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1 S u m m a r y This Handbook was developed through Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Project A-37, âParatransit Emergency Preparedness and Operations Handbook.â Its purpose is to provide paratransit service providers with guidance, strategies, tools, and resources to plan and prepare for, respond to, and recover from a range of emergencies. The guidance offered in this Handbook has applicability to urban, suburban, rural, and tribal paratransit operating environments. Guidance is not only directed to in-house para- transit operations, but also to paratransit services operated under contract. It has relevance for Americans with Disabilities (ADA) paratransit and general public demand-response operations. The guidance, strategies, and tools in this Handbook are based on an all-hazards approach that has applicability to a wide range of notice and no-notice emergency events including accidents and incidents, acts of nature, hazardous material release, technological emergencies, criminal activity, and terrorism. A significant focus of this Handbook is providing information that will assist paratransit providers in planning to meet the needs of their customers during local emergencies. The Handbook also addresses (1) the role paratransit could play in responding to community emergencies and (2) the coordination with emergency management, first responders, and other key stakeholders that is required to carry out that role successfully. Provided at the end of the Preparedness, Prevention, Response, and Recovery chapters are strategies, tools and links to resources specific to each topic. These are included to aid transit agencies in implementing the guidance within this Handbook. The appendix contains a glossary and the acronyms used throughout the Handbook. Following is a summary of the six chapters of this Handbook. Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 1 of this Handbook defines paratransit and its mission in emergency preparedness and response, presents the background for TCRP Project A-37, and describes how to use the Handbook. Chapter 2: Capabilities Assessment Checklist Chapter 2 contains a Capabilities Assessment Checklist to assist paratransit agencies in evaluating strengths and weaknesses in their emergency preparedness planning and operations. Paratransit Emergency Preparedness and Operations Handbook
2 Paratransit Emergency Preparedness and Operations Handbook Chapter 3: Preparedness The Preparedness chapter provides general guidance on planning, training, and exercising as it pertains to paratransit providers. Key recommendations include the following. Planning âªâª An inventory of vehicles and other critical assets should be used to assess paratransit emergency response capabilities available to serve existing customers during local emergencies. This assessment should be updated periodically to ensure it adequately reflects the current state of paratransit resource capabilities. This assessment should also be shared with local emergency management and other essential partner agencies for planning paratransitâs role in community- wide emergencies. âªâª Plans should be developed for providing essential services to existing paratransit customers during local emergencies. âªâª Paratransit providers and emergency managers should develop collaborative strategies for the use of paratransit resources when responding to regional emergencies and establish systems for command and control. âªâª Paratransit providers need to become involved with local emergency planning efforts including participating at Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and/or Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) committee meetings. âªâª Paratransit needs to develop backup capabilities for communication systems, computer-based dispatching systems, critical power supply, and fuel resources. âªâª Planning needs to include a system to prioritize paratransit service requests during emergencies to avoid over-committing paratransit resources. âªâª In addition to safety and security plans, it is important for paratransit to also have emergency response procedures and protocols for paratransit managers and frontline staff to follow during emergency events. âªâª Agencies that contract for paratransit services should ensure that contract language defines the expectations for contracted resources utilized in disaster exercises and response activities. âªâª Paratransit needs to develop plans to support staffing demands for expanded internal emergency operations. â Paratransit agencies should identify essential personnel who are required to report to work during emergencies. â Polling the workforce to determine who will actually report to work during disasters helps to establish more realistic planning assumptions. â Deployment plans need to consider hours-of-service rules that apply to commercial driverâs license (CDL) drivers. â If non-agency drivers are used to augment paratransit staff or if external stakeholders commandeer vehicles, paratransit agencies may need to provide training to those drivers on vehicle and lift equipment operation and passenger assistance techniques. Training âªâª Providing information and training on personal and family emergency preparedness increases the likelihood that paratransit staff will report to work during an emergency. âªâª Paratransit personnel should receive specific training on their expected roles and responsibilities when responding to emergencies and disasters. âªâª Paratransit staff should become certified in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) to the level that is appropriate to his or her position in the organization and his or her anticipated role in emergency response.
