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Role of Transportation Management Centers in Emergency Operations Guidebook

3.0 Pre-Event Activities – Planning, Training and Exercising, and Best Practices

Incidents usually occur with little to no warning. That is why TMCs should prepare for incidents through planning, training, and practice prior to an incident in the “pre-event” phase. Incident response lies at the core of a TMC’s mission. Rigorous, sustained, and coordinated pre-incident preparedness ensures an efficient and effective handling of future incidents. The pre-event activities TMCs should undertake include the following:

  • Establish an emergency preparedness working group;
  • Perform a needs assessment;
  • Develop a TMC Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP);
  • Develop a comprehensive preparedness guide; and
  • Develop a Continuity of Operations Plan.

3.1 Establish an Emergency Preparedness Working Group

TMCs should form an Emergency Preparedness Working Group with agencies that regularly work with the TMC to discuss, develop, and review topics and initiatives related to emergency preparedness. Some of the possible participants include the following:

Picture of several people around a table working.
Source: Digital Stock, a division of Corbis Corporation.

  • Law enforcement (Federal, state, local);
  • Fire departments;
  • Emergency medical services;
  • Emergency management agencies (Federal, state, local);
  • Towing and recovery providers;
  • Transportation agencies (Federal, state, local), including nonhighway agencies such as public transit (large metro systems and local bus services), rail, airport, or maritime;
  • Private or not-for-profit organizations such as the Red Cross, towing associations and AAA; and
  • Other Federal, state, or local agencies such as Department of Homeland Security and state/local environmental agencies.

The group should establish regularly scheduled and published meetings and develop the activities, including the following:

  • Conduct a needs assessment and planning activities;
  • Perform training and drill exercises;
  • Introduce and evaluate new technologies that can benefit both transportation and emergency operations which may offer opportunities to pool funds; tabletop exercises to build trust and good working relationships; and
  • Perform formal debriefs or after-action meetings after critical incidents.

A series of guiding principles with regard to interagency cooperation are shown in the side box.

3.2 Emergency Preparedness Working Group Checklist

The TMC can use the following checklist to evaluate their current status in forming an Emergency Preparedness Working Group. The following list includes those parties that should be participating in the group (check all that apply):

❑ Law enforcement (Federal, state, local).

❑ Fire departments.

❑ Emergency medical services.

❑ Emergency management agencies (Federal, state, local).

❑ Towing and recovery providers.

❑ Transportation agencies (Federal, state, local), including nonhighway agencies such as public transit (large metro systems and local bus services), rail, airport, or maritime.

❑ Private or not-for-profit organizations.

❑ Other Federal, state, or local agencies.

Guiding Principles to Interagency Cooperation in Emergency Planning for TMCs

  • Play a support role to the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA).
  • Play an active role in developing and exercising the State EOP.
  • Serve as the lead agency for ESF 1 – Transportation and play a significant role in other ESFs.
  • Have an agencywide emergency operations plan.
  • Ensure plans and procedures complement the State’s overall emergency structure and plan(s).
  • Ensure plans adhere to an all-hazards approach.
  • Use the Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101 emergency management planning cycle (plan, prepare, respond, recover) and within that framework, prepare for specific response activities.
  • Actively participate in the unified command during incidents.
  • Recognize the need for transportation agencies to understand the basic concept of the ICS, including Unified Command (UC), as defined in NIMS.

Source: NCHRP Report 525, Volume 16, Guide to Emergency Response at State Transportation Agencies, p. 18.

3.3 Perform a Needs Assessment

Transportation agencies conduct needs assessments on operations and maintenance, mobility, safety, or staffing. Needs assessments for emergency operations follow similar procedures and require the same basic elements, including the following:

Sample Emergency Operations Goals

  • Minimize the impact of disaster on people, property, environment, and the economy.
  • Assure mobility of the public and emergency response personnel.
  • Assure agency continuity.
  • Protect agency facilities and resources.
  • Goals and objectives indicating what the TMC wants to accomplish in the area of emergency operations (see sample in the box above). Performance measures should determine whether the plan met its goals and objectives (see Wisconsin example).
  • Measurable targets supported by available data that tie back to the goals and objectives, e.g., response times during events.
  • Gaps and deficiencies such as inadequate staffing or geographic coverage, training, lack of communications capability, or slow response times.
  • A summary of needs for the Emergency Transportation Operations plan, including task-specific needs, which relate to the ability to carry out specific functions, and crosscutting needs, which include support functions for a variety of tasks.

A task-specific needs assessment might include the following:

  • Deployment of additional detection equipment and/or cameras to cover specific locations;
  • Assignment of staff to emergency response planning activities;
  • Development of response scenarios for specific events such as hazardous material spills, special events, or winter storms; and
  • Evaluation and selection of detour routes.

A crosscutting needs assessment might include the following:

  • Development of interagency training programs and exercises;
  • Implementation of real-time communications/software links between the TMC and EOC; and
  • Joint development of detour routes for major emergencies and identification of needed infrastructure.

Wisconsin DOT Emergency Operations Plan Areas for Performance Measurement

  • ETO Positional Roles/Staffing.
  • Training.
  • Incident Action Plans (Communication/Coordination).
  • Regional Incident Management Coordinator Response.
  • WisHELP Response.
  • Timely Notification.
  • Emergency Contact List Maintenance.

Source: Wisconsin DOT, Emergency Transportation Operations Program Update: Winter Weather Webinar, November 2010.

3.4 Needs Assessment Checklist

The TMC can use the following checklist to evaluate their current status in support of a needs assessment (check all that apply):

❑ Develops goals and objectives.

❑ Identifies measurable targets.

❑ Identifies gaps and deficiencies.

The TMC develops an Emergency Transportation Operations plan that includes the following (check all that apply):

❑ Deploys additional detection equipment and/or cameras.

❑ Assigns staff to emergency response planning activities.

❑ Develops response scenarios for specific events.

❑ Evaluates and selects detour routes.

❑ Develops interagency training programs and exercises.

❑ Implements real-time communications/software links between the TMC and EOC.

❑ Participates in joint development of detour routes for major emergencies.

3.5 Develop a TMC EOP and SOPs

An Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) is a coordinating document outlining an organization’s concept of operations during an emergency. It provides information on potential situations and planning assumptions, roles and responsibilities, administration, and maintenance. Effectively developed, an EOP provides a concise overview of an organization’s emergency preparedness, response capabilities, and policies. It ties together threat and vulnerability assessments, mitigation planning, procedures, training, and drills and exercises in the form of a central high-level document that guides and advances the organization’s emergency preparedness program.

Picture of a firefighter in the field.
Source: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.

A TMC Emergency Preparedness Working Group should coordinate and drive the EOP. Although guidance does not currently exist for transportation EOPs, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101 is a standard guideline for a range of emergency operations needs. It also provides a framework for transportation agencies identifying the process for monitoring and reporting the status of, and damage to, the transportation system and infrastructure resulting from an incident. Other items that are part of ESF 1 are available alternative transportation solutions, and methods of restoring the transportation systems and infrastructure. The guidebook also discusses the tasks that are part of ESF 3, Public Works.

Specific guidance is available in the NCHRP Report 525 – Volume 16 Surface Transportation Security – A Guide to Emergency Response Planning at State Transportation Agencies, which utilized the CPG-101 as guidance for transportation EOP. Whenever possible, the TMC should use Federal standards and guidelines in the planning process. NIMS is a comprehensive, nationwide, systematic approach to incident management and includes a set of preparedness concepts and principles for all hazards, as well as essential principles for a common operating picture and interoperability of communications and information management. NIMS consists of standardized resource management procedures that enable coordination among different jurisdictions or organizations. It is a scalable and dynamic system promoting ongoing management and maintenance.

Achieving NIMS compliance requires state transportation agencies to become familiar with and understand the NIMS/ICS and National Response Framework (NRF) structure and their roles and responsibilities. The NIMS/ICS structure provides a systematic, shared tool to command, control, and coordinate emergency response activities consistently across all response agencies.

3.6 Develop an Emergency Operations Plan

Although formats vary, many state transportation agencies choose to follow the State EOP format for their agency plans. This makes the plans more consistent and, when put to use, makes it easier for outside parties to be involved. At a minimum, CPG 101 states the EOP should include the following sections:

  • Purpose and Scope;
  • Situation Overview and Planning Assumptions;
  • Concept of Operation (ConOps);
  • Organization and Assignment of Responsibilities;
  • Direction, Control, and Coordination;
  • Interagency Coordination for Planned Special Events;
  • Information Collection and Dissemination;
  • Communication;
  • Administration, Finance, and Logistics;
  • Plan Development and Maintenance;
  • Authorities and References; and
  • Additional Planning and Coordination Functions.

Following is a description of each of those sections.

3.6.1 Purpose and Scope

The purpose section sets the tone of the EOP, and describes the shared commitment to improve responder and motorist safety and expedite incident clearance. The purpose should also reflect the basic guiding principles from NIMS as well as the NCHRP Guide to Emergency Response at State Transportation Agencies. The scope identifies the jurisdictional, geographic, and functional boundaries applicable to the EOP.

