe damage to eyes, thermally insulated undergarments including thick textile or leather gloves, should be worn. Similarly, for incidents involving significant heat radiation, it is recommended that heat reflective suits be used.

Fire fighter's clothing conforming to EN469 provides a basic level of protection for chemical incidents and includes helmets, protective boots and gloves. Clothing not conforming to EN469 may not be suitable in any chemical incident.

PVC protective clothing is not suitable for many chemicals being transported.


To prevent escalation of a spillage, it is expected that any leakage should be stopped as soon as possible, if this can be done safely. Depending upon the nature of the substance and the volume spilled additional actions will be required. These may be either containment or drenching with water. Specific recommendations are given in individual ERICards.

To keep a contaminated area as small as possible it is important to contain any spillage where appropriate. Remember that containment is not the same as absorption. Responders should also be aware of the physical dangers of any area that has been contaminated, e.g. a surface may become slippery, powders may cause dust clouds etc. Caution should therefore be exercised when it is necessary to walk through spilled product.

Some products, due to specific hazards, are better drenched away with water without delay in order to dilute the spillage rapidly. Special care must be taken in such circumstances to minimise environmental damage.

For all products with a flash point below 60°C, it is important to continuously monitor for the possible presence of an explosive mixture with air. Intrinsically safe equipment is necessary to prevent ignition by the emergency teams. Needless to say smoking or naked lights must not be allowed at the site of such an incident.

As a precaution against untoward poisoning of emergency responders, it is to be assumed that all personnel involved will avoid consumption of food in any incident especially for toxic substances.

After containment of a liquid spill, it may be necessary to absorb the product, especially if recovery is not possible. Various means of achieving this, are covered in individual ERICards dependent upon the nature of the substance(s) involved.

If products are likely to create effects beyond the immediate area of spillage, guidance is given to minimise their impact e.g. 'Knock down or disperse gas cloud with water spray. Do not allow water spray to come into contact with the liquid product'.


Extinguishing media - avoidance of unnecessary pollution.

Most extinguishing media can cause pollution of watercourses. Jets or water spray, used for fire fighting, drenching spills or knocking-down/absorbing gas or vapour clouds, are notable causes of water pollution at hazardous chemical incidents. Chemical powders, some gaseous extinguishing agents and foams, or other water-based media are also recognised pollutants.

As a consequence, it is emphasised that all extinguishing media be used judiciously.

Fire fighting action

The fire fighting methods described and the means specified are those that are compatible with the chemical substance directly involved in the fire, whether or not it is flammable. Fires involving adjacent buildings, vehicles or other property should be dealt with by following established procedures.

Removal of containers from heat radiation.

This is considered a normal course of action in fire fighting operations if it can be accomplished without risk to emergency responders. Advice to this effect therefore does not normally feature in individual ERICard texts. An exception is made for ERICards relating to materials presenting a risk from violent reaction with water. In such cases, advice to cool containers with water does not appear. Conversely, removal of containers is not recommended on cards covering very reactive substances or substances in pressurised containers. In such cases, advice is given to work from protective positions and the use of unmanned monitors or lances is recommended.

First Aid

ERICards are designed for use by trained responders. It is therefore presumed that the responder is capable of performing life saving actions, such as artificial respiration, cardiac-pulmonary resuscitation or resuscitation with oxygen (not in flammable atmospheres!) or air driven apparatus.

Basic action, such as the removal of tight fitting clothes in appropriate circumstances, is to be assumed.

First Aid information given in ERICards is only for the first, life saving, actions. An ERICard is not to be used for (para)-medical treatment of victims.

If an unprotected person becomes contaminated then it is important to treat him/her in an appropriate way depending on the type of chemical. Such measures are given in ERIC’s wherever necessary.

Essential Precautions for Product Recovery

Fire Brigades in some European countries have responsibility for product recovery. In many other countries recovery is effected by specialist agencies. As a consequence, this section is intended to provide guidance to those brigades with specialised equipment and knowledge, and to those, not likely to become directly involved, with basic awareness of actions expected of competent recovery agencies.

Such information relates to the selection of suitable product transfer pumps, the need for proper earthing of equipment and recovery of spilled product. Of particular importance is the need to select safe pumps for flammable liquids and gases e.g. EEX de II A T3 - CENELEC-characterisation (EN 50014) where:

EEX = explosion protected unit,

de = type of ignition protection (d = pressure resistant enclosure; e = raised safely).

II A = explosion Group

T3 = temperature classification (e.g. T3: the temperature of any external surface of an electrical appliance may not exceed 200°C and the ignition point of the flammable liquid is greater than 200°C).

Precautions after Intervention

Fire Brigade personnel should be decontaminated as soon as possible after any contact with a spilled substance has occurred. Contaminated protective clothing should be removed after use following recommended procedures and stored in a secure area until effectively decontaminated before re-use. If on-site decontamination is not possible, specialist advice should be sought before transporting from the incident location.

It is expected that Fire Brigade personnel will undertake normal hygiene actions (e.g. shower and change of clothing) after returning to headquarters.


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