Emergency Transportation Operations

Best Practices in Traffic Incident Management
September 2010

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Efforts to develop or improve TIM are often challenged by issues of an institutional rather than operational nature. Common impediments frequently relate to:

  • Agency relations.
  • Training.
  • Communications.
  • Technology.
  • Performance measurement.
  • Program resources and funding.

Institutional challenges are more difficult than operational challenges to characterize and address. Consequently, the effectiveness of various tools and strategies designed to overcome the most common impediments and improve overall TIM efforts is difficult to accurately determine.

The remainder of this chapter describes common institutional challenges and potential strategies for improvement for each of the six areas identified above. Whenever possible, the reader is directed to example applications, reported either in the published and electronic information sources or by participating TIM practitioners, to support additional information gathering regarding a particular tool or strategy of interest.

Agency Relations

Strong agency relations are a basic underlying principle of effective TIM. Key relationships should exist among transportation, law enforcement, fire and rescue, and EMS agencies and the towing and recovery industry. Additional partners that should not be overlooked include the trucking industry, traffic control industry, insurance industry, and emergency management agencies. (66)

Common challenges to effective agency relations include the following:

  • Different agency priorities and cultures. Although each TIM responder performs a valuable function at the scene of an incident, differing priorities and agency cultures often complicate and may delay the TIM process. For example, lengthy law enforcement investigation duties sometimes conflict with the objective of quickly restoring traffic flow under a multidisciplinary TIM approach. Fire and rescue personnel, with the intent of protecting the incident scene, may use fire equipment that can unnecessarily block traffic lanes and may not respond individually to requests from other response agencies unless their commanding officer directs them to do so. Transportation agencies are rarely connected directly to public safety emergency communications and dispatch systems, and not all operate 24 h a day, resulting in sometimes lengthy after-hours response. Compared to other TIM participants, towing and recovery service providers are unique because they are not public agencies; they must remain profitable to retain a skilled work force and purchase and maintain expensive and complex equipment. (66) Understanding these differences in priorities and operating protocols helps each participant appreciate another’s expertise and helps agencies coordinate overall incident management efforts more effectively.

  • Informal TIM operations. TIM efforts, as stand-alone activities, may be beneficial but are vulnerable to administrative personnel changes and annual budgetary fluctuations. Institutionalizing TIM efforts into formalized TIM programs can help to encourage sustainability. Sustainable TIM programs may require legislative or administrative authorization, strategic missions and goals, written operational policies, and formal organizational structure. The latter can include trained and dedicated staff, assigned responsibilities, defined reporting channels, and steady dedicated funding. Most TIM programs at the State and regional levels have some of these institutional support elements in place, but none seem to have them all. (67)

Table 7 identifies the various tools and strategies that have proven effective in overcoming each of these challenges and identifies select locations where these tools and strategies are in use. Note that additional tools and strategies that were more variable in their reported effectiveness—including a viable career path for TIM—are included in appendix C.

Table 7. Agency relations challenges, strategies, and select implementation locations.
AGENCY RELATIONS STRATEGIES Different Priorities / Cultures Informal TIM Operations EXAMPLE APPLICATIONS
Routine, Periodic “TIM Team” Meetings GA (Atlanta), MI (Detroit), NJ/PA (Delaware Valley Region), TX (Austin), WA, WI
Joint Agency/Jurisdictional Protocols FL (Southeast), WA
Joint Traffic/Emergency Management Center FL, GA (Atlanta), IL (Chicago), NY (Hudson Valley Region, New York), RI, TX (Austin), UT (Salt Lake City)

Additional descriptive information regarding the various tools and strategies and select locations where these tools and strategies are in use is provided below.

  • Routine, periodic “TIM team” meetings. To encourage ongoing dialogue among TIM responders, monthly or quarterly meetings may be held to bring forward and discuss TIM challenges, procedures, and resource needs related to operations or safety. These meetings are commonly organized and facilitated by a champion within one of the participating agencies but may also be arranged through an external contractor. Successful meetings include regular participants from law enforcement, fire and rescue, EMS, transportation, towing and recovery, and other agencies. Often, participating TIM responders are formalized into a “TIM team” to encourage individual commitment to TIM efforts and help ensure that all response agency and partner perspectives are represented in discussions.

    For example, in the Delaware Valley region in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the DVRPC facilitated development of five corridor-focused TIM task forces that meet on a quarterly basis. Task force members include State and local law enforcement, fire and rescue, EMS, transportation (including operations, maintenance, and project management divisions), towing and recovery, communications, and environmental protection agencies. In New Jersey, four subcommittees—focused on policy and procedures, response boxes, training, and feedback—meet as necessary outside of the quarterly meetings. The DVRPC staff provides administrative support for each of the task forces and facilitates agency coordination. As an “outside” agency that does not respond directly to incidents, DVRPC is effective in promoting and organizing TIM activities among responders but cannot exercise authority over State or local transportation or public safety agencies.

    Other examples of active TIM teams include the following:

    • The Austin-Area Incident Management for Highways (AIMHigh) Team in Austin, TX—including representatives from Federal, State, and local transportation agencies; State and local law enforcement agencies; fire and rescue agencies; EMS; the local towing association; local watershed protection agencies; and the regional metropolitan planning organization (MPO)—meet bimonthly to discuss TIM challenges, accomplishments, and resource needs. Meetings are facilitated by an outside contractor.
    • The TIME Task Force, Inc., in metropolitan Atlanta, GA, is comprised largely of representatives from State and local transportation agencies, State and local law enforcement agencies, fire and rescue agencies, EMS, and towing and recovery interests. Members generally meet quarterly and have recently begun to host an annual conference. Like the TIM teams in the Delaware Valley region in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the TIME Task Force, Inc., supports four subcommittees focused on operations, programs, training, and communications. Additional information is available at the Metro Atlanta TIME Task Force, Inc., website, accessible at http://timetaskforce.com/index.html. (68)
    • In Detroit, MI, the Incident Management Coordinating Committee (IMCC) began in 1992 as an ad-hoc advisory group made up of public agencies and private interests with the purpose of improving response to traffic incidents. Since its inception, the IMCC has facilitated major TIM improvements including the development of a combined Michigan Department of Transportation/State Police TMC, the expansion of CCTV camera and DMS coverage on the metropolitan freeways, the establishment of the Freeway Courtesy Patrol, and legislative changes that reduced the time that abandoned vehicles were allowed to remain on the freeway right-of-way from 48 to 18 h. (69) The IMCC includes subcommittees focused on freeway operations, planning, and short-term initiatives. Meetings are generally monthly and are facilitated by an outside contractor.
    • In 2008, Washington’s TIM Coalition (WaTIMCo) hosted the inaugural Washington State TIM Conference, intended to serve as the first formal WaTIMCo meeting, provide a forum for discussing NTIMC’s NUG and how best to implement associated best practices in the State, and provide an opportunity to strengthen existing transportation–public safety partnerships. The conference received endorsements from the Washington State Department of Transportation, Washington State Patrol, Washington State Fire Fighters’ Association, American Automobile Association, and governor. Additional information is available through the WaTIMCo website, accessible at http://www.watimcoalition.org/. (70)
    • Wisconsin’s statewide TIME team includes representatives from Federal, State, and local transportation agencies; State and local law enforcement agencies; fire and rescue agencies; EMS; the State towing association; the State motor carrier association; and various media outlets. A complete list of members is available at Wisconsin’s TIME program website, accessible at http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/stoc/time.htm. (71)

    The effectiveness of TIM teams and associated TIM meetings is dependent upon the meeting frequency, participation, and content. In addition, members must feel that they have the ability and/or authority to make change. Targeting fire and rescue agencies, Sullivan recently promoted the benefits of TIM teams and associated TIM meetings as a means to “preplan, train and coordinate the resources of a number of different agencies” and “develop a better understanding of the resources, staffing, response times and protocols for the other responders.” (72) Participation in such forums was encouraged to ensure that unique fire and rescue operational needs—such as access to water supplies, emergency turnarounds, pull-offs/exits, and any detours that can affect emergency response times—are considered.

  • Joint agency/jurisdictional protocols. On a more formal basis, agencies or jurisdictions can develop joint operating protocols intended to recognize the shared responsibility for roadway safety between public safety and transportation agencies.

    For example, the Washington State Patrol and Department of Transportation signed the first Joint Operations Policy Statement (JOPS) in the Nation to better coordinate efforts to clear traffic incidents. In addition to describing how each of the various TIM program components function under a multi-agency agreement, this document formalized the 90-min clearance goal for major traffic incidents that was initiated in 1997. The agreement, currently under revision and scheduled to be released in 2010, also addresses broader issues related to data sharing, communication, enforcement, work zone safety, commercial vehicle operations, safety rest areas, and more. (73)

    In southeast Florida, a similar JOP, developed between the public safety community and the Florida Department of Transportation, is intended to identify existing related policies and to create a common guideline for effective TIM.

  • Joint traffic/emergency management center. TMCs can be staffed by a single agency or multiple agencies. Facilities that house multiple agencies, including associated dispatch centers, under a single roof have the potential to enhance agency relations, as well as reduce overall facility development and operating costs (i.e., costs are shared across multiple agencies). Effective joint TMCs require a high level of information sharing and cooperation from all agency participants.

    One example of a joint traffic/emergency management center is Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC). Housed within a single building, the OEMC is comprised of four distinct but coordinated centers:

    • The Operations Center, staffed by personnel from local law enforcement, fire and rescue, and transportation agencies tasked with managing traffic.
    • The Joint Operations Center to support large-scale emergency management.
    • The City Incident Center, responsible for reactive roadway maintenance (i.e., snow removal, broken water main/downed power wire repairs).
    • The centralized 9-1-1/Dispatch Center for local police, fire and rescue, and EMS agencies.

    Together, they form an integrated unit that directs all of Chicago’s resources during local emergencies or large-scale catastrophes that require participation from State and Federal agencies. For first responders, the result is more accurate and timely direction in the field, better preparation for receiving casualties at the city’s trauma centers, and enhanced safety and backup. (74)

    Similarly, the Combined Transportation, Emergency, and Communications Center (CTECC) in Austin, TX, brings several State, county, and municipal government agencies together in a single facility to share command-and-control resources in the area and strengthen the area's emergency communications and traffic management. Located at the CTECC facility are the City of Austin’s 9-1-1 dispatch, police department, fire department, and EMS; Travis County’s 9-1-1 dispatch and sheriff’s department; the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the local transit system); and the Texas Department of Transportation.

    Several additional examples of joint traffic/emergency management centers exist across the Nation:

    • Throughout Florida, several of the TMCs operated by the Florida Department of Transportation are entirely or partially co-located with their counterpart State law enforcement dispatch centers, and sometimes in the Florida Highway Patrol District Headquarters. (6)
    • To facilitate communications during large-scale incidents and emergencies impacting the highway network, the primary TMC in Atlanta, GA, is located in close proximity to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s (GEMA’s) Statewide Emergency Operations Center (EOC). In addition, GEMA representatives are active participants in the TIME Task Force. (6)
    • Similarly, the TMC operated by the New York City Department of Transportation is located in the same facility with the New York Police Department, improving coordination for traffic incidents. More recently, the New York State Department of Transportation and State Police partnered to design, build, and operate a TMC in the Hudson Valley region to facilitate multi-agency TIM and disseminate traveler information. (6)
    • The Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s TMC and radio dispatch is co-located with the State Police, allowing for better, easier coordination. (6)
    • Similarly, the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) Communications Bureau dispatch is co-located with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) in Salt Lake City’s TMC. The UDOT TMC operators and DPS dispatchers work together to identify incidents and get a response unit to the incident scene quicker.


TIM training efforts may focus on three general areas:

  • Training specific to TIM within one’s own agency or company.
  • Training aimed at increasing awareness of other responders’ roles or existence.
  • Training aimed at improving specific procedural operations.

Efforts to improve TIM should consider training activities in each of these areas. Training efforts focused on a single agency or company’s procedures or on procedural operations can be tailored based on specific needs. Training aimed at increasing awareness of other responders’ roles or existence should involve response personnel from law enforcement, fire and rescue, EMS, transportation, towing and recovery, and other disciplines.

Common challenges to effective TIM operations stem from the following:

  • Inadequate joint training among responders. TIM personnel receive extensive discipline-specific training but have fewer opportunities to train with responders from other disciplines. The NTIMC Training Task Force has identified essential TIM functions that can be commonly performed by various agency personnel in their document Multidisciplinary Core Competencies. (75) For example, NTIMC recommends that all responders, regardless of discipline, be trained to position vehicles to support scene safety and expeditious exit of EMS vehicles, establish temporary traffic control, provide basic first aid to victims until EMS arrives, and assume incident command until replaced. The NTIMC recommends cooperative roles for law enforcement and transportation personnel when establishing advance traffic control and detour routes, with fire and rescue personnel providing assistance as needed. Similarly, law enforcement personnel are primarily tasked with vehicle and debris removal, but transportation and fire and rescue personnel are urged to take an assistive role. Both fire and rescue and transportation personnel are presumed to competently perform functions associated with the cleanup of minor spills. Multidisciplinary training, particularly in these common functional areas, will encourage more efficient and effective TIM.

  • Responder competency/standardization. Too often, TIM is learned on the job, with training deficiencies most commonly identified for transportation and towing and recovery personnel. Transportation agencies, in a formal capacity, are relatively new to TIM and, therefore, lack substantive training materials. Unlike public safety agencies, whose personnel devote much of their time to training for emergency or life-threatening situations, transportation personnel are typically not trained in such areas. One reason may be that the role of transportation agencies at an incident scene may be clear in the most general terms (i.e., to provide traffic control) but quickly becomes vague about specific duties such as response to hazardous material incidents. In addition, the roles and involvement of transportation agencies in TIM vary nationally (i.e., some transportation agencies are very proactive and would like to assume additional TIM responsibilities, whereas others are content to perform construction and maintenance functions).

    Until recently, towing and recovery agencies also suffered from a lack of substantive training materials. The TRAA National Driver Certification program was developed to enhance TIM training for towing and recovery operators. Not all companies subscribe to the TRAA certification program, however, resulting in inconsistent operator competency at the scene of an incident. A request to a towing and recovery company may result in response by a well-qualified professional with years of expertise or a new employee whose skills are not up to the job.

  • Variable traffic control training among responders. The use of traffic control standards meets driver expectations and reduces a public agency’s potential for liability. Nontransportation personnel are often ill equipped and untrained to provide extensive traffic control at the scene of an incident. Because they are often first on the scene, however, enhancements to scene management could result if they are trained in MUTCD-compliant procedures, despite limitations in available traffic control devices.

Table 8 identifies the various tools and strategies that have proven effective in overcoming each of these challenges and identifies select locations where these tools and strategies are in use.

Table 8. Training challenges, strategies, and select implementation locations.
TRAINING STRATEGIES Inadequate Joint Training Responder Competency / Standards Variable Traffic Control Training EXAMPLE APPLICATIONS
National TIM Training National Highway Institute (NHI), Department of Homeland Security (DHS, NIMS), Consortium for ITS Training and Education (CITE), Traffic Incident Management Systems
Information Clearinghouses/ Communities of Practice NTIMC, ResponderSafety.com, I-95 Quick Clearance Toolkit, International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Technology Clearinghouse, IAFC Vehicle Safety Resources, FL (Southwest), GA, IN, NV, NJ/PA (Delaware Valley Region), NY, WA, WI
Local Multidisciplinary TIM Training AZ, FL, GA, IN, MD, MI, NC, NJ, NY, OR, TX (Dallas, Ft. Worth), VA, WA, WI
Tabletop Exercises/Scenarios NJ/PA (Delaware Valley Region), MD
After-Action Reviews/Debriefings FL, ME/NH, GA, NV, NJ/PA (Delaware Valley Region), TX (Austin), WI
Multidisciplinary TIM Response Plan/Operating Procedures AZ, CT, ME/NH, MA, MN, NJ/PA (Delaware Valley Region), NY, NC, OH, TX (Austin, San Antonio), WI
TIM Personnel Certifications/Training Requirements TRAA, GA, NJ/PA (Delaware Valley Region), NY (Hudson Valley Region), VA

Additional descriptive information regarding the various tools and strategies and select locations where these tools and strategies are in use is provided below.

  • National TIM training. NHI offers a suite of courses that provides awareness-level training for personnel from law enforcement, fire and rescue, transportation, towing and recovery, communications, and other agencies or companies involved in responding to incidents or planning special events:

    • Managing Traffic Incident and Roadway Emergencies (FHWA-NHI-133048) addresses institutional and technical aspects of resolving traffic incidents and roadway emergencies safely and efficiently.
    • Managing Travel for Planned Special Events (FHWA-NHI-133099) guides practitioners through all phases of managing travel for planned events using a local event scenario.
    • Using the Incident Command System (ICS) at Highway Incidents (FHWA-NHI-133101) presents an overview of ICS, its structure, and how it expands/contracts to meet incident demands while maintaining a manageable span of control for on-scene personnel.

    These courses may be taken individually or in succession.

    In addition, DHS offers NIMS training. The NIMS provides a consistent nationwide template to enable Federal, State, tribal, and local governments; the private sector; and nongovernmental organizations to work together to prepare for, prevent, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity, in order to reduce the loss of life and property and reduce harm to the environment. These courses are available online, accessible at http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/NIMSTrainingCourses, for all emergency-services-related disciplines such as law enforcement, fire and rescue, EMS, hospitals, public health, public works/utilities, skilled support personnel, and other emergency management response, support, and volunteer personnel. (76)

    CITE also provides an online course related to TIM, accessible at http://www.citeconsortium.org/courses/1mod8.html. (77) This course, however, is intended for transportation professionals from State, regional, and local agencies and may lack a multidisciplinary focus.

    Recently, the U.S. Fire Administration and the USDOT, working in partnership with the International Fire Service Training Association, published Traffic Incident Management Systems. (78) The report provides guidance to local-level fire and rescue agencies to encourage compliance with the MUTCD and the Incident Command System Model Procedures Guide for Incidents Involving Structural Fire Fighting, High Rise, Multi Casualty, Highway, & Managing Large-Scale Incidents Using NIMS-ICS. (79) The report includes case studies of roadway incidents that have resulted in firefighter fatalities, highway scene safety survival basics, incident command for roadway incidents, and examples of effective TIM programs.

  • Information clearinghouses/communities of practice. Electronic information clearinghouses or communities of practice (COPs) focused on TIM can support local training efforts as well as achieve broader benefits related to targeted information exchange and expedited implementation of successful TIM tools and strategies.

    A number of TIM-related information clearinghouses or COPs exist at the national level:

    • The NTIMC website, accessible at http://timcoalition.org/?siteid=41&pageid=590, provides electronic access to information intended to promote State, regional, and local TIM programs; TIM-related standards, best practices, and performance measures; and TIM-related research. (1) The website provides an overview of the recently ratified NUG and includes links to various TIM-related publications and products, multidisciplinary and directed TIM training materials, quick clearance legislation and policies, standard operating procedures and guidelines, State and local TIM activities, and upcoming TIM-related meetings and events. The NTIMC also supports information exchange through a COP website, accessible at http://timexchange.org/inc/inc.nsf/home. (80) The NTIMC COP website offers a forum for TIM practitioners to post and respond to questions to encourage the direct exchange of experiences and knowledge within the TIM community.
    • The FHWA’s Emergency Transportation Operations Traffic Incident Management website, accessible at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/eto_tim_pse/about/tim.htm, provides descriptive information about TIM and TIM partners, as well as electronic access to various related publications (including a link to FHWA’s Office of Operation’s Publications website that includes more than 30 TIM related reports), regulations, and policies. (67) This information clearinghouse also provides a point of contact at FHWA if further information is required.
    • The ResponderSafety.com website, accessible at www.respondersafety.com, provides similar opportunities for information exchange. (81) This website—created and maintained by the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association Emergency Responder Safety Institute (ERSI), with recent support from the U.S. Fire Administration—includes timely news, downloadable training courses and information, product and equipment information, a photo gallery, model standard operating procedures and guidelines, information on quick clearance legislation, and more.
    • The Coordinated Incident Management Toolkit for Quick Clearance, developed by the I-95 Corridor Coalition, serves as an additional resource to support information exchange. (43) The toolkit is designed for use by multiple disciplines and provides policy makers and TIM practitioners with ready-to-use tools to assist them in providing more effective TIM practices, with a primary emphasis on quick clearance. Information that is available electronically for download includes presentations, videos, and TIM scenarios, as well as supporting information such as sample policies, laws, memoranda of understanding, and incident response plans.
    • Providing for more focused information exchange, a technology clearinghouse was established in 1997 through a cooperative agreement between the IACP, FHWA, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The IACP Technology Clearinghouse, accessible at http://www.iacptechnology.org/, is a web-based information exchange forum focused on innovative law enforcement and transportation technologies. The website provides informational resources related to TIM technologies and resources, ITS, computer-aided dispatch (CAD) and records management systems, and law enforcement information management resources. The website receives over 3.6 million hits each year. (82)
    • Intended primarily for fire and rescue personnel, the IAFC Vehicle Safety Resources website, accessible at http://www.iafc.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=413, provides unrestricted access to various standard operating procedures and guidelines that relate to positioning vehicles at the scene of an incident, the use of emergency lighting, and general TIM operations with a focus on safety. (83)

    Similar resources have been developed at the State level. For example, the Delaware Valley region in New Jersey and Pennsylvania has developed a collection of resources or “toolbox” to support TIM task force development and ongoing efforts. A CD contains a series of ready-to-use TIM meeting facilitation materials, examples of local TIM products, a video, and various national resource documents. (6)

    A number of States also host websites intended to share TIM-related information. Examples include:

    Select States routinely distribute supplemental newsletters to further enhance information sharing among TIM practitioners:

    • In southwest Florida, a bimonthly newsletter is distributed in electronic format that includes information regarding State and local TIM team activities and national TIM initiatives. (6)
    • Similarly, Georgia distributes a quarterly newsletter to all participating agencies with updates on current accomplishments of the TIME Task Force. (6)
    • With a more specific focus, Nevada distributes an annual newsletter that updates members/stakeholders on current activities as they relate to the State’s TIM strategic plan. (6)
  • Local multidisciplinary TIM training. Multidisciplinary training—involving personnel from law enforcement, fire and rescue, EMS, transportation, towing and recovery, and other disciplines—can effectively identify operational challenges and solutions, enhance understanding of respective personnel roles and responsibilities, encourage the efficient use of resources, and improve overall TIM operations, particularly if the training is tailored to meet local conditions, policies, procedures, and needs.

    Traditional multidisciplinary TIM training typically involves in-person interactions in a classroom environment. In Dallas/Fort Worth, TX, NCTCOG operates a successful, long-term TIM training program. Two separate courses have been designed for first responders/managers and executive-level policy makers. The first responder/manager level course is 2 d (15 h) in duration and offered nine times per year. The executive-level course is 2 h in duration and offered twice per year. Each course explains the goals, objectives, and benefits of multi-agency TIM coordination and training. Students are eligible for Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) and Fire Commission credits. In its first 3 yr of operation, more than 600 first responders/managers and 70 executives completed NCTCOG’s TIM training courses, resulting in a related significant reduction in lane closures due to incidents. (87)

    Offering similar training opportunities, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) teamed with the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) to develop the Transportation Emergency Response Institute (TERI) to train VDOT staff, partner agencies, and other stakeholders in responding effectively to roadway emergencies. (6)

    It is often difficult, however, for multiple disciplines to commit to formal, in-person training on a frequent basis. An alternative training method is to involve representatives from outside a discipline to speak about their role in TIM at regular agency or company training sessions. Several examples of this approach are available from across the Nation:

    • The Arizona Highway Patrol offers a 4-h training session to local fire and rescue agencies focused on TIM operations and quick clearance. The training session is credited with changing the way in which fire and rescue personnel position their vehicles at the scene of an incident, reducing overall lane blockage.
    • A similar training course focused on vehicle positioning and scene safety is provided to area fire and rescue agencies by Michigan Department of Transportation personnel. (6)
    • New Jersey Department of Transportation personnel provide a training session for all recruits at the State Police Academy. In addition, TIM personnel have organized 1-d multidisciplinary training programs involving the State transportation, State and local law enforcement, fire and rescue, EMS, Port Authority, and State Department of Environmental Protection agencies.
    • Quick clearance principles are taught in law enforcement academies in New York, as part of continuing rather than basic training. (6)
    • Georgia is planning to develop a 2- to 4-h TIM training session and integrate it into the Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) program for statewide delivery. (6)
    • Representatives from the Maryland State Highway Administration speak regularly to trainees in law enforcement and fire academies. Although exposure to public safety personnel has been historically limited—transportation personnel reported having a single hour to address State Police trainees and access to a single fire academy—recent extensive outreach efforts have successfully increased exposure to Maryland’s Roadway Incident Safety Responder Training program, particularly within the State’s fire academies. (6)
    • The Oregon Department of Transportation supports a local outreach program focused on responder safety that offers TIM training to both local law enforcement and fire and rescue responders. (66)
    • In Washington, multidisciplinary TIM training is provided cooperatively by the Washington State Department of Transportation, State Patrol, and fire and rescue personnel who emphasize unified command among all three disciplines. The State Patrol district commander in each district works with area transportation and fire district representatives to provide training sessions at least once per quarter. (6)

    A second alternative to formal, in-person TIM training is to make training widely available through a variety of remote mediums. For example, various training modules related to traffic control, scene safety, and the ICS are available for use by multiple agencies in Indiana. Training materials are available for download at the IN-TIME website, accessible at http://www.indianaquickclearance.org/. (58) Similarly, training materials consistent with the State’s Emergency Traffic Control and Scene Guidelines are available to agencies free of charge in Wisconsin. The training materials, which are available on DVD and include PowerPoint presentations for students and instructors with an accompanying instructor’s manual, can be ordered through the TIME website, accessible at http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/stoc/time.htm. (71)

    Supporting similar remote training efforts, the North Carolina Department of Transportation recently teamed with the State fire marshal and State and local law enforcement agencies to develop a Highway Incident Safety video, accessible for viewing at http://www.ncdoi.com/OSFM/RPD/rpd_resources_HighwaySafety.asp, intended to serve as a training tool for all responders in the State. The video introduces recent changes to apparatus and traffic cone placement at incident scenes and high-visibility chevron striping as per National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901: Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus. The video also addresses more general principles related to safe vehicle placement and proper traffic control at incident scenes. The video has been integrated into statewide training in the fire academy, as well as standard training in the Highway Patrol academy. More than 5,000 DVDs will be produced and distributed to agencies around the State. Fire departments that use the video for in-service training receive five free traffic cones for each of their trucks. The development effort, including the supply of traffic cones, was funded through a grant issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (6)

    Most recently, Florida set an ambitious goal of exposing all law enforcement, fire and rescue, and EMS first responders to TIM during the calendar year through a coordinated effort involving the Florida Department of Transportation, Highway Patrol, Police Chiefs Association, Sheriffs Association, and Fire Chiefs Association. (88) Initiated in early 2010, the “TIM in ’10” program employs a three-pronged training approach utilizing classroom, online, and video training strategies:

    • The 4- to 6-h classroom training module, Maintenance of Traffic (MOT) for Responders, describes traffic control principles commensurate with the limited resources available to emergency responders.
    • The companion PowerPoint slide series is available online to support independent study.
    • The roll call five-part streaming video product, TIMe4Safety, allows individuals or groups of responders to accomplish TIM training in less than 1 h. The video is accessible online at http://northfloridatpo.com/index.php?id=25. (89)

    In its first three months or operation, nearly 200 agencies signed on to participate in the TIM in ’10 program, representing exposure to over 21,000 Florida first responders. The roll call streaming video product, sponsored by the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, is the most popular training strategy. Several agencies host the video on their websites, and more than 500 DVD versions have been produced and distributed statewide. Florida’s Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission (CJSTC) has authorized 1 h of mandatory retraining credits for viewing the five-part TIMe4Safety video and will be requiring it in the future basic law enforcement officer training curriculum. (88)

  • Tabletop exercises/scenarios. For TIM training focused on operations, staged incidents provide the best forum for learning, particularly if the time and place of the staged incident are covert. Complex logistics prevent this form of training from occurring frequently, however. A training alternative includes tabletop exercises and scenarios in which representatives from law enforcement, fire and rescue, EMS, transportation, and private industry “act out” what they would do in a sample incident using a two- or three-dimensional representation of the roadway environment (e.g., aerial maps and photographs) and props (e.g., toy cars) representing TIM resources. The benefit of scenario training over on-the-job training is that participants can stop at any time and question other responders about their actions. At an actual incident scene, the urgency of performing actions does not allow this type of insightful discussion.

    In the Delaware Valley region in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the TIM task force for the I-95 corridor through Philadelphia, PA, staged a tabletop exercise with participants from all disciplines. Just weeks after the training exercise was performed, a major incident closed I-95 for several days at the same location as the scenario. The TIM Task Force credits the efficient and effective response to the “actual” incident to the prior participation in the tabletop exercise.

    As noted previously, traditional tabletop exercises/scenarios rely upon aerial maps, photographs, props, and other items to replicate the incident environment. More recently, the conduct of tabletop exercises/scenarios can be supported through commercially available virtual incident simulation software. Incident Commander™, developed by the National Institute of Justice, is one example of a virtual training tool. Using three-dimensional, multiplayer computer gaming simulation technology, Incident Commander™ allows TIM personnel to enhance response performance for a variety of large-scale incidents including severe storms and natural disasters; chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear events; terrorist bombings and insurgencies; explosions and fires; and floods.

    With a focus on smaller-scale, traffic-related incidents, the I-95 Corridor Coalition is sponsoring development of the Virtual Incident Management Training program, designed to educate and validate TIM techniques and quick clearance practices. It promotes communication, coordination, and cooperation using practical, interactive incident scenarios for up to 500 responders simultaneously. The program incorporates realistic time delays and resource limitations. Based on direct experience with the Virtual Incident Management Training program prototype, TIM personnel in Baltimore, MD, rated its effectiveness in enhancing the adequacy of multidisciplinary training among responders as high.

  • After-action reviews/debriefings. Follow-up reviews or assessments of incidents after their occurrence are important to discuss what went well and what actions could be improved upon. Ideally, after-action reviews/debriefings should occur immediately after the incident has been cleared (to ensure that details and procedures of the response effort are not forgotten) but following the necessary data collection. The main goals of these meetings are to constructively critique the procedures used and any decisions made and to determine whether future management could be improved in any way (e.g., by restructuring the procedures, adding extra resources, etc.). Personnel in attendance should include each of the responders who participated in the management effort. The I-95 Corridor Coalition’s Traffic Incident Management Teams Best Practices Report includes a comprehensive implementation checklist in appendix D for effectively conducting after-action reviews/debriefings. (6)

    The effectiveness of after-action reviews/debriefings is dependent upon the frequency with which debriefings are held and the tone of the meetings when they are held. After-action reviews that are too infrequent or too cordial (i.e., no one is willing to raise any criticism) may not effectively identify opportunities for improvement in TIM operations.

    A number of TIM programs from across the Nation include after-action reviews/debriefings as part of their operations, with varying frequencies of occurrence:

    • In Florida, the TIM team conducts after-action reviews/debriefings for major incidents occurring on the Turnpike. (6)
    • Similarly, the TIM team in Maine and New Hampshire conducts after-action reviews/debriefings following major incidents. Standard forms that allow responders and the incident commander to recall the incident are used. After the debriefing session, a representative from the Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission (SMRPC) develops an After Action Report and distributes it to all participants. (6)
    • In Austin, TX, after-action reviews/debriefings are held for all incidents longer than 4 h in duration. Debriefings involve responders involved in the incident, as well as the broader AIMHigh Team, to more widely disseminate best practices and lessons learned.
    • On a regular monthly basis, Georgia’s TIME Task Force conducts after-action reviews to debrief any major, commercial-vehicle-involved incidents with all responding agencies. (6)
    • Similarly, Nevada’s TIM Coalition meets bimonthly to debrief major incidents. (6)
    • In the Delaware Valley region in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, incident responders routinely present and discuss recent incidents at quarterly task force meetings. Response to major incidents may require additional discussion and be addressed during a stand-alone after-action review. In both cases, all responders involved in the incident are present at the debriefings.
    • In Wisconsin, facilitators use video from the incident scene—recorded by the TMC on 72-h loops—to support post-incident debriefings conducted as part of their TIME program. The practice has proven successful in enhancing the post-incident debriefing process with no negative legal implications. (6)

    Multidisciplinary TIM response plan/operating procedures. To ensure that TIM training efforts are effective, operations are efficient, and the program has longevity, it is important to develop textual material to support recommended actions. A multidisciplinary TIM response plan or operating procedures generally include the policies and responsibilities for each participating agency or company, response personnel capabilities and training, and resources (i.e., equipment and supplies) and their availability. Responder policies and responsibilities can be fairly general to allow them to be adapted to different incidents but specific enough so that each responder’s responsibility within the context of TIM is clear. Any interagency agreements developed to facilitate efficient TIM operations should be included. The most successful TIM response plans/operating procedures are cooperatively developed.

    Several examples of TIM response plans/operating procedures are available from across the Nation:

    • Arizona’s Statewide Incident Management Plan—which includes statewide alternate route plans and TMC TIM operations guidelines—was developed with input obtained from legislative, transportation, law enforcement, fire and rescue, and EMS agencies; the towing industry; and others. The plan includes related traffic control agreements with the towing industry. (90)
    • Maine and New Hampshire’s Traffic Incident Management Action Plan, cooperatively developed by TIM personnel in both States, is intended to assist in assessing existing local TIM practices and improving the overall TIM process. (6)
    • In Massachusetts, a Unified Response Manual (URM) was first developed in 1998 to encourage consistent and common terminology for responding agencies tasked with managing traffic incidents. This document was recently updated in 2009 and includes an enhanced emphasis on safe, quick incident clearance and procedures for unified command, incident response, incident clearance, and after action reviews.
    • Referencing Massachusetts’ URM as the model, the Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board’s Statewide TIM Task Force studied and identified the need for a similar URM to enhance interagency coordination of first responders at incident scenes in Connecticut. The Department of Emergency Management Homeland Security has agreed to develop a training program from the URM, to be provided to police and fire academies. (6)
    • In Minnesota, the Twin Cities Metro Incident Management Steering Committee’s Incident Management Recommended Operations Guidelines defines the roles and responsibilities of different agencies at incident scenes, and provides guidelines for incident response and clearance. The Minnesota statewide plan, currently under development, is modeled after this regional plan.
    • A TIM task force, established by the DVRPC, New Jersey Department of Transportation, and New Jersey State Police, was recently recognized with an award for its multidisciplinary Policy and Procedures Manual, which defines operational guidelines in response to incidents along I-676, I-76, and I-295. Since the manual was implemented in 2005, incident duration has decreased by 34 percent on I-676, by 10 percent on I-76, and by 14 percent on I-295. (91) New Jersey is also currently in the process of finalizing a Statewide Incident Responders Policy and Procedures Manual. This statewide manual is currently under review by the superintendent of the New Jersey State Police and the Office of the Attorney General. Once approved, this manual will provide uniform operational guidelines for safe incident operations throughout the State. In a related effort, a second DVRPC TIM task force developed Traffic Incident Operating Guidelines for the I-76/I-476 Crossroads area, including standard incident response procedures related to unidirectional response to prevent crossovers, use of a common radio frequency, and use of a single county agency dispatcher for all radio traffic. (6)
    • The Ohio Department of Transportation developed an Ohio QuickClear Professional Responders Guide for Safe and Effective Highway Incident Management, accessible at http://www.dot.state.oh.us/Divisions/HighwayOps/Traffic/publications2/Ohioquickclear/Documents/Ohio%20QuickClear_Oct007.pdf, that describesrecommended practice for all agencies and specifically for fire and EMS, law enforcement, transportation, and towing and recovery agencies as part of their broad TIM program. (8)
    • To support the extended deployment of surveillance and information dissemination systems along the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio, TX, an Incident Management Response Plan for I-35 was recently developed. (16) This effort involved documenting current TIM procedures, determining agency roles and responsibilities, and defining response actions for multiple State and local jurisdictions in the 52-mi corridor.
    • Wisconsin’s Emergency Traffic Control and Scene Guidelines includes accompanying products and initiatives such as a response vehicle visor card for easy reference and TIM practitioner training available on DVD (described previously). Accompanying products are free of charge and can be ordered through the TIME website, accessible at http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/stoc/time.htm. (71)

    Additional TIM response plans/operating procedures have been developed targeting distinct responders or incident types:

    • In an abbreviated format, the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association ERSI developed an eight-step Roadway Incident Safety Checklist to encourage safety among fire and rescue personnel during roadway incidents focused on roadway incident safety training; multi-agency planning, training, policies, and procedures; on-scene exposure; apparatus placement and scene protection; warning lights and apparatus visibility; retroreflective and florescent personal protective equipment; safety officers and personnel accountability systems at highway incidents; and public education. (92)
    • In the Hudson Valley region, New York, a Media Traffic Incident Management Handbook was developed to outline the rules and procedures for media personnel when at an incident scene. The handbook requires media personnel to wear approved safety vests, park in a particular position and location, and check in with the on-scene incident commander upon arrival. (6)
    • Motivated by a single, more-than-90-vehicle collision event—that began with a single car collision with a median barrier and escalated to a catastrophic incident—the North Carolina Highway Patrol developed and implemented a Multi-vehicle Collision Response Plan. This plan incorporates the lessons learned in the management of this incident. (6)
  • TIM personnel certifications/training requirements. Personnel certification helps to ensure a certain level of consistency and competency in TIM task performance. Certifications can be valid indefinitely following demonstration of a minimum acceptable knowledge or skill base (i.e., passing an exam) or may require periodic training and recertification to ensure that knowledge and skills remain strong. Certifications can differ by specific area of expertise or with increasing complexity. For example, the Georgia Department of Transportation provides a 208-h certification program for members of its HERO service patrol program.

    Discussions regarding personnel certifications/training requirements have traditionally focused on improving consistency and competency among towing and recovery operators. Towing and recovery services represent an important component in the TIM process. Their quick response to the incident and their efficient conduct of the removal activity can be a key step in minimizing incident duration. Prequalification procedures can identify towing and recovery companies that have the appropriate equipment, education, certifications, and level of competency to serve as TIM responders. A number of recent programs or initiatives have been developed with a focus on enhancing towing and recovery operations:

    • In an effort to improve the quality and consistency of response industry-wide, TRAA developed a three-level National Driver Certification program that incorporates TIM training. An increasing number of law enforcement agencies that contract with towers are now requiring TRAA certification as a qualification for participation.
    • In Virginia, adequate towing and recovery standards, training, and equipment requirements are encouraged through State law:

      §46.2-2826. Public safety towing and recovery services. The Board shall establish regulations required of Class A and Class B operators to provide public safety towing and recovery services. For the purposes of this section, “public safety towing and recovery services” shall be those towing and recovery and related services requested by a state or local law-enforcement agency. Such regulations shall establish minimum requirements, including qualifications, standards, necessary equipment, and public safety concerns necessary and appropriate to permit a Class A or Class B operator to provide public safety towing and recovery services. No operator shall provide public safety towing and recovery services unless they meet such criteria established by Board regulation applicable to public safety towing and recovery services. Upon submitting evidence to the Board of meeting such criteria, the Board shall maintain, on a timely basis, a list to be readily available to state and local law-enforcement agencies of Class A and Class B operators who meet the Board’s criteria for providing public safety towing and recovery services.

    • In New York’s Hudson Valley region, a High-Bid Contract Towing program is administered by the New York State Department of Transportation, supervised by the New York State Police, and awarded on the basis of competitive bidding. Contracts are awarded to the highest responsible bidder, with concurrent strict qualifications and guidelines, including regular inspections and response times less than 30 min. (6)

    Personnel certifications and training requirements have also been identified as a possible strategy to enhance the adequacy and consistency of traffic control training among TIM personnel. While transportation personnel receive extensive training in proper traffic control procedures, nontransportation personnel are often ill equipped and untrained to provide extensive traffic control at the scene of an incident. Because they are often first on the scene, however, requiring a minimum level of competency in proper traffic control procedures could enhance scene management. Existing training courses that already target nontransportation personnel—such as the American Traffic Safety Services Association’s (ATSSA) Emergency Traffic Control (ETC) for Emergency Responders course—provide opportunities for achieving certification in the event such certification is required. This 4-h course covers principles and concepts of temporary traffic control presented in Section 6.I of the MUTCD.(37) Additional information regarding effective traffic control for TIM operations is available in FHWA’s Traffic Control Concepts for Incident Clearance Primer, accessible at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop08057/fhwahop08057.pdf. (93)

    Considering a broader range of TIM responders, research is currently underway as part of the Strategic Highway Research Program’s reliability focus area (SHRP 2 L 12) that considers the potential for responder certification in support of NTIMC’s NUG, with a focus on the common core competencies that promote a shared understanding of the requirements for achieving the safety of responders and motorists, quick response, and effective communications at traffic incident scenes. Products developed as part of this effort include a checklist of responder actions and associated core competencies, a curriculum and instruction outline for key responder types, and a recommended framework for responder certification. A pilot training course was delivered to TIM personnel in Indiana in March 2010 and, based on the evaluation of the proposed certification approach, will be considered for more widespread implementation.

    Regardless of the nature and extent of required training, personnel certifications and training requirements are ineffective without active enforcement. Law enforcement or transportation agencies responsible for ensuring compliance may have limited resources to allocate to this activity. Consequently, it is important when implementing TIM certifications and standards that a companion strategy for efficiently enforcing the requirements be developed. Prequalification procedures for participating in TIM activities can determine initial eligibility; periodic checks can be performed to determine ongoing eligibility. Suitable “punishments” are also required for not meeting the certification/standards requirements.

    For example, a TIM task force in the Delaware Valley region in New Jersey and Pennsylvania has begun using a Policy Violation Acknowledgement Form to ensure that TIM personnel are following appropriate on-scene procedures. Although TIM personnel are not officially “certified,” participating law enforcement, fire and rescue, EMS, transportation, towing and recovery, and communications agencies are required to indicate concurrence with the region’s multidisciplinary Policy and Procedures Manual and commit to take corrective action against individuals within their respective agencies when an unsafe procedural violation is observed. Any responder can anonymously complete the Policy Violation Acknowledgement Form and submit it to the DVRPC Feedback Committee. The committee will investigate the violation and meet with agency management to ensure corrective actions are taken. Maintaining the privacy of the violating agency, the violation forms are reviewed at regular task force meetings to share lessons learned. (6)


TIM communications includes the exchange of information both on- and off-scene, and within and between participating agencies and private companies. Critical communication links include an agency’s dispatch with agency responders in the field, an agency’s field responders with another agency’s field responders, and an agency’s dispatch with another agency’s dispatch.

Common challenges to effective communication include the following:

  • Limited en-route and on-scene communications. Limited communications capabilities compromise both en-route and on-scene operations. En route to the incident, speed and convenience could be improved if response personnel from different agencies were able to communicate directly with one another. For example, law enforcement personnel already at the scene of an incident may want to inform the dispatched towing and recovery operator to take an alternate, more time-efficient route. Instead, the towing and recovery operator may lose 15 min or more weaving through the traffic backup. When agencies from different or multiple jurisdictions need to coordinate response actions on-scene, personnel often rely upon other, inefficient means of communication (such as relaying messages through multiple dispatchers or using runners to hand-carry messages). For example, law enforcement personnel may want to inform transportation personnel of the need to close a lane temporarily to remove the wreckage from the scene. Transportation personnel may be controlling traffic a significant distance upstream of the incident. Limited communications capabilities among responders prevent the request from being made directly.

  • Inefficient communications. Both dispatchers and field personnel have been faced with not knowing whom to call, not calling the appropriate person, and not having accurate numbers for contacting the appropriate person. As a result, multiple calls are often made to reach the appropriate personnel, wasting time and heightening frustration. It is important to know not only whom to call but under what circumstances. For example, during normal operating hours, transportation department supervisors may want incident response requests routed through them, but this chain of command is likely to change during after-hours operations. Locating specialty equipment may also require several calls before the equipment can be successfully dispatched. On-scene, efficient communications are required to quickly identify who is directing the overall management of the scene (i.e., incident commander), determine what actions are required, and convey any unexpected developments or challenges to other responders at the scene whose subsequent actions may be impacted. The use of specialized codes or acronyms that are not understood by all responders on-scene further challenges efficient communications.

Table 9 identifies the various tools and strategies that have proven effective in overcoming each of these challenges and identifies select locations where these tools and strategies are in use. Note that additional tools and strategies that were more variable in their reported effectiveness—including common or interoperable radio systems, the cross installation of radios, and the use of console patches—are included in appendix C.

Table 9. Communications challenges, strategies, and select implementation locations.
COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIES Limited Communications Inefficient Communications EXAMPLE APPLICATIONS
Common Mutual-Aid Frequency/Channel ME/NH
Alternative Communications Devices WI
Wireless Information Networks AR, DC/MD/VA, IL, MA (Westford), MS
Mobile Unified Communications Vehicle IL (Chicago), OR (Tillamook Co.)
Standardized Communications Terminology/Protocol 75+ U.S. Metropolitan Areas (Resource Lists), 58+ U.S. Metropolitan Areas (ICS), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE)/Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM)

Additional descriptive information regarding the various tools and strategies and select locations where these tools and strategies are in use is provided below.

  • Common mutual-aid frequency/channel. Emergency radio systems that allow everyone at an incident scene to communicate on a common mutual-aid frequency or channel for the duration of the incident is recommended by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in their InShort Fact Sheet as a low-cost interoperability solution. (94) Certain designated frequencies can be programmed into radios for all agencies. As long as all radios are in the same frequency band, responders can select a designated channel to communicate with personnel from other agencies. One disadvantage to this approach is that the single interoperability radio frequency can become congested in the event of a major incident. (95)

    In Maine and New Hampshire, a Public Safety Interoperability Communications Grant was recently awarded through the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to assist first responders in programming current radio equipment to support the temporary use of designated frequencies during incidents.

  • Alternative communications devices. The use of alternative communications devices—such as cellular telephones or alphanumeric pagers—has proven somewhat promising in mitigating interagency communications challenges. These alternative devices are relatively inexpensive to purchase, operate, and maintain. In some instances, strict guidelines describing when to use such devices and for what purposes may be required. To be most effective, a list of cellular telephone numbers or pager numbers should be compiled and distributed to appropriate response personnel. If the contact list is not maintained and updated, alternative communications devices will quickly lose their effectiveness.

    Alternative communications devices are widely used—both formally and informally—to support TIM operations across the Nation. In Wisconsin, the Southeast Wisconsin Communications Resource/Support Group (SEWCRSG) was established to enhance public safety communication systems through regular dialogue and information sharing, training, interoperability advancement, and coordination with other related state/local initiatives. One key goal is to identify alternative methods for communicating if primary communication methods have been disabled or are not functioning properly. Wisconsin’s TIME program members participate in SEWCRSG, along with personnel from various State and local public safety agencies and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. (96)

  • Wireless information networks. Wireless technology can also be used to improve communications capabilities among TIM responders. For example, the States of Maryland and Virginia and the District of Columbia operate a multi-State, multidiscipline interoperable public safety and transportation wireless data system—the Capital Wireless Information Net (CapWIN)—intended to allow law enforcement, transportation, and fire and rescue personnel to communicate across jurisdictions and disciplines, and access operational information. CapWIN allows secure one-to-one and group public and private discussions, provides a searchable directory of individual first responders, and provides access to regional transportation data and multiple State/Federal law enforcement criminal databases to support operations. Similar systems are currently in use or under development in other States including Arkansas, Illinois, and Mississippi.

    At the local level, the Westford Fire Department in Westford, MA, also utilizes a wireless information network to interconnect disparate voice, data, and video systems from the nearby towns of Ashland, Beverly, and Lawrence, MA, providing for interoperability while allowing users to keep their existing equipment. This approach has proven to be more cost-effective than converting all agencies to a common radio platform. (97)

  • Mobile unified communications vehicle. During large-scale, complex incidents, an on-site mobile unified communications vehicle equipped with a wide range of radio communications and interoperability equipment may more effectively support on-scene activities, particularly when on-scene responders are utilizing disparate radio systems. Mobile unified communications vehicles may also be utilized to “back up” fixed communications systems, should remote TMC/dispatch center capabilities be impeded.

    In Chicago, IL, a unified communications vehicle supports the efforts of the OEMC. In addition to being equipped with various radio communications and interoperability equipment, the vehicle can also uplink to satellites, capture and transmit real-time video, and support up to 100 telephone lines. If the OEMC loses functionality, the unified communications vehicle can largely replicate its capabilities. (74)

    Similarly, Tillamook County, OR, recently purchased a mobile command/communications vehicle (MCCV) to enhance its public safety communications across the largely rural jurisdiction. The truck-drawn trailer provides a satellite uplink and supports interoperability through radio-over-Internet protocol (RoIP); is equipped with three call-taker dispatch positions, allowing it to replace a crippled dispatch center; and has enough onboard battery power to run all systems for more than 3 h before needing connection to exterior power. Radio communications are reportedly vastly improved as a result of the MCCV. (97)

  • Standardized communications terminology/protocol. Many challenges to effective incident-related communications are procedural in nature. Often, these challenges relate to a lack of awareness regarding whom to call or how to call the appropriate person(s). The development of personnel or equipment resource lists (described previously under “Task-Specific Challenges and Strategies—Response”), in use in more than 75 major metropolitan areas in the United States, can significantly enhance communications off-site or between dispatchers and on-scene personnel. (2) Accompanying standardized communications protocols can be developed to formalize and increase awareness of each agency’s call-out procedures and contact points around the clock.

    On-scene, use of a command post and other ICS principles can facilitate effective communications. Personnel from each responding agency are staged at the command post; information and directions are disseminated from the command post to each agency’s respective personnel. As noted previously, at least 65 agencies in 58 major U.S. metropolitan areas are operating under ICS principles. (2)

    For both on-scene and off-scene communications, the use of common terms (i.e., common definitions and lingo) for personnel, equipment, and facilities is essential to effective communication among TIM responders, particularly as it relates to task assignments and expectations. The use of specialized codes or acronyms that are not understood by all responders on-scene should be avoided. The use of common terminology and “plain language” was also recommended by the NIJ as a low-cost interoperability solution in their InShort Fact Sheet. (94)

    As a related note, the use of common terminology is also essential when exchanging information automatically using various technologies. IEEE has developed a suite of standards (IEEE Std 1512, 1512.1, 1512.2, 1512.3, and 1512.4) intended to establish common TIM message sets that reduce duplication among public safety and traffic management centers. (98) Concurrently, the public safety community has developed the GJXDM, supported by the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative and operating under the auspices of the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ). Initiated in 2005, the ITS Transportation and Public Safety Information Exchange Project is a collaborative effort between the USDOT and USDOJ and is engaged in the development of standardized information exchange incorporating both IEEE and GJXDM standards. This project will not supplant existing intracommunity standards, but instead focuses on identifying the common information interests of the two communities and developing exchange methods for data sharing where their interests intersect. (99)


Technology plays an important role in every aspect of TIM. In a number of instances, the use of technology can be demonstrated to directly increase the efficiency and, in some cases, the effectiveness of responders performing their duties. For example:

  • Access to CCTV images of an incident prior to arriving on-scene supports both the dispatch of appropriate equipment and quicker dispatch of resources (i.e., instant tow dispatch).
  • Use of AVL and geographic information system (GIS) technologies can identify and mobilize resources that are closest in proximity to the incident scene, reducing overall travel times.
  • Traffic signal priority systems can reduce delay for emergency vehicles along signalized arterials en route to the incident scene.
  • On-scene, portable intrusion alarm systems—consisting of a sensing mechanism that forms a partial perimeter around the incident scene and an audible alarm that warns incident responders if an approaching vehicle inappropriately enters the scene—provide a technology-based alternative to the use of response vehicles for responder protection.
  • To maintain traffic flow along an alternate route, use of RTSC plans to manage traffic around the incident scene relieves law enforcement personnel from this duty and allows them to perform other tasks for which they are trained (i.e., crash investigation).
  • When an incident requires investigation by law enforcement personnel, the use of TSSE or photogrammetry can dramatically reduce investigation time while increasing the quality and quantity of measurements captured.

The smooth integration of technology into TIM policies and practices can help to support widespread implementation and use. However, a number of challenges regarding technology use exist:

  • Lack of standards. Technology standards, typically developed by industry consensus, define how system components operate within a consistent framework. Equipment-related standards generally describe design, material, processing, safety aspects, or performance characteristics of equipment used for controlling, directing, or informing users of transportation facilities. They may include specific testing procedures and guidance for evaluating the test results based on the equipment’s intended use. Software or protocol standards generally define software or communications procedures used in transportation facilities, systems, communications, or equipment. These standards may include message sets, object definitions, data dictionaries, and other components of application software, operating systems, and communications protocols.

    Standards can be mandatory or less restrictive, including only recommended or optional specifications. Agencies that deploy technologies without consideration for standards, however, may be locked into proprietary specifications, custom interfaces, higher long-term operating and maintenance costs, reduced options for vendor competition and price stability, a need for unique training and specialized skills, and early obsolescence. To expand such a system, agencies must either buy the same brand of equipment or redesign/rebuild the existing system at significant cost. Despite the noted benefits of and incentives for incorporating standards into upgrades and enhancements of existing systems or into new systems, TIM agency personnel may be inadequately prepared to do so.

  • Limited technology integration/interoperability. The use of standards in upgrades to existing systems and in new systems promotes integration and interoperability among systems and system components by supporting data sharing between components manufactured by different vendors at different times, across different applications, and among agencies located in different jurisdictions. Technological challenges arise when trying to integrate new systems with existing or legacy systems. These challenges are compounded when system integration or interoperability is required across multiple agencies or multiple jurisdictions. Coordination among Federal, State, and local agencies or public safety and transportation agencies has typically lacked cohesion. The public and private sectors must also cooperate. The technical expertise needed to deploy, operate, and maintain many technologies may be beyond the current capability of many State and local agencies; the private sector’s expertise may be essential to the system’s success.

  • Inadequate life-cycle costing. Life-cycle costing involves the analysis of the costs of a system or a component over its entire life span. Typical costs for a system may include design, development, and acquisition costs; operating and maintenance costs; and disposal costs. A complete life-cycle cost analysis may also adjust for discount rates, interest rates, depreciation, present value of money, etc. With respect to the cost inputs for such an analysis, design, development, acquisition, and disposal costs are generally deterministic. Operation and maintenance costs can vary significantly based on the complexity of the system and the random nature of system failures. The novelty of many of the technologies utilized for TIM challenges the accurate prediction of system costs over its lifetime. Consequently, these types of analyses may be performed infrequently.

Table 10 identifies the various tools and strategies that have proven effective in overcoming each of these challenges and identifies select locations where these tools and strategies are in use. Note that additional tools and strategies that were more variable in their reported effectiveness—including regional ITS architectures and life-cycle cost requirements for State procurement—are included in appendix C.

Table 10. Technology challenges, strategies, and select implementation locations.
TECHNOLOGY STRATEGIES Lack of Standards Limited Integration / Interoperability Inadequate Life-Cycle Costing EXAMPLE APPLICATIONS
Expedited Standards Development Process Law Enforcement Information Technology Standards Council (CAD Systems)
Standards Requirements for State Procurement FHWA (ITS)

Additional descriptive information regarding the various tools and strategies and select locations where these tools and strategies are in use is provided below.

  • Expedited standards development process. The development of robust standards to support technology deployment is a lengthy process. At the national level, draft standards for ITS deployments must be developed, balloted and amended as appropriate, approved, and published, which can take several years. Once the draft standards are published, time is needed for manufacturers to incorporate the standards into the devices and systems and make the technology available.

    While this process is necessary for the development of high-quality technical and functional standards, agencies may become impatient with the timeline if they are seeking to deploy technologies in response to a contemporary challenge or may forfeit near-term funding opportunities that may no longer be available when the technology standards mature. While little can be done to speed the national standards development process, agencies can expedite local technology deployment by fully utilizing existing national standards. One such example includes the development of functional standards for CAD systems by the Law Enforcement Information Technology Standards Council. (100) These specifications are designed to assist law enforcement agencies in designing and procuring CAD systems and identifying the basic functional requirements to achieve interoperability among systems.

    If no related standards apply, agencies can consult draft national standards currently under development to help guide appropriate content and considerations for newly developed standards at the State level. Some risk exists in basing State-level standards on draft national standards; changes in content or requirements may cause inconsistencies. Agencies must then weigh the benefits of expedited technology deployment with the potential added costs of system modifications to support interoperability. Once the standard is developed, the existence of a standard must be made known, and an ongoing process for maintaining and updating the standard is required. Standards can be reviewed on a periodic cycle to ensure currency, validity, and applicability based on current knowledge, trends, and developments.

  • Standards requirements for State procurement. For ITS development, agencies are being asked to incorporate standards into upgrades of existing systems and into new systems to promote interoperability and reduce life-cycle costs. As an added incentive, FHWA currently requires that all ITS projects funded from the Highway Trust Fund be in conformance with the National ITS Architecture and officially adopted standards. Similar requirements could be integrated into the State-level procurement process to ensure that minimum levels of system and component interoperability are obtained and life-cycle costs for the agency are minimized.

    The effectiveness of State procurement standards requirements is dependent upon the wide range of services offered by private-sector system integrators in terms of both functionality outputs and timeliness. Complex integrations have a high associated risk of compromised functionality and time delays. Integrating new systems with existing or legacy systems can prove challenging. In some cases, it may be more cost-effective to abandon a legacy system in favor of a newly developed system rather than try to integrate the two. For agencies involved in TIM, this is not often the case. Public safety or transportation agency legacy systems may have been deployed on a regional or statewide level and at a significant cost. Integration of new applications with existing systems often proves to be more cost-effective.

Performance Measurement

Performance measurement provides the necessary feedback to TIM responders to allow them to improve operations. Equally important, performance measurement provides decision makers with the data to demonstrate the value of TIM programs and justify their related expenditures.

Common challenges to effective performance measurement stem from the following:

  • Inconsistent definitions. While many agencies currently measure performance related to TIM in a single-agency context, the definitions of these measures are often inconsistent between transportation and public safety disciplines. For example, both transportation and public safety agencies use “response time” as a critical performance measure; however, the operational definition of this measure varies significantly. Transportation agencies generally define “response time” as the time between when an incident was reported to their agency and when the first responder from any official response agency arrived on-scene. Emergency service providers generally define “response time” as the time between when a call was received by their dispatcher and when their first response vehicle arrived on-scene. (101) The operational definition of “clearance time” also varies considerably between transportation and public safety agencies. Transportation agencies typically define “clearance time” as the time between when the first responders arrived on the scene and when the capacity of the facility was fully restored (i.e., when the incident was removed from the travel lanes). (101) Law enforcement agencies typically record their time “back in service,” but this often includes enforcement or investigatory duties that take place off-site with no impact to the primary incident roadway (i.e., if a law enforcement officer pushes an involved vehicle to a nearby parking lot and gathers victim and witness information).

    Performance measure definitions used by public safety agencies are fairly standard across the industry. National reporting databases—such as the National Fire Incident Reporting System—have encouraged agencies to adopt common terminology and collect data in a consistent manner. For transportation agencies, performance measure definitions are generally local decisions and, hence, are more variable.

  • Lack of consensus and supporting data. Where officials fear public controversy over failure to meet stated goals, or unfair comparisons to results from other jurisdictions, there can be resistance to setting performance goals and defining associated measures. One example of potential conflict is a law enforcement agency establishing a priority to improve response times to high-priority incidents (i.e., lane-blocking or injury incidents) while admittedly sacrificing response times to lower-priority incidents. The proposed TIM performance measure may include all incident types, ranging from lane-blocking, injury incidents to minor vehicle disablements, and hence may reflect a higher incident response time and duration than that currently reported by law enforcement. Resistance from just a single agency can preclude consensus and limit progress in developing associated TIM performance measurement methods.

    Even if consensus is reached on intended performance goals and measures, the ability to capture the information needed to support these measures may be limited. Many agencies currently collect and analyze data to measure their performance toward meeting the goals and objectives specific to their agencies. Measuring performance for TIM requires collecting program performance data that may be different from agency-specific performance data. Oftentimes, limited documentation of incidents and their management exists. Incident occurrence may be regularly recorded, but more detailed information relative to the type of incident, response times and procedures, and traffic management activities is typically not documented. For example, consider the data captured through a typical CAD system. The time at which the first recordable awareness of an incident occurs is automatically captured from the 9-1-1 call time tag for the majority of incidents. The time at which all travel lanes are available for traffic flow (i.e., towing and recovery personnel have physically cleared the travel lanes) may be recorded in an open field entry on the incident report, but this information is likely neither comprehensive nor consistent. Further, access to historic information entered in open fields is not supported by query methods and requires manual review of individual records.

  • Limited data sharing and accessibility. Measuring performance for TIM may require the assimilation of data originating from multiple agencies. Certain sensitivities inevitably arise regarding data confidentiality and system security. For example, law enforcement agencies may have concerns about releasing certain incident-related information recorded in the CAD system for fear of compromising investigations or other personal or proprietary information related to law enforcement activities. Conversely, transportation agencies may be reluctant to release taped video from CCTV cameras, uncertain of how the information will be used. Data security concerns, particularly for law enforcement and homeland security organizations, complicate the already difficult problems in data sharing. Security issues increase costs and can impact the timeliness of data sharing.

Table 11 identifies the various tools and strategies that have proven effective in overcoming each of these challenges and identifies select locations where these tools and strategies are in use. Note that additional tools and strategies that were more variable in their reported effectiveness—including State Traffic Records Coordinating Committee partnerships and a dedicated TIM database—are included in appendix C.

Table 11. Performance measurement challenges, strategies, and select implementation locations.
PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT STRATEGIES Inconsistent Definitions Lack of Consensus / Data Limited Data Sharing / Accessibility EXAMPLE APPLICATIONS
National Performance Measurement Guidance TIM Focus State Initiative (FSI), TIM Performance Measurement Knowledge Management System/Listserv
Annual TIM Self-Assessment 75+ U.S. Metropolitan Areas
Strong Funding and Performance Link MD, WA
Multi-agency Data Exchange Protocol CA (San Diego), CO (El Paso/Teller Co.), NV (Clark Co.), TX (Ft. Worth), UT, WA

Additional descriptive information regarding the various tools and strategies and select locations where these tools and strategies are in use is provided below.

  • National performance measurement guidance. At the national level, the recently developed NUG recommends setting goals for performance and progress as a primary strategy. In partnership with transportation and law enforcement agencies in 11 States, FHWA recently completed a focus state initiative on TIM performance measures that resulted in three uniformly defined, TIM-specific objectives and associated performance metrics. These objectives and associated performance metrics include the following:

    • Reduce roadway clearance time—the time between the first recordable awareness of the incident by a responsible agency and the first confirmation that all lanes are available for traffic flow.
    • Reduce incident clearance time—the time between the first recordable awareness of the incident by a responsible agency and the time at which the last responder has left the scene.
    • Reduce the number of secondary incidents—the number of unplanned incidents beginning with the time of detection of the primary incident where a collision occurs as a result of the original incident either within the incident scene or within the queue in either direction.

    Early pilot testing of the roadway clearance time and incident clearance time metrics confirmed that States are able to use the same TIM-specific performance metrics to analyze their respective programs, collect and analyze the necessary data to support TIM-specific performance metrics although the methods of data collection may vary, and compare program-level TIM performance using common metrics. The secondary incident performance metric has not yet been field-tested.

    A follow-on investigation, again sponsored by FHWA, is currently underway to encourage adoption of these three standard TIM-specific performance metrics by States. In addition, FHWA recently made available the TIM Performance Measurement Knowledgebase and listserv, accessible at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/eto_tim_pse/preparedness/tim/knowledgebase/index.htm. (102) The knowledgebase allows users to search for or browse information by resource type, performance measures, or related conferences and events. Participants can join the listserv—intended to allow users to share knowledge and insights with the broader TIM community—by sending an email to TIMPM@dot.gov.

    Additional information regarding the TIM FSI is available in the final report, accessible at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop10010/fhwahop10010.pdf, or in a related informational briefing, accessible at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop10009/tim_fsi.pdf. (103,104) Similarly, additional information regarding the TIM Performance Measurement Knowledgebase is available in an informational briefing accessible at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop10011/tim_kms.pdf. (105)

  • Annual TIM self-assessment. In 2003, FHWA began facilitating annual self-assessments of TIM programs (TIMSA) in the largest 75 urban areas of the United States. Early participants were asked to respond to 34 questions related to program and institutional, operational, and communications and technology issues using a five-point relative scale ranging from 0 (no progress in this area) to 4 (efforts in this area are outstanding). In 2008, the TIMSA was revised to better align with the NUG and NIMS and incorporate performance measurement. The TIMSA now consists of the following:

    • Strategic questions regarding formal policies, understanding among agencies, and performance measurement and program evaluation.
    • Tactical questions covering on-scene response and clearance practices, traffic control, and responder and motorist safety.
    • Support questions regarding interagency communications, data sharing, ITS, and traveler information.

    Annual self-assessments have enabled State and local program managers and practitioners to evaluate their TIM programs and identify strengths and weaknesses in their programs in order to prioritize program activities and initiatives. At a national level, the assessments enable FHWA to evaluate progress in TIM and to identify national TIM program initiatives. Each year, the new assessment is compared against the baseline established in initial assessments in 2003 and 2004 and against the previous year’s assessment. FHWA publishes an annual TIMSA National Summary Report, aggregating data from all urban areas. Reports for 2003 through 2009 are available for download at FHWA’s Traffic Incident Management Self Assessment website, accessible at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/eto_tim_pse/preparedness/tim/self.htm. (106)

  • Strong funding and performance link. Similar to performance-based incentive programs instituted at the employee level, TIM can be evaluated at the program level with performance tied to continued or increased program support. Performance measures defined explicitly for TIM should also reflect broader agency-wide or statewide goals related to increased productivity, cost-efficiency, and improved quality in the delivery of State services. Incorporating performance measures into formal long-range plans can help to ensure that TIM programs receive adequate attention in prioritization of projects for funding.

    For example, States that were early to adopt, track, and report improvements in average incident clearance time as a TIM-specific performance metric describe it as a powerful tool for communicating with their State legislatures and with the public. Departments of transportation in both Maryland and Washington have made progress in securing more consistent, reliable TIM program funding from their State legislatures as a result of TIM performance measurement. WSDOT also reports notable success in improving public perception of their agency. Specifically, TIM personnel in Baltimore, MD, rated a strong funding and performance link as “very high” in effectively reaching consensus and developing supporting performance data. This rating suggests a high level of confidence in the benefits provided by TIM programs and an agency’s ability to adequately capture and report these benefits to decision makers.

  • Multi-agency data exchange protocol. After TIM program performance measures are defined and associated targets and goals are set, it is necessary to specify what data will be used to measure each objective, how the data will be collected and analyzed, and who will be responsible for the data. Specific considerations may include methods for reconciling inconsistencies in performance metric definitions; filtering unnecessary data; efficiently assimilating data from disparate agency databases developed under different data standards; and performing analysis, evaluation, and reporting with varying levels of aggregation to target different audiences. The information-sharing process and each agency’s role in that process can be initially defined in a multi-agency data use concept of operations document.

    To address sensitivities regarding data confidentiality and system security, agencies can develop written agreements that delimit the use and distribution of data:

    • In Washington, WSP had concerns about releasing incident-related information recorded in the CAD system to the WSDOT, citing concerns over the integrity of investigations and the personal and proprietary nature of some of the information. The two agencies successfully established a protocol describing the nature and extent of information provided to WSDOT. (107)
    • At the national level, the USDOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services recently published a guide intended to help law enforcement executives and information technology managers develop and implement security policies to protect sensitive data such as case reports, investigative data, criminal intelligence, and personal information. The Law Enforcement Tech Guide for Information Technology Security: How to Assess Risk and Establish Effective Policies details strategies for identifying security risks and effective measures to mitigate those risks. (108)

    Specifically, agencies should consider data ownership and recipients, data use and retention times, and protection of confidential information. Depending on the agreements and processes in place, sensitive data may be completely unavailable, may have operational restrictions placed on them, or may require additional system development to implement filters to extract data that can be shared. Some data security issues cannot be overcome without enabling legislative action.

    Multi-agency data exchange can be supported at a range of automation levels. At the highest level, disparate data collection systems can be fully integrated to automatically exchange predefined data with designated partner agencies. Both Utah and Washington participated in the FHWA-sponsored National Evaluation of the CAD-TMC Integration Field Operational Test to demonstrate the integration of CAD systems with advanced traffic management systems (ATMS) used by transportation agencies: (109,110)

    • In Utah, UDOT’s CommuterLink ATMS was already integrated with DPS’s CAD system. Consequently, the State focused on expanding integration to include four distinct CAD systems in the Salt Lake Valley operated by the Valley Emergency Communications Center, Salt Lake City Fire Department, Salt Lake City Police Department, and Utah Transit Authority. The project was unique in its integration and electronic transfer of data between such a wide variety of emergency and traffic management centers. (111)
    • In Washington, WSDOT’s Internet-based Condition Acquisition and Reporting System (CARS)—that enables State and local agencies to share information on incidents, weather conditions, traffic delays, etc.—was integrated with the WSP’s CAD system. Using a direct computer-based interface, a filtered incident report, including on-screen map displays, appears in CARS within a minute of transfer from the CAD system. (112)

    Developments have also recently emerged to ease the integration of disparate CAD systems, effectively supporting data exchange among public safety agencies in multiple jurisdictions. For example, the CAD-to-CAD Interoperability Guide is a programming interface that enables multiple dispatch centers with disparate CAD systems to connect with each other. Notable CAD-to-CAD implementations include the Clark County, NV, Combined Communications Center; the El Paso/Teller County, CO, 9-1-1 Authority; the City of Fort Worth, TX; and the City of San Diego, CA, Fire/EMS Dispatch Center. The CAD-to-CAD Interoperability Guide is available for download at http://www.tritech.com/sol_interfacestandards.asp. (113)

    As data exchange expands between multiple agencies, development of an accompanying data dictionary may be required. A data dictionary is a centralized repository of information about data—its meaning, relationships to other data, origin, usage, and format. TIM agencies can benefit from a common data dictionary that catalogs the organization, contents, and conventions of one or more databases owned and maintained by the various TIM agencies. Enhanced knowledge about each agency’s databases will not only enhance ongoing TIM program performance measurement that requires data originating from multiple agencies but may also identify and encourage additional data-sharing opportunities.

Program Resources and Funding

To establish, maintain, and improve TIM programs, adequate and ongoing resources to support operation must be available. Program administrators must not only understand the funding process at Federal, State, and local levels, but must also be able to identify specific sources of monetary support appropriate for TIM and must successfully compete for it. Additional funding cannot be viewed in isolation as a panacea to address TIM challenges. However, adequate funding can help to support incremental improvements in TIM efforts by providing program equipment, personnel, or further research.

Common challenges related to TIM program resources and funding include the following:

  • Limited resources and funding. TIM is just one among many competing claims for limited transportation resources. Transportation funding from Federal and State levels pits TIM needs against more traditional, better-understood activities such as interstate construction, pavement rehabilitation, and transit improvements. Securing TIM resources within transportation agencies is especially difficult. Frequently, transportation personnel assigned to TIM duties have other full-time responsibilities in maintenance, traffic engineering, or ITS. Further, transportation emergency management is often distinct from TIM in organizational and reporting terms although these activities are most often carried out by the same people at the field operational level. (65) As a result, it can be very difficult to isolate how much money is currently being spent on TIM personnel and equipment agency-wide, which impedes the ability to make a solid argument for increasing allocations.

  • Inadequate outreach to executives. Although TIM addresses issues that are of concern to the motoring public—congestion and travel delay, public health and safety, the Nation’s economic health, energy savings, public safety resources, responder safety, and citizen satisfaction with government services—few elected or appointed decision makers at all levels of government have made TIM a priority. Decision makers are subject to scrutiny from the public at large, who have grown more conscious of transportation issues at the same time that they have become increasingly wary of new or higher taxes in any form. To effectively encourage investment in TIM by decision makers, the associated benefits of TIM programs need to be succinctly and strongly articulated and promoted.

Table 12 identifies the various tools and strategies that have proven effective in overcoming each of these challenges and identifies select locations where these tools and strategies are in use. Note that additional tools and strategies that were more variable in their reported effectiveness—including cost recovery mechanisms and TIM requirements in new construction contracts—are included in appendix C.

Table 12. Program resources and funding challenges, strategies, and select implementation locations.
PROGRAM RESOURCES AND FUNDING STRATEGIES Limited Resources / Funding Inadequate Outreach to Executives EXAMPLE APPLICATIONS
Dedicated, Ongoing Funding CA, MD, NJ/PA (Delaware Valley Region)
Guidelines for Federal/State Funding Sources FL (Orlando), WI
Metropolitan Planning Organization Partnerships FL, NJ/PA (Delaware Valley Region), TN (Chattanooga), TX (Austin)
TIM Strategic Plan FL, GA (Atlanta), KY, TN, TX (Austin)
Efficient/Effective TIM Resource Management MD (Baltimore)
Executive Outreach Materials/Events GA (Atlanta), National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Cost Savings Calculators

Additional descriptive information regarding the various tools and strategies and select locations where these tools and strategies are in use is provided below.

  • Dedicated, ongoing funding. Although dedicated, ongoing funding cannot be viewed as a panacea to address TIM challenges, its benefits in maintaining and expanding successful TIM programs should not be overlooked:

    • Incident management personnel in Baltimore, MD, emphasized the importance of dedicated, ongoing funding, noting that its availability in their State protects their TIM program from district-level budget cuts.
    • Dedicated funding made available through the DVRPC’s Office of Transportation Operations Management provides committed staff to manage their five active regional TIM task forces in the Delaware Valley region in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

    As noted previously, TIM duties are often performed concurrently by personnel from different agencies and the private sector, as well as different divisions within single agencies. This program structure challenges the ability to accurately assess and dedicate a funding stream for ongoing operations. Service patrols—able to operate as more of a stand-alone program—provide an exception and are often included as a separate line item in State or local budgets. Uniquely in California, service patrols are supported with combined Federal, State, and local funds, with local funds originating from a $1 annual vehicle registration fee in participating counties.

  • Guidelines for Federal/State funding sources. By far, the largest source of Federal funding for TIM is the Federal-aid program under which Congress appropriates Federal dollars to various transportation categories (i.e., safety, congestion management, etc.) and distributes these funds to States according to a funding formula. The States, with approval from the various MPOs, must then decide how the Federal-aid dollars are spent. The Federal Government also provides States with grants to fund their transportation programs, including TIM. From the State level, monies may then be passed on to local governments, depending on the needs and circumstances. State or local grant recipients may be required to provide matching resources and agree to various stipulations regarding what the funds may be spent on, how the program will be managed, and how the recipient will report to the sponsor. Historically, funds to support TIM have originated from the National Highway System, Interstate Maintenance, Surface Transportation, CMAQ, Research and Technology Innovation, and Highway Safety (402) programs.

    With the multitude of potential Federal and State funding sources—each having explicit conditions for eligibility and use—guidelines that address funding opportunities, requirements, and limitations in the context of TIM could provide benefit to TIM program administrators seeking to develop, expand, or enhance TIM efforts.

    An increased awareness of funding opportunities coupled with a little creativity can serve to maximize potential investments. Consider the following examples:

    • Recognizing that the response time to incidents in Orlando, FL, was above the State average, the Florida Department of Transportation agreed to fund 20 Florida Highway Patrol troopers with a dedicated TIM focus. (6)
    • The Wisconsin Department of Transportation developed a multi-agency (including towing and recovery) procurement list that allows TIM members to purchase traffic control equipment at a quantity discount. Two low-bid vendors were selected for a 1-yr extendable contract. Member agencies contact the vendors directly to order. (6)
  • Metropolitan planning organization partnerships. Metropolitan planning organizations provide a unique opportunity to support TIM through their distinctive role in facilitating regional planning and programming decisions, providing a forum for cooperative decision making, working toward regional consensus, developing regional and institutional agreements, serving as a repository for comprehensive data, etc. Nearly 400 MPOs currently exist in the United States, concentrated in urban areas with populations greater than 50,000.

    In recent years, MPOs have been encouraged to assume a greater and more consistent role in a broader range of management and operations (M&O) activities, including TIM, and recognize that more effort needs to be made in helping TIM agencies achieve their goals. Despite this direction, the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO) observed in a 2003 survey that, while 65.91 percent of MPOs included M&O programs or strategies in their long-range transportation plans, this inclusion was “ad hoc” in 29 percent of the cases. Similarly, 63.64 percent of MPOs reported inclusion of M&O programs or strategies in their transportation improvement programs. When prompted to detail the nature of their M&O programs or strategies, TIM activities were reported by only 22.73 percent of MPOs, suggesting an inadequate level of priority and/or integration of TIM into the planning process. (114)

    Partnering with MPOs can help to elevate awareness of TIM as a viable transportation investment and can support long-term integration of TIM into regional planning and programming decisions. Several examples of successful MPO partnerships exist from across the Nation:

    • In Florida, TIM agency leaders routinely meet with MPO governing boards to secure additional funding, including funding to support personnel training efforts. (6)
    • The MPO (DVRPC) actually leads the various TIM task forces in the Delaware Valley region in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, ensuring an active partnership. (6) TIM programs have been incorporated into DVPRC’s Transportation Operations Master Plan and the long-range Connections 2035: The Regional Plan for a Sustainable Future.
    • In Chattanooga, TN, initial leadership to establish a local TIM team originated from the Chattanooga MPO. (9)
    • In Austin, TX, a representative from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) is an active participant in the AIMHigh Team. As a result of this involvement, the region was successful in securing $2 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 funds to reinstate a service patrol program along the I-35 corridor. In addition, TIM programs have been newly incorporated into CAMPO’s 2035 Regional Transportation Plan.
  • TIM strategic plan. Unlike a TIM response plan focused on defining the multidisciplinary actions taken in response to an incident event, a TIM strategic plan considers broader, long-term TIM program development. For a given locale, a TIM strategic plan most often establishes local program goals and objectives, response challenges and needs, potential strategies for improvement, and a short- to long-term implementation plan. Strategic plans focused on TIM should be developed through consensus of all affected agencies and private companies. A TIM strategic plan can not only provide focus for ongoing program performance monitoring, but can improve agency relations and can help to garner additional program support.

    Examples of effective TIM strategic plans include the following:

    • In Florida, the Statewide Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Strategic Plan was developed to identify programs and actions to sustain the commitment to and expand the TIM program to better meet traveler needs. The plan is available in four formats: the strategic plan, an executive summary, a more detailed plan summary, and a very detailed reference document. (6)
    • In Georgia, the TIME Task Force developed an executive-level Strategic Vision that describes methods to achieve measurable TIM improvements that can have an immediate, substantial, and lasting impact on reducing nonrecurring congestion based on a review of regional issues and national best practices. (6)
    • The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet—with input from FHWA, State and local law enforcement, emergency management, and other agencies—developed a statewide Highway Incident Management Strategic Plan that includes the mission, goals, objectives, and implementation timeline for 49 prioritized action strategies. (115)
    • Nevada’s TIM Coalition developed a Strategic Actions Plan that included a new vision for institutional integration; an overall TIM mission and related goals and objectives; coalition responsibilities, proposed projects to support TIM efforts, and estimated program costs. (6)
    • State personnel from the Tennessee Departments of Transportation, Safety, Commerce and Insurance, and Emergency Management cooperatively developed and adopted—through a four-department resolution—a TIM strategic plan. The statewide plan considers four geographic regions, each staffed with a TIM coordinator and responsible for incident reporting. (65)
    • In Texas, the Austin-Area Incident Management for Highways (AIMHigh) Traffic Incident Management Strategic Plan was cooperatively developed by representatives from law enforcement, fire and rescue, EMS, transportation, towing and recovery, and other agencies and is intended to direct long-term, sustainable TIM investment and development. (116) The Strategic Plan describes the general mission, goals, and objectives for the AIMHigh program; current status of TIM operations in the greater Austin area, including key stakeholders, supporting resources, operational challenges, and recent improvements; proposed tools and strategies to specifically address outstanding operational and institutional challenges and further enhance TIM operations; associated implementation requirements for the proposed TIM tools and strategies, including identification of lead agencies and estimated initial and ongoing costs; and next steps to ensure ongoing TIM improvements in the greater Austin area.
  • Efficient/effective TIM resource management. Efficient and effective TIM resource management relies upon the utilization of appropriate personnel who are best qualified (i.e., capable but not overqualified) for the various tasks, appropriate equipment by function (i.e., use of the least costly equipment capable of performing the function), and appropriate technology capable of supporting various on-site resource tasks (described previously under Technology), as well as a reduction in overall resources required through reduced redundancy across disciplines.

    When personnel who are capable but not overqualified are assigned to various tasks, uniquely trained personnel can focus on other TIM functions. For example, the use of transportation personnel to manage traffic at and around the incident scene would relieve law enforcement personnel from this duty and allow them to perform other tasks for which they are trained (i.e., crash investigation). Similarly, a higher level of efficiency and equal or higher effectiveness may be obtained by using a transportation vehicle equipped with an arrow board and additional traffic control devices to protect the scene rather than law enforcement or fire and rescue vehicles.

    As noted previously with respect to training, commonalities in responder competencies allow various TIM functions to be performed by personnel from multiple agencies, with varying degrees of efficiency and effectiveness. For example, personnel from each agency are capable of providing scene protection, initial medical care, and limited documentation. With the exception of EMS personnel, personnel from each agency are capable of providing temporary traffic control, limited firefighting, and cleanup. Transportation and law enforcement personnel are each capable of mobilizing extra response, providing traveler information via DMS or through media contacts, modifying traffic signal timings, and removing the vehicle from the roadway. Fire and rescue and transportation personnel are each capable of mitigating minor vehicle fluid leaks. Fewer commonalities in equipment function are observed between the various TIM response agencies. Certain fire and rescue vehicles are equipped to provide advanced medical care, similar to EMS vehicles. Both law enforcement and transportation vehicles are often equipped with push bumpers for quickly removing vehicles from the travel lanes or shoulder. Additionally, law enforcement, fire and rescue, and transportation agencies commonly carry various hand tools in their vehicles to support debris removal and cleanup. The most pronounced commonality is the use of each agency’s vehicles for scene protection. A concerted effort can be made to identify potential overlap in personnel competencies and equipment function and reduce potential redundancies in operations.

    As reported in FHWA’s Traffic Incident Management Resource Management Primer, accessible at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop08060/fhwahop08060.pdf, the cost savings attributable to more efficient and effective TIM resource management is not trivial. (117) Results indicate a cost savings of between $215.81 and $364.59 per incident through the use of appropriate personnel and a reduction in the monetary value of equipment exposed to potential damage of up to $2.02 million per incident through the use of more appropriate equipment and/or technology. Reduced redundancy in resources is estimated to save $793.97 per incident in personnel costs and decrease the monetary value of equipment exposed to potential damage of up to $1.45 million per incident.

    Incident management personnel in Stockton, CA, noted that TIM functional limitations imposed on transportation personnel in their locale (i.e., transportation personnel are prevented from performing certain TIM functions by agency policy) preclude a more extensive use of this strategy and a higher level of effectiveness. Conversely, TIM personnel in Baltimore, MD, reported some success in achieving more efficient and effective TIM resource management, citing significant benefits attributable to the coordination of information from multiple agencies afforded through the use of technology and the ability to provide other agencies with resources that they may not otherwise be able to access.

  • Executive outreach materials/events. To secure program resources and funding, TIM administrators need to promote their programs among key decision makers and the public at large, to whom decision makers ultimately report. Although this group includes mayors, city and county council members, governors, members of Congress, and special district representatives, State legislators usually have the greatest ability to directly influence an agency’s operation through its budget and through legislative review or oversight. State legislators review the operation of agencies and have the authority to set budget and staffing levels. Programs that are demonstrated to be in high demand fare better in the decision-making process.

    To support this effort, various types of outreach materials targeting State legislators (or other decision makers) can be developed to strongly yet succinctly convey the importance of TIM. Letters of thanks sent by people who have been assisted in the field can be particularly useful in this capacity. In addition, TIM administrators can invite key decision makers to ride along with response personnel to observe day-to-day operations or involve them in more extensive TIM program scanning tours to observe successful operations in other locales.

    The popular HERO service patrol in Atlanta, GA, clearly illustrates the success of this approach. As a highly visible element of the broader TIM program, the Georgia Department of Transportation is deluged with letters of appreciation from motorists for its service. The public support and positive publicity that the HERO program has garnered put pressure on politicians and policymakers to sustain and develop the program and offer security for other, less visible elements of the TIM program by association. (118)

    In a unique development effort, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) developed Cost Savings Calculators for volunteer fire and rescue and EMS agencies, intended to estimate the economic savings attributable to these volunteer agencies. Companion resources, including related studies and a customizable PowerPoint presentation, assisted in demonstrating and justifying the need for increased community and governmental support. The Cost Savings Calculators and companion resources, with restricted access for NVFC members, can be downloaded from the NVFC website, accessible at http://www.nvfc.org/page/801/Cost_Savings_Calculators.htm. (119)

September 2010