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

Napoleon Khalilnaji – Safety Analyst

Municipal Transportation Agency
Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) City and County of San Francisco
1 South Van Ness, # 7232
San Francisco, CA 94103

Tuesday, April 11, 2006
  1. Evacuation Plan Status: What is the status of your agency’s existing evacuation plan? For example, when was it first developed and when was it last revised? Has it ever been used in an actual emergency situation? Who has the authority to issue evacuation orders?

    DPT’s Citywide Emergency Operations Plan has not been significantly modified from the last draft, dated March 2004. However, there have been minor additions, which include the following:
    • A new list of emergency phone contacts
    • A list of emergency battery-operated traffic signals
    • City-owned garages emergency alert levels
    • A listing of city-owned garages and their respective emergency response districts
    • City’s emergency route map
    • MTA/Muni Operation Return Route Map.

Elements of this program have been used in many actual disasters or emergencies including a major power outage several years ago. Emergency routes, emergency traffic signals, priority intersections for fixed-route transit, and post-incident traffic control are all included in the Emergency Operations Plan, but an actual city-wide evacuation has not occurred. The Mayor of San Francisco has the authority to issue evacuation orders. 

  1. Scope of the Plan: What is the scope of the plan with regard to geographic coverage, agency involvement, and presence of transportation elements? Are plans for evacuation transportation management separate from or a part of the general emergency plan?

    DPT’s Emergency Operation Plan is for the City of San Francisco and San Francisco County. The City and County of San Francisco is participating in a regional plan to provide assistance and coordination when needed. Evacuation issues are addressed in the general plan. The city’s plan is in coordination with the state level emergency plan.

    State legislation requires all jurisdictions to comply with the National Incident Management System (NIMS). San Francisco has fully adopted the provisions of the NIMS and requires its implementation at the Emergency Operations Centers (EOC).

    The emergency operations plan is an extension of the State Emergency Plan. It is reviewed and exercised periodically and revised as necessary to meet changing conditions.

  2. Plan Scenarios: What types of scenarios are the plans meant to address? Can they be applied to no-notice, advance-notice, and/or special event emergency evacuations? Do they have provisions for naturally occurring, accidental, and/or terrorist events?

    The Plan addresses a range of emergencies, including advance-notice, no-notice, natural, and manmade disasters. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) has been adopted as a functional approach that is not incident specific. NIMS facilitates coordination among all responding agencies and expedites the flow of resources and communication within all organizational levels. NIMS is a uniform method for managing emergencies based on the Incident Command System (ICS). NIMS standardizes the organizational structure and terminology used by every response agency. NIMS is intended to be flexible and adaptable to the needs of all emergency responders.

  3. Capacity Needs and Availability: Have any models, computer simulations, or other calculations been performed to estimate capacity needs of the transportation system during an evacuation? How much additional capacity is expected to result from emergency measures that are to be put in place (e.g., contraflow lanes, signal pattern changes)?

    DPT’s traffic engineers (pre-designated staff) will cooperate with other agencies to find out the optimum evacuation path and will control traffic signals to facilitate evacuation. The Department of Traffic and Parking will utilize all potential traffic control methods, such as traffic signal control and other ITS devices, to increase roadway capacity for the evacuating public.

  4. Traffic Control Practices: What is the role of transportation agencies in traffic management and control? What traffic control practices are designated by the plan for use in an evacuation? Examples include pre-established evacuation routes, contraflow, evacuation phasing, regulation of type or number of vehicles (including transit), optimization of signal patterns and lane use, mitigation of work zone impacts, and suspension of tolls and fares.

    DPT’s role is to manage the traffic and parking of the entire SF [San Francisco] City and County. Their specific mission is to perform traffic control/traffic management, during an emergency. The citywide plan is designed to incorporate and coordinate all DPT’s facilities and personnel into an efficient organization capable of responding effectively to any emergency. DPT will direct emergency traffic, arriving emergency personnel and the public to various local emergency centers or to pre-designated staging areas, through pre-designated emergency routes.

    DPT’s Emergency Operations Plan includes a pre-designated Emergency Command Center, pre-designated emergency response personnel, alternate emergency staff and operational sites, emergency routes, emergency traffic signals, priority intersections for fixed post traffic control, intelligent transportation management systems (ITMS) to program, monitor, control and respond to transportation problems, from a laptop or computer connection. The plan includes equipment inventory and departmental vehicle and personnel as well as an 800 MHz Radio Call Back Directory.

