The Unwired Medic

Teaching EMS providers & other public safety pros about using mobile tech to improve their practice, patient care, continuing education, scene safety, general entertainment, & productivity.

Emergency Response Guide 2012 Now Available


Emergency Response Guidebook - 2012 edition
Emergency Response Guidebook – 2012 edition – image by PHMSA

It has finally been released…

The 2012 edition of the Emergency Response Guide, that orange book that is required to be placed in every emergency vehicle in the country.  The last ambulance service I worked for had editions from 2000 under the bench seat, where it would be difficult to read if an actual need arose.  After much poking and prodding at the Logistics and Safety Officers, I got them to finally upgrade to the latest edition for 2008.  The winning part of the arguement was that they books are free to emergency services.  Just visit this page to learn how you can get them for your agency:

Training with it…

As a training officer, I make it part of my role to take new hires and quiz them as we are driving down the roads and freeways.  For example, you could make a task out of using the book.  For every tanker truck, train tank car, or warehouse site with placards you pass, you can have your probie identify what the placard is, reference it, tell you how to deal with the initial response and what the properties of the agent are (foam, water, barriers, corrosive, caustic, etc.).  Then for more fun, have them identify what type of tanker it is from the shape of the tanker.  Is it an agro tanker, does it contain wet or dry goods, is it food safe or compatible with specific categories of chemicals, etc.  The end result of all this is familiarity with how to use the resource in a crisis.  It’s a bad idea to try to learn to use a fire extinguisher when your house is already on fire.  The corollary to this is that it’s a bad idea to try to figure out how to use this book when there is an incident you are about to walk into.

Digital versions…

Not so long ago, the agencies that are responsible for this sometimes incredibly useful text created and released a .pdf version, so you can have a permanent copy on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.  My advice is to get it and do just that.  The .pdf versions are searchable, so you can type the ID number or chemical name and it will lead you right to the correct page to learn about the agent you’ve encountered.

Get the free .pdf version here:

There is an app update from the ERG2008 to the now current edition for Windows devices, but it isn’t expected to be updated until later in the summer this year.  The main page has a link to it if you would like to check it out.  Of course if you don’t wave a Windows device, there are alternatives.  First, let me disclaim that you should not BUY any apps in iTunes or Google Play stores.  Most of them aren’t well rated anyway, plus the information is free via the .pdf and all the office productivity suites have the ability to open and search .pdf’s, plus Adobe Reader for your device is free.  There are a few other apps out there that offer this information free that aren’t from the folks at PHMSA, so make sure you view the permissions on their apps (hint: they shouldn’t be asking for ANY special permissions).  This information is also covered completely along with many other topics on hazardous materials response in the WISER app available for Blackberry, Android, and iPhone.  Check out the USAGov apps page at or go directly to the WISER website at to learn about using it on PC, Mac and Linux, Palm, and older Windows Mobile (not Windows Phone yet) operating systems.  I’m presently awaiting a response from the folks that administrate WISER as to whether or not it includes the new ERG2012 updates, or when they will be integrated.  Check back to read about their response to my query, which I will add as an addendum to this article. [ADDENDUM 06/12/12: WISER admins contacted me and unfortunately, they have not yet updated the content from ERG2008, but it is on the books to happen. They also do not have an anticipated date of release to the updates, so keep checking back with the app store on your device.  They also do not have any short term plans to make a Windows Phone version, but should the user market spike soon for WP7+, they will create the app.]

In closing…

Do you have a favorite response app that you’d like to share with others or want me to evaluate and post a review on (any phone platform is available to me)?  Please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, please be safe and make it home safely after every shift!  I appreciate you and all you do for our communities and country!


  1. I recently downloaded and began to use FiRST – First Responder Support Tools. It is a great app that uses a smart phone’s internet access to access Google Maps and local, real time weather information to quickly determine isolation and protection distances around a hazmat or IED scene (although special permission has to be applied for before you can unlock all of the IED data).

    Once you enter the location and the specific hazardous material, you are immediately shown recommended perimeters on a Google Map satellite image. Then, you can view the ERG guide specific to the contaminant.

    Other information available within the application includes weather and wind information, POI’s on the map and automated roadblock recommendations displayed on the map. Once you have all of your data entered and displayed the way you need it, you can email an overview to other responders, the IC, the EOC…or whoever.

    More information is available here:



  2. The Emergency Response Guide ERG 2012 being transferred to the web and iphone.

    [Link Removed]

    to save it on your iphone choose the center bottom button then “Add to homescreen” after that you shouldn’t even need to have an internet connection to use it.

    • Thanks for the comment. I might have to try that, but I thought adding it to your homescreen on the iPhone just gave you a shortcut to the site. This method would have to literally cache the entire website. This isn’t really necessary when you can have a full, searchable .pdf copy, or you use the WISER app, which is fully interactive. Thank you for providing a link to your site hosting the ERG, but it is my policy to only link to known sources, and in this case, straight from the US government, but I do appreciate the tips you offer!

  3. Unwired,
    My company, Sheridan Programmers Guild, has published an ebook version of the ERG2012. It’s currently available in English for Kindle although we hope to publish the French and Spanish versions soon. Since it is a Kindle book, you can buy it once from Amazon and then, via the Kindle Reader Apps available for just about any platform, download and have it available on whatever mobile device you carry with you. It’s heavily crosslinked, so navigating from a placard id or a substance name to the appropriate response guide, green distance tables, and emergency numbers is the matter of just a few clicks, not a search. I’d be happy to supply you an eval copy if you’d be interested in reviewing our version and giving us feedback.

    • Anne,

      Thank you for the info. Sure, I wouldn’t mind doing an eval of your eBook. I have Kindle apps on all my phones and computers. You can send an e-mail to cdm [at] unwiredmedic [dot] com and we can make arrangements. I have another colleague blogger who would love to check it out too. We share articles with each other once in a while too. Take care!

  4. So I was installing the ERG 2012 Windows application on Linux using WINE, and then I thought I should check if there is a (perhaps unofficial) Linux version already. A Google search found this page.

    “Go directly to the WISER website at to learn about using it on PC, Mac and Linux, Palm, and older Windows Mobile (not Windows Phone yet) operating systems.” –above blog post

    It looks like (at least now) there is no offline Linux version:

    “WISER is available for users of other platforms, including Macintosh, Linux, and Android by accessing WebWISER from their web browser.”

    However, the following seems to still be true:

    “They also do not have any short term plans to make a Windows Phone version, but should the user market spike soon for WP7+, they will create the app.” –above blog post

    “WISER for Windows Mobile (PocketPC/Smartphone)
    These downloads support PDAs/Smartphones running Microsoft Pocket PC and Microsoft Windows Mobile. Please choose the download that matches your type of device:
    -Touch screen: PDAs and phones that have a touch screen (use a stylus)
    -Non-touch screen: phones that do not have a touch screen (do not use a stylus)” –WISER downloads page, linked above

    • Thanks for sharing this. I wasn’t aware there was an Windows emulator for Linux. I haven’t worked with that platform much. If you can’t find a native app for WISER, don’t forget that you can at least get the ERG2012 in .pdf format. It’s at

      They had a Windows Mobile version for quite some time. I believe they had it with Windows Mobile v5, and the app still works with Windows Mobile v6 and v6.5. The last phone of that operating system came out in 2009 or 2010 and Android was still just a budding O/S. Well, the rest is history there. Windows Phone now holds about 5% of the worldwide market share, which is nothing to sneeze at, but I haven’t seen any other public safety providers carrying Windows Phone. They may try to make a Windows 8/Metro app now, but I’d guess it won’t be out for at least a year.

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