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

2.5 Information Managed and Exchanged

An important aspect of establishing effective information exchange is integration and information sharing among partnering agencies to avoid inefficient exchanges of information. Establishing a system includes defining the data for exchange and compensating for any differences in how agencies code their data, including data fields, abbreviations, or summary methodologies. Each agency must account for the available incoming information for exchange with other agencies, considering the information that is of interest to each agency as well as security. Coordination must also occur with software and hardware vendors to ensure that linked systems are able to still share information after updates and so that software release schedules are coordinated with agency project schedules. Also, while data duplication should be minimized to decrease redundancy, redundant communications paths are necessary to ensure the reliable delivery of messages during incidents.

2.5.1 TMCs

TMCs gather real-time information and data with a key focus on near-term regional operational transportation information including proactive steps to manage congestion and other bottlenecks. Table 2-13 summarizes the types of traffic data collected and the resources used to acquire the data.

Table 2-13: TMC Data Types and Sources
Data Type Source
Traffic Speed Loop Detectors and Control
Acoustic Detectors and Control
Probe Data – Cellular, GPS, E-ZPass
Radar Detectors and Control including iCone in work zones
Video Imaging Detectors and Control
Models and algorithms to enhance traffic information
In-Vehicle Systems
Travel Time Probe Data – Cellular, GPS, E-ZPass
Models and algorithms to enhance traffic information
Traffic Incidents In-Vehicle Systems
DMS (fixed and portable)
511/Voice Response Phone Systems
Safety/Service Patrols
Police Reporting of Incidents and Congestion
Police Dispatch
Delays and Congestion Adaptive Signal Control
In-Vehicle Systems
DMS (fixed and portable)
511/Voice Response Phone Systems
Safety/Service Patrols
Police Reporting of Incidents and Congestion
Traffic Volume Loop Detectors and Control
Radar Detectors and Control
Video Imaging Detectors and Control
Adaptive Signal Control
Roadway Weather 511/Voice Response Phone Systems
Surface sensors and roadside weather stations
Work Zones DMS (fixed and portable)

The main commodity that TMCs offer is information regarding local traffic conditions and incidents that affect them. They are responsible for three types of transportation-related information:

  • Operational information including real-time situational information on the transportation infrastructure

  • History and records information including incident logs and traffic/transportation history

  • Transportation network information including information about physical transportation-related assets.

TMCs can disseminate collected and owned information to the public via:

  • Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) – Roadside signs with a communications link to the TMC that the TMC can use to display short–route messages to system users including emergency information such as evacuation shelter locations or AMBER Alerts™ with child abduction information and Silver alerts providing information on missing senior citizens.

  • Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) and Low-Power FM Radio – Low-power radio stations that TMCs use to provide traffic and weather updates, advertised via roadside signs.

  • In-Vehicle Communications – New technologies (IntelliDriveSM) allowing new methods for TMCs to communicate directly with drivers in their vehicles.

  • 511 Traveler Information Systems – 511 is the Federal Communications Commission’s designated nationwide three-digit telephone number for traveler information. It is usually an automated hotline, although some 511 systems are staffed with live operators, providing an automated phone message (sometimes multi-lingual) to system users regarding local traffic or weather conditions. Some 511 systems allow users to also access information via a Web site, and some feature personalized services such as custom routes and alerts via phone, text, or e-mail. The 511 system can be used to provide emergency information (e.g., evacuation route information) via a floodgate message at the start of the 511 recorded message to all callers. According to the 511 Deployment Coalition, as of the end of 2009, 511 will be accessible to 70 percent of the U.S. population.[25]

    In addition to outgoing information, 511 systems could be modified to handle incoming information from the public. A few 511 systems have implemented this option for key personnel but not the general public. For example, if someone witnesses a vehicle crash, he/she could dial 511 on a cell phone and be presented with two options. Option 1 would be to listen to current traffic information and advisories, and option 2 could be re-routing the call to a statewide or the nearest TMC. Current applications require the user to provide a personal identification number so the TMC knows the information is coming from a trusted source. The caller can then record a message with the relevant information. The call is then automatically routed to the TMC. The routing could use information given by the caller (e.g., highway name and mile marker) as well as cell phone data (e.g., approximate location data based on cell-tower triangulation) to provide proper routing. Once the TMC has received the message, operators can verify it, notify emergency response personnel and cleanup crews, and update the 511 outgoing information line. If the incident meets a certain threshold (e.g., size, duration), the TMC could route the information to the EOC and FC.

  • Third-Party Communications – Authorized dissemination of TMC-provided information (e.g.,

In addition to providing information to the public, TMCs can specifically collaborate with and exchange information with other State, local, and municipal agencies including EOCs, FCs, and law enforcement. In this way, TMCs can offer a valuable service by providing real-time situational awareness to other decision-making agencies and responders on the ground. Information collected by TMCs that may be exchanged with other agencies includes:

  • Real-time video images provided with CCTV video feeds via access to a common portal or a direct video feed

  • Traffic sensor data providing congestion information such as speed, volume, and travel time, shared via common Internet portal

  • Weather sensor data providing regional, area, and surface condition data including temperature, pressure, and precipitation

  • IntelliDriveSM on-board equipment (OBE) providing aggregate data from hundreds of vehicles including temperature, wiper status, anti-local brake system (ABS) status, and brake status among others

  • IntelliDriveSM-based algorithms, such as “Icy Conditions,” “Incidents,” “Link Speed,” “Travel Time,” and “Volumes,” providing near real-time information about road conditions and possible evacuation routes

  • IntelliDriveSM Advisory Message Delivery System providing near instantaneous two-way communication with the driving public across vast areas

  • Reverse 911 systems providing continuous updates to first responders, decision makers, and other members of the non-driving public

  • Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) utilizing data from TMCs to alert the general public with life-saving information quickly

  • Incident and congestion notifications providing location, cause, extent, time, detection, and clearance of incident and congestion via radio, fax, or phone (incident logs and network statistics are also available for historical information)

  • Planned projects, work zone, and special events in-progress information including providing location, extent, time, and status via the Internet, radio, fax, or phone 

  • GPS and GIS data providing vehicle location and speed as well as special information from multiple sources via Internet portal

  • Traffic control systems data providing information regarding the activity/inactivity and operational status of ramp meters, traffic signal control, lane control signals, and DMS content via common Internet portal

  • Public transit systems data including passenger vehicle times, locations, trajectories, origins, and destinations

  • CAD systems providing response information including incidents, dispatch information, and status via a linked software program that allows a computer to automatically dispatch emergency responders.

While much of this information can be collected and shared, agencies must be mindful of laws on sharing sensitive information. Typically 911 centers have access to law enforcement networks (e.g., the Virginia Criminal Information Network or the New York State Police Identification Network). These law enforcement databases provide police officers with access to motor vehicle license and registration information, wanted information, missing persons, stolen vehicles/articles, etc. Access to this data is tightly controlled and may be exempt from Federal and State information access laws and would not be shared outside of the law enforcement agency. Exemptions would be necessary for TMCs to receive only pertinent data related to their objectives.

Some data, like medical information and crash information have specific protection. For example, medical information falls under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, while other personally identifiable information (PII) would come under the Privacy Act and other Federal or State and local protections. Crash data, such as data from passenger vehicle event data recorders and OnStar systems provide at least several dozen crash data elements (e.g., speed at time of a crash, whether a seat belt was in use), but may require a court order for access to the data. TMCs need an exemption to receive such data, after stripping of PII.

Data sharing between municipal agencies, working for the same local government, is easily accomplished. However, some city, State, and Federal laws prevent the release of data from one entity to another either entirely or partially but with built-in safeguards. There are many restrictions on data sharing at different levels. To accomplish efficient data sharing that respects individuals’ rights, one has to look at how a particular entity intends to use that data.

  • A driver’s medical history may be of great importance to 911 call centers and first responders, but a TMC may not need that information.

  • An explosion at a chemical plant would not concern a TMC, unless that plant was near a highway that would be impacted by the explosion.

There is a need for more data-sharing agreements between the State and these centers, especially FCs. It is best to have detailed agreements in place before the creation of an FC. One such agreement could provide for direct feeds of appropriately redacted data from 911 centers into the FCs.

