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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

4.2.4 Coordination Issues

This section addresses information found on coordination. It is further subdivided into contingency planning, cooperation, evacuation coordination, incident command system, mutual-aid and other agreements, training, and unified command.

Findings from the literature search include:
  • One can plan for contingencies but not for all events.
  • Cooperation has been cited as important during evacuations in terms of both personal and interagency cooperation.
  • Evacuation coordination is important since evacuations may cross state lines or into other jurisdictions. Coordination is needed with external entities, multiple groups, non-traditional emergency management personnel, and public transit. Coordination also includes having a unified voice providing information.
  • An incident command system is identified in the literature as an item that should be in place and used during an evacuation incident.
  • Mutual-aid and other agreements (such as formal procedures for coordination of multi-county evacuations) have been cited in the literature as important.
  • The need for training and training exercises is emphasized in the literature, along with the need to include public transit in the training exercises.
  • A unified command structure can be operated alongside an incident command system.
  • Specialty teams (tiger teams) have been deployed that can assist in an evacuation situation. Contingency Planning

One can plan for contingencies but not for all events. According to Southern California Firestorm 2003: Report for the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, during the southern California wildfires, “This center had conducted contingency planning for power requirements, phones, and computer networks so that when expanded dispatch was required, everything could be set up and ready to go in modular units. This planning was particularly valuable when the center was faced with the unexpected requirement that they themselves might have to evacuate because of fire. Terrorism and bomb threats had been considered, but not an entire center re-location. This center created a plan to select a new location and set up laptops over a virtual private network set up to run Multi-Agency Incident Resource Processing System (MIRPS). Portable radios were in short supply, and the center decided to rely on vehicle-mounted radios. Again, interagency cooperation was crucial to the plan’s success. A center manager declared, ‘We shared everything [between us], vehicles, radios, everything, no boundaries, and no agency lines.’ Ultimately, the dispatch center did not need to be relocated, but respondents said the experience taught them some valuable lessons for future contingency planning.” Cooperation

Cooperation has been cited as important during evacuations in terms of both personal and interagency cooperation.

Cooperation During the Olympics – For the Sydney Olympics, Evaluation of Intelligent Transportation Systems for the Planning and Operations of Olympic Events reported: “The Roads and Traffic Authority’s Transport Management Centre, was developed with an extensive institutional integration effort. The Roads and Traffic Authority is a statewide organization of New South Wales that was assigned responsibility for the development and management of the Transport Management Centre. The Roads and Traffic Authority developed a new regional facility as a replacement of a prior traffic control center for mainly the City of Sydney. The Roads and Traffic Authority conducted an extensive outreach effort to better define its functional services and integrate those within the other modes of transportation and the police and emergency services. These institutional integration efforts have resulted in a formalized, well-established, transportation management process that was readily available for the Sydney Olympics.”

Cooperation Needed for Identification of Critical Routes – In the San Francisco Bay Area, critical routes for evacuation and entry of personnel and supplies have been identified for earthquake planning. Cooperation is needed to identify these routes. According to Riding Out Future Quakes: Ideas for Action: Improving Planning of Transportation Providers, Government, Utilities and Businesses for Post-Earthquake Transportation Disruptions in the San Francisco Bay Region: “The need for emergency vehicle routes is clear and when selecting routes it is critical to coordinate with local law enforcement, the California Highway Patrol and Public Works. The routes must be survivable, bridges that have not been seismically retrofitted pose the greatest threat. A regional approach to designating such routes and standardizing the marking systems would be effective in speeding aid to the most impacted communities.”

Importance of Cooperation – During the blackout of the Great Lakes region, city departments cooperated during the incident. Effects of Catastrophic Events on Transportation System Management and Operations: August 2003 Northeast Blackout Great Lakes Region reported: “Cuyahoga County, of which Cleveland is a large part, maintains an emergency response center for use in times of crisis. A portable generator arrived about eight hours after the blackout started, which enabled facility staff to begin official operation. As a result, the major public agencies of the city of Cleveland—including the transportation agencies—worked together, in a collaborative and sometimes improvised way, to see the city through the hours of the blackout.”

