Throw Back to Basics: Hazmat Placards

Hazmat placard

By Brian Zaitz

Drive up and down the road and you are almost certain to pass a vehicle with a placard or drive by a building with a placard. These identifying markers are key for us as first responders to appropriately react and mitigate hazmat incident.    

The NFPA 704 placard is a four-color placard used to identify a hazard using a 1-4 scale to identify the health risks noted in the blue; flammability noted in red; reactivity noted in yellow; and white to make denote such as no water or other special hazards. The key is to both identify the risk as well as preplan the facility.

The DOT placard is commonly found on shipments traveling across the country everyday. The DOT categorizes hazardous materials into nine hazard classes (Explosives, Gases, Flammable Liquids, Flammable Solids, Oxidizers, Poisons, Radioactive Materials, Corrosives and other Miscellaneous). These classifications are noted with a number 1-9. In addition, the placard is colored and a symbol placed to assist in the hazard identification of the hazard.

It is important to review and familiarize with the placard system; knowing the nine hazard classes and how to respond will both improve our firefighters‘ overall scene safety and efficiency for mitigation. 

Download this training bulletin as a PDF HERE (113 KB)

Brian ZaitzBrian Zaitz is a 14-year student of the fire service, currently assigned as the captain/training officer with the Metro West (MO) Fire Protection District. Brian is an instructor with Engine House Training, LLC as well as instructor at the St. Louis County Fire Academy.  Brian holds several degrees, including an associates in paramedic technology, a bachelors in fire science management, and a masters in human resource development. Brian is currently and accredited chief training officer and student of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.


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