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Doug Wyllie

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App Review: Placards Plus and Cargo Decoder

Android and Apple options tell first responders which hazardous substance may be at an accident scene.

September 28, 2011  |  by Tim Meacham

Placards Plus.
Placards Plus.
This "two-fer" review will look at smartphone apps that could provide an alternative to the Emergency Response Guide (ERG). Yes, the ERG is that yellow book in our police vehicles that hardly gets used. While we may want to pass it on to the firefighters, sometimes we arrive at a scene first. Isn't it nice to know what potentially toxic substance you'll be dealing with?

Let's start with Placards Plus. This app is simple in design. Just type in the number you see on a placard and the app pulls the page from the ERG to show you what you're dealing with. Don't have a placard number? No worries, type in the name of the substance.

You can also type in the guide number. I know most of us don't know a guide number off the top of our heads, but if you get this information from the fire department while responding to the scene, you just type it in and pull the information.

You may also save a particular page from the ERG to a section of the app named, "My Placards." This will allow you to quickly recall the information if you navigate away from the app. All-in-all, it's a very easy to use app. The developer has maintained this app, so the information you get is relevant and useful.

Field App Review         Ratings (of 5)
Name Platform Developer Price   Usefulness Ease Support Value Overall
Placards Plus
Apple Sheridan Programmers
$1.99   4 5 4 5 4.5


Cargo Decoder.
Cargo Decoder.
Next is Cargo Decoder. This app allows you to scroll through numbers of a placard. The nice thing about this app is if you come across a damaged placard, as you scroll the numbers, the app will offer suggestions as to what chemical you may have. Once you put your numbers in, just tap the chemical and the app pulls the correct page from the ERG.

The developer has included pictures of different placards and different types of carrier vehicles, which can be helpful in identifying what you're seeing. There's also a search function so you can type or provide voice data to search the ERG. This developer has also kept the app updated to provide appropriate information.

I reviewed these similar apps together so you can choose one. I like both, and, as a result, I have both. The apps can be complementary, because each has its own strengths. For $3, I can search the ERG in any manner I wish. If you have only $1.99 to spend on an app that provides ERG data, either one provides an excellent option.

Field App Review         Ratings (of 5)
Name Platform Developer Price   Usefulness Ease Support Value Overall
Cargo Decoder
Android Strategies In Software
$0.99   4 5 4 5 4.5


Tim Meacham is a police officer for a private university in central Virginia. He has a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from Liberty University and a master's in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati.

Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Craig Bollinger @ 9/29/2011 11:07 PM

Correction on the price; now comes up for a Smart phone as $7.99.

704Cormier @ 9/29/2011 11:37 PM

Why pay for this when the NIH.GOV already offers this for free and for multiple smartphones and a desktop version.


"the Orange Book" used during initial phase of a Dangerous Goods / Hazardous Materials Incident

This is an App FROM the NIH - National Institute of Health a Governmental Entity.

WISER is available for download as a standalone application on Microsoft Windows PCs, Apple iPhone and iPod Touch, Google Android devices, Windows Mobile devices, BlackBerry devices, Palm OS PDAs, and via WebWISER.



WISER provides a wide range of information on hazardous substances, including substance identification support, physical characteristics, human health information, and containment and suppression advice.

Robert @ 11/18/2012 5:46 PM

You can get Cargo Decoder for free from the Google Play Store on most Android devices. I have used it with the fire company. It works great, and is a lot quicker than thumbing through the book.

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