In addition, during the Great Lakes region blackout, transit agency staff cooperated with other local agencies. According to Effects of Catastrophic Events on Transportation System Management and Operations, “In preparing for the Year 2000 (Y2K) and based on their experiences from September 11, transit managers had developed a plan for the rapid establishment of an integrated operations center in case of emergency. In addition to assisting at the agency’s emergency operations center, their Chief of Security participated in the municipal-level emergency response to the blackout, working with other local agency heads to coordinate and streamline all response activities.”

According to I-95 Shutdown: Coordinating Transportation and Emergency Response, coordination between state agencies proved successful for the management of Howard Street rail tunnel fire: “Sergeant Rick Vecera of the Maryland State Police attributes the successful management of the crash to the preparedness and cooperation of those who addressed the emergency and managed the related transportation issues. ‘Three factors contributed significantly to the operation's success,’ he says. ‘The Maryland State Highway Administration’s high-tech operation centers are fully equipped for efficient information management not just locally, but up and down the I-95 corridor. Post-9/11 training has accelerated and enhanced multi-jurisdictional cooperation and planning. In addition, emergency response staff and transportation managers in the area know one another personally through established professional networks and near-daily interactions during the profusion of planned and unplanned events in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.’”

In addition, I-95 Shutdown reported during the I-95 tanker explosion: “During the mid-1980s, the Maryland State Highway Administration mapped the Maryland interstate system, interchange by interchange, and identified alternative routes in case vehicles would have to be directed off the interstate. The Maryland State Highway vetted its draft plans with local police, fire, and maintenance crews—the people most familiar with the State's secondary road systems. In 1986, the Maryland State Highway and its partners approved the first Freeway Incident Traffic Management plan and distributed it throughout the State to the appropriate agencies. The Maryland State Highway updates the plan regularly to keep pace with changes in the State’s transportation network.”

Interagency cooperation was cited during fighting of the southern California wildfires. According to Southern California Firestorm 2003: Report for the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center: “The value of interagency cooperation paid off. ‘Everyone spoke the same language,’ [says the Battalion Chief]. Despite the normal difficulties associated with interagency cooperation, those interviewed overwhelmingly stated that cooperation between agencies was extremely strong and was a key factor in being able to deal with a series of crises of this magnitude.”

Interagency Cooperation – Interagency cooperation is helpful during an evacuation incident. The San Bernardino County Fire Chiefs’ Association: Lessons Learned Report: Fire Storm 2003: “Old Fire” stresses its importance: “For fourteen months prior to the ‘Old Fire,’ the San Bernardino County Fire Chiefs Association had conducted joint training and interagency cooperation with all Mountain Fire agencies—Crest Forest Fire District, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the US Forest Service, the San Bernardino County Fire Department, and the San Bernardino City Fire Department. This interagency cooperation proved to be a significant factor in managing the fire."

Personal Relationships – Personal relationships are cited as providing the relationships needed when entity cooperation is difficult to achieve. According to Saving City Lifelines: Lessons Learned In the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks: “The destruction of the [New York City] Office of Emergency Managements Emergency Operations Center and the scramble to set up alternative command posts delayed the centralized coordination that had been practiced, but the network built on personal relationships established in the drills survived.”

During the southern California wildfires of 2003, personal relationships were cited as useful. Southern California Firestorm 2003—Report for the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center reported: “Nearly universally, respondents reported the importance of trust, developed through established personal and professional relationships with peers and cooperators. During the initial chaos of these incidents and at the times when dispatch and incident command systems were overwhelmed, these relationships became the primary means by which things got done, until the system could be brought on-line. These networks, enabled by these relationships, were frequently the primary force behind successful operations. Respondents also reported that networks of personal relationships minimized unproductive conflict. In situations where conflict did occur—sometimes under incredibly stressful conditions—it was often resolved by leaders who sought out their counterparts for face-to-face meetings.”

Sharing of Equipment – Agencies cooperated during the New York City blackout of 2003. However, an issue that was raised was “the sharing of equipment. Interviewees stressed that more planning is needed in this area,” as reported in Effects of Catastrophic Events on Transportation System Management and Operations: August 2003 Northeast Blackout New York City.

February 7, 2006
Publication #FHWA–HOP-08-015