  5. Role of ITS: What intelligent transportation system (ITS) components and other related traffic management tools are used in the evacuation plan? How, when, and why are they each used as part of the evacuation plan? Do you have redundant systems? Can you operate the ITS elements from any location other than the TMC? Examples of ITS components include surveillance cameras, variable message signs (VMS), highway advisory radio (HAR), 511 or other traveler information systems (phone and/or Web), interconnected traffic signal systems, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, ramp metering, traffic signal priority for buses, and vehicle detection systems.

DPT’s SFgoTransportation Management Center (TMC) is located at 25 Van Ness Ave Suite 210, San Francisco, CA 94102.

DPT is presently installing, utilizing, and incorporating SFgo San Francisco Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). This computerized technology enables DPT’s SFgo Program to monitor, control, and respond to transportation problems in a safe and efficient manner, from any laptop and/or computer connection. A Satellite Transportation Management Center that will serve as a back-up of the main TMC is to be installed in the dispatch center and in the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The SFgo Program led by DPT in conjunction with Muni (Municipal/Public Bus Transportation), California Department of Transportation, California Highway Patrol (CHP) is a citywide transportation management system that will gather real-time information on current traffic flow and congestion, process and analyze this information, respond to changes in roadway conditions, and disseminate information to the public. The program will significantly improve the city’s obsolete traffic signal facilities and implement various intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technologies to improve the overall effectiveness of the transportation system. This program will also effectively serve as an emergency response tool.

The Initial Phase of implementation that is currently taking place includes the following components in the Market and Civic Center areas, as well as 3rd Street and Fell/Oak corridor:
  • Main Transportation Management Center (TMC) at 25 Van Ness Avenue
  • Satellite TMC at Pacific Bell Park (home of the San Francisco Giants)
  • Communications network links
  • Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras
  • Advanced traffic signal controllers
  • Variable Message Sign (VMS) system
  • Vehicle detection system (VDS)
  • Fiber connection to Caltrans Transportation Management Center in Oakland.
  • Implementation of future phases of the SFgo Program will include the following:
  • Satellite TMC at the Dispatch Center of DPT Enforcement Division
  • Satellite TMC at the Office of Emergency Services
  • Additional advanced traffic signal controllers
  • Additional field elements of CCTV, VMS, VDS
  • Expanded communications network linking all TMCs, traffic signals, and field elements.

ITS is used by DPT in daily traffic operation. During an emergency, all the available ITS devices, such as CCTV cameras and dynamic message signs, will be applied as needed to monitor and guide evacuation.

  1. Resources and Materials: What is the role of transportation agencies in identifying resource needs and in providing resources or materials? How do they assist in transportation service coordination?

    SF Mayor’s Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security is the primary coordinator of resources for an emergency. It will identify problems and shortages and contact agencies, such as the Department of Public Works, Transit Operators, and DPT, to request and deliver resources as appropriate.

  2. Evacuation Control, Coordination, and Management: Is an incident command system (ICS) used? How are transportation needs and resources, and the role of transportation agencies, integrated into the ICS? How are operations coordinated between TMCs, transit agencies, EOCs, and other agencies? Do you have plans for the re-entry of evacuees after the evacuation? How do you accommodate special needs evacuees (seniors, nursing home residents, hospital patients, inmates, people with pets, etc.)?

    The Plan does use ICS. As stated in the last question, it is the Mayor’s Office that coordinates among different agencies. Re-entry issues are covered in the Plan. For example, Operation Return is a program coordinated by the Transportation Unit of the Logistics Section (the other division of SF MTA) at the Emergency Command Center (ECC), in the event a disaster is declared. Operation Return provides transportation to critical personnel from access points throughout the Bay Area to the city.

    In the event that a Response Level 2 (Local Disaster) or Level 3 (Major Disaster) emergency closes bridges, BART systems, or freeways, certain city employees will be required to immediately return to duty. Instructions will be broadcast via the Emergency Alert System (public radio announcements) directing these employees to assemble at one of the pre-designated sites (including neighboring counties).

    The Office of Emergency Service Coastal Region (the State of California) will coordinate the dispatch of a radio operator to each site to assist with communications. Other methods of communication will be by handheld radio and cellular phone. Priorities for transport will be established at each Operation Return site.

    The Operations Section at the ECC will determine reception sites based on emergency conditions. Reception sites are locations where Operation Return vehicles, ferry boats, helicopters or aircraft will bring employees who will then be transported to emergency assignments. As part of this plan, pre-designated and prioritized building evaluations are conducted by the city’s structural engineers immediately after earthquakes to determine whether it is safe for people to go back. Evacuation of people with special needs would also be discussed and resources will be made available on an as needed basis.

  3. Communications Between Agencies: What are the communications protocols between agencies? Are there established procedures for disseminating information quickly and accurately to personnel?

