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

2.4 System Capabilities and Resources

Defining the systems capabilities and resources for TMCs, EOCs, and FCs is a key element to understanding the opportunities for collaboration across these entities. This section summarizes the resources and systems that enable each center to fulfill its core functions and processes as defined in previous sections.

2.4.1 TMCs

TMCs maintain specific resources and systems to enable the fulfillment of their four primary functions. Monitoring arterial and freeway traffic is one of the primary functions of TMCs. Only with situational awareness of local conditions can TMC managers make decisions on how to increase transportation safety and throughput. ITS applications that are installed in the transportation infrastructure, including traffic sensor systems to monitor traffic conditions perform much of the surveillance and detection of traffic conditions.

In addition to monitoring transportation infrastructure for traffic management functions, the same surveillance and detection technologies can be used to monitor the infrastructure safety and security of transportation infrastructure. Table 2-9 provides examples of monitoring systems.

Table 2-9: TMC Monitor Systems and Resources
Description Systems/Resources
Monitor Traffic Loop, acoustic, radar, and video imaging detectors and control, CCTV, IntelliDriveSM, on-board equipment (OBE), wide-area wireless communications between the vehicle and center, dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) between passing vehicles and the roadside, probe data (cellular, Global Positioning System [GPS], toll transponders), police reports (incidents and congestion)
Monitor Safety and Security In-vehicle and facility surveillance, employee credentialing, remote video systems, speed sensors, safety/service patrols

After collection of information regarding a traffic incident and decision making regarding the appropriate actions and responses, TMCs disseminate traffic information to system users to inform them of conditions and possible actions. Information can be disseminated to users both before and during driving, as illustrated in Table 2-10.

Table 2-10: TMC Inform Systems and Resources
Description Systems/Resources
Disseminate Information DMS (fixed and portable); in-vehicle systems; Highway Advisory Radio (HAR)/Low Power FM (LPFM); 511/Voice Response Phone Systems; 511 Web Portals (real-time traffic maps); email, pager, fax, short message service (SMS)
Implement Road Geometry Warning Systems Ramp rollover, curve speed warning, downhill speed warning, overheight/ overwidth warning

Table 2-11 presents how TMCs employ the information gathered to control traffic and manage incidents and ongoing activities that impact traffic on a daily basis.

Table 2-11: TMC Control Systems and Resources
Description Systems/Resources
Control Traffic Transit signal priority, emergency vehicle preemption, adaptive signal control, advanced signal systems, variable speed limits, lane use/road closure, vehicle restrictions
Manage Lanes High occupancy vehicle/high occupancy toll (HOV/HOT) facilities, reversible flow lanes, pricing, lane control, variable speed limits, DMS (fixed and portable), emergency evacuation
Control Ramps Ramp metering, ramp gates, interchange metering, priority access
Incident Management Safety/service patrols, CCTV, police reports of incidents and congestion, CAD, access restriction and authentication, firewalls, antivirus and network monitoring software, physical barriers
Manage Work Zones Temporary traffic and incident management, lane control, variable speed limit, speed enforcement, intrusion detection, road closure management
Manage Special Event Transportation Occasional and frequent events, temporary TMCs, automatic vehicle location (AVL)
Manage Transportation Demand Ride sharing/matching, dynamic routing and scheduling, service coordination, pricing
Manage Assets Fleet and infrastructure management
Manage Electronic Tolling and Pricing (tolling; transit, parking, and multi-use) Radio frequency identification (RFID), barcodes, smart cards
Facilitate Evacuation Response and Recovery Early warning system, response management, evacuation and re-entry management
Coordinate EMS Telemedicine, 911 coordination

To tie together their other direct functions, TMC staff also manage communications among their operations center, the infrastructure, mobile responders (e.g., safety/service patrols), and other relevant agencies and operations centers. This requires TMCs to have access to all necessary communications links and to develop integrated control strategies that enable inter-jurisdictional traffic management. TMCs’ communications include land and wireless technologies as well as digital and hard lines. Additionally, it is also important to note that TMCs must plan for remaining functions in emergency and disaster situations. Local weather alert and warning systems, such as the National Warning System (NAWAS) and the Tsunami Warning System (TWS), used by EOCs or FCs could give TMCs critical real-time weather alert information on dangerous weather in an area, thus allowing TMCs to better prepare for these emergencies. When faced with such situations, TMCs must implement and install system redundancies to ensure that their systems stay online during an incident. Table 2-12 presents systems and resources that support the indirect functions of a TMC.

