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GUIDE FOR EMERGENCY TRANSPORTATION OPERATIONS regarding planned or anticipated highway "events" such as significant snow and ice, spe- cial events, and construction disruption where there is a clear public expectation of agency accountability. Emergency response, especially in areas subject to repeated major weather threats (hurricanes, flooding) or perceived as being vulnerable to terrorist threats, is gradually being formalized as a department-level concern. The role of DOTs in unanticipated problems varies substantially by state and region. In the case of TIM, key responsibilities are at the district level with the responsibilities divided among maintenance, traffic operations units, TMC management, and ITS proj- ect staff. To some degree, most state DOTs support the TIM and emergency operations activities of public safety agencies and EMAs. However, the extent and effectiveness of this involvement vary widely as do roles in detection, response, traffic control, and sys- tem restoration. Detection support is most typically provide via freeway service patrols of traffic operations staff who discover traffic incidents as part of their patrol activities or by monitoring of cameras. DOT responders are an important source of the mobilization process by virtue of direct face-to-face communications with responders and by their link to CAD and TMCs. DOT field presence at incidents is often a reflection of requests by public safety agencies in response to the need for major traffic control, as well as debris removal and facility repair, unless the DOT has a proactive TIM and motorist assist program. Operational levels vary by time of day without a clear relationship to severity of incidents or the dis- ruption they cause. Emergency operations plans, as part of formal emergency management programs, are handled as a function that supports the state or regional EMA. Formal state DOT plan- ning is largely limited to identification of contacts and chain of command, with actual response procedures left to ad hoc responses at the discretion of responsible units. Ice and snow removal as a form of incident management is a major exception to this reac- tive approach. It is apparent that, as suggested in Table 23, there is substantial overlap in objectives between transportation and public safety entities. Even among objectives where priorities mostly diverge, there appears to be considerable room for "simultaneous optimization." INSTITUTIONS--STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES Excerpts from the FHWA "Traffic Incident Management Self-Assessment National Report" indicate that the majority of regions surveyed are making progress at the level of regional program administration but that the programs are largely informal and unevaluated. 54
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GUIDE FOR EMERGENCY TRANSPORTATION OPERATIONS Table 23. Example Institutional Strengths and Weaknesses from the FHWA TIM Self-Assessment Percent with "Strong Efforts or Better" Strengths Use TMC(s) to coordinate incident notification and response? 43 Developed technical infrastructure for surveillance and rapid detection of 30 traffic incidents? Weaknesses Have two-way interagency voice communications for direct on-site 19 communications? Provide data and video information transfer, e.g., TMC-CAD integration? 11 Have specific policies and procedures for traffic management during incident 21 response? Have a real-time motorist information system providing incident-specific 24 information? Institutional Strengths As indicated in the FHWA "Traffic Incident Management Self-Assessment National Report," institutionalization of ETO is in its early stages. DOTs are forging better work- ing relationships among DOT and public safety personnel, but there is a long way to go in the establishment of formal programs within and among agencies. The emergency operations responsibilities of state DOTs have been given heightened visibility, especially since September 11, 2001; the 2003 blackout; and the natural dis- asters of the last decade. Most state DOTs have a responsible senior staff person at head- quarters and general communications and mobilization protocols for major emergencies. In addition, many states have developed more formal procedures for security-related procedural responses to elevated threat levels. Institutional Weaknesses The objectives, priorities, and management style exhibited by the key stakeholders (police, emergency medical services, fire and rescue, DOTs, and towing and recovery) are different, based in law, culture, and resources. The legal and regulatory environment also varies substantially by state. TIM is not treated as a formal, budgeted, managed program in most state DOTs. There is rarely a declared department policy on its responsibility or objectives regarding traffic incidents and little commitment to performance outcomes regarding management of inci- dents or other highway-related emergencies that disrupt traffic. Although congestion, traffic incidents, and emergencies are often cited in DOT policy, there is rarely a strate- gic plan with committed resources, clear lines of authority, or performance accountabil- ity. Rather, TIM is typically conducted as fragmented, part-time reactive activities under district management with responsibilities divided among maintenance, traffic operations units, TMC management, and ITS project staff. Key components (ITS, service patrols, communications) do not compete well for resources, and there is no clear professional cadre of related technical certification devoted to ETO. In contrast with this informal approach, the state DOT approach to snow and ice control suggests the potential of an organized institutionalized approach. 55
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GUIDE FOR EMERGENCY TRANSPORTATION OPERATIONS State DOT relationships with public safety agencies vary widely. The strongest relation- ships are in the field, where there is often a high degree of cooperation, informal commu- nication, and respect. However, formal inter-institutional relationships on an ongoing basis are the exception. DOTs are often perceived as public works agencies with a 9-to-5 com- mitment to operations rather than full-time partnership in systems management. Within the public safety community, traffic incidents and emergencies associated specif- ically with traffic often lack a separate program identity. In the case of fire service activi- ties, they also lack statewide consistency. Road-related incidents are often treated as a sub- variant of the general mission rather than as a separate activity with distinct procedures and resources. This is most characteristic of contexts in which incident command is under a fire service or law enforcement entity that is not dedicated to the highway setting. Nationwide, there are very few formal interagency agreements on policy, procedures, or performance tracking. Combined training and debriefing are almost non-existent. Lack- ing formal program status, ETO management, training, and funding resources are mod- est. In addition, programs are not subjected to continuous improvement. The institutional setting for ETO within the general emergency management institutional arena is quite different. ETO planning is typically set forth in a formal plan document with specifications for appropriate communications, contacts, and chain of command. Actual response procedures for system restoration often are left to ad hoc responses in the field. Despite the obvious overlap in responsibilities, personnel, infrastructure, and equipment appropriate to ETO, there is only a modest attempt to exploit common needs and resources or to develop common protocols covering traffic and other emergencies both among state DOTs and between DOTs and their public safety counterparts. 56