    Aside from the face-to-face meetings and hand-written communication among different representatives of all the city agencies at the ECC, the ECC has built in many different means of communication using different technology in order to provide range of options, in case of a system failure during an emergency. A brief description of each system is as follows:
    • Mayor's Emergency Telephone System (METS)
      This is a stand-alone, hard-wired and virtually unblockable telephone switching system, designed to provide back-up communications for CCSF in emergencies. The METS connects all police stations, fire stations, health centers, police call-boxes, the emergency dispatch center and all other key departments.

    • The City’s Siren System
      The City’s siren system consists of 49 sirens covering the entire city. The sirens can be activated by quadrant, by bank or individually. This system is maintained by the Department of Electricity and Telecommunications, and is tested weekly by personnel of that department.

    • Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS)
      The ACS is a volunteer service comprised of licensed operators of the Amateur (“Ham”) radio service, General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), commercial radio licensees, telephone operators and other individuals with communications experience who train under the guidance of the City and commit to its aid as Disaster Service Workers in emergencies.

      Each member of the ACS has an assignment to provide a specific element of communications support to the city. These assignments may include operating a station on a radio net, acting as a communications assistant for a designated official, supporting the operation of a radio net or message center, managing foot and mobile messenger systems, or providing other support as needed during an emergency.

    • The Emergency Alert System (EAS)
      The City participates in the federal, state and local government Emergency Alert System. EAS provides alert information to all radio and television stations, thus disseminating official government information of a critical nature.

    • 911 Dispatch
      911 Emergency Communications is designed to provide command and control communication between the public and departments with response duties (Police, Fire and Emergency Medical). The system is designed for Response Levels 0, 1, 2. A Response Level 3 emergency may disrupt communication and auxiliary radio systems may support normal service. The Response Level is defined as:
      • Response Level 0 – Readiness & Routine Phase
        Ongoing routine response to daily emergencies or incidents. Stand-by and alert procedures issued in advance of an anticipated or planned event.

      • Response Level 1 – Local Emergency
        A minor to moderate incident in which local resources are adequate and available. This level of emergency response occurs when an emergency incident, e.g., gas leak, sewer back-up, assaults, bomb threat, toxic spill, medical emergency, shooting, etc., occurs.

      • Response Level 2 – Local Disaster
        A moderate to severe emergency in which resources are not adequate and mutual aid may be required on a regional, even statewide, basis with coordination with local police and fire departments of the affected area working in concert.

      • Response Level 3 – Major Disaster
        Resources in or near the impacted areas are overwhelmed and extensive state and federal resources are required. The cities and the counties will proclaim a local emergency. Then, the State of California will declare a State of Emergency. A Presidential Declaration of an Emergency or Major Disaster is requested by the state. Examples of major disasters are the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 or the Oakland Hills Firestorm of 1991. When local jurisdictions declare a State of Emergency, the district board can declare the same.

    • CityWatch Cable TV Channel 54
      CityWatch Cable television Channel 54 is the city’s government access channel, used routinely to convey essential elements of information directly to the public over the cable network following an emergency. It is viewed as particularly valuable during the recovery phase of a major emergency. The cable head end located in the ECC complex allows the Incident Commander and other officials to cablecast directly from the ECC. In addition, a satellite dish located on the roof of the ECC gives the ability to downlink satellite signals from FEMA etc., and cablecast that information to the general public. The text of Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages can be transmitted via CityWatch Cable Channel 54.

    • Emergency Digital Information System (EDIS)
      A statewide system linking news media with emergency services locations everywhere in the state. It provides a vital link to the public in an emergency.

    • E-Team Internet
      The City and County of San Francisco has installed a citywide data sharing program that is accessible via internet. The purpose of this software is to track incidents and resource requests in the Emergency Operations Center. Each department has an assigned username and password to access the system. The system could be accessed from any where, any time, with the right username and password. The E-Team to E-Team data sharing capabilities are now part of the city’s core emergency means of communication. This gives an E-Team user the ability to share reports with other E-Team user organization(s). E-Team to E-Team allows each user to send reports, transfer editing responsibility, and allow forwarding of individual reports. Features include user-created map overlays, personnel management, real-time messaging and report interface.

    • Radio Emergency Communication Systems
      KCBS 740 AM, KNBR 680 AM, KGO 810 AM or City Watch Cable TV Channel 54 have been pre-designated as Emergency Alert System (EAS) station for disaster information.

