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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Traffic Incident Management Gap Analysis Primer

4. Roles and Responsibilities of Traffic Incident Management Stakeholders

The components of the traffic incident management (TIM) program as well as the multidisciplinary TIM partners have been identified in the previous chapter. This chapter provides the linkage between the different TIM roles and responsibilities, program components, and stakeholders. As indicated previously, there are many stakeholders involved in TIM, some with key daily roles and others with support roles under occasional circumstances. This chapter describes program involvement for nine stakeholders:

  • Transportation.
  • Law Enforcement.
  • Fire and Rescue.
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
  • Public Safety Communications.
  • Emergency Management.
  • Towing and Recovery.
  • Hazardous Material (HazMat).
  • Traffic Information Media.

The following subsections identify the various key stakeholders and their roles and responsibilities. Roles and responsibilities are generally identified and discussed in the context of the eight stages of TIM identified earlier in Chapter 1. This is done in a tabular checklist format to help stakeholders identify their roles and responsibilities as well as ascertain areas in which their program has gaps. In some cases, stakeholders have little or no direct role in TIM response and/or are rarely involved except under extreme or special circumstances. Therefore these individual support roles will not be listed in the tabular checklist. Rather, the responsibility overview and the general roles will be combined into one.

The last subsection of the chapter shows the relationship between the TIM components identified in Chapter 3, the stakeholders and their relative level of involvement/responsibility in the component. This is presented in a matrix format.It should be noted that the bulk of the information contained in the tables and matrices in this chapter was obtained from two significant TIM resources, namely Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Traffic Incident Management Handbook [10] and FHWA Emergency Transportation Operations website [14].

4.1 Transportation

Responsibility Overview

Transportation agencies exist at the federal, State, local and tribal governmental levels. Definitions for both local and tribal governments have been added to the Glossary of Terms, in order to clarify their distinction and involvement in TIM efforts and activities. These agencies are typically responsible for the overall planning and implementation of TIM programs. Typically, these agencies are also involved in the development, implementation, and operation of traffic operations centers (TOCs), as well as the management of service patrols. In some areas the local metropolitan planning organization (MPO) plays a leadership role in TIM planning, policy and program management, while the transportation agencies focus on TIM operations and management.

Within transportation agencies, it is the operational sections—traffic management centers (TMCs), maintenance field staff, and service patrols—that play a critical role in TIM. TMCs serve as the hub for the collection and dissemination of incident information and play a critical role with incident detection and verification. At the incident scene, transportation agency responders focus on temporary traffic control (TTC), expedite scene clearance, and restore traffic flow. Transportation agency responders include maintenance personnel and specialized traffic incident responders, such as service patrol personnel.

Table 9. Checklist for Traffic Incident Management Responsibilities of Transportation Stakeholders

Specific Roles by Transportation Agencies and Service Patrols Checklist
Assist in incident detection and verification. Empty Cell
Initiate traffic management strategies on incident impacted facilities. Empty Cell
Protect the incident scene. Empty Cell
Initiate emergency medical assistance until help arrives. Empty Cell
Provide traffic control. Empty Cell
Assist motorist with disabled vehicles. Empty Cell
Provide motorist information. Empty Cell
Provide sand for absorbing small fuel and anti-freeze spills. Empty Cell
Provide special equipment used for clearing incident scene. Empty Cell
Determine incident clearance and roadway repair needs. Empty Cell
Establish and operate alternate routes. Empty Cell
Coordinate clearance and repair resources. Empty Cell
Serve as incident commander for clearance and repair functions. Empty Cell
Repair transportation infrastructure. Empty Cell

4.2 Law Enforcement

Responsibility Overview

Law enforcement agencies include State police and highway patrols, county police and county sheriffs, township and municipal police and other agencies that have officers sworn to enforce laws. Law enforcement agencies are emergency responders at traffic incident scenes, providing 24-hour emergency response and operating under a paramilitary command structure.

Upon arrival, the first officer on-scene assesses the situation and calls for additional resources (e.g., fire/rescue, EMS, utilities, and towing and recovery, among others) as needed. The officer secures the scene for responder and motorist safety, and conducts traffic control as necessary. Law enforcement also conducts scene investigation and/or evidence collection as dictated by the type of incident scene and severity. At most traffic incidents, law enforcement officers act alone and are trained to make unilateral command decisions.

