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

Chapter 2. Missions and Characteristics

This chapter provides the current footprint, mission statement, and operational perspectives for TMCs, EOCs, and FCs. It also defines the following for each type of center:

  • Roles and characteristics
  • Statistics, locations, and jurisdictions
  • Processes and operations
  • System capabilities and resources
  • Information managed and exchanged
  • Communications links.

2.1 Roles and Characteristics

The roles and characteristics of TMCs, EOCs, and FCs are distinctive yet related in many areas of responsibilities and incident management. Table 2-1 provides descriptions of TMCs, EOCs, and FCs, as defined by various relevant institutions.

Table 2-1: Operations Management Center Descriptions
Type of Center Description
Transportation Management Center The Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California-Berkley summarized the mission of a TMC as “the hub of a transportation management system, where information about the transportation network is collected and combined with other operational and control data to manage the transportation network and to produce traveler information. It is the focal point for communicating transportation-related information to the media and the motoring public, a place where agencies can coordinate their responses to transportation situations and conditions. The TMC links various elements of Intelligent Transportation Systems such as variable message signs, closed circuit video equipment, roadside count stations, etc., enabling decision makers to identify and react to an incident in a timely manner based on real-time data.”
Emergency Operations Center The National Incident Management System[4] defines EOCs as “The physical location at which the coordination of information and resources to support domestic incident management activities normally takes place. An EOC may be a temporary facility or may be located in a more central or permanently established facility, perhaps at a higher level of organization within a jurisdiction. EOCs may be organized by major functional disciplines (e.g., fire, law enforcement, and medical services), by jurisdiction (e.g., Federal, State, regional, county, city, tribal), or some combination thereof.”[5]
Fusion Center The Fusion Center Guidelines developed by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Homeland Security define an FC as “a collaborative effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise, and information to the center with the goal of maximizing their ability to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.”[6] The core function of a fusion center is the intelligence process. Simply stated, the “intelligence process” (or cycle) is an organized process by which information is gathered, assessed, and distributed.

2.1.1 TMC Overview

TMCs are responsible for a variety of functions to improve traffic conditions on transportation infrastructure, including highways, arterials, and transit, to increase efficiency and safety. In addition to personnel, ITS technologies located at the TMC and embedded in the infrastructure support TMC functions, some serving to support multiple functions. ITS represents an additional area of core functionality of TMC operations. To make these improvements in line with long-term strategic planning, regional TMCs implement ITS, which are used to monitor and control traffic. However, each region faces different transportation issues, including variations in geography, congestion issues, and incidents. Current planning for TMCs envisions their use as dispatch centers for local, regional, and State transportation assets, such as safety/service patrols and road maintenance efforts, leading to a more operational role. Some TMCs and TOCs already function in these capacities.

2.1.2 EOC Overview

EOCs coordinate information and resources to support domestic incident management activities. EOCs generally participate in both preparing for and responding to such incidents. For example, an EOC may support the evacuation of a community threatened by an incident such as a hazardous materials release or wildfire threat; response operations during a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake; and recovery activities following a flood, terrorist, or other malicious incident.

As noted in Section 2.1, the National Incident Management System (NIMS) definition recognizes that implementation of these centers may occur in a variety of ways based on several parameters, including:

  • Persistence – Some operate on a continuous basis. Others are activated only in response to an incident; once the incident has been resolved, they are de-activated.
  • Functional Discipline – In some implementations, an EOC may address a single functional discipline (e.g., law enforcement or medical services). In others, an EOC may address any combination of functional disciplines.
  • Jurisdiction – EOCs may function at the Federal, State, regional, county, city, or tribal jurisdictional levels.

A combination of the persistence, functional, and jurisdictional parameters provides the basis for the implementation of a particular EOC. As with an EOC’s operating status (e.g., incident-driven or standing) or organization, the resources available to an EOC directly reflect the community’s particular needs and investment in emergency operations. Regardless of how an EOC is implemented, a functional transportation infrastructure (and current information on the condition of that infrastructure) is critical to the EOC’s ability to accomplish its mission of facilitating the community’s preparation for, response to, and recovery from adverse incidents.

2.1.3 FC Overview

The formation of FCs resulted from the events of September 11, 2001, and the need, identified by the 9-11 Commission, to close the information-sharing gaps that have existed between the Federal government and States, primarily in the areas of homeland security and law enforcement. Missions among FCs vary and include, but are not limited to, three main areas—all-crimes, all-hazards, and counterterrorism, as presented in Table 2-2.

