Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

8.1 Devices

8.1.1 Handheld Communication Devices

In several of the case studies, a compact handheld communication device was expressed as being potentially useful in the field. It could eliminate the radio and be small enough to allow for both voice and text messaging. It could also be used to communicate to forward command, to others in the field, or up to the command center.

With the use of a handheld device, there is the possibility of introducing Internet access in the field. Internet access allows public information officers the ability to post information, answer media questions, and communicate to the public in a real-time mode. It allows information to flow from the field to the general public in a very short period of time and could allow for the general public to react quickly to a possible evacuation order. Internet access provides an additional means of communication to the general public regarding an incident.

8.1.2 Portable Message Signs

Portable message signs were used in a few of the case studies to communicate information to the general public regarding roadway conditions. Portable message signs can prove to be invaluable when local entity resources are required to provide a soft closure of a roadway or provide information to the general public on possible incident areas.

The Utah Department of Transportation found in a public opinion poll that 70 percent of the public would change their travel plans if they have information on possible incidents. A portable message sign allows for people in the field to quickly communicate information to the public regarding roadways and incidents and allows people to alter their plans before entering the incident zone. Portable message signs allow people to make informed choices while traveling, possibly leading to reduced congestion at an incident zone.

February 6, 2006
Publication #FHWA-HOP-08-014