As a result of recent concern about alleged racial and ethnic profiling in traffic stops, a number of law enforcement agencies (both local and State) now operate under policies requiring statistical review and audits of traffic stop and other police encounter data. Other agencies may want to review the results of those audits and evaluations to determine whether anticipated information collection and enforcement initiatives are consistent with the findings of such oversight. Access to this data may require special requests because the analyses may not be covered by standard information-sharing agreements between and among law enforcement agencies.

2.5.2 EOCs

Figure 2-2: VEOC SITREP Extract

screenshot of a Virginia Emergency Operations Center situation report

This extract SITREP from the Virginia EOC (VEOC) includes transportation specific information following a series of tornadoes in April 2008. The full SITREP can be viewed at March 4 2008 TORNADOES SITUATION REPORT # 13

To support their coordinating role, many EOCs use information management tools, such as WebEOC®, to exchange information and prioritize requests during an incident. Availability of these information-sharing tools may be limited to personnel in the EOC or may be extended to the broader emergency response community, to include first responders in the field or TMCs. These information tools may include CAD and GIS mapping capabilities and are usually customized for individual EOCs.

Access to continuously updated information is critical to successful incident response. One important function is providing Situation Reports (SITREPs) every few hours during a major incident. Figure 2-2 shows a sample SITREP. SITREPs describe the situation on the ground, response priorities, and actions taken or underway to resolve the most urgent issues. Depending on the situation and the level of priority, SITREPs may include synthesized data provided by a TMC, such as a status report on a crash along a key evacuation route.

SITREPs can be tailored for particular audiences. For example, they may be designed to communicate with the general public, in the form of a press release, or they may be designed to communicate classified or otherwise sensitive information to law enforcement or military personnel during a terrorist incident.

Producing effective SITREPs and incident management plans requires EOCs to gather, analyze, and prioritize large quantities of data from a variety of sources. When representatives from different agencies are physically present in the EOC during an incident, they can serve as expert conduits of information to the lead EOC staff. For instance, the ESF-1[26] (transportation) representative usually coordinates the exchange of critical information between the EOC and the affected transportation agencies and providers. With advances in communications technologies, however, representatives can accomplish this objective remotely. Section 2.6.2 of this guidebook provides details on communications capabilities typical of EOCs. There are challenges associated with communications technologies as well; Section 4.2 of this guidebook discusses these.

EOCs are in the best position to help decision makers at the TMCs by providing them with useful and timely information. Integrating TMC information systems with information management and reporting systems such as WebEOC® and providing TMCs with SITREPs that go beyond the information included in press releases will greatly enhance TMC personnel’s ability to deal with unplanned events. Regulatory and privacy concerns can be addressed by ensuring that the information shared with the TMC only includes aggregate data.

Table 2-14 reflects data and its sources coming into the EOCs, which they use to conduct their emergency operation functions (e.g., monitoring the jurisdiction, receiving notification of an incident affecting the jurisdiction, assessing the incident, responding to the incident, and closing out the incident).

Table 2-14: EOC Data Types and Sources
Data Type Data Source
  • Direct feed
  • Commercial broadcast media
  • Public Internet sites
  • GIS
  • Hard-copy maps
  • Public Internet sites
  • Remote sensing data and maps
Resource Deployment
  • CAD
  • EOC staff
  • On-site responders
  • RFID and GIS technology
  • Resource tracking tools
Situational Status
  • Commercial broadcast media
  • CAD
  • Police/fire radio traffic (911 dispatch)
  • TMCs/TOCs
  • EOC staff
  • On-site responders
  • General public
  • Remote sensing data and maps
Incident Response Plans
  • Hard copy
  • LAN