3.6.2 Situation Overview and Planning Assumptions

This section characterizes the planning environment and explains the need for the EOP. It should summarize the hazards faced by the TMC and discuss how the TMC expects to receive (or provide) assistance within its regional response structures. The situation section covers the following:

  • Relative probability and impact of the hazards;
  • Geographic areas likely to be affected by particular hazards;
  • Vulnerable critical facilities (e.g., nursing homes, schools, hospitals, infrastructure);
  • Population distribution and locations, including any concentrated populations of individuals with disabilities, others with access and functional needs, or individuals with limited English proficiency, as well as unaccompanied minors and children in daycare and school settings;
  • Dependencies on other jurisdictions for critical resources;
  • The process used by the TMC to determine its capabilities and limits to prepare for and respond to the defined hazards;
  • The actions taken in advance to minimize an incident’s impacts, including short- and long-term strategies; and
  • How to identify areas where plan adjustments may be needed once more information is available.

Picture of an elevated highway buckled an d split by an earthquake.
Source: Digital Stock, a division of Corbis Corporation.

As scientists try to determine not if, but when a major earthquake will occur along the New Madrid fault line, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is planning for the possibility. MoDOT has a disaster plan and conducts earthquake emergency exercises with the State Emergency Management Agency and other public safety agencies. During the scenarios, the participants deal with fallen bridges, trapped motorists, crumbled roadways, and essential employees who were injured or incapacitated. Another benefit of the exercise demonstrates how MoDOT TMCs will disseminate messages to the traveling public and the media.

3.6.3 Concept of Operations

This ConOps section of the EOP explains TMC management’s intent on operations and through the documentation of specific operating concepts fosters understanding between transportation and emergency response agencies. The ConOps should make clear whether the TMC and EOC would colocate, the utilization of virtual EOCs, and how the TMC will leverage Traffic Incident Management (TIM) practices. Concepts of Operations are often scenario-based such as the description of the weather event shown in Figure 3.1. Scenarios can vary from relatively simple high-level concepts, as shown below, to very detailed flowcharts. This chart shows the concept for DOT monitoring of a weather event, and communications with the Michigan State Police (MSP).

Figure 3.1 Concept of Operations Weather Event

Picture of a chart from a Michigan Concept of Operations that shows how weather information from Road Weather Information Systems and National Weather Service is distributed to different users of the information. The graphic shows how the Transportation Management Center gathers and distributes weather information.
Source: Michigan Department of Transportation North Region Traffic Management Center Concept of Operations, prepared for MDOT by Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., Cambridge Systematics, Inc., HNTB, and Richard Foltman, 2008.

3.6.4 Organization and Assignment of Responsibilities

This section establishes the organization that will respond to emergencies, including the types of tasks by position and organization. It can build upon the existing TIM programs, which typically include coordination of incident response efforts by traditional responders (law enforcement, transportation, fire and rescue, and EMS). This initial coordination forms the basis for a multiagency team, a cornerstone of any TIM program, including:

  • The responsibilities for various emergency preparedness and response activities in the EOP, including internal position responsibilities, and the responsibilities of external agencies, such as public safety agencies; and
  • A framework for developing and achieving multiagency coordination (detailed in NIMS and ICS). Table 3.1 shows a description of the various roles and responsibilities. More information on roles and responsibilities is included in the Traffic Incident Management Handbook. The Handbook offers insights into the latest innovations in TIM tools and technologies and includes a web-based version that users can easily access. Some of the topics covered include the necessary programmatic structure and institutional cooperation, what constitutes the full range of on-scene operations, and the communications and technical aspects of a successful program.

3.6.5 Direction, Control, and Coordination

This section describes the framework for all direction, command and control, and coordination activities, and identifies who has strategic, tactical (as applicable), and operational command and control of response assets and services. Strengthening interagency coordination during emergency planning activities will encourage ongoing dialogue among TIM responders. It will also increase awareness of priorities and roles, as well as joint agency/jurisdictional protocols. It gives TMCs and EMCs an opportunity to formalize agency relations and respective roles in TIM and demonstrate commitment through common resource/facility investments. Additional detail on coordination strategies can be found in the FHWA Traffic Incident Management Handbook, which is described earlier.

Utilizing the Emergency Preparedness Working Group as a vehicle, TMCs should lead or participate in interagency coordination and communication efforts related to emergency preparedness. TMCs are hubs for information gathering and sharing as well as communications and notifications, and should bring these capabilities and functions to broader, statewide emergency preparedness planning efforts. Whether led by state DOT, state Emergency Management Agencies (EMA), or DHS, incorporation of TMC resources and capabilities is rarely turned away. The discussion of direction, control, and coordination will have a direct effect on the following:

  • Identifying and encouraging participation by the full range of stakeholders, as shown in Table 3.1;
  • Participation by nontraditional stakeholders such as trucking companies and AAA through relationships with their trade organizations;
  • Utilization of state or regional responder organizations such as Sheriff’s or Fire Departments to reach out to representatives from smaller communities; and
  • Familiarizing team members with each other’s roles and responsibilities at initial meetings and repeating as needed given the high turnover rates among participants.
Table 3.1 Traffic Incident Management Stakeholders and Descriptions
Traditional Responders Special/Extreme Circumstance Responders Incident Information Providers Transportation System Providers and Users
Public Safety Communications Hazardous Materials Contractors Traveler Information Services Traveling Public
Law Enforcement Coroners and Medical Examiners Traffic Media Trucking Industry
Fire and Rescue Emergency Management Agencies Transportation Agencies Insurance Industry
Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Environmental/Natural Resources/Departments of Public Health Empty cell. Public Transportation Providers
Towing and Recovery Empty cell. Empty cell. Motorist Organizations
Transportation Agencies Empty cell. Empty cell. Empty cell.

Source: 2010 Traffic Incident Management Handbook, FHWA-HOP-10-013.

This picture shows a fire department responding on a limited-access highway to a burning truck that may have hazardous materials on-board.
Source: iStockphoto®.

Three tractor-trailers have crashed releasing Thioglycol, a Class 6 HAZMAT material, and trapping one of the drivers inside the cab. While emergency responders worked to extricate the driver, a HAZMAT team contained the chemical. Behind the scenes, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) published 511 messages (voice and web site), and through its regional TMCs established detours, and posted information on message boards until the highway was open in both directions and returned to normal traffic patterns.

Picture of a road along the ocean that has been washed out by a hurricane.
Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) played a primary role in communicating information to residents and tourists before, during, and after Hurricane Irene. NCDOT’s TMC provided real-time travel information on their 511 system, web site, changeable message signs, through Twitter, and on mobile devices. The TMC also managed traffic and monitored for incidents.

3.6.6 Interagency Coordination for Planned Special Events

This section describes the expertise and resources on traffic flow that TMCs bring to an event planning team. While planned special events are not the focus of this guidebook, they are discussed here for two important reasons:

  • Planned special events provide an opportunity to test emergency response systems, equipment and training, including ICS, in a non-emergency situation. Lessons can be drawn which will help improve emergency response.
  • Due to the large number of people concentrated in limited space, planned special events represent a high risk for terrorist acts. Unanticipated weather events, particularly thunderstorms or high winds, can also result in an emergency situation.

Depending on the type of event, the venue, or even the location, the event planning team could include the following:

  • State and local police/law enforcement;
  • State and local traffic management agencies;
  • Emergency management services/response (Fire/EMS);
  • Tow truck operators;
  • Transit operators and event shuttle operators;
  • Parking lot operators;
  • Venue operators; and
  • Event promoters and the media.

Picture of a rapid transit train running along a highway.
Source: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.

The FHWA Freeway Management and Operations Handbook, Chapter 11, provides a detailed summary of TMC planning and management roles related to special events, which will vary depending on event characteristics. Some of the topics discussed include a detailed description of all phases of managing travel from preplanning to postevent, a framework for stakeholder coordination, and innovative techniques for enhancing efficiency. Another valuable source of information is the FHWA document National Special Security Events: Transportation Planning for Planned Special Events, FHWA-HOP-11-012, which provides a transportation guide to National Special Security Events (NSSEs).

Some of the planning and resources from the TMC, law enforcement, and emergency response can improve operational efficiency around planned special events.

For instance, when the Dallas Cowboys Stadium opened in 2009, there were 200 officers in the field supporting traffic and event management; today that number is closer to 90, which shows a significant resource and cost savings as a result of technology, operational strategies, and coordination with the TMC.

3.6.7 Information Collection and Dissemination

This section describes the essential information common to all emergencies identified during the planning process, including coordination with state and regional Fusion Centers.

