Advanced Traveler Information Systems, ATIS, can play an important role in communicating essential information to the public during disasters. Variable message signs, 511 telephone systems, highway advisory radio, and websites are some of the dissemination devices of systems that collect, process, and disseminate information about travel conditions to the public for day-to-day transportation operations, and these same systems need to be effectively used during disaster situations. This document provides advice on use of ATIS during disasters and is intended not only for state and local transportation agencies but for their partners in public safety and emergency management agencies. It offers practical guidance to managers of transportation management centers and emergency operations centers and to public information officers who may be called on to staff joint information centers during disasters.
The document discusses what we know about human behavior in disaster situations based on findings from several decades of research. That perspective can help in maximizing the effectiveness of traveler information communications. The current use of traveler information in managing normal incidents and planned special events is examined as a starting point for gauging the processes and technologies that are in place today. Five case studies of actual disasters in Georgia, California, Nevada, Utah, and Washington State show the role that traveler information has played in current practice and provide lessons for others. A concept of operations is presented that characterizes the flow of information among the people, organizations, and technologies comprising traveler information dissemination during disasters.
To maximize the benefit of ATIS as a tool for communicating with the public during disasters, a local strategy should be developed. A toolkit for organizing and conducting a strategy workshop is provided in this document as a starting point. A workshop that encompasses all the key stakeholders can acquaint them with currently available ATIS assets, potential future enhancements, and each agency's role in ensuring that ATIS is an important tool for helping the public when disaster strikes.
The authors would like to acknowledge the many transportation, public safety, and emergency management personnel around the country who generously provided their time to the research upon which this document is based. The study would not have been possible without their help.