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

The need for training and training exercises is emphasized in the literature. For example, Modeling Transit Issues Unique to Hurricane Evacuations: North Carolina’s Small Urban and Rural Areas reported: “The need to evaluate multiple scenarios (for hurricanes) through simulated evacuation crises management environment cannot be over emphasized as it will provide initial training and knowledge base for the events that will unfold.”

Importance of Training Exercises – Emergency response training has been credited with saving lives. As reported in California Transportation Security Summits: March 28 and 29, 2002, “Many lives were saved on 9/11 (terrorist attacks) because the transit workers knew what to do. They knew to get the trains and the passengers away from harm. There were people in the [World Trade Center] who had participated in evacuation drills. And they knew when to leave when there was a problem. And so we can probably credit thousands of saved lives to previous training and planning.”

Inclusion of Public Transit in Training Exercises – The inclusion of public transit in training exercises has been citied in the literature. For example, the National Transportation Security Summit: Washington DC reported: “Annual training exercises/drills occur around natural hazards, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods or ice storms. Transit elements should be included in the exercise/drill. For example, with a flood exercise, a bus bridge around a flooded area can be included. Also, can include the need to reroute some of the public routes due to emergency conditions.”

The Metro Magazine article “Transit Steps Up Security” reported: “For several years, New York City Transit has participated in multi-agency disaster training with such organizations as the New York Police and Fire Departments.”

Testing of Mutual-Aid Agreements – The testing of mutual-aid agreements has been cited in the literature. For example, Synthesis of Transit Practice 27: Emergency Preparedness for Transit Terrorism reported: “Roles and responsibilities can be instituted in a memorandum of understanding or similar document. To test the agreements, have a variety of training scenarios to ensure all local responders recognize their respective roles and responsibilities.”

Training Exercises – Evacuation training exercises have been conducted before an actual need. The State of South Carolina staged an evacuation exercise with the use of contra-flow lanes in 1999. The article “South Carolina Ready for Hurricane Evacuation” reported: “The South Carolina Department of Transportation and State Highway Patrol staged a short rehearsal for the emergency evacuation procedures that they plan to follow in the event of a hurricane. The biggest part of their plan is to reverse the eastbound lanes of I-26 and block all eastbound entrance ramps between Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina. The two state agencies used 125 State Highway patrolmen and 200 Department of Transportation workers to stage the drill. The Department of Transportation distributed fluorescent orange barrels at each of the entrance ramps for I-26 east, but did not block the entrances in the drill. The State Highway Patrol had patrol cars at each of the entrance ramps as a means to enforce the closure of the entrance ramps. The two departments found that the evacuation plans take approximately three hours to implement. The only problem that the agencies discovered was that their communications systems were overloaded due to the heavy communication traffic during the exercise. They think that they can correct this problem before South Carolina experiences a hurricane this season.”

According to Reversing the Flow, the State of Texas conducts training exercises prior to the start of the hurricane season: “The operating agencies involved also perform an annual exercise nicknamed Hurricane Polly every April, just prior to hurricane season, where they walk through the processes involved with a major hurricane evacuation. Reversing the interstate ramps is a part of this exercise.”

According to Protecting Surface Transportation Systems and Patrons from Terrorist Activities: Case Studies of Best Security Practices and a Chronology of Attacks,New York City Transit also conducts training exercises for terrorist attacks: “In anticipation of major emergencies, New York City Transit conducts regular emergency response and rescue exercises. These vary from desktop simulations to organized, planned drills to ‘no-notice’ simulations. The primary objective of these exercises is to identify deficiencies in the emergency plans and coordination and communication problems.”

Training was credited during the southern California wildfires as a benefit. As reported in Southern California Firestorm 2003: Report for the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, “Respondents believed that interagency training had an impact on how effectively responding agencies coordinated their response to these incidents. They felt that agencies that had trained together were able to establish a unified command faster and had a more effective response. Agencies that provided incident command systems training down to the tactical level were decidedly more effective prior to the establishment of unified command, as well as after it had been established. Respondents reported that joint training with ancillary agencies, such as the Red Cross, exposed firefighters to the planning and operational considerations of cooperators and gave cooperators training needed to function in the wildland fire environment.”

In addition, Southern California Firestorm 2003 reported: “Respondents indicated that tabletop planning and exercises proved especially important in those areas with strong pre-incident planning (during the southern California wildfires). Joint sessions brought cooperators together and enabled them to identify and plan for areas likely to be impacted by wildfire-urban interface fires. This planning involved reviewing fire history records, conducting fire hazard analyses, and having leaders talk through the planning and response issues. This process provided the opportunity to become familiar with local areas and cooperators and allowed cooperators to ‘work-out the bugs,’ identifying opportunities and potential problems. Respondents said they would like to see the same kind of training done at the tactical level with firefighters. Agencies with responsibilities in the wildfire-urban interface conducted training sessions to plan strategy and tactics and walk through an anticipated incident. Fire managers simulated the fire suppression planning and execution with engine and hand crews walking through their expected activities such as engine crews driving into wildfire-urban interface neighborhoods, implementing triage procedures, and practicing tactics.”

Also according to Southern California Firestorm 2003, because of efforts “in the training and standards, those who participated in the California Office of Emergency Services wildland fire curriculum believed they were better prepared to function as part of a strike team (during the southern California wildfires). Other departments had taken advantage of training provided by cooperator agencies or their own wildland divisions for training. Respondents felt that those who did not have that training were exposed to greater risks by being less familiar with wildland tactics and not fully understanding their role in a strike team.”

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