Summary 3 Exercises âªâª Paratransit agencies are encouraged to participate in emergency response drills and exercises. â Discussion-based exercises help validate policies, procedures, and communications strategies and ensure that emergency procedures will actually work. â Functional exercises simulate emergency events to test and improve the performance of essential paratransit emergency response skills. â Full-scale exercises simulate emergency events involving multiple responding agencies and disciplines operating together on location as they would during a real disaster. âªâª Paratransit should work with emergency management to identify exercise opportunities for paratransit personnel and to ensure that people with access and functional needs are invited to participate in emergency drills and exercises. Chapter 4: Prevention The Prevention chapter provides general guidance on risk assessment, liability management, and education/outreach as it pertains to paratransit providers. Key recommendations include the following. Risk Assessment âªâª Paratransit agencies need to periodically assess vulnerability to safety hazards and security threats in order to reduce risk and minimize impacts of emergency events. âªâª Results from the threat and vulnerability assessment should be: â Used as impetus to improve internal policies, procedures, and work practices; â Used to justify structural or engineering upgrades to facilities and equipment in order to prevent or reduce damage from anticipated hazards and threats; and â Shared with local public safety agencies and emergency management to foster interagency coordination and to improve overall situational awareness. Liability Management âªâª Paratransit providers need to research and resolve any concerns about liability and limits to insurance coverage for paratransit resources that may be used during emergency exercises and emergency response, whether they be localizedâinvolving only paratransitâor community- wideâinvolving emergency management and paratransit. âªâª Paratransit providers should develop Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) or other inter- agency agreements with emergency management and other key stakeholders defining para- transitâs roles and responsibilities during a community-wide emergency response, including communications strategies, mission-tasking procedures, and reimbursement arrangements. Education/Outreach âªâª Paratransit agencies can help their customers by educating them on personal emergency preparedness. Personal preparedness for paratransit customers should include planning for personal effects, medications, mobility devices, oxygen bottles, and other equipment necessary to maintain safety and independence when away from home for an extended period or when sheltering in place at home. Sheltering in place also entails stockpiling food and water and possible planning for alternative power sources. âªâª Paratransit agencies should communicate with their customers to establish realistic expectations regarding paratransit service delivery during emergencies.
4 Paratransit Emergency Preparedness and Operations Handbook Chapter 5: Response The Response chapter provides general guidance on communication, coordination, and oper- ations as it pertains to paratransit providers. Key recommendations include the following. Communication âªâª Paratransit should identify strategies to enhance interoperability, allowing paratransit, public transit, school bus transportation, public safety agencies, and emergency management to communicate during community-wide emergency response. âªâª Paratransit agencies need to develop strategies and methods for communicating service con- tinuity and other service-related information with customers and partner agencies before, during and after emergencies. Coordination âªâª Paratransit and emergency management need to determine how paratransit will communi- cate and coordinate with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) during community-wide emergency response. âªâª A transportation Departmental Emergency Operations Center (DOC) involving paratransit, public transit, school bus transportation, and other transportation resources may be the best solution for command and control of transportation resources during a response to transpor- tation emergencies and/or community-wide disasters. âªâª Paratransit should consider strategies to stage or pre-position resources in order to improve emergency response capabilities. âªâª Fueling and preparing vehicles at the end of each service day helps ensure that paratransit resources are optimally available to respond to any type of emergency. Operations âªâª During an emergency response, paratransit managers should establish thresholds for service suspension in the context of both risk and service capacity. âªâª When emergency conditions warrant service suspension, paratransit managers should plan for how they will address the needs of customers who are âin systemâ when an emergency occurs. In a major disaster, this may require coordinating with emergency management to meet the needs of these customers. âªâª It is important for paratransit to address emergency dispatching concerns including backup power sources, manual dispatching capabilities, and, if necessary, carrying out the dispatching function from an alternative facility or mobile command center. âªâª Paratransit agencies are an important resource in helping to identify people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs who may need assistance during emergency evacuations. âªâª Paratransit should coordinate with emergency management and medical transportation pro- viders before and during emergencies to ensure that paratransit is not asked to transport people whose physical and psychological needs exceed the training and capabilities of paratransit staff. âªâª Paratransit managers should maintain call-down lists to mobilize essential personnel in case of an emergency. âªâª Paratransit agencies should have realistic policies and procedures for transporting pets during an emergency response and should coordinate with essential stakeholders to address the shelter needs of pets that are relocated by paratransit.
Summary 5 Chapter 6: Recovery The Recovery chapter provides general guidance on reconstitution, reentry, post-disaster service assessment, and restitution as it pertains to paratransit providers. Key recommendations include the following. Reconstitution âªâª Following a service disruption, paratransit agencies need to focus initially on sustaining or reconstituting essential life-supporting transportation services for their customers. âªâª Reconstituting and restoring full paratransit service after an emergency may occur in phases. âªâª Reconstitution of service demands proactive communication with customers and partner agencies regarding available paratransit services and service restoration plans. Reentry âªâª Paratransit should work with emergency management to ensure that people being returned to their residences have the necessary resources and support required to safely return home following emergencies and resume living independently. This issue is of particular concern for people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. Post-Disaster Service Assessment âªâª Following a major disaster, population demographics may shift dramatically. A post-disaster service assessment may be needed to adjust to changing service needs and to accommodate increased paratransit demand. This may involve finding ways to expedite eligibility assessments or temporarily waiving paratransit eligibility requirements. Restitution âªâª Preparing paratransit employees to resume their normal work duties may require post-crisis counseling for staff that may have experienced trauma during an emergency or disaster. âªâª Paratransit should have a method to document emergency transportation-related costs, as well as any damage to paratransit resources as a result of an emergency or disaster. In many cases, these costs may be reimbursable by insurance or state or federal disaster aid.