TMC Resources and Services for Planned Special Events

  • Monitor traffic conditions on key roadways through detection and CCTV equipment.
  • Share CCTV feeds with law enforcement, event managers, and others.
  • Implement strategies to guide traffic in and out of the event, including reviewing historical traffic conditions to determine where congestion can be expected, using of Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) to provide advance notice, and deploy portable message signs to help guide event traffic advise drivers of potential delays.
  • Provide the public with advanced notice of the event, detours, and closed roads via web sites, 511 phone systems, media, and private traffic information services.
  • Coordinate with other transportation departments to supply additional trucks or equipment to support a potential emergency.
  • Participate in drills and exercises with emergency responders to plan for emergency access/egress or evacuations.
  • Coordinate with local jurisdictions to modify signal timing on arterial roadways during pre-event and postevent periods.
  • Coordinate with transit operations centers, both public and private, to help manage bus staging areas and access/egress routes for transit vehicles.

ITS and Traveler Information

In many regions, the DOT’s ITS is an important source of real-time information about the transportation system, which is often communicated by the TMC to law enforcement.

TMC/EOC Data Exchange

TMCs should explore avenues to enhance connectivity and interoperability between TMCs, EOCs, and Fusion Centers. The range of connectivity and data exchange between the TMC and EOC includes shared local area data and video networks; shared private area networks using Ethernet technology and video encoding; and commercial data access from publicly available providers such as the Internet and telephone service providers. In addition, the TMC should incorporate ITS into their emergency operations procedures to provide situational awareness to the EOC and Fusion Center including traffic volumes and queuing. ITS information may also help inform evacuation decisions and routing.

3.6.8 Communication

This section of the EOP describes the response communication protocols and coordination procedures for use during emergencies and disasters. The TMCs’ 24/7 operational profile and advanced incident detection and information gathering capabilities place them at the forefront of highway incident response. TMCs can only be effective in this role if there are appropriate communications and notification policies and procedures. The box shows a communications policy developed by Florida DOT for use in hurricanes and other emergencies.

If a common interagency communications center is not available, the plan must then cover how to achieve interagency communications, including notifications between TMCs, EOCs, Fusion Centers, and emergency response agencies. These protocols should apply for regional communications plans and communication between the TMC and other transportation agencies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling of July 2011 on Public Safety Broadband, discussed further in the next section, has direct implications for TMC/EOC cooperation.

Microwave System and Communications Through Cellular Telephones and Radios

  • Communications protocols are a critical part of the Emergency Operations Plan, including both notification and equipment. Clear direction such as that shown below in the Florida DOT Hurricane Action Response Plan can assure that DOT participants are properly equipped and prepared.
  • Districts should continue to use and maintain FDOT-owned 47 MHz maintenance radio system to ensure communication during emergencies.
  • Contractors who provide services to FDOT during emergencies should be included in the FDOT communication system.
  • Districts should explore use of satellite telephones for redundancy following a hurricane since telephones and radios could be out of service after such an event.

Source: Florida DOT Hurricane Response Action Plan, Version 2, June 2005.

Communications Stakeholders

State DOT, because of their interest in ITS technology, can work with and support public safety agency partners on advanced technology applications. The FCC’s allocation of frequency to public safety functions reinforces this cooperation. An integrated approach to a broader range of hazards requires cooperation among the emergency management community and public safety and transportation entities, more shared real-time information, rapid access across public data sources and data types, and access to special expertise on an on-call basis. TMCs should also establish a Communications Working Group and include stakeholders involved in communications and notification systems and procedures within and outside the TMC. The communications group would cooperate with the TMC on the development of plans and procedures and include individuals from the following:

  • Internal TMC or state DOT Information Technology Division;
  • Internal TMC or state DOT Telecommunications Division;
  • External Communications Stakeholders:
    • Police Telecommunications;
    • State Emergency Management Telecommunications; and
    • Municipal Public Safety Telecommunications.

Regular discussion and coordination with internal and external stakeholders can enhance communications and notification and identify problem areas such as radio interoperability. Typical telecommunications resources include the common mutual-aid frequencies/channels, alternative communications devices, wireless information networks, and an associated standardized communications terminology/protocol to enhance en-route and on-scene communications among responders from different agencies. Mobile unified communications vehicles can also enhance en-route/on-scene communications among different responders.

TMCs should utilize the Communications Working Group to maximize the utility and interoperability of the many different communications services and systems that interface with the TMC and leverage those systems to expand the communications reach of the TMC. All of the systems can support emergency operations as long as there are plans and procedures such as standardized terminology and system protocols, and external stakeholders are able to tap into them. Examples of communications commonly used by TMCs include the following:

  • Internal radio frequencies/channels;
  • Mutual-aid frequencies/channels;
  • Wireless information networks;
  • Landline voice and data networks; and
  • Cellular voice and data networks.

3.6.9 Administration, Finance, and Logistics

This section of the EOP addresses the general support requirements and the availability of services for all types of emergencies, including mutual-aid agreements; authorities for and policies on reassigning public employees and soliciting and managing volunteers; and general policies for maintaining financial records, reporting and tracking resource needs. Of particular importance are potential sources of funding for the TMC’s Emergency Preparedness and Security Program.

Transportation Emergency Preparedness/Security Funding

TMCs should utilize the Emergency Preparedness Working Group members to research and leverage transportation emergency preparedness and security funding. This funding comes from multiple sources, depending on the specifics of the project and the current funding environment. Primary sources include general state and Federal funds and specific grant funds. Transportation projects can sometimes take advantage of emergency preparedness or infrastructure security-oriented funding. The following are current grant programs to support emergency preparedness:

  • United States Department of Transportation/ Federal Transit Administration:
    • Metropolitan and Statewide Planning;
    • State-of-Good-Repair Bus and Bus Facilities Initiative;
    • Transit Asset Management (TAM) Pilot Program; and
    • Urbanized Area Formula Program.
  • Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration:
    • Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) Grant Program: Hazardous Materials Public Sector – Training and Planning Grants for States and Territories.
  • United States Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency:
    • Buffer Zone Protection Program (BZPP);
    • Driver’s License Security Grant Program (DLSGP);
    • Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG);
    • Homeland Security Preparedness Technical Assistance Program – National Governors Association;
    • Intercity Bus Security Grant Program;
    • Port Security Grant Program (PSGP);
    • Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP);
    • Technical Assistance Program – National Governors Association (NGA);
    • Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP); and
    • Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI).

3.6.10 Plan Development and Maintenance

This section describes the planning process, participants, and how EOP revisions are coordinated during the preparedness phase. It also includes guidance on how to provide a regular cycle of testing, reviewing, and updating the EOP. Recommended processes for post-incident review and EOP adjustment are also included.

Steps in the Planning Process

This section presents a planning process that is flexible and allows TMCs to adapt it to varying characteristics and situations. If time is a constraint, steps can be minimized or skipped in order to accelerate the process. Small TMCs can follow just the steps that are appropriate to their size, known risks, and available planning resources. At each step in the planning process, TMCs should consider the impact of the decisions made on training, exercises, equipment, and other requirements.

Step 1 – Form a Collaborative Planning Team

Experience and lessons learned have demonstrated that operational planning is best performed by a team. A team approach enables organizations to define the role they will play during an operation. The common threads found in successful operations are that participating organizations understand and accept their roles and that members of the planning team understand and accept the roles of other departments and agencies. A key goal of any TMC planning team is to build and expand relationships that help bring creativity and innovation to emergency planning. A TMC benefits from the active participation of all stakeholders. Tips for gathering the team together are listed below:

  • Give the planning team plenty of notice about where and when the planning meeting will be held.
  • Provide information about team expectations. Explain why participating on the planning team is important to the participants’ agencies and show the participants how their contributions will lead to more effective operations.
  • Ask the senior appointed official or designee to sign the meeting announcement, since a directive from the executive office carries authority and sends a clear signal that operational planning is important to the community.
  • Allow flexibility in scheduling after the first meeting as not all team members will need to attend all meetings. Determine where possible task forces or subcommittees should complete the work.

In most TMCs, the TMC manager is the senior official’s policy advisor for response and mitigation strategies, as well as overall preparedness. TMC managers are often responsible for coordinating and developing an EOP, filling the role of lead planner. This means that the TMC manager provides oversight to a TMC’s planning team.

Step 2 – Understand the Situation

Effective risk management requires a consistent comparison of the hazards a particular TMC faces. TMCs should collect information about threats and hazards and assign values to risk for the purposes of determining priorities, developing or comparing courses of action, and informing decision-making. The TMC could conduct an in-depth process – cataloging everything from specific asset vulnerabilities to emergency personnel staffing levels. Due to resource limitations, however, this level of analysis may not be possible or practical In such cases, TMCs should conduct a risk assessment of achievable and appropriate scale and scope.

Identify Threats and Hazards. As the first step, TMCs should gather information about the potential risks, resource base and geographic characteristics that could affect emergency operations. In addition, TMCs’ hazard mitigation plans are an excellent resource for this step, as they are required to identify, catalog, and analyze all natural hazards that have the ability to impact the TMC and its operations. TMCs should take additional steps to include human-caused and technological hazards. Planning teams should use state and local fusion centers to provide analytical products, such as risk and trend analyses, that are derived from the systematic collection and evaluation of threat information. Fusion centers also provide access to national-level intelligence and can serve as a mechanism to “deconflict” information.

