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

5.2 Successful Practices

This section provides examples of how centers are currently sharing information and the barriers that exist to successful information sharing, as well as a discussion of the processes that enable it.

5.2.1 Case Examples of Information Sharing

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) report (see footnote at the beginning of Chapter 5 of this guidebook) defines four primary means of information sharing:

  • Face-to-Face. Encompasses direct interpersonal activities, usually at joint operations or shared facilities
  • Remote Voice. Includes common communications options such as telephones and land mobile radio
  • Electronic Text. Involves text messaging via paging, facsimile, or email devices and text access to traffic incident-related data systems, including CAD
  • Other Media and Advanced Systems. Comprises technology-dependent methods not addressed in previous categories, such as video and other imaging systems, and integrated technologies such as advanced traffic management systems.

The study found that the primary means of center-to-center interagency communications remains standard wireline communications. Where transportation centers operate freeway management systems by CCTV or other video systems, embedded sensors in roadways, DMS, and HAR systems, the information generated by these systems is readily shared with co-located public safety officials. In some cases, control of these systems is shared remotely.

In the case of the Kentucky Intelligence FC (KIFC) and the State TOC, both operations are not only housed in the same building but operate out of the same room. Operations are kept separate, allowing TOC staff to not need national security clearances. However, staff do undergo a thorough background check before they are able to work in this tightly secured facility.

The facility itself was assessed once it was built, and it was determined that the space, along with the common threads between the centers, warranted their co-location. While there might be a clear division between centers, there is no hesitation between center staff to share information. Any TOC data that is recorded (e.g., back-ups, crashes, other incidents) is posted to the Internet and is available to anyone who needs access to the data, including FC staff. The State Police Vehicle Enforcement Unit, formerly an operation run by the State DOT, continues to maintain its station at the TOC for coordination purposes. Vehicle Enforcement and the TOC share information through CAD. However, because the KIFC and the TOC work in the same facility, besides CAD, much of the information exchange is informal. Conversations, e-mails, and phone calls are the primary methods used to exchange data as needed. Currently, the TOC has 179 traffic cameras in the State and 38 DMS, with most of them controlled out of the TOC. For the KIFC staff, access information that can be provided by these traffic cameras or the ability to have messages posted on DMS is literally just a few steps away. It is also important to point out that while none of the TOC and KIFC systems are linked, staff at both centers feel that there is still a very good flow of information.

Table 5-1: Summary of Information-Sharing Methods by Surveyed Public Safety Entities[59]
Location Face-to-Face Remote Voice Electronic Text Other Media and Advanced Systems
Albany, NY Two co-location sites Some sharing of public safety radios; some use of commercial wireless service “talk groups” Shared CAD system Roadway data, images, and video shared remotely
Austin, TX Co-location site ready to open* Safety/service patrols equipped with local police radios CAD data to be shared remotely CCTV control shared with local police
Cincinnati, OH Transportation center hosts regional incident management team operations Some sharing of public safety radios; some use of commercial wireless service “talk groups” Shared CAD under development CCTV and other traveler information are shared with public
Minneapolis, MN Multiple co-location sites Shared radio systems; some use of commercial wireless service “talk groups” Shared CAD data CCTV and other traffic management systems are shared
Phoenix, AZ   Safety/service patrols equipped with local police radios; shared radio system to be deployed State DOT data workstations provided to local public safety agencies CCTV shared with local fire department
Salt Lake City, UT Co-location site Safety/service patrols equipped with local police radios Shared CAD data CCTV and other traffic management systems are shared
San Antonio, TX Co-location site Safety/service patrols equipped with State patrol radios; center-to-center intercom system Shared CAD data CCTV and other traffic management systems are shared
San Diego, CA Co-location site   Shared CAD data CAD data are posted on traveler information Web site
Seattle, WA     Shared CAD data Control of CCTV is shared with State patrol

* Combined Transportation Emergency Coordination Center (CTECC) is operational

Another example of successful information sharing came about when a “hot truck,” a truck suspected of carrying radiological materials, alerted a sensor at a weigh station in Laurel County, Kentucky, that it may be carrying a radiological substance. Since this vehicle was not supposed to be carrying such material, the State police vehicle enforcement desk, located in the TOC, was immediately notified of the situation. As the vehicle was intercepted by State police units, the KIFC worked to gather all available intelligence on the vehicle, the driver, operating company, manifest, etc. The KIFC staff worked through the TOC and vehicle enforcement to provide the officers on the scene with all of the relevant information necessary so that they were able to safely and successfully handle the situation.