2.5.3 FCs

Traditionally, information that FCs have managed and exchanged has been done through law enforcement and/or homeland security agencies. However, because many FCs have an All-Crimes or All-Hazards mission approach, they are engaging non-traditional information and intelligence sources for information management and exchange. Many FCs have developed a Fusion Liaison Officer (FLO) Program—a network of FC liaison officers who are members of law enforcement, fire service, public health, and other agencies (including public works, corrections, and emergency management). Several States have established these programs to facilitate communication with FC stakeholders, including law enforcement and emergency management. FLOs coordinate information-sharing activities among the private sector and CIKR partners, such as electric companies, oil refineries, banks, and entertainment facilities. With the help of this network, FCs receive homeland security and crime-related information for assessment and analysis.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 and Presidential Executive Order 13356, issued on August 27, 2004, provided the impetus for a national effort to improve information sharing and defined the DHS’ initial role in this effort.[27] This role has been expanded and refined in subsequent statutes, such as the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, as amended (IRTPA).[29] IRTPA ensured that DHS would have a central part in the Information Sharing Environment (ISE).[28] FCs reported to the GAO that they issue a variety of products, such as:

  • Daily bulletins on general crime and information

  • Weekly bulletins on criminal or intelligence information

  • Assessments for in-depth reporting on emerging threats, groups of interest, or crime.

To obtain daily information, FCs access databases from the Federal Trade Commission, DHS, U.S. DOJ, the Office for the Program Manager for the ISE (appointed by the President), and even limited information from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Each of these organizations has taken steps to provide FCs with access to Federal information systems. Appendix C of this report provides a listing of databases that the FCs may access.

DHS reports that, as of August 2009, the HSDN is deployed at 29 FCs. This communications network allows the Federal government to move information and intelligence to the States at the secret level. Through HSDN, FC staff can access the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which is a classified portal of the most current terrorism-related information according to its Web site. Many FCs will have an SCIF where they have access to classified information, operated either by the FBI, DHS I&A, or other designated agencies. Collaborative network capabilities exist for the purposes of sharing information between the Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS), LEO, and DHS’ HSIN.

In many cases, concern over information management systems is due to the fact that State systems cannot work with other systems within the State or regionally since there is no single national-level system. Despite Federal efforts to promote the use of Extensible Markup Language (XML) as the standard format across all levels of government for justice and public safety information management systems, FCs and States continue to purchase systems that operate using proprietary language and that cannot “speak” to other systems without additional equipment and costs.[30] However, information sharing has been a long-standing practice among justice agencies, particularly within the law enforcement community according to FC guidelines.

FCs have been providing their partners with alerts, bulletins, reports, and assessments, all in an effort to improve the quality of information and the process of information sharing. In the beginning, most of the partners were Federal and law enforcement organizations. However, this has been evolving as the centers move toward an “All Hazards” approach. The intelligence alerts and bulletins serve to provide immediate information and updates, respectively, to present situational awareness and a clearer operating picture to first responders. Daily and intelligence reports look at larger regional and global issues. These reports serve to inform the recipients of trends or concerns in various sectors such as:

  • Agriculture and food
  • Banking and finance
  • Hazardous materials (HazMat) and the chemical industry
  • Education
  • Emergency management
  • Entertainment and retail
  • Fire and emergency medical services
  • Government
  • Military
  • Private security
  • Postal and shipping
  • Public health
  • Telecommunications
  • Transportation
  • Utility and water.


These reports are exchanged between FCs and stakeholder agencies and are intended to educate the person(s) working for the agency who has a right and need to know. FCs often do not want these reports disseminated without their prior permission.

In addition to alerts, bulletins, and reports, FCs will provide assessments. These are usually for the locality under their jurisdiction. These assessments are used to generate the State of Affairs or an Annual Threat Assessment report that can be presented to the governor of the State and/or any other officials who have a need to know this information.

[25] See 511 Deployment Status.

[26] ESF-1 is defined by FEMA as transportation assisting Federal agencies, State and local governmental entities, and voluntary organizations requiring transportation capacity to perform response missions following a major disaster or emergency. ESF -1 also serves as a coordination point between response operations and restoration of the transportation infrastructure.

[27] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of Homeland Security Information Sharing Strategy, April 2008, accessed 2010.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Government Accountability Office Report to Congressional Committees, Homeland Security: Federal Efforts Are Helping to Alleviate Some Challenges Encountered by State and Local Information Fusion Centers, October 2007.

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June 2010
Publication #FHWA-HOP-09-003