Assess Risk. The risk assessment is the basis for EOP development and helps a planning team decide what hazards or threats merit special attention, what actions to plan for, and what resources are likely to be needed. In this step, planners inventory, evaluate, and provide loss estimates for assets deemed critical during the response and recovery phases of an incident. Planners can also obtain the Hazards U.S. Multi-Hazard (HAZUS-MH) model from FEMA. HAZUS-MH is a nationally applicable and standardized methodology that estimates potential losses from earthquakes, floods, and hurricane winds.

Step 3 – Determine Goals and Objectives

Determine Operational Priorities. TMCs set operational priorities by using information from the risk profile. The planning team engages the senior official to establish how the hazard or threat would evolve survivors, and the community. Starting with a given intensity for the hazard or threat, the team imagines an incident’s development using the following sequence:

  • Prevention and protection efforts;
  • Initial warning (if available);
  • Impact (as identified through analysis); and
  • Generation of specific consequences (e.g., collapsed buildings, loss of critical services or infrastructure, death, injury, displacement).

Planners may use the incidents that have the greatest impact on the TMC (worst-case), those that are most likely to occur, or an incident constructed from the impacts of a variety of risks. During this process of building an incident scenario, the planning team identifies the requirements that determine actions and resources. Planners identify requirements generated by the hazard or threat, the response, and by constraints/restraints.

Planners develop requirements based on the nature of the hazard or threat. Response requirements are developed based on actions taken in response to an agent-generated problem. These tend to be common to all operations.

A constraint is something that must be done (“must do”), while a restraint is something that prohibits action (“must not do”). These may be defined in law, regulation, or management directive; by physical characteristics (e.g., terrain and road networks that make east-west evacuations impossible); or by resource limitations.

Set Goals and Objectives. Planners should carefully craft goals and objectives to ensure they support the plan mission and operational priorities. They must also clearly indicate the desired result or end state. Goals and objectives facilitate unity of effort and consistency of purpose among the multiple groups and activities involved in plan execution.

Planners correctly identify an operational task when they can answer the following questions about it:

  • What is the action?
  • Who is responsible for the action?
  • When should the action take place?
  • How long should the action take and how much time is actually available?
  • What has to happen before?
  • What happens after?
  • What resources does the person/entity need to perform the action?

Step 4 – Plan Development

Develop and Analyze Courses of Action. This step is a process of generating, comparing, and selecting methods of achieving the goals and objectives identified in Step 3. When developing courses of action, planners depict how an operation unfolds by building a portrait of the incident’s actions, decision points, and participant activities. Planners identify tasks that occur immediately at incident initiation, tasks that are carried out through the duration of the incident, and tasks that affect long-term operations. Specific activities include:

  • Establish the timeline. Planners should cover all mission areas in the timeline and use the speed of incident onset to establish the timeline. For example, a hurricane’s speed of onset is typically days, while a major HAZMAT incident’s speed of onset is minutes.
  • Depict the scenario. Planners use the scenario information developed in Step 3, place the incident information on the timeline and identify and depict decision points. Decision points indicate the place in time, as incidents unfold, when leaders anticipate making decisions about a course of action.
  • Identify and depict operational tasks. For each operational task depicted, some basic information is needed. Developing this information helps planners incorporate the task into the plan when they are writing it.
  • Select courses of action. Once the above analysis is complete, planners must compare the costs and benefits of each proposed course of action against the mission, goals, and objectives. Based on this comparison, planners then select the preferred courses of action to move forward in the planning process.

Identify Resources. Once courses of action are selected, the planning team identifies resources needed to accomplish tasks without regard to resource availability. The object is to identify the resources needed to make the operation work. Once the planning team identifies all the requirements, they begin matching available resources to requirements. The resource base should also include a list of facilities vital to emergency operations, and the list should indicate how individual hazards might affect the facilities. Whenever possible, planners should match resources with other geographical/regional needs so that multiple demands for the same or similar resources can be identified and conflicts resolved. This step provides planners an opportunity to identify resource shortfalls and prepare pre-scripted resource requests, as appropriate. The EOP should account for unresolved resource shortfalls so they are not just “assumed away.” The capability estimate process, a planner’s assessment of a TMC’s ability to take a course of action, is critical to this effort. Planners should use capability estimates for both future and current operational planning.

Step 5 – Plan Preparation, Review, and Approval

Write the Plan. This step turns the results of course of action development into an EOP. The planning team develops a rough draft of the basic plan, functional annexes, hazard-specific annexes, or other parts of the plan as appropriate. The TMC and partners on the planning team record results from Step 4 and provide an outline for the rough draft. As the planning team works through successive drafts, the members add necessary tables, charts, and other graphics. The planning team prepares and circulates a final draft to obtain the comments of organizations that have responsibilities for implementing the plan. Following these simple rules for writing plans and procedures will help ensure that readers and users understand their content:

  • Keep the language simple and clear by writing in plain English and avoid using jargon and minimize the use of acronyms.
  • Use short sentences and the active voice. Qualifiers and vague wording only add to confusion.
  • Provide enough detail to convey an easily understood plan that is actionable. The amount of detail a plan should provide depends on the target audience and the amount of certainty about the situation.
  • Format the plan and present its contents so that its readers can quickly find solutions and options. Focus on providing mission guidance and not on discussing policy and regulations.
  • Ensure accessibility by developing tools and documents (e.g., print, electronic, video) so plans can be easily converted to alternate formats.

Criteria for Plan Assessment

  • Adequacy. Do the scope and concept of planned operations identify and address critical tasks effectively? Can the plan accomplish the assigned mission while complying with guidance? Are the plan’s assumptions are valid, reasonable, and comply with guidance?
  • Feasibility. Can the organization accomplish the assigned mission and critical tasks by using available resources within the time contemplated by the plan?
  • Acceptability. Does the plan meet the requirements driven by a threat or incident? Can the plan be justified in terms of the cost of resources? Is its scale is proportional to mission requirements? Planners use both acceptability and feasibility tests to ensure that the mission can be accomplished with available resources, without incurring excessive risk regarding personnel, equipment, material, or time.
  • Completeness. A plan is complete if it:
    • Incorporates all tasks to be accomplished;
    • Includes all required capabilities;
    • Provides a complete picture of the sequence and scope of the planned response operation;
    • Provides a timeline for implementation; and
    • Identifies success criteria and a desired end-state.
  • Compliance. The plan should comply with guidance and doctrine to the maximum extent possible, because these provide a baseline that facilitates both planning and execution.

Review the Plan. Planners should check the written plan for its conformity to applicable regulatory requirements and the standards of Federal or state agencies, as appropriate, and for its usefulness in practice. Planners should consult the next level of government about its plan review cycle. Commonly used criteria help decision-makers determine the effectiveness and efficiency of plans. These measures include adequacy, feasibility, acceptability, completeness and compliance. Decision-makers directly involved in planning can employ these criteria, along with their understanding of plan requirements, to determine a plan’s effectiveness and efficiency and to assess risks and define costs.

When using these five criteria, planners should ask the following questions:

Did an action, a process, a decision, or the operational timing identified in the plan make the situation worse or better?

  • Were new alternate courses of action identified?
  • What aspects of the action, process, decision, or operational timing make it something to keep in the plan?
  • What aspects of the action, process, decision, or operational timing make it something to avoid or remove from the plan?
  • What specific changes to plans and procedures, personnel, organizational structures, leadership or management processes, facilities, or equipment can improve operational performance?

Approve and Disseminate the Plan. Once the plan has been validated, the planner should present the plan to the appropriate DOT officials and obtain official promulgation of the plan. The promulgation process should be based in a specific statute, law, or ordinance. A formal promulgation documentation process is implemented to obtain senior official’s approval and to gain the widest acceptance possible for the plan. The authority required for changes and modifications to the plan must be established. Once the senior official grants approval, the plan must be distributed and a record of the people and organizations that received a copy (or copies) of the plan must be maintained. “Sunshine” laws may require that a copy of the plan be posted on the TMC’s web site or be placed in some other public accessible location.

Step 6 – Plan Implementation and Maintenance

Training. After developing a plan, it must be disseminated and managers must train their personnel so they have the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform the tasks identified in the plan. Personnel should also be trained on the organization-specific procedures necessary to support those plan tasks.

Exercise the Plan. The planning team must conduct training events, exercises, and real-world incidents to determine whether the goals, objectives, decisions, actions, and timing outlined in the plan leads to a successful response. In this way, homeland security and other emergency preparedness exercise programs become an integral part of the planning process. Similarly, planners need to be aware of lessons and practices from other communities. A remedial action process will help a planning team identify, illuminate, and correct problems with the TMC’s EOP. This process captures information from exercises, post-disaster critiques, self-assessments, audits, administrative reviews, or lessons-learned processes that may indicate that deficiencies exist. Members of the planning team should reconvene to discuss the problem and to consider and assign responsibility for generating remedies across all mission areas. Remedial actions may involve revising planning assumptions and operational concepts, changing organizational tasks, or modifying organizational implementing instructions (i.e., the SOPs/SOGs). Remedial actions may also involve providing refresher training for an organization’s personnel.

