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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Traffic Incident Management Gap Analysis Primer

6. Conclusions and Recommendations

Overall the research conducted for this gap analysis determined that there is no one-size-fits-all traffic incident management (TIM) program, so the recommendations contained within this document should be tailored towards the needs of the area in which the TIM program will be implemented. Not only should the needs of that area be considered but the capabilities and available resources of that area are equally important to understand the level of customization needed. It does not matter how big or small a TIM program is but rather how successful the program is at engaging stakeholders and managing incidents. Whether a TIM program has already been established or is just beginning, it is essential to identify the overall needs of the local area and determine the TIM program elements necessary to fulfill these needs. If a program has already been deployed, a key driver is identifying the existing gaps in the program and identifying activities/actions to bridge these gaps.

6.1 Summary of the Successful TIM Program

It is important to emphasize the fact that the success of a TIM program is not measured by how long the program has been implemented or by how many people are involved in the TIM process but rather by how effective the program is accomplishing the goals of TIM. Key elements of a successful TIM program include a number of strategic, tactical, and support activities.

  • Strategic – These elements form a framework for TIM activities and provide multiagency planning, programming, and evaluation necessary to support efficient and collaborative on-scene operations; as well as how to plan, prepare for, and measure performance of the program. Example products include but are not limited to strategic plans, policies, and training.
  • Tactical – These elements provide the tools and technologies for traffic management and interagency communications for on-scene operations. Example products include on-scene traffic control procedures, motorist assist patrols, and pre-staged response equipment.
  • Support – These elements provide for the operational, tactical, and institutional support for effective communication and information exchange. Example products include: communications systems, data and video collection and sharing, and traveler information.

Specific TIM activities associated with each element are summarized in Table 23.

Table 23. Summary of Traffic Incident Management Activities within Different Traffic Incident Management Program Elements

  TIM Activity
Strategic (Institutional) Capabilities
  • Multiagency team/task force that meet regularly to discuss and plan for TIM activities.
  • Multiagency training (at least once a year) on TIM-specific topics.
  • Multiagency post-incident debriefings.
  • Planning for special events (PSEs).
  • Multiagency agreements/memorandum of understanding (MOUs).
  • Planning to support TIM activities among participating agencies including metropolitan planning organization (MPOs).
  • Designated TIM coordinator as their primary job function.
  • Multiagency agreement for tracking roadway clearance time and incident clearance time.
  • Methods to collect and analyze data for reducing roadway clearance time and incident clearance time.
  • Performance measure (PM) targets.
  • Progress towards PM targets.
  • Performance in reducing secondary incidents.
  • Effective and affordable TIM technology to support TIM activities.
  • 24/7 availability of key responders and equipment.
  • Multiagency resource management.
  • Multiagency commitment for funding TIM.
  • Education and awareness partnerships.
Tactical (Technical/Operational) Capabilities
  • “Authority removal” laws.
  • “Driver removal” laws.
  • Safety service patrol (SSP) for incident and emergency response.
  • Incident Command System (ICS) used on-scene.
  • Pre-staged response equipment.
  • Available towing and recovery operator resources categorized and identified.
  • Available hazardous materials (HazMat) contractors categorized and identified.
  • Designated agency authorized to override decisions on HazMat resources.
  • Medical examiner responsibilities defined for fatality incidents.
  • Procedures for expedited incident reconstruction/investigation.
  • Policy for removal of abandoned vehicles.
  • “Move Over” laws.
  • Responders trained in traffic control (according to Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) guidelines).
  • Transportation resources utilized to conduct traffic control procedures (complying with the MUTCD).
  • Traffic control procedures utilized for the end of the incident traffic queue.
  • Onsite equipment staging and emergency lighting procedures.
  • Responder notification procedures.
Support (Financial/ Technological) Capabilities
  • Traffic management center (TMC)/traffic operations center (TOC).
  • Data/video shared between agencies.
  • Policies and procedures for traffic management during incident response.
  • Onsite interoperable, interagency communications.
  • Real-time motorist information system.
  • Travel time estimates provided to motorists.
  • Cost recovery and management systems.

It is not necessary for every activity outlined in Table 23 to be implemented as part of the TIM program, but rather these items are example activities that have been identified in successful TIM programs. It is important that before an activity is implemented, there should be a great level of consideration for how useful and effective that activity will be for TIM in the local deployment area. In reviewing the current status of TIM programs across the nation, it is clear that there is no “one-size-fits-all” TIM program so it is possible that many of the components listed contain multiple elements and/or relate to activities that can be implemented in varying degrees depending on the needs of an area.

6.2 Summary of Implementation Steps

This primer identifies the elements of a comprehensive TIM program as well as how stakeholders can benchmark their progress and identify gaps within their existing program. Many factors incorporated into a typical TIM program include the following:

  • Incident management policies and plans.
  • Interagency relationships.
  • Organizational structure.
  • Staffing and training.
  • Performance goals.
  • Reporting channels.
  • Budget.

If a TIM program has not already been established, an important preliminary first step is determining that a more coordinated effort for managing incidents is needed. After making this determination transportation agencies typically take the lead role in establishