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GUIDE FOR EMERGENCY TRANSPORTATION OPERATIONS DRIVING FORCES The imperative for a more formal approach to dealing with the traffic implications of incidents, emergencies, and disasters arises out of a set of driving forces that character- ize the external environment for state DOTs and their public safety partners, as well as the legacy institutional environments in which they operate. Seven key forces can be perceived. 1. Highway incidents and traffic- related emergencies are a major According to the 2003 urban mobility studies by cause of delay and safety prob- the Texas Transportation Institute, congestion- lems. Nonrecurring congestion (traf- related delay in the 75 largest metropolitan areas fic incidents, weather, construction) is estimated to cost more than $72 billion per year is responsible for about one-half of in time and fuel costs. The potential of improved total daily metropolitan highway TIM is significant. Even today's modest level of delay. While there are many minor incident management covering one-half of the incidents on local arterials, the broad-surveyed freeway mileage is reducing delay by an est range of serious incidents takes average of 5% ($3.6 billion). Secondary crashes in place on the upper-level roadway incidents are also a major concern, estimated in systems--typically under state DOT many larger urban areas to constitute 10 to 25% of jurisdiction. Traffic incidents alone total fatalities. (crashes, breakdowns, debris, haz- ardous materials [HAZMAT]) are a major component of nonrecurring congestion, responsible for much of the total delay and a high proportion of roadway unreliability. Some types of incidents are becoming more frequent due to denser traffic and more extended urbanization. As major back-ups become more widespread, surveys suggest that this unpredictable delay is of special concern to travelers and shippers as the uncertainty requires an allowance of "buffer time" to ensure timely arrival. At the same time, these events introduce a range of hazards including safety, security, and property damage. Additionally, according to some studies, secondary crashes caused by incident queues account for 10 to 25% of all Inter- state highway fatalities. Incident responders also experience major risk en-route to and at the scene. There is also a wide range of natural disasters and major weather events (such as hurri- canes, floods, and earthquakes) that introduces safety risks and traffic disruptions, requiring extraordinary emergency operations for emergency access and speedy recov- ery. Terrorist threats add to this urgency and introduce the need to anticipate weapons of mass destruction (WMD) hazards. Even when not damaged, highways are always part of the response and recovery activities. As suggested in Figure 1, while the most severe incidents are less frequent, the severity of impacts is often greater, involving a larger number of agencies with attendant coordination and communication problems. 8
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GUIDE FOR EMERGENCY TRANSPORTATION OPERATIONS Figure 1. The Complexity of ETO 2. The broad and growing array of hazards that involve highways directly or indirectly has varying implications for response. ETO implications vary significantly depending on the nature of the emergency event. Table 1 provides a high-level summary of five major categories of ETO events, arranged from the most to least predictable. Some of the key transportation-related characteris- tics associated with each category are indicated. Each characteristic implies a demand placed on ETO activities. As suggested in the table, some of the less frequent but more severe traffic-related emergencies have features and dynamics that do not lend them- selves to traditional, real-time, reactive improvisation. These features include larger geo- graphic scales, the rapid pace of incident development, and the range of life safety risks to those directly involved or to responders. 9
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GUIDE FOR EMERGENCY TRANSPORTATION OPERATIONS Table 1. ETO Events Unique Requirements and Practices Transportation-related Emergency ETO Event ETO Scope Implications Characteristics · Disruption is planned and impacts are · Repetition permits agencies to learn from experience 1. Planned Activities predictable · Provision of early warnings - Special event · Location-specific traffic control procedures - Work zone - Amber alert · Crowd and rumor control may be necessary · Manage information to minimize panic - Crime control · Provide enhanced law enforcement presence - Civil disturbance · Directions to drivers may be important · Pre-specify message strategies · Law enforcement actions are underway · Coordinate enforcement traffic control procedures · Traffic backups, delays, and accident · Reduced detection and response time is critical exposure take place quickly · Establish quick clearance policies among agencies · Improve public safety/DOT communications 2. Traffic Incidents - Break-down · Medical treatment can cause delays · Install advanced medical communications - Crash · Cargo spills, HAZMAT disruptions are · Formalize on-call special equipment and expertise (major/minor) possible - HAZMAT release · Large combination of vehicles may be · Formalize on-call special towing rigs involved · Major injury and fatality investigation may · Implement advanced accident investigation be needed procedures · Occurrence may be predictable, but · Standard call out criteria and routines 3. Weather-related conditions are variable and can develop · Advance decisions for evacuation pre-notification - Fog rapidly · Advanced warning messages for drivers - Snow and ice · Micro-level road weather information systems-based - Wildland fire treatment plans - Utility failure · Off-road situations require emergency · Pre-planned routines for priority access - Rock/mud/ access avalanche · Damaged infrastructure can be a continuing · On-call technical expertise and assessment needed risk · Time lags before damage extent is known · Evacuation plans must include destinations · Units at scene may have difficulty · Interoperable interagency communications determining location 4. Natural Disaster · Operating conditions may be unclear to · Coordinated real-time driver information essential - Earthquake drivers - Hurricane · Scale of disaster may be regional · Inter-jurisdictional preplanning and coordination are - Tornado crucial - Flood · Emergency can occur in remote locations · Development of wireless data and voice communications is essential · Critical assets may be attacked · Asset countermeasures may be needed · Nature, location, and timing are not · Quick reaction and pre-planned protocols are predictable essential · WMD may involve significant hazard risks · HAZMAT expertise, protective measures needed 5. Terrorism/ · Response to a terrorism event is federal · Standard security procedures required WMD · Classified information is part of threat · Clearance protocols needed warning · Public panic, although rare, may take place · Pre-specified message sets needed · Possible multiple incidents · Response capabilities may be overwhelmed 10
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GUIDE FOR EMERGENCY TRANSPORTATION OPERATIONS 3. State DOTs and local government transportation departments are not clearly focused on accountability for ETO. Responsibilities for ETO are currently divided among state and local jurisdictions, and while state DOTs typically own most of the upper-level roadway network, there are wide variations including some states with sig- nificant local government ownership of highways. Within state DOTs and their local counterparts, the responsibilities are often fragmented and fuzzy. Many DOTs--state and local--do not have formal incident management programs at the statewide level, nor are there clear responsibilities for the operational performance of the highways in the face of the full array of incidents or emergencies. Often there is an arms-length rela- tionship with public safety agencies with on-the-road emergency response responsibil- ities. This minimizes opportunities to consider common issues, response needs, and resources/requirements across the full range of emergencies. This fragmentation and absence of clear accountability can result in a lack of meaningful DOT involvement in the management of traffic emergencies. These challenges are heightened by tight bud- gets for operations within state DOTs and the same competition for scarce resources in the public safety community. 4. There is no clear "best practice" that is widely accepted. While the phases and steps in TIM are widely understood (as shown in Figure 2), protocols and proce- dures employed locally for ETO vary widely nationwide. Unreconciled priorities of transportation and public safety agencies regarding life safety, security, property pro- tection, and traffic disruption result in unnecessary risks and needless delays. Within TIM, there are no clear industry standards, thus limiting planning or training for multi- agency management of transportation emergencies. The gap between typical and the emerging best practice shown in Figure 3 highlights the substantial difference in timely performance between typical duration and best practice. Very few agencies that respond to traffic incidents set any kind of performance goals for clearance times or similar performance-based metrics. However, national standards can be considered for various aspects of ETO including incident response and TMCs. Figure 2. TIM Steps 11
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GUIDE FOR EMERGENCY TRANSPORTATION OPERATIONS Figure 3. Traffic Incident Characteristics DHS now is requiring that federal agencies make NIMS compliance a con- dition for federal pre- paredness assistance-- fostering adoption of an all-discipline, all-hazards approach and a multi- agency response for emer- gencies and command systems. The consistent adoption of NIMS as a framework for all-hazard-related incident management framework establishes a powerful incentive to consider the approaches developed within this guidance. 5. New technology is available that could support improved ETO. ETO can ben- efit from a range of technology support including advanced detection, surveillance, com- munication, and personnel protection systems. It is acknowledged that today's emergency communications are lacking interoperable flexibility. The inefficiency in communica- tions is a major source of delay in rapid response and quick resolution of incidents and emergencies. In addition, some technical resources--such as advanced surveillance sys- tems possessed by state DOTs--are not well known to the public safety community. Per- sonal protective equipment is not systematically available for transportation employees who work on or around critical facilities. Overall, these and other resources are poten- tial opportunities to improve existing traffic incident and operations effectiveness. 6. There is limited institutional commitment to traffic incident and related emergency operations as part of ETO. State DOTs have evolved out of a public works culture and traditionally have shown a modest interest in systems operations. For the most part, existing highway-related ETO are part-time, ancillary activities of units with other primary responsibilities, such as intelligent transportation systems (ITS), traf- fic operations, or maintenance. Related activities are fragmented and unbudgeted with unclear reporting accountability. Interagency relationships are informal and not part of consistent public policy. The appropriate roles of the state DOT in incident management are reasonably understood but are not consistently practiced across all incidents, loca- tions, and times. Furthermore, the key DOT contributions in detection, surveillance, and traffic management are not consistently integrated into the incident command protocols to have their full potential effect in reducing response and clearance times. The NIMS is now focusing on a more integrated approach with joint preparedness activities includ- ing planning, training, standard procedures, channels for communication and informa- tion sharing, the use of incident command, standard technology, and mechanisms for resource management. Figure 4 indicates the consistency of these strategies with the NIMS in a highway context. 12
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GUIDE FOR EMERGENCY TRANSPORTATION OPERATIONS Figure 4. Activities in the Preparation, Response, and Recovery Phases 7. Significant highway performance improvement opportunities are being missed. The performance of incident management or emergency response is rarely evaluated. Despite the fact that delay in clearance amplifies the time for upstream flow to return to normal, clearance times are rarely measured or reported. Serious analysis of the practical problems faced in the field and potential improvement strategies are only just beginning. In addition, there is no accepted state of the practice by which to judge the quality of public agency performance related to the management of roadway emer- gencies of all types. Collectively, these seven challenges represent significant implications for the scope of the ETO issues and the proposed solutions. 13