Table 10. Checklist for Traffic Incident Management Responsibilities of Law Enforcement Stakeholders

Specific Roles by Law Enforcement Officials Checklist
Secure the incident scene. Empty Cell
Provide emergency medical aid until help arrives. Empty Cell
Safeguard personal property. Empty Cell
Conduct incident investigations. Empty Cell
Serve as incident commander. Empty Cell
Supervise scene clearance. Empty Cell
Assist disabled motorists. Empty Cell
Direct traffic. Empty Cell

4.3 Fire and Rescue

Responsibility Overview

Fire and rescue services are provided by county and municipal fire departments, and by surrounding fire departments through mutual aid agreements. In most jurisdictions, the fire department is the primary emergency response agency for HazMat spills. Like law enforcement agencies, fire and rescue departments also operate as emergency responders under a well-defined command structure providing 24-hour emergency response. Unlike law enforcement, who operate individually for most duties, fire departments operate under a highly organized team structure with the close supervision of a commanding officer. Typically, fire departments and EMS providers also act under the direction of one decision maker, and may not respond individually to requests from other response agencies unless their command officer directs them to do so. In most large urban areas, full time professional personnel staff the fire and rescue departments. In many suburban and in most rural areas, volunteers primarily provide fire, rescue services and EMS.

In some cases, fire and rescue personnel may be the first to arrive at the incident scene. Upon arrival, fire and rescue personnel secure the scene to protect responders and motorists. After securing the scene, these personnel assess injured parties, and if warranted, request EMS support. Fire and rescue personnel provide first aid until EMS personnel arrive (if requested). Fire and rescue personnel address any fire or potential fire hazards and assist in scene recovery. In most locations, they also assess the scene for HazMat and notify remediation or cleanup contractors, as needed.

Table 11. Checklist for Traffic Incident Management Responsibilities of Fire and Rescue Stakeholders

Specific Roles by Fire and Rescue Services Checklist
Protect the incident scene. Empty Cell
Suppress fires. Empty Cell
Provide emergency medical care. Empty Cell
Serve as incident commander. Empty Cell
Provide initial HazMat response and containment. Empty Cell
Rescue crash victims from contaminated environments. Empty Cell
Rescue crash victims from wrecked vehicles. Empty Cell
Arrange transportation for the injured. Empty Cell
Assist in incident clearance. Empty Cell

4.4 Emergency Medical Services

Responsibility Overview

The primary responsibility for EMS is to assess injuries, administer triage on-scene as needed, and quickly remove injured parties for transport to medical facilities for additional care. In those areas of the country where EMS is a fire service-based function, the fire and rescue personnel provide EMS functions.

Table 12. Checklist for Traffic Incident Management Responsibilities of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Stakeholders

Specific Roles by Emergency Medical Services Checklist
Provide advanced emergency medical care. Empty Cell
Determine destination and transportation requirements for the injured. Empty Cell
Coordinate evacuation with fire/rescue, police and ambulance or airlift. Empty Cell
Serve as incident commander for medical emergencies. Empty Cell
Determine approximate cause of injuries for the trauma center. Empty Cell
Remove medical waste from incident scene. Empty Cell

4.5 Public Safety Communications/E911

Responsibility Overview

E911 personnel are normally the first to have knowledge that an incident has occurred. The mission of dispatchers is to convey quickly, accurately, and completely the necessary information to the proper agencies and field personnel to get the right personnel and equipment to the scene as quickly as possible. E911 personnel normally begin the data collection on an incident by recording information in a computer aided dispatch (CAD) system.

Call takers route emergency calls to appropriate dispatch. In some areas, all public safety emergency calls (i.e., police, fire and rescue, and emergency medical) are handled in one joint center with call takers sending calls to appropriate agency dispatch depending on the nature of the call. In smaller urban areas and in many rural areas, call takers may also dispatch public safety response. Most larger urban areas have E911 capabilities so that call takers can obtain the location of landline 911 calls. Many rural areas do not yet have E911.