The KIFC and State DOT representatives were quick to point out that while these operations may have been unique at the time, the way the incidents are handled together has become part of their day-to-day coordination activities.

Another example of information sharing is in the District of Columbia metropolitan area, which includes the collaboration of the District, Maryland, and Virginia DOTs. Information, incident response responsibilities, and evacuation plans are all shared via the Information Sharing and Collaboration Capabilities program and the Regional Integrated Transportation Information System (RITIS), with the regional TMC as the central command center.

Many FCs across the country are members of the RISS. FCs, such as the Delaware Information Analysis Center, use this system for information-sharing purposes. According to its Web site, RISS is a national program of regionally oriented services designed to enhance the ability of local, State, Federal, and tribal criminal justice agencies. The focus of RISS is rapid information exchange for criminal activities; however, RISS also offers training to member States and enhances information sharing.

Figure 5-1: Centers’ Links[60]

map of the United States showing the RISS six regional centers

RISS is broken into six regional centers, as shown in Figure 5-1:

  1. MAGLOCLEN – Middle Atlantic-Great Lakes Organized Crime Law Enforcement
  2. NESPIN – New England State Police Information Network
  3. MOCIC – Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center
  4. WSIN – Western States Information Network
  5. RMIN – Rocky Mountain Information Network
  6. ROCIC – Regional Organized Crime Information Center.

While criminal information sharing is the overall focus of RISS, other pieces of information are exchanged to enhance the quality of the analysis and to provide useful information to other partners.

5.2.2 Approaches to Overcoming Institutional, Operational, and Technical Barriers

Where the TRB report found the greatest successes in information sharing, formal frameworks have served as the cornerstone for those successes. The frameworks stem from broader regional cooperative efforts and include regional traffic management or incident management organizations. Examples include:

  • In New York State, the relationship between the Thruway Authority and the State police epitomizes public safety and transportation integration. At the Thruway State Operations Center, TIM (Transportation Information Management) information sharing between public safety and transportation is seamless; single individuals serve as the nexus for both agencies. The seamless integration is made possible by transportation funding of State police operations and by Thruway Authority employees serving as public safety dispatchers.

  • San Antonio region organizations established a TMC in the 1960s to address regional transportation management issues. As the importance of managing traffic incidents has increased, the TMC has proven to be an effective mechanism for fostering communication and coordination among responders. The TMC consists of representatives from the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the San Antonio Public Works Department, Alamo Dome, the San Antonio Police Department, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department, EMS providers, towing and recovery service providers, and county health agencies.

  • Washington State Patrol (WSP) and WSDOT have cooperatively developed a joint operations policy statement. The purpose of this working agreement is to document the joint policy positions between the two agencies regarding issues of mutual interest in operating State highways. As a result, both agencies are able to make decisions internal to their own agencies to provide the foundation that ultimately supports information sharing between the two agencies.

  • Minnesota DOT and State police have established multiple MOU and guidelines since 1999 that lay the groundwork for coordinated TIM and interagency information sharing.

  • Salt Lake City established closer working relationships between transportation and law enforcement in the region. Early in the process, the senior leadership in both departments signed a memorandum of agreement between their respective agencies. This expression of commitment and support proved to be an effective tool for bringing the members of each department closer together. The close working relationship was evidence that the spirit of the agreement was emphasized in the following years by senior and mid-level management in both departments, and it has come to be regarded as a native and natural way of doing business together.

Utah’s field test aimed to demonstrate how the integration of CAD and TMC systems could improve incident response capabilities and how institutional barriers could be overcome.[61] Utah’s technical approach was intended to include the following elements and perform the associated functions:

  • Create a common message set, structured in a uniform and open format, to enable the exchange of information among multiple agencies with unique requirements, policies, and operating environments. Two interagency shared data messages (ISDM) are planned—the interagency service requests (ISR) and the interagency Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS) message (IAM). The ISR specifically requests services rendered by public safety agencies and secondary responder services. ISRs may be between CAD systems and/or between CAD systems and ATMS to specifically request public safety and secondary responder services. The IAM relates to traffic condition advisories and traffic control requests between CAD systems and the ATMS.

  • Support the ISR via data specification sets (DSS) that incorporate the standard data elements found in all CAD systems. The DSS will specify an XML application to import and export (I/X) the data sets. The DSS will also specify the data standards for each element, as per the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) standards, including IEEE 1512-2000, 1512.1, and 1512.2, as available and applicable. The ISR-DSS specifications will be in the public domain.