Table 2-2: FC Mission Areas
All Crimes Any crime or investigative support related to a single criminal act or larger criminal enterprises and organized or destabilizing crimes (e.g., drug trade, gangs, terrorism, and organized crime).
All Hazards Identifying and prioritizing types of major disasters and emergencies, beyond terrorism and crime that could occur within their jurisdiction. For this approach, fusion centers gather, analyze, and disseminate information that would assist the relevant responsible agencies (law enforcement, fire, public health, emergency management, critical infrastructure, etc.) with the prevention, protection, response, or recovery efforts of those incidents.[7]
Counterterrorism Practice, tactics, techniques, and strategies adopted to prevent or mitigate specific terrorist acts.

The Baseline Capabilities for State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers outlines the major functional, management, and administrative capabilities of FCs. Fusion process capabilities outline the standards necessary to perform the steps of the Intelligence Process within an FC. Management and administrative capabilities enable the proper management and functioning of an FC. Table 2-3 shows the specific capabilities for each type.[8]

Table 2-3: FC Baseline Capabilities
Fusion Process Capabilities
Planning and Requirements Development
  • Lay the foundation for the types of information that will be collected
Information Gathering/ Collection and Recognition of Indicators and Warnings
  • Develop and implement planning and requirements
  • Collect information from various sources, including law enforcement agencies, public safety agencies, and the private sector
Processing and Collation of Information
  • Evaluate the information’s validity and reliability
  • Collate information, including sorting, combining, categorizing, and arranging the data collected so relationships can be determined
Intelligence Analysis and Production
  • Transform the raw data into products that are useful
  • Develop a report that connects information in a logical and meaningful manner to produce an intelligence report that contains valid judgments based on analyzed information, including trends or information that will prevent a terrorist attack or other criminal activity
Intelligence/Information Dissemination
  • Distribute analyzed intelligence utilizing certain protocols in the most appropriate format to those in need of the information to facilitate their accomplishment of organizational goals
  • Assess current and new information, assist in developing an awareness of possible weak areas as well as potential threats
  • Strive to eliminate previously identified weaknesses that have been hardened as a result of the Fusion Process
  • Provide an opportunity to review the performance or effectiveness of the FC’s intelligence function
Management and Administrative Capabilities
  • Develop clear priorities and create a supported environment that frames the ability for the center to function and operate, assign tasks, allocate and manage resources, and develop and enforce policy
Information Privacy Protections
  • Develop, publish, and adhere to a privacy and civil liberties policy
  • Protect the rights of Americans throughout information-sharing efforts
  • Balance information sharing with privacy at all levels of government, in order to maintain the trust of the American people
  • Ensure appropriate security measures are in place for the facility, data, and personnel
Personnel and Training
  • Achieve a diversified representation of personnel based on the needs and functions of the center
Information Technology/ Communications Infrastructure, Systems, Equipment, Facility, and Physical Infrastructure
  • Integrate technology, systems, and people
  • Establish and maintain the center based on funding availability and sustainability

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the most frequently cited reason for establishing an FC was the need to share information among Federal, State, and local entities. At the State and local level, the enhancement of information sharing within their own jurisdictions and across the various disciplines was another reason for the establishment of centers.[9] The inability for coordination and information sharing at these two levels resulted in a failure to “connect the dots” prior to September 11, 2001. Today, FCs consider themselves force multipliers to, and a support structure for, existing EOCs, which have the main responsibility of response during large-scale incidents and disasters, either man-made or natural.[10] Because some incidents may have components that are law enforcement or security sensitive, some EOCs have taken extra steps to ensure they have people on staff with appropriate clearances to review such information. They may also have developed methods for handling such data such as a secure communications system and designating a part of their facility to meet the National Security Agency’s requirements of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF).

[4] On February 28, 2003, the President issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)–5, Management of Domestic Incidents, which directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and administer a National Incident Management System (NIMS). This system provides a consistent nationwide template to enable Federal, State, local, and tribal governments and private-sector and nongovernmental organizations to work together effectively and efficiently to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size, or complexity, including acts of catastrophic terrorism.

[5] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, National Incident Management System, March 1, 2004. Page 129.

[6] U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Justice, Fusion Center Guidelines.

[7] Federal Emergency Management Agency, Draft Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 502: Considerations for Fusion Center and Emergency Operations Center Coordination, 2009, page 14.

[8] U.S. Department of Justice, Baseline Capabilities for State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers: A Supplement to the Fusion Center Guidelines, September 2008.

[9] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, National Incident Management System, March 1, 2004, page 129.

[10] Government Accountability Office, Homeland Security: Federal Efforts are Helping to Address Some Challenges Faced by State and Local Fusion Centers, April 2007.

June 2010
Publication #FHWA-HOP-09-003