National Academies Press: OpenBook
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Suggested Citation:"INTRODUCTION." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Resilience Primer for Transportation Executives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26195.
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6 Resilience Primer for Transportation Executives Foster Preparedness and Resilience Conduct system and stress tests to ensure system resilience for system overloads and/or breakdowns. A resilient organization can anticipate problems and take corrective action before a potential disruption becomes disastrous. Make sure that your agency has or develops an emergency response plan and system evacuation plans to ensure the resilience of your system infrastructure. All-hazards pre- paredness is essential, but hazard-specific plans are necessary to the continuity of operations and safety, since hazards present different types of impacts to the agency. All events have an impact on the community. Most events affect infrastructure by creating physical damage. Others, such as pandemics, significantly affect the workforce, travelers, and society. Take advantage of crisis incidents to ensure resilience activities in lessons learned and corrective action plans following minor and major events. Take advantage of nonemergency planned events (e.g., large concerts or sporting events) to practice collaborating between agencies and implementing techniques and strategies to move large numbers of people efficiently. Ensure that your agency understands its interconnections with other agencies and that all are working to strengthen weak links and develop work-arounds. Consider physical and functional system interdependencies. For example, highways are often co-located with commu- nications, power, and water and sewer utilities; failure of one could damage all. Traffic systems and rail systems rely on power and communications for safe operations. Identify agency services, assets, or infrastructure that can be leveraged to assist with response and community recovery. For example, some sites of the Maryland DOT Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) were used as drive-through COVID-19 testing sites during the pandemic. Have your team brainstorm and tabletop with a broad range of stakeholders who are willing to discuss tough questions. Recognize that even small changes matter. Working toward resilience will pay off in the long run. Whatever your starting point, fostering incremental practices and procedures that build resilience and encourage preparedness will have positive impacts over time and be beneficial in the process. For example, actively maintaining a continuity of operations (COOP) plan helps team members think about the unthinkable and the need for flexibility and continuity. A focus on resilience can encourage airing problems and empowering individuals to raise an alarm when necessary. It invites adaptive thinking and improvising solutions that permit quick action in a crisis. A culture of resilience grows out of making resilience part of everyone’s job, until it is functionally second nature, just as safety has become embedded in transportation culture. Key Questions to Ask Asking questions from a resilience lens perspective helps maintain a focus on resilience: 1. Will this decision or action increase agency ability to withstand hazards (short term and long term, recurrent and rare)? 2. Will this action strengthen agency ability to quickly return to service after a disruption? 3. Will this action help the agency adapt more quickly to hazards? The following questions can assist you in developing your vision and strategies through a resilience lens. Resilience • What agency issues trouble you most? How could resilience help you with these issues? • What does resilience mean for your agency? It’s hard to make resilience a high priority until you have experienced some of the issues that would be helped by having more resilient infrastructure.

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CEOs of departments of transportation (DOTs) face many challenges, including some that will have serious impacts on people's mobility and safety, and possibly on the tenure of CEOs. Many of these challenges revolve around the resilience of the transportation system—how well it can withstand disruptions from natural causes, catastrophic failures of the infrastructure or cyber events, and how quickly the agency can restore services when they are impacted.

The TRB National Cooperative Highway Research Program's pre-publication draft of NCHRP Research Report 976: Resilience Primer for Transportation Executives provides a quick grounding in resilience benefits, the CEO’s role in resilience, and approaches taken in various states to increase the resilience of their transportation system. It also offers concepts and tools to lead agencies toward greater resilience.

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