  • Select a commonly used operating system and language (e.g., Windows 2000 and Visual Basic) to develop legacy system interfaces (LSIs) between existing UHP and UDOT systems to enable information exchange. The LSI will be a stand-alone server program in the public domain designed for nationwide application at TMCs for the ISR and IAM messages between different vendor CAD systems and between CAD systems and ATMS.

  • Develop LSIs between the State systems and county and municipal government systems (VECC, Salt Lake City).

  • Integrate the new UTA CAD system currently under development.

  • Continue UDOT ITS Division-developed unique browser-based Event Tracking System (ETS) to manage and update planned events (e.g., roadway construction), and in real time for subsequent dissemination to the traveling public. The ETS is being deployed statewide, and will be used by local city, county, and State agencies. Information from the ETS will be updated and integrated into the CommuterLink traffic management system, including 511, using XML.

5.2.3 Training Examples

Overall, TMCs, FCs, and EOCs typically do not engage in cross training or analyst exchanges. However, States involved with RISS have the opportunity to engage in conferences that provide both training and information sharing. This section provides a discussion of TMC training findings as well as the differentiated training needs of FCs.

According to a U.S. DOT study, Transportation Management Center Concept of Operations, Improving Transportation Network Efficiency, training of staff is critical for ensuring successful TMC operations. In a survey of eight key centers, the report details training operations and procedures for three sample centers—Boston, Toronto, and Atlanta. Innovative training and documentation procedures observed include Boston’s plans for online procedures, Toronto’s “functionally” oriented help function, and Atlanta’s use of hypertext in help and training materials. The following are excerpts from the study’s findings on training.

  • Boston—due to the constantly changing condition of its road network because of the construction of the Central Artery/ Tunnel—has a program of continually updating its procedures.

  • Toronto has reorganized its operations department to include an individual assigned to maintain and update its procedures, and Atlanta has created a training and documentation staff within its operations department. Atlanta has also created a position in its ITS organization for document control.

  • Because of the frequent change of its procedures, Boston has implemented desktop rehearsal and new and altered procedure simulations to ensure operational readiness.

  • Atlanta periodically assigns its operators to accompany the services they support and interact with, such as the motorist assistance patrol. Atlanta’s training program offers examples of several valuable practices. Atlanta has established a training unit in its planning department, which prepares operations procedures. New operators begin with a 2-week formal training program on the operator console and software and progress to 3 to 4 days each of training on various duties, procedures, and response plans. New hires are provided tours of the project area to gain familiarity with the road network and device locations. They also ride with the motorist assistance patrol during their new-hire training.

Although it was not one of the three centers whose training operations and procedures were specifically studied in the report, the study reported that staff at Wisconsin DOT’s MONITOR program in Milwaukee recognized the need for a different orientation in the training of its law enforcement partner and they developed a customized training manual for its use. Milwaukee has provided a system workstation at the law enforcement dispatch site and has received positive feedback from the law enforcement dispatchers regarding this access.

Topics of training specifically for FCs focus on a different set of skills, and can include anti-terrorism training, crime-specific investigative techniques, surveillance techniques, use of specialized equipment, officer safety information, and analytical techniques.[62] A specific example of the development of a training program at an FC is the Michigan Intelligence Operation Center (MIOC). While awaiting DHS to finish development of its field training for intelligence and information sharing, MIOC has begun to develop and offer various forms of training for local law enforcement and partners of the intelligence cycle. The MIOC considers public safety and private sector components of the fusion process to be its partners in the intelligence cycle. To the MIOC, these components represent nontraditional gatherers of information, and it views their interaction as opportunities to enhance and increase the amount of information that is shared. The MIOC has developed a recommended list of Federal training programs for its partners’ consideration; however, some of the training may not be available to agencies unless they can be sponsored by a local law enforcement entity. 

[59] Transportation Research Board, NCHRP Report 20, Sharing Information between Public Safety and Transportation Agencies for Traffic Incident Management, 2004.

[60] Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS). Institute for Intergovernmental Research Website, accessed 2010.

[61] U.S. Department of Transportation, Intelligent Transportation Systems, Computer-Aided Dispatch – Traffic Management Center Field Operational Test: State of Utah Final Report, U.S. DOT ITS Program Assessment Support Contract, July 2006.

[62] Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS), Institute for Intergovernmental Research Web site, accessed 2010.

June 2010
Publication #FHWA-HOP-09-003