Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Emergency Response Safety and Health Database


The Emergency Response Safety and Health Database (ERSH-DB) is a rapidly accessible occupational safety and health database developed by NIOSH for the emergency response community. The ERSH-DB contains accurate and concise information on high-priority chemical, biological and radiological agents that could be encountered by personnel responding to a terrorist event.

The objectives of the ERSH-DB are:

  • to rapidly disseminate information to emergency response personnel on specific agents that may be used in terrorist events and that pose an occupational hazard of injury, illness, and death;
  • to provide information to be incorporated into management systems of emergency response operations for the purpose of reducing work-related injuries and illnesses; and
  • to provide information that may be used in continuing education and training programs for the emergency response community.

The information contained in the ERSH-DB represents a compilation of material from a diverse array of sources, and is intended to address the safety and health information needs of a wide range of emergency response personnel, including, but not limited to, the fields of fire and rescue, emergency medicine, law enforcement, emergency management, public health, safety and health, and mortuary and funeral. As a central source of information, the ERSH-DB allows diverse segments of the emergency response community to share a wealth of information that is not readily accessible and to avoid duplication of effort.

Each card in this database includes some or all of the following sections. Please take a moment to read their descriptions:

Section Description
Acute Exposure Guidelines (AEGLs) Acute Exposure Guidelines (AEGLs) are sets of recently-developed short-term exposure limits for acutely toxic chemicals. Final AEGL values, which have undergone peer review and are published by the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences, are presented when possible. Interim AEGL values, which are available for use by organizations while awaiting peer review and publication, are presented when necessary and are clearly noted as such.
Additional Sampling and Analysis Information References to additional information on methods for sampling and analysis are presented in this field. These references are provided for the convenience of the reader and do not imply endorsement by NIOSH.
Agent Category One of nine (9) general categories into which an agent best fits, based on its chemical properties and health effects.
Agent Characteristics This section contains a description of the agent’s appearance (e.g., color, odor, etc.); a brief overview of the agent’s properties, health effects, history, and uses; the methods by which the agent could be disseminated; and the routes by which humans could be exposed to the agent.
Agent Name The most generally-used name of the agent is selected for this field.
Agent Properties This section provides information on the physical and chemical properties of the agent (e.g., boiling point, solubility, etc.).
CAS # This section provides the Chemical Abstracts Service Registry (CAS) Number(s) for the agent.
Common Names One or more common names and/or abbreviations for the agent are presented in this field. The entries in this field are the most frequently used for the agent in the references consulted. Additional names for the agent are presented in the Trade Names and Other Synonyms field.
Decontamination (Environment/Equipment) Methods and procedures for spillage disposal, environmental decontamination, and decontamination of equipment are presented in this section. Many of the procedures in this section are not agent-specific, as most published recommendations on environmental and equipment decontamination are general in nature.
Decontamination (Human) This section describes procedures for decontaminating patients/victims and emergency responders who have been exposed to the agent. Many of the procedures in this section are not agent-specific, as most published recommendations on human decontamination are general in nature.
Emergency Response This section presents information on chemical and physical dangers, firefighting information, DOT initial isolation and protective action distances, explosion hazards, sampling and analysis methods, and the NFPA Standard 704 "diamond" symbol.
First Aid This section provides basic information on initial medical treatment that would be performed prior to transport to an emergency department or hospital for patients/victims exposed to the agent. Treatment recommendations are organized by route of exposure. Information on the antidote(s), if any, for the agent is also included in this section.
Important Notice This field contains the following text: "The user should verify compliance of the cards with the relevant STATE or TERRITORY legislation before use. NIOSH, CDC 2004."
Long-Term Implications The first field in this section provides a brief overview of the medical care an exposed patient/victim might receive after leaving the scene of exposure (e.g., at a medical treatment facility). Some of this medical care might be performed relatively soon after exposure; other monitoring or procedures might be carried out within days or weeks of exposure. The second field contains a summary of long-term health effects that could result from a single (acute) exposure to the agent. The third field contains information on health effects related to long-term or repeated (chronic) exposure to the agent.
Not established/determined This term is entered in an ERSH-DB data field when the information for that field does not exist, according to the references consulted for the agent, or when the field content is not applicable to the agent. This term is also used when the information relevant to a given data field has not been identified for the agent.
Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) This section lists available values set by federal agencies and other relevant organizations or institutions as recommended limits on exposure to the agent in the workplace. Acronyms used in this section may be found in the ERSH-DB Glossary.
On-Site Fatalities This section provides information on procedures relating to the examination and transportation of fatalities that may occur following exposure to the agent. Many of the procedures are not agent-specific, as published recommendations for dealing with fatalities are general in nature.
Packaging and Labeling This section provides the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)requirements for packaging and labeling of the agent.
Personal Protective Equipment This section describes the clothing, eye protection, gloves, and respirator recommendations for responding to an incident involving the agent.
RTECS # This section provides the Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) Number(s) of the agent.
Signs/Symptoms This section describes the agent’s effects on exposed persons, and is organized by route of exposure. When possible, data are further broken down within route of exposure into symptoms associated with mild to moderate exposure and symptoms associated with severe exposure. The section also includes the typical period of time from exposure to symptom onset and the subsequent time course of symptom progression.
Trade Names and Other Synonyms This section provides a comprehensive list of chemical synonyms, trade names, and other names for the agent.
UN #: This section provides the United Nations (UN) number(s) for the agent; these numbers are used world-wide to identify hazardous chemicals or classes of hazardous materials.
Who to Contact in an Emergency This section provides the URL of a list of CDC resources that could be consulted for additional information useful in responding to an incident involving the agent, as well as relevant telephone numbers.