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.
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.
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 2-11 presents how TMCs employ the information gathered to control traffic and manage incidents and ongoing activities that impact traffic on a daily basis.
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.
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:
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.
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. 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.
 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Fact Sheet: Homeland Security Information Network, 2004, accessed 2010.
United States Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration
Last Modified: June 21, 2010