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.
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.
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:
TMCs can disseminate collected and owned information to the public via:
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:
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.
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.
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 (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).
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. This role has been expanded and refined in subsequent statutes, such as the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, as amended (IRTPA). IRTPA ensured that DHS would have a central part in the Information Sharing Environment (ISE). FCs reported to the GAO that they issue a variety of products, such as:
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. 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:
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.
 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.
 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of Homeland Security Information Sharing Strategy, April 2008, accessed 2010.
 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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United States Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration
Last Modified: December 5, 2013