Review, Revise, and Maintain the Plan. This step closes the loop in the planning process as it focuses on adding the information gained by exercising the plan to the research collected in Step 2 and starting the planning cycle over again. Planning teams should establish a process for reviewing and revising the plan on a regular basis. Some TMCs have found it useful to review and revise portions of their EOPs every month. Many accomplish their reviews on an annual basis. In no case should any part of the plan go for more than two years without being reviewed and revised. Teams should also review and update the plan after the following events:

  • A major incident;
  • A change in operational resources (e.g., policy, personnel, organizational structures, management processes, facilities, equipment);
  • A formal update of planning guidance or standards;
  • Major exercises;
  • A change in the TMC’s hazard or threat profile;
  • A change in the acceptability of various risks; and
  • The enactment of new or amended laws or ordinances.

3.6.11 Authorities and References

This section provides the legal basis for emergency operations and activities. The authorities and references should include the following:

  • A list of laws, statutes, ordinances, executive orders, mutual-aid, and other agreements, etc.;
  • The extent and limits of the emergency authorities granted to the state transportation agency; and
  • Emergency authorities and provisions for continuity of operations.

The emergency operations activities of the TMC generally fall within the legislative mandate that established the agency and defined its responsibilities. Recent legislative initiatives related to emergency operations and roadway safety include Quick Clearance laws, and Move Over Slow Down laws for emergency vehicles. Implementation of NIMS has helped define the roles of transportation and emergency response agencies during emergencies.

Memoranda of Understanding or Agreements (MOU/A) or Emergency Management Assistance Compacts (EMAC) are two methods to ensure formal procedures are in place for mutual assistance and support. These agreements form the basis of training and planning activities, and are generally most effective when covering specific topics. NIMS and the NRF provide a basis for these agreements, and the duties in the State EOP. While implementation of agreements may occur at a higher level in the transportation agency, the TMC should have a seat at the table in both the development and the execution of MOU/As and EMACs. TMC personnel can provide inventories of equipment, current operating procedures, and provide recommendations on items to include in the plan. The text box provides language for an agreement. Successful implementation of an agreement requires research upfront by all parties during the preparation phase and most importantly, efforts to build relationships between agency personnel.

An example of a noteworthy practice is the consolidation of transportation and emergency response functions into Houston’s TranStar Transportation Center through an interlocal agreement that focuses heavily on funding, project development, and operating responsibilities. Four entities, including the Texas DOT, Houston Metro (transit operator), Harris County, and the City of Houston agreed to participate in the development and operation of the Center. TranStar operates freeway and traffic signal management and emergency management activities for both Harris County and the City of Houston. The operating agreement of the Center determines the procedures affecting transportation and emergency response personnel.

Agreement Language

Agreement language should include the following information:

  • An inventory of the available assets for use during exercises and actual events;
  • The chain of command;
  • Definitions of key terms and participating agency jurisdictional boundaries;
  • Procedures for requesting and providing assistance;
  • Procedures, authorities, and rules for payment, reimbursement, and reallocation of cost;
  • Notification procedures;
  • Protocols for interoperable communications;
  • Relationships to other agreements between jurisdictions;
  • Treatment of liability, immunity, and workers’ compensation;
  • Recognition of qualifications and certifications;
  • Future evaluation and modification of procedures and protocols;
  • Training and joint exercise responsibilities; and
  • Sharing agreements.

Source: NCHRP Report 525 Volume 16, A Guide to Emergency Response Planning at State Transportation Agencies, pp. 48-49.

An example of a broader agreement is the Joint Operations Policy Statement between the Washington State DOT, State Patrol, and Association of Fire Chiefs for Disaster Response. This goes beyond an incident management agreement to address working relationships for disaster response, work zone safety, winter operations, smart highways, commercial vehicle operations, facilities management (rest areas), wireless communications, system security, and ferry operations. For each area, the policy statement includes a brief background statement, a simply stated objective, and policy guidance (which may reference other documents) along with roles and responsibilities, ongoing actions, measures of performance, and a timeline for implementation.


Background: The Washington State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) establishes the policy under which all state agencies will respond to emergencies and disasters.

Objective: Improve coordination of joint Washington State Police (WSP), Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) emergency operations.

Policy: The WSP and WSDOT agree to enhance existing procedures to provide additional protection measures for the traveling public and the transportation system.

Roles and Responsibilities:

WSDOT Responsibilities: Headquarters (HQ) Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will be equipped for WSP Data communication capabilities. WSDOT Lead: Emergency Operations and Safety Program Manager.

WSP Responsibilities: Staff the WSDOT’s HQ and Regional EOCs as appropriate during emergencies. WSP Lead: Incident Management Team Coordinator.

Washington Fire Chiefs (WFC): Work collaboratively with WSP and WSDOT partners to identify joint interests and best practices for disaster response. WFC Lead: Deputy Chief, Bellevue Fire Department.

Action: To increase effectiveness, WSDOT’s HQ EOC Team will meet at least annually to discuss opportunities for improvement in disaster response. The Team will also work to establish cooperative partnerships with other emergency response agencies. Each WSP District Commander (DC) and WSDOT Region Administrator (RA) will work to exchange knowledge of all applicable WSP and WSDOT disaster response plans. WFC will continue to promote training and coordination to support disaster response preparedness and response.

Measures of Performance/Reporting: Disaster response drills should be conducted on an annual basis and should include WSP, WSDOT, and all local stakeholders. At each annual JOPS meeting, each DC/RA will report on new or revised plans for their area.

Time Line: This policy will be in place when JOPS receives final approval by both agencies.

Source: JOPS, A Joint Operations Policy Statement, prepared and agreed by the Washington Department of Transportation, the Washington State Patrol, and the Washington Fire Chiefs, 2010, p. 15.

Incident Clearance Agreements

Interagency agreements for incident clearance may address duties and responsibilities of response agencies, jurisdictional authority, and resource sharing among agencies. MOUs or cooperative agreements between emergency operations agencies and transportation agencies can focus exclusively or primarily on the handling of incidents, which is an effective way to reduce tension around the tradeoffs between public safety and mobility. Incident commanders at the scene have safety as a first priority and are generally cautious in allowing traffic to move through or around an incident. Transportation agencies meanwhile are concerned about traffic impacts and both parties are concerned about the potential for secondary crashes when there are stops in the traffic flow. A sample memorandum between the Tennessee DOT and the Tennessee Department of Safety (DOS) defines the responsibilities and policies for each agency, and those which are joint activities. Two of the paragraphs in the text box illustrate how such an agreement can define specific responsibilities during and after an incident through ongoing working relationships.

Tennessee Interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

TDOT, DOS, local responders, and other agencies as needed, will conduct an after-action review within 10 working days, unless unusual circumstances require more than 10 days, following any incident that requires complete closure of an Interstate highway (in one or both directions of travel) for more than two hours and following any incident that requires closure of one or more lanes for more than five hours.

The purpose of the meeting will not be to find fault or to assign blame but to identify opportunities for improvements in agency procedures, training, or allocation of resources. The after-action review will not substitute for critical incident stress debriefings (CISD) and will not address issues that are more appropriate for CISD.

A one-page report will be prepared jointly by the representatives of DOS and TDOT and forwarded through the chain-of-command to the Commissioners of DOS and TDOT within one month of the date of the incident, unless unusual circumstances require more than one month. Regardless of the duration, extent, or location of closure, either agency may request an after-action meeting following any highway incident, and that meeting will be held and a report prepared as described above.

DOS and TDOT will meet periodically to discuss experiences with incident management and to work toward improvements. In addition to the after-action reviews described above, periodic working sessions will be held in each of TDOT Region Offices with DOS, TDOT, and other state and local agencies to discuss overall incident management and related issues.

Source: Interagency Memorandum of Understanding between the Tennessee Office of Safety and the Tennessee Department of Transportation Relative to Urgent Clearance of Highway 2004.

Use of TMC Resources for Nontransportation Events

Interagency agreements can be important in defining the parameters of TMC participation in nontransportation events. This issue comes up frequently in relation to the role of law enforcement during homeland security activities. Law enforcement/security agencies, for example, may request CCTV access to track suspects. TMCs are hard-pressed to turn down these requests even though it may contradict TMC policies or agreements and most TMCs do not record CCTV feeds except for incidents. As TMCs work with law enforcement on incident management, event management, or evacuations; relationships can develop along with guidelines for this activity. While there will be limitations in what law enforcement agencies can divulge about their activities, the discussions should be adequate to develop broad guidelines and policies. To develop such guidelines, TMCs should implement the following steps:

  • Meet with State Police and local law enforcement agencies to discuss needs on nontransportation use of TMC facilities;
  • Explain current TMC policies toward recording of nontransportation events;
  • Document draft set of conditions for a written agreement;
  • Confer with U.S. DOT and state representatives to obtain guidance on Federal policies and Federal security officials to contact;
  • Contact Federal agencies that may have an interest in using TMC resources, including the FBI and key subagencies of DHS;
  • Develop draft guidelines for law enforcement use of TMC resources (primarily CCTV), including personnel responsibilities and documentation; and
  • Submit guidelines for review by law enforcement agencies and incorporate into both TMC and joint training activities.

In preparing to develop these guidelines there are several key documents TMC personnel should review to gain a better understanding of security concerns that may trigger use of TMC resources by law enforcement or homeland security agencies. Full documentation of the DHS is available in the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) and the National Preparedness Guidelines (Figure 3.2). The NIPP integrates existing and future critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR) protection efforts and strategies into a single national program. The NIPP framework provides recommendations on how to mitigate risk by lessening vulnerabilities, deterring threats, and minimizing the consequences of terrorist attacks and other manmade and natural disasters.

Participation in Cost-Recovery Agreements

DOT transport equipment in emergencies, and support activities such as utility restoration, which may be reimbursable from emergency funding sources. MOUs or interagency agreements can be helpful in defining these responsibilities and in setting up payment systems. TMCs can also have an important role in documenting conditions that enable states to collect emergency repair funds after infrastructure losses. Full documentation of guidelines for collecting these funds is included in the document Recovering from Disasters: The National Transportation Recovery Strategy. One of the suggestions in the strategy, for instance, recommends communities bring together individuals responsible for overseeing the recovery of various infrastructure networks to plan for the overall process.

Figure 3.2 DHS National Preparedness System

This graphic illustrates how the National Preparedness Guidelines are implemented.
Source: National Preparedness Guidelines, Department of Homeland Security, September 2007, p. 22.

3.6.12 Additional Planning and Coordination Activities

This section details additional planning and coordination functions that may be included in the EOP, including the planning and development of preplanned detours, and emergency evacuation plans.

Planning and Development of Preplanned Detours

Some states identify preplanned detour routes for their entire Interstate Highway System, a process in which DOT staff often coordinates with evacuation planning. This makes it easier to implement the detours in the event of an incident or other emergency. Several state and local DOT also have standard detour routes for use during construction or incident-related rerouting. Utilizing their familiarity with local road and highway evacuation/detour routes, the TMC should develop preplanned detours for the major arterials in their area so they can support emergency response by providing information on routes.

Planning and Development of Emergency Evacuation Plans

Regions which have developed emergency evacuation plans for their central business districts, provide information on specific roles for each agency, including which police or DOT unit is responsible for securing each highway access point. Interagency collaboration is important to developing the plans, which also include involvement from transit agencies and MPOs.

Utilizing their own familiarity with existing emergency evacuation planning, the TMC should develop emergency evacuation routes for the major arterials in their area. TMCs have often played a central role in the development of emergency evacuation plans and procedures for urban areas. TMCs should also be involved in these efforts since the plans often delegate responsibility for specific traffic control points to varying agencies based on geographic jurisdiction (or other factors). TMCs can thus serve as a resource during implementation.

A radar weather picture showing a hurricane over the coast of the Carolinas.
Hurricane – Carolina Coast
Source: Digital Stock, a division of Corbis Corporation.

Some noteworthy developments in transportation planning have improved the link between planning and operations in disaster response. The increase in the programming and funding of ITS technologies with disaster response as location criteria, the leveraging of transit/multimodal resources during a disaster, and the movement from “table-top” exercises to field exercises have helped. Full documentation is available in the Peer Exchange Series on State and Metropolitan Transportation Planning Issues.

An important activity for transportation agencies is identification of improvements to alleviate the impact of future disasters. Both New Orleans and the Houston-Galveston area demonstrated best practices by refining their evacuation plans and routes and assessing what physical and operational infrastructure is required to improve safety and mobility in future emergencies. Figure 3.3, which shows evacuation zones developed by the Houston-Galveston Area Council using their transportation model, can serve as a guide to the TMC and other emergency agencies in the future.

3.7 Emergency Operations Plan Checklist

The TMC can use the following checklist to evaluate their progress and completion status in the development of the EOP. The TMC should incorporate the following elements into the EOP (check all that apply and are included):

❑ Includes purpose and scope.

❑ Includes situation overview and planning assumptions, i.e., geographic areas likely to be affected, vulnerable critical facilities, population distribution, and location of individuals with access functional needs, etc.

❑ Includes a concept of operations, including whether the TMC and EOC will colocate or whether the TMC will use a virtual EOC concept, the organization and assignment of responsibilities, and the framework for all direction, command and control, and coordination activities.

❑ Documents interagency coordination procedures among enforcement, emergency management agencies, transit, tow truck operators, and venue operators for Planned Special Events.

❑ Documents information collection and dissemination procedures, including the use of ITS and traveler information, and exchange of data between the TMC and EOC.

❑ Documents communication protocols and coordination procedures.

❑ Identifies the communications stakeholders who will be involved and the membership and responsibilities of a Communications Working Group. Includes information on administration, finance, and logistics, including the identification of potential funding sources, how the plan will be developed and maintained, and the legal basis for emergency operations and activities.

❑ Documents incident clearance agreements addressing the duties and responsibilities of response agencies, jurisdictional authority, and resource sharing.

❑ Documents how the TMC will recover costs through participation in cost-recovery agreements.

❑ Includes information on additional planning and coordination activities, including the planning and development of preplanned detours, and emergency evacuation plans.

❑ Includes a capabilities survey.

❑ Identifies of essential functions, including the following (check all that apply):

❑ Areas of responsibility.

❑ Organizational functions.

❑ Criteria for selecting essential functions.

❑ Essential functions and supporting processes and systems.

❑ Key management, technical, and supporting personnel.

❑ The development, review, and approval of the plan.

❑ Documents the development of supporting procedures.

❑ Documents personnel training plan and the process for testing/update of the plan.

❑ Documents the implementation of drills and exercises, including the description of the following activities (check all that apply):

❑ Seminar.

❑ Workshop.

❑ Tabletop Exercise (TTX).

❑ Games.

❑ Operations-Based Exercises (drill, functional exercise, full-scale exercises).

Figure 3.3 Evacuation Zones Houston-Galveston Area

A graphic showing color-coded hurricane evacuation zones for areas located along the Gulf Coast in the Houston, Texas area.
Source: Hurricane Evacuation Planning Presentation, Harris County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), June 2008.

3.8 Continuity of Operations Planning

Continuity of Operations (COOP) planning is a way transportation agencies define required activities when an emergency results in no access to essential operating and maintenance facilities, vehicle fleets, systems, and senior management and technical personnel. Under certain disruptive conditions, the transportation agency cannot perform its normal business activities. COOP planning should involve all-hazards, including natural, human-caused, and technological incidents. It is a multistep process, which must be periodically tested and maintained.

While many TMCs have plans, policies, procedures, checklists, and job aids to direct immediate response to various emergencies, there is often a need for dedicated continuity and recovery planning. Without a management framework that clearly identifies essential functions and establishes operational procedures to sustain them when there is a disruption of normal operations, TMCs remain vulnerable to service interruptions and loss of public confidence.

Picture of the Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi River in Minnesota shortly after it collapsed.
Photo courtesy of Kent Barnard for the Minnesota DOT.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) joined other state departments, volunteer agencies, and the Minnesota National Guard to start operation of the State Emergency Operations Center in St. Paul within hours of the I-35 bridge collapsing over the Mississippi River. The TMC disseminated messages via 511, message boards, twitter, and the web site to the traveling public. The TMC also coordinated with other agencies, including across state lines, to broadcast alternate route and incident information.

A good guide for developing COOP is the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) TCRP86/NCHRP 525 Report on Continuity of Operations (COOP) Planning Guidelines for Transportation Agencies. Information in the plan includes a description of COOP, its purpose, and guidelines for use.

Typically, the COOP development process follows seven steps, including:

  • Initiating the process;
  • Conducting a capabilities survey;
  • Identifying essential functions;
  • Developing, reviewing, and approving the plan;
  • Developing supporting procedures;
  • Training personnel and test/update the plan; and
  • Conducting drills and exercises.

3.8.1 Initiate the COOP Process

The TMC Emergency Preparedness Working Group should serve as the coordination and starting point for the COOP process because it will be easier to secure important buy-in and support from top management and ensure the organization is fully committed to the COOP process. From the Working Group, designate a COOP planning leader to lead the planning team with sufficient personnel and resources to accomplish the effort. Coordination with external agencies, training, and exercise participation may also be necessary. There should be regular dedicated meetings to keep the effort on track and subcommittees for specific COOP planning areas.

3.8.2 Conduct a Capabilities Survey

It is important to assess and understand current capabilities, including current vulnerabilities and incident response practices. A Capabilities Survey may include analyzing capabilities, inventorying resources, examining personnel assignments, determining vulnerabilities, reviewing internal plans and policies, and evaluating lines of coordination.

As a first step, it is essential to establish the existing and anticipated threats to the TMC to construct the foundation of the COOP Plan. This is possible by determining the types of events that are likely to require activation of a COOP Plan, shown in Figure 3.4.

3.8.3 Identify Essential Functions

Next, the TMC should identify and prioritize the essential functions to maintain during emergencies. A common approach uses the following steps:

  • Identify areas of responsibility;
  • Compile organizational functions;
  • Determine criteria for selecting essential functions;
  • Identify and prioritize essential functions and supporting processes and systems; and
  • Identify key management, technical, and supporting personnel.

3.8.4 Develop, Review, Approve COOP Plan

The TMC should undertake the development, review, and approval of the COOP Plan utilizing the following process:

  • Prepare the first draft;
  • Coordinate review of the first draft by each organizational unit, incorporate changes, and develop a second draft;
  • Seek external review of the second draft by expert(s) and partners in local/regional/state emergency response and management;
  • Incorporate changes and develop the final draft;
  • Present the final draft to the appropriate senior leadership for approval and signature;
  • Finalize and distribute the plan; and
  • Review and update the plan annually or as major changes occur.

The TMC’s COOP Plan should include and describe the following elements:

  • Leadership succession and assignment of authority;
  • Assignment of essential functions to specific teams;
  • Identification and preparation of alternate facilities;
  • Protection of vital records, databases, and communication systems;
  • Maintenance of the plan through training and testing, followed by evaluation and improvement planning;
  • The conditions necessitating the activation of the COOP plan;
  • TMC hours of operation;
  • Identification of alternate work sites where COOP functions can be performed if the primary facilities are destroyed or disrupted;
  • Creation of COOP teams; and
  • Delegation of emergency authorities and orders of succession.

Figure 3.4 TMC Emergencies Most Likely to Require COOP Activation

A bar chart showing the percentage of Transportation Management Center emergencies that require Continuity of Operations planning. The most frequent events include Snow and Ice, Building/Facility failures and communications failures. These all exceeded 40 percent.
Source: TRB TCRP86/NCHRP525 Report on Continuity of Operations (COOP) Planning Guidelines for Transportation Agencies.

3.8.5 Develop Supporting Procedures

Supporting procedures will ensure effective implementation of the COOP Plan. Just as an EOP or EMP serves as the foundation for emergency response procedures, the COOP Plan should be the foundation for continuity of operations and recovery procedures. COOP procedures should focus on the following areas:

  • Key Position SOPs;
  • COOP Activation SOPs;
  • Evacuation;
  • Vital Records;
  • Communications;
  • Notification; and
  • Order of Succession.

3.8.6 Train Personnel and Test/Update the Plan

Effective implementation also depends on training personnel on its use, which requires the development of a regular and documented training program so new and existing employees receive consistent and recurring COOP training.

Regular testing of the COOP Plan is required periodically through drills and exercises that examine its functionality and implementation. COOP Plan updates, coordinated by the Emergency Preparedness Working Group, should address any deficiencies.

Training ensures personnel are familiar with and understand plans, policies, and procedures. It allows the effective transmission of the elements of an emergency preparedness program into and throughout the TMC organization. Training also ensures TMC personnel understand and effectively execute plan policies and the SOPs.

For a TMC, which utilizes complex systems and interacts extensively with external agencies, training that includes participation from an array of stakeholders is particularly important. The TMC can initiate the training or a partner agency can initiate it externally. Training in joint environments will ensure consistency and strengthen interagency relationships, both of which are crucial when an incident occurs and a response is required.

Picture of a transportation management center operator sitting at a console with a video wall in the background.
Source: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.

The TMC Emergency Preparedness Working Group should oversee the development of a training plan that addresses curriculum and audience to serve as a foundation for all TMC training activities.

The training plan should also identify specific training opportunities. The following is a partial list of recommended training topics. Individual TMCs may have particular needs based on their specific structure, assets, or external partners. Four categories of training available are described below:

  • National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS) training;
  • FHWA Training Courses;
  • TMC-Based Emergency Management Training; and
  • TMC Emergency Response Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Training.

National Incident Management System and Incident Command System Training

  • ICS-100 – Introduction to ICS – This training program introduces the ICS and provides the foundation for higher-level training. It describes the history, features, principles, and organizational structure of the ICS and explains the relationship between ICS and the NIMS.
  • ICS-200 – ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents – This training program enables personnel to operate efficiently during an incident or event within the ICS, and provides training on and resources for personnel who are likely to assume a supervisory position.
  • ICS-700 – NIMS, An Introduction – This program introduces and provides an overview of NIMS, which is the consistent nationwide template that enables all government, private sector, and nongovernmental organizations to work together during domestic incidents.
  • ICS-800 – National Response Framework, An Introduction – This program introduces participants to the concepts and principles of the National Response Framework.
  • ICS-300 – Intermediate ICS for Expanding Incidents for Operational First Responders – This training describes how the NIMS command and management component support the management of expanding incidents as prescribed by the ICS. It includes a simulation and Incident Action Plan for the incident management process on a Type 3 incident.
  • ICS-400 – Advanced ICS – This training focuses on how the NIMS command and management component supports the management of expanding incidents by describing the incident/event management process for large-scale organization development; roles and relationships of the primary staff; the planning, operational, and logistical and fiscal considerations related to a complex incident/event management. It covers the implementation of area command and the importance of interagency coordination.
  • ICS-402 – ICS Summary for Executives – This program provides a forum to discuss strategic and executive-level preparedness and response issues and challenges related to weapons of mass destruction/terrorism and other incidents of national significance. It is also serves as a vehicle to share proven strategies and practices as well as enhanced teamwork and coordination among an agency’s senior officials responsible for emergency response. Conducted as a facilitated workshop, it integrates multimedia scenarios and vignettes that highlight the key issues.

Federal Highway Administration Training

The National Highway Institute (NHI) offers training, both on-line and in classroom, that covers the topics below.

  • Principles of Evacuation Planning Tutorial; Course Number: FHWA NHI-133107 – This course provides an introductory overview of evacuation planning topics and common considerations. It covers the roles and responsibilities of local, regional, and state agencies involved in the evacuation process.
  • Design and Traffic Operations – This course covers topics such as highway capacity and quality of flow, traffic signal design and operation, and freeway management and operations.
  • Highway Safety – This course focuses on roadside safety design, construction zone safety inspection, road safety audits, low-cost safety improvements, and their related topics.

Picture of a workzone along a highway with a “Lane Ends Merge Right” sign on a median barrier.
Source: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.

  • Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) – This training focuses on how to improve highway safety with intelligent transportation systems.
  • Transportation Planning – This program includes application of the FHWA Traffic Monitoring Guide, statewide transportation planning, and traffic monitoring and pavement design programs.

TMC Emergency Management/Operations Plan Overview Training

TMCs should develop this training for their own use since it is not readily available. Specific topics covered in the program should include the following:

  • Pre-impact preparations, including relationships between the type of emergency and necessary preparations, responsibilities of different agencies for preparedness, and location of sites of greatest risk;
  • Communications and required interoperability;
  • Activation and management of emergency operations centers (EOC), including locations, equipment, operation, staffing, and redundancy; and
  • How to maintain public order during emergency operations.

This EOP Training can be conducted jointly with external responding agencies by utilizing the Capabilities Gap Analysis format, which delineates response capabilities and responsibilities between the TMC and external responding agencies. Additional information is available in the EOP section.

TMC Emergency Response Standard Operating Procedures SOP Training

TMCs should develop this type of training for their own use since it is not readily available. Specific topics covered in the training should include the following:

  • The actions to support traffic incident detection, management, response, and recovery;
  • Operation of warning systems (e.g., types of warnings, how they will be distributed, obligations on receiving warnings);
  • Emergency evacuation procedures, including conditions under which evacuation is authorized; routes to be followed and destinations; how people of age, who are ill, who are institutionalized, or combinations thereof will be accommodated; and locations and facilities for emergency shelters;
  • Search and rescue (SAR) needs and required capabilities; and
  • Public information requirements during emergencies.

SOP Training can also be conducted jointly with external responding agencies by utilizing the Capabilities Gap Analysis format, which delineates response capabilities and responsibilities between the TMC and external responding agencies. Additional information is available in the EOP section (3.6).

TMCs can learn from successful implementation of these training programs in transportation and TMC settings. While ICS-100 and ICS-200 are basic, easy to complete on-line courses, ICS-300 and ICS-402 represent more investments in training. ICS-300 is a classroom course spanning several days, and the ICS-402 requires time and commitment from senior executives. An advanced TMC training program should include basic courses along with more advanced offerings.

TMCs should take advantage of the applicability of ICS and NIMS to virtually any field, setting, or industry. This added benefit allows organizations and personnel from different fields who adopt ICS to understand and work within another emergency management framework. Different agency personnel, both trained separately in ICS, will immediately enhance their ability to effectively interact and cooperate during an incident. Joint training attended simultaneously by both TMC and public safety personnel offers additional value. Modification of these settings, scenarios, and examples can provide enhanced interagency cooperation and understanding.