Interdepartmental Communication Systems

Department of Parking and Traffic will utilize all functional office equipment such as computers, telephones, cell phones and laptops, in case of an emergency. If all else fails, our citywide 800 MHz Radios will be the most effective and reliable means of communication. This will be done through our own Enforcement Dispatch Center. Our Dispatch Center is equipped with a back-up power generator to feed our equipment in case of power failure. Our Dispatch Center is in communication with all field personnel, Police Department, Fire Department and 911 Dispatch.

Remote Voice Mail: In addition, DPT has an Emergency Remote Voice mail system. In the event of a major disaster (including after hours), DPT employees could and should call the following toll free number:


To obtain directives employees are expected to leave messages on the voice mail system regarding their personal status.

The voice mail system is physically located in Fresno, California. It can answer multiple calls at the same time, and holds up to 30 messages of up to 3 minutes each.

DPT’s Safety Analyst and pre-designated responders can access the system, retrieve messages, issue new directives and /or change the greeting.

  1. Communications with Evacuees: Is the public educated in advance about the evacuation procedures? What information is provided and how is the information disseminated? Do transportation agencies have a specific role in media coordination and traveler information dissemination, either before or during an evacuation? Is information coordinated between agencies and/or centralized before being delivered to the media?

    Elements of this program have been used in many actual disasters or emergencies such as a major power outage several years ago, but an actual citywide evacuation has never occurred.

    There are Text and Voice Communication network links within our TMC that could be utilized for information dissemination, but DPT does not have a specific and primary role in media coordination. The information is coordinated between agencies and /or centralized before being delivered to the media.

    DPT shall direct emergency traffic, arriving emergency personnel and the public to various local emergency centers or to pre-designated staging areas, through pre-designated emergency routes.

    Announcement of evacuation could be disseminated to the public through the reverse 911 system. The reverse 911 system will dial from the Office of Emergency Services to notify the public of the evacuation order. TV, radio, and Web page are also used to disseminate emergency information. In addition, to identify optimized evaluation path as stated before, the DPT will also identify dangerous traffic areas in the city during an emergency and send staff over to mitigate impacts. For example, DPT may identify a series of intersections where heavy congestion or accident rate can be expected during evacuation and send traffic management staff on site to control the traffic flow.

  2. Testing and Training Procedures: How often are testing/training exercises conducted? Who do these exercises involve? What drill scenarios have been used?

    Monthly meetings are conducted among all emergency-related agencies in the City and County of San Francisco. During these meetings, table topics will include inefficiency identification, coordination improvement, and other action items. Exercise of the Plan is also conducted every month. All potential emergency scenarios are considered in the exercise.

  3. Evaluation of Exercises: What aspects of the evacuation plan were implemented well in drill situations, and what aspects of the plan were found to require improvement? What elements of the plan were most useful for a successful evacuation drill? What lessons have been learned as a result of these drills?

    Monthly scheduled and structured meetings among all different city agencies have been very useful. Lack of funds and thus volunteer allocation of resources and participation of all agencies requires improvement. Experience indicates that awareness and alertness to disasters needs to be enhanced if no emergency occurs after a long time.

  4. Evaluation of Evacuations: If the evacuation plan has ever been used in an actual evacuation, how successful was its implementation? To what extent was the evacuation simply monitored, rather than managed, by responding agencies? What aspects of the plan were implemented well in the actual emergency situation, and what aspects were found to require improvement? What elements of the plan were most useful for a successful evacuation?

    The evacuation plan has never been applied in an actual event.

  5. After-Action Report: What is the process for post-evacuation evaluation? Is the post-incident review a collaborative effort among all agencies that were involved?

    Yes, there is a post-event evaluation. This would be a collaborative effort among all agencies. Evaluation of the exercise could be conducted during the regular meetings as well.

  6. Incorporation of Lessons Learned: Have the lessons learned in testing/training exercises and in real evacuations resulted in revisions to the emergency evacuation plan? Have the lessons learned resulted in changes in personnel training?

    Yes, inefficiencies identified during the regular meetings of all agencies will be corrected as soon as resources allow.

  7. Conclusions: What specific recommendations do you have regarding management of traffic during evacuations for another agency developing or improving upon their own emergency evacuation plans?

    Successful communication and constant exercises are necessary to emergency plans. Installing, utilizing and incorporating Intelligent Transportation Systems and back-up battery operating traffic signal lights would improve emergency evacuation plans.

    Pre-designation of an emergency command center, pre-designated emergency response personnel, alternate emergency staff and operational sites, emergency routes, emergency traffic signals, priority intersections for fixed post traffic control, Intelligent Transportation Management Systems (ITMS) to program, monitor, complete inventory of departmental equipment such as generators, vehicles, radios and Call Back Directory should be considered very basic requirements!

June 26, 2006
Publication #FHWA-HOP-08-016