Responding to Dangerous Goods Incidents with CANUTEC


Narrator, Firefighter & Emergency Response Advisor (et juste ‘Advisor' après la première mention).

Narrator:The response during the critical moments of a dangerous goods emergency can make the difference between life and death. Tensions and stress run high, and it can be more than challenging for first responders to properly manage the scene of an incident.

Do you have the tools and knowledge to safely respond to such an incident? The Canadian Transport Emergency Centre (CANUTEC) is a valuable resource to help navigate an emergency involving dangerous goods. Anyone can call CANUTEC's emergency line for immediate remote assistance in French or English, 24/7, at no cost. Although most shipments of dangerous goods arrive safely at their destination, incidents can sometimes occur. Calling CANUTEC connects you

to Emergency Response Advisors who are Hazmat-trained scientists able to provide immediate assistance over the phone for incidents involving dangerous goods. Here are some of the emergency response services provided during your call with CANUTEC advisors : description of hazards and chemical properties, determination of isolation and evacuation distances, recommendation of PPE and decontamination procedures, suggestions of mitigation techniques, recommendations of first aid measures, communication of dangerous goods contractors' information for on-site assistance and generation of simple plume modeling.

Dangerous goods incidents can occur unexpectedly and could escalate quickly, endangering first responders and the public. The initial phase of the incident presents a lot of uncertainties, but CANUTEC is always available to assist every step of the way. Let's see how a call to CANUTEC can unfold.

Text on screen:


10:13 AM
Tank truck rollover
Major highway
Dangerous goods leaking
Course of action: TBD

Emergency Response advisor: CANUTEC, bonjour, how may I help you?

Firefighter: Hi, this is the Fire Department. We have just arrived at the scene of a tanker truck rollover on a major highway.  The driver was able to exit the truck and is not injured. We can see a placard on the vehicle which indicates UN1830. The unit is resting on its passenger side and the product is leaking on the ground.  Some of the product is heading towards a storm rain and a ditch nearby. Company representatives should arrive on scene within an hour. Now, could you provide some information on the product involved and recommend actions that can be taken to minimize the impact of the incident?

Advisor: Ok, UN1830 is sulphuric acid which is a strong acid with a pH that varies between 0.3 to 2.1, depending on the concentration of the solution, so any contact with the acid should be avoided to prevent chemical burns. And the vapour pressure of the product is extremely low, and therefore, the vapours produced will be negligible at normal temperatures, but the spilled product should be kept away from water and moisture as sulphuric acid will react vigorously with water. Are you able to confirm where the leak is coming from? And is the product leaking slowly or is a pool of product forming?

Firefighter: The leak seems to be coming from a valve beneath the unit. It is dripping, and a small pool of product is starting to form under the truck. The liquid is headed to a drain nearby.

Advisor: Ok, so as a defensive action, we recommend diking to contain the spill using dry sand or soil or dry absorbent to stop the acid from reaching any waterways nearby. Bunker gear will not provide protection against the corrosivity of the acid, so we recommend donning a level-B suit and a self-contained breathing apparatus, an SCBA, in case of possible splashes. So if sulphuric acid comes into contact with water, it might generate heat, splashes, and a higher concentration of corrosive vapour in the air, so we recommend approaching the truck from uphill and upwind if possible and not stepping in the liquid. Although sulphuric acid is non-flammable, it can generate hydrogen gas when in contact with some metals. Hydrogen is highly flammable and will create an explosive atmosphere and therefore all source of ignition should be eliminated.

Firefighter: While I have you on the phone, what are the recommended isolation and evacuation distances?

Advisor: So according to Guide 137 of the Emergency Response Guidebook, it is recommended to isolate the incident area for 50 meters in all directions. And as mentioned earlier, sulphuric acid has a negligible vapour pressure, however, if the spilled material comes into contact with water, it'll generate heat that will increase the concentration of fumes in the air, and you might need to adjust the safety perimeter.

Firefighter: What do you recommend for decontamination?

Advisor: Yes, so if an individual was exposed to the acid, remove all contaminated clothing, and we recommend rinsing the affected area with large amounts of water and get medical attention immediately. Hum... And for PPE decontamination, we recommend establishing a decon area remote from the contaminated zone and washing the gear with water and soap, and the used water should be retained and neutralized with a weak base such as sodium bicarbonate, and you can use a pH paper to determine that no residue of acid is left on the protective clothing.

Firefighter: And now that public safety has been accounted for, what do you suggest we do with that rolled over tank truck?

Advisor: Do you have access to the shipping document?

Firefighter: Yes, we have the shipping document.

Advisor: Perfect! So the shipping document outlines what goods are on board the truck and provides contact information for emergencies. So for higher-risk dangerous goods, including sulphuric acid, an Emergency Response Assistance Plan or ERAP telephone number should appear on the shipping document. If you call the ERAP number, you will be connected with someone who can implement the plan, and they'll provide technical and emergency response advice promptly, monitor the response or even send ERAP emergency response resources. And based on the discussion and the severity of the situation, the level of assistance may range from support over the phone to deployment of a specially trained response team and specialized equipment to the scene.

Firefighter: Perfect, thanks for the information!

Advisor: No problem, and if you have any other questions don't hesitate to call us back.

Text on screen:

Update 1
12:13 PM
ERAP holder to be contacted
Incident is considered stable
More information to come

Narrator: Now that we've seen how beneficial CANUTEC can be for first responders, did you know that anyone can call in if they have an emergency involving dangerous goods? In fact, CANUTEC receives a wide array of calls from first responders, industry, government entities, private citizens and more. You can also call CANUTEC during your training sessions to practice dangerous goods scenarios. CANUTEC can also provide technical assistance for chemical incidents that aren't involved in transportation, such as : gas leaks, pool chemical reactions, ammonia leaks in arenas, spills from stationary tanks, and reactions between incompatible household products. Regardless of the situation, CANUTEC is here to help! Did you know that CANUTEC is also involved in the updating and publishing of the Emergency response Guidebook, the ERG? This guidebook is for firefighters, police, and other emergency  responders who are often the first to arrive at a transportation incident involving dangerous goods. This guide will help first responders: identify hazards based on the material involved in a transportation incident and protect themselves and the public during the initial response to an incident. First Responders in Canada can contact CANUTEC to obtain free paper copies of the ERG for their emergency vehicles! Whether you are responding to a dangerous goods incident, or training for one, you are not alone. CANUTEC is here to help every step of the way. Take the time to add CANUTEC's toll free number to your phone.

That's 1-888-CAN-UTEC or 1-888-226-8832

For more information about the transportation of dangerous goods or to download the safety awareness kit for first responders visit Transport Canada's website.

Text on screen: In case of emergency, contact CANUTEC 24 hours/Day:

1-888-CAN-UTEC (1-888-226-8832)

Or 613-996-6666 (collect calls are accepted)

Cellular: *666 (Canada only)

Information: 613-992-4624 (Call collect)

Fax: 613-954-5101


Site Web:

Text on screen: SPECIAL THANKS
To the Fire Service of Gatineau and Fire Station 8 in Buckingham, QC, for offering their facilities for this project.