Table 13. Checklist for Traffic Incident Management Responsibilities of Public Safety Communications/E911 Stakeholders

Specific Roles by Public Safety Communications/E911 Checklist
Receive incident notification call and verify as necessary. Empty Cell
Accurately relay incident information and/or dispatch appropriate responders. Empty Cell
Log incident information into CAD or other systems. Empty Cell

4.6 Emergency Management

Responsibility Overview

When the scope and severity of an incident escalates, State and local emergency management agencies may be called upon to direct and/or participate in incident response as part of the overall response to major emergencies. These types of responses could be precipitated by man-made or natural disasters, such as fire, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, or other weather events.

State and local governments have agencies whose duties are to plan for and coordinate multiagency response to large scale emergencies such as natural and man-made disasters. They have specific responsibilities under both federal and State law. Large highway incidents rarely activate emergency response plans unless they necessitate evacuation due to a spill or presence of HazMat. Emergency management agencies maintain lists of the location of many public and private sector resources that might be needed in a major emergency. These lists and contacts for activating resources are valuable tools in planning multiagency response to major highway incidents.

Table 14. Checklist for Traffic Incident Management Responsibilities of Emergency Management Stakeholders

Specific Roles by Emergency Management Checklist
Maintain lists of the location of many public and private sector resources. Empty Cell

4.7 Towing and Recovery

Responsibility Overview

The towing and recovery personnel primarily remove disabled vehicles, clear incident debris, and clean up spilled cargo. Towing and recovery companies are secondary responders operating under a towing arrangement usually maintained by a law enforcement agency.

Towing and recovery arrangements generally fall under one of two major types – rotation or contract. In rotation towing, a police department will maintain a list of pre-qualified companies and will rotate the calls of those companies. In many locations, rotation lists are classified by specific company capabilities so that a company with only automobile towing equipment does not get called to a truck incident. Rotation lists may also be maintained by location zones so that companies closer to the incident scene will get called. In contract towing, companies are contracted to provide specific on call services. The contracts are often awarded through a bidding process. The qualification requirements to bid may be more rigid than requirements for placement on a rotation list. Contracts may also be awarded on a zone basis to help enable response by the closest qualified company.

Table 15. Checklist for Traffic Incident Management Responsibilities of Towing and Recovery Stakeholders

Specific Roles by Towing and Recovery Services Checklist
Recover and remove vehicles from incident scene. Empty Cell
Protect victims' property and vehicles. Empty Cell
Remove debris from the roadway. Empty Cell
Provide other services, such as traffic control, as directed or under contract. Empty Cell

4.8 Hazardous Material

Responsibility Overview

HazMat contractors operate in a number of regions in the United States. They are hired by emergency or transportation authorities to clean up and dispose toxic or hazardous materials. Usually small quantities of common engine fluid spills (e.g., oil, diesel fuel, gasoline, and/or anti-freeze) can be contained and cleaned up without calling HazMat contractors.
When the incident scene involves HazMat that require response and cleanup beyond the capabilities provided by fire and rescue resources, specialized HazMat contractors are dispatched to the incident scene. Their primary responsibility is to remove the HazMat and mitigate additional risks from the continuous release of such material into the environment.

Table 16. Checklist for Traffic Incident Management Responsibilities of Hazardous Material Stakeholders

Specific Roles by HazMat Contractors Checklist
Remove the HazMat. Empty Cell
Mitigate additional risk from the continuous release of the HazMat. Empty Cell

4.9 Traffic Information Media

Responsibility Overview

Traffic Information Service Providers (ISP) are primarily private sector companies that gather and disseminate traffic condition information. These private providers are the primary source of information for commercial radio traffic information broadcasts, the most common source of traffic information for motorists. These companies also package specific information on a route or time of day basis to paying clients who subscribe for the information. In recent years, many internet sites have been created to provide road condition and traffic information. A mixture of public sector agencies and private ISP maintains these sites.

In 2000, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved 511 as a national traffic information telephone number. A number of States and regions now provide robust traffic information through a 511 number. In some cases this activity is contracted to a private traffic information service provider. In other cases, the data from public sector operated 511 systems is shared with the ISP and/or provided directly to smart phones to expand the availability of the information.