Table 2-12: TMC Indirect Functions Systems and Resources
Description Systems/Resources
Coordination of Communications Additional communications links and integrated control strategies that enable integrated inter-jurisdictional traffic management, phone systems, (e.g., land line, special 1-800 call-in lines, conference call lines), mobile and satellite phones, dedicated lines, priority telephone services—Wireless Priority Service (WPS), priority cellular services—Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS), push-to-talk services, email/text messaging, personal data assistants (PDAs), pagers, radio communications system (center-to-field, field-to-field, field-to-center), PCs/laptops, Internet
Redundancies Back-up servers and facilities
Security Encryption software, access restriction and authentication (username and passwords), firewalls, antivirus and network monitoring software, physical barriers (e.g., fence, spike strips, electronic locks)

2.4.2 EOCs

  • An EOC often functions as the hub of emergency management in a community and, in some instances, is co-located with an FC, ensuring that resources are available to respond to a full array of incidents:
    On a day-to-day basis, some EOCs oversee the response to routine incidents (e.g., a fire or an automobile crash) and are generally self-sufficient with respect to their resources. For example, EOC staff and the emergency management offices may own vehicles (e.g., fire trucks and ambulances) and hire employees (e.g., firefighters, police, or emergency medical technicians [EMTs]), or these may be the resources of law enforcement or fire departments.

  • When incidents occur that affect a broader geographical area (e.g., a hurricane) or are non-routine (e.g., a chemical spill), the community EOCs seek assistance from an EOC with either a broader geographical jurisdiction or an EOC that may have specialized capabilities to respond to incidents that are not part of the EOC’s day-to-day area of responsibility. In such cases, the community EOC may function as a component of the higher-level or specialized EOC for the duration of the incident, and its resources may be augmented by those of other organizations such as State or Federal government or non-government organizations (e.g., the Red Cross).

As is the case for an EOC’s operating status or its functional organization, the resources available to an EOC depend on a community’s individual needs and investment in preparedness, perceived risks, emergency management, and public safety capabilities. With respect to technologies for managing their resources and information, EOCs do not typically have access to specialized technologies. Certain factors mitigate the availability of specialized technologies in EOCs. In many cases, EOC 24/7 staffing constitutes a single watch officer on duty at any given time. The EOC is fully activated only when a significant situation arises that warrants a response. Consequently, highly specialized technologies would be used only intermittently, and the cost-per-use may be prohibitive. Further, if such technologies are not used routinely, there is no opportunity for the staff to become sufficiently proficient with them to warrant the expense. It may even impede response if EOC staff members had to re-acquaint themselves with the technology every time the EOC is activated.

More often, EOCs rely on output from the systems owned and operated by other agencies or use technology that is available to most citizens, including, for example:

  • Output from other agencies’ systems:  EOCs benefit from technologies operated by other agencies because those agencies have staff that are familiar with the technologies and can provide useful output to the EOCs. This allows the EOCs to benefit from these systems without having to invest their limited resources in them. Modeling tools represent the type of technology borrowed by the EOC as needed.

  • Radio and TV:  EOCs use information available via radio and TV, which in most cases offers up-to-the-minute information on breaking situations, again without requiring the EOCs to expend any resources on such information.

  • Internet:  Internet access allows EOCs to access information available to the general public, such as the weather reports provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Weather Service (NWS). This is also a method for accessing information generated by the technology owned and operated by other agencies.

Although the commonly available technologies such as radio, TV, and the Internet may not be tailored to the EOCs’ requirements, they provide valuable information without incurring expense and requiring continuous training on the technologies. There are some EOCs that have more advanced technologies. These are generally the EOCs for jurisdictions with high populations or that have significant strategic importance, such as those having high-traffic ports or key government facilities. Examples of more advanced technologies used by EOCs include software programs (e.g., Geographic Information System [GIS]), warning systems, videoconferencing equipment to coordinate with external responders to receive real-time damage estimation, and specialized encryption and security communication areas.

Warning systems such as NAWAS are networks of telephone lines used by emergency personnel for coordination and response to natural and man-made disasters. The lines avoid local telephone switches to avoid congestion during an emergency. Both of these warning systems are based on human intervention and can easily be linked to TMCs (e.g., call forwarding, conference calls, and party lines). One of the benefits of this linkage would be near instantaneous information on dangerous weather approaching an area, which the TMC could then use to notify the driving public and place emergency road crews on standby.

2.4.3 FCs

Many FCs have access to unclassified and classified DHS and FBI systems and networks such as HSIN, Law Enforcement Online (LEO), and Homeland Security Data Network (HSDN). HSIN is an encrypted DHS network established to strengthen the real-time, collaborative flow of threat information to State and local communities.[24] HSIN links to DHS’ National Operations Center (NOC) via the Joint Regional Information Exchange System (JRIES), which is also a secure network that offers FC applications including imaging and mapping resources.

Information for FCs is usually gathered through law enforcement or homeland security sources, i.e., LEO and HSIN, but also draws from the emergency management and functional communities (e.g., transportation, health and human services). The agencies that operate within the FCs are able to operate as long as secure portal access is available to them from their home agency. DHS/I&A intelligence operations specialists are deployed to the FCs with both unclassified and classified systems.

Problems are usually encountered when FCs without a specific Federal, State, local, or tribal representative in their center are unable to access some specific piece of information that they need from that State, local, or tribal jurisdiction. This often results if the right people do not have necessary clearances and a need to know. In many cases where the information is of an unclassified nature, there are other avenues, a phone call for example, to obtain the desired information.

[24] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Fact Sheet: Homeland Security Information Network, 2004, accessed 2010.

June 2010
Publication #FHWA-HOP-09-003