3.8.7 Conduct Drills and Exercises

A formal and well-developed drill/exercise program validates the concepts and policies embedded in the EOP and SOPs. The drills/exercises test the organization’s capability to execute their actions in an effective and integrated manner. A leading standard for exercise design, development, conduct, evaluation, and improvement planning is FEMA’s Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP). HSEEP is a capabilities and performance-based exercise program that provides standardized guidance and terminology. A key objective of HSEEP is to promote consistency among exercises across the nation to enhance national preparedness. A key component of HSEEP is fostering self-sustaining exercise programs by providing jurisdictions with consistent doctrine and resources for program management. A Visual illustration of the HSEEP process is provided in Figure 3.5.

Figure 3.5 HSEEP Exercise Program Management Model

This figures shows the Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) program management model. The graphic is a circle that has Exercise Program Management in the middle and a series of continuous arrows around it which include Design and Development, Foundation, Improvement Planning, Evaluation, and Conduct.
Source: HSEEP Exercise Program Management Model, Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS/FEMA), February 2007.

Drills and exercises allow TMCs to evaluate and identify improvement for established policies, plans, procedures, and training. Exercises are a particularly valuable method of involving and interacting with external public safety and support agencies. The scope of a TMC’s operations can provide a variety of potential scenarios. Reasons to develop and conduct TMC-specific drills and exercises include the following:

  • It results in an interagency team with a common understanding of the transportation-specific drills and exercises;
  • It tests developed plans to ensure they effectively address the necessary topics; and
  • It improves individual and agency performance.

Designate Exercise Planning Team

The TMC Emergency Preparedness Working Group should form an Exercise Planning Team that will be responsible for planning, designing, developing, and conducting multistakeholder exercises. This team should conduct regular planning meetings to ensure coordination and progress from external agencies, including law enforcement, emergency management, fire, and EMS. Once formed, the Exercise Planning Team should develop a schedule outlining drill and exercise activities to conduct over a set timeframe, usually three to five years. This aids coordination with outside agencies and reduces potential for overlap with other exercises or activities that may draw on the same personnel or resources.

Adopt FHWA and HSEEP Exercise Guidelines

TMCs should adopt the FHWA and HSEEP guidelines for exercises, which support discussion and operations-based exercises of various types and sizes. The following types are predefined and available for consideration by the Exercise Planning Team:

  • Discussion-Based Exercises familiarize participants with current plans, policies, agreements, and procedures, or can develop new plans, policies, agreements, and procedures. Types of discussion-based exercises include:
    • Seminar – A seminar is an informal discussion, designed to orient participants to new or updated plans, policies, or procedures (e.g., a seminar to review a new Evacuation Standard Operating Procedure).
    • Workshop – A workshop resembles a seminar but builds specific products, such as a draft plan or policy (e.g., a Training and Exercise Plan Workshop is used to develop a Multiyear Training and Exercise Plan).
    • Tabletop Exercise (TTX) – A tabletop exercise involves key personnel discussing simulated scenarios in an informal setting. TTXs can assess plans, policies, and procedures.
    • Games – A game simulates operations involving two or more teams, usually in a competitive environment, using rules, data, and procedures to depict an actual or assumed real-life situation.
  • Operations-Based Exercises validate plans, policies, agreements, and procedures; clarify roles and responsibilities; and identify resource gaps in an operational environment. Types of operations-based exercises include:
  • Drill – A drill is a coordinated, supervised activity usually employed to test a single specific operation or function within a single entity (e.g., a fire drill).
  • Functional Exercise (FE) – A functional exercise examines and/or validates the coordination, command, and control between various multiagency coordination centers (e.g., emergency operation center, joint field office, etc.). A functional exercise does not involve any “boots on the ground” (i.e., first responders or emergency officials responding to an incident in real time).
  • Full-Scale Exercises (FSE) – A full-scale exercise is a multiagency, multijurisdictional, multidiscipline exercise involving functional (e.g., joint field office, emergency operation centers, etc.) and “boots on the ground” response (e.g., firefighters decontaminating mock victims).

Utilize the DHS/FEMA Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program Guidance

The TMC Exercise Planning Team should utilize the standardized approach in HSEEP as planning guidance for developing discussion and performance-based exercises. The following are key activities identified within the HSEEP guidance for the design, development, and evaluation of exercises:

  • Schedule an exercise planning conference such as the following:
    • Concepts and Objectives Conference;
    • Initial Planning Conference;
    • Midterm/Master Events Scenario List Planning Conference; and
    • Final Planning Conference.
  • Identify exercise stakeholders and participants;
  • Develop an exercise scenario;
  • Develop exercise documentation as shown in the text box on the next page;
  • Determine exercise venue and logistics associated with the conduct of the exercises;
  • Identify and train exercise staff (controllers and evaluators);
  • Develop and provide briefings to exercise (participants and staff);
  • Conduct and evaluate the exercise;
  • Schedule and conduct an after-action conference to discuss and present exercise findings; and
  • Develop an After-Action Report/Improvement Plan (AAR/IP).

The AAR/IP has two components: An AAR captures observations and recommendations based on the exercise objectives and an IP identifies specific corrective actions, assigns them to responsible parties, and establishes targets for their completion. The lead evaluator and the exercise planning team draft the AAR and submit it to conference participants prior to an After-Action Conference. Conference participants receive the AAR for review no more than 30 days after the completion of the exercise.

Consider Adapting Previous Exercise Formats

TMCs should consider adapting previously utilized exercise formats and designs to their own needs. Exercises can be designed for transportation and accommodate a variety of participating agencies and jurisdictions. A selection of examples previously employed in transportation settings follows:

  • First Responder Workshop – Operations-level public safety agency representatives and TMC and transportation agency representatives jointly design and attend a workshop to discuss key emergency preparedness issues, such as ICS, NIMS, emergency operations centers, and training. The objective is to achieve a consensus among attendees to advance preferred solutions for consideration by senior personnel.
  • Senior Leadership Seminar – Senior public safety and transportation executives jointly attend a seminar to learn about relevant key emergency preparedness issues. The objective is to obtain buy-in from senior executives on pre-identified issues and solutions. These seminars are usually short in order to accommodate senior leader schedules. Issues must be fully developed and understood before presenting them for senior leader review and consideration.
  • Transportation Functional Exercise – Representatives from public safety, TMC, and transportation jointly attend an exercise featuring a scenario that draws on all of their respective capabilities and responsibilities. There is no deployment to the field, but there is a utilization of multiple discussion locations along with a realistic communications component to simulate real interaction between response partners and locations.
  • Interoperable Communications Equipment Test – Communications representatives from public safety, TMC, and transportation agencies jointly design and attend a drill designed to test interoperable communications capabilities (usually radio) between the agencies. Such a drill is useful in advance of a larger exercise that may rely on interoperable communications.

Exercise Documentation

Exercise documentation should include the following:

  • An Exercise Plan (ExPlan), typically used for operations-based exercises, provides a synopsis of the exercise and is published and distributed to players and observers prior to the start of the exercise. The ExPlan includes the exercise objectives and scope, safety procedures, and logistical considerations such as an exercise schedule.
  • The Controller and Evaluator (C/E) Handbook supplements the ExPlan for operations-based exercises and contains more detailed information about the exercise scenario. It describes exercise controllers’ and evaluators’ roles and responsibilities. Because the C/E Handbook contains information on the scenario and exercise administration, it is distributed only to those individuals specifically designated as controllers or evaluators.
  • The Master Scenario Events List (MSEL) is a chronological timeline of expected actions and scripted events (i.e., injects) to be inserted into operations-based exercise play by controllers to generate or prompt player activity.
  • A Player Handout is a one to two page document usually handed out the morning of an exercise, which provides a quick reference for exercise players on safety procedures, logistical considerations, exercise schedule, and other key factors and information.
  • Exercise Evaluation Guides (EEG) help evaluators collect and interpret relevant exercise observations. EEGs provide evaluators with information on what tasks they should expect to see accomplished during an exercise, space to record observations, and questions to address after the exercise as a first step in the analysis process. To assist entities in exercise evaluation, there are standardized EEGs reflecting capabilities-based planning tools, such as the Target Capabilities List (TCL) and the Universal Task List (UTL). The EEGs are not report cards. Rather, they guide an evaluator’s observations so the evaluator focuses on capabilities and tasks relevant to exercise objectives that support development of the After-Action Report/Improvement Plan (AAR/IP).

3.9 COOP Planning Checklist

The TMC can use the following checklist to evaluate their current status in support of a Continuity of Operations Plan. The TMC has developed a COOP Plan that includes the following (check all that apply):

❑ Documents leadership succession and assignment of authority.

❑ Assigns essential functions to specific teams.

❑ Documents identification and preparation of alternate facilities.

❑ Documents procedures for protection of vital records, databases, and communication systems.

❑ Documents procedures for maintenance of the plan.

❑ Identifies conditions necessitating the activation of the plan.

❑ Documents TMC hours of operation.

❑ Identifies of alternate work sites.

❑ Documents COOP teams.

❑ Delegates emergency authorities and orders of succession.

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