Table 17. Checklist for Traffic Incident Management Responsibilities of Traffic Information Media Stakeholders

Specific Roles by Traffic Information Media Checklist
Gather and disseminate traffic conditions information to travelers. Empty Cell
Maintain a website to provide road condition and traffic information and/or link to the transportation agency website for such. Empty Cell
In areas where 511 service is contracted/privatized, provide robust traffic information through a 511 number. Empty Cell

4.10 TIM Responsibilities Matrix

Chapter 3 identified the components of a comprehensive, mature TIM program as well as the key stakeholders involved in the program. Table 18 complements that chapter by providing the level of involvement needed by each TIM stakeholder in each of the individual TIM components.

Note that the table has been developed to represent a typical TIM program. As always, there are unique situations in many areas that would affect the various levels of involvement. In particular, in some areas a particular stakeholder takes a leadership role in components that might otherwise be led by another stakeholder. This is particularly true in components related to issues such as policy development, legislation, or outreach. It is important that each TIM program be adapted to the local environment and take advantage of any local champions, who can encourage the institutionalization of TIM throughout the various disciplines. Accordingly, it is recommended that each local area use the table as a starting point, but adapt the roles and responsibilities as well as the “primary” and secondary” designations to meet local needs and capabilities.

Table 18. Traffic Incident Management Key Stakeholder Roles and Responsibilities Matrix
(Legend: P = Primary, S = Secondary)

Components of a Successful TIM Program Transportation Law Enforcement Fire and Rescue EMS Public Safety Communications Emergency Management Towing and Recovery Hazardous Materials Traffic Information Media
Strategic (Institutional) TIM multiagency team or task force P P P,S S S S S S S
Multiagency training P P P S S S S S S
Multiagency post-incident debriefings P P S S S S S S S
Multiagency agreements/memoranda on incident scene roles and responsibilities; planning for and funding for the TIM program; and safe, quick clearance goals P P P P S S S S  
Planning to support the TIM activities P S S S S S S S S
Designated point person for TIM – primary activity P P S S S S S S  
Multiagency agreement on incident PM P P P S S S S S  
Collect and analyze data related to roadway response and clearance times P P P S S S S S  
Have targets (i.e., time goals) for roadway response and clearance times P P P P S S S S  
Routinely review whether progress is made in achieving the targets P P P S S S S S  
Track performance in reducing secondary incidents P P S S S S S S  
Deploy effective and affordable TIM technology P P S S S S S S S
Have 24/7 availability of key responders and equipment P P P P P P P P  
Develop and perform multiagency resource management P P P S S S S S  
Perform effective TIM budgeting P P S S S S S S  
Education and awareness partnerships P P P P S S S S S
Tactical (Technical/ Operational) Have “authority removal” laws in place and understood P P P S S S S S  
Have “driver removal” laws in place and understood P P P S S S S S  
SSP for incident response P S S S   S S S  
Utilize the ICS P P P P S P S S  
Have response equipment pre-staged P S S S S S S S  
Identify type of towing and recovery P P P S S S P S  
Tactical (Technical/ Operational) Identify type of HazMat P P P P S S S P  
One responding agency has authority to override the decision to utilize the responsible party’s HazMat contractor and call in other resources P P P P S S S P  
Medical examiner response is clearly defined and understood for incidents involving fatalities S P P P S S S S  
Have the electric utility companies’ role clearly defined for incidents involving downed electrical wires S S S   S S P    
Procedures in place for expedited accident reconstruction/ investigation S P S S S S S S  
Policy in place for removal of abandoned vehicles P P S S S S S S  
“Move Over” laws in place and understood P P P S S S S S  
All responders trained in MUTCD traffic control guidelines P P P S S S S S  
Utilize transportation resources to conduct MUTCD compliant traffic control for various levels of incidents P S S S S S S S  
Routinely utilize traffic control procedures P P P P S S P P  
Have mutually understood equipment staging and emergency lighting procedures P P P S S S S S  
Have procedures in place for prompt responder notification P P P P P P P P S
Support (Financial/ Technological) TMC/TOC coordinates incident detection, notification and response P S S S S S S S  
Share data/video between agencies P S S S S S S S S
Have specific policies and procedures for traffic management during incident response P P P P S P P P  
Provide for interoperable, interagency communications onsite between incident responders P P P P S S S S  
Have a real-time motorist information system providing incident-specific information P S S S S S S S P
Provide motorists with travel time estimates for route segments P S S S S S S S P
Develop and implement cost recovery and management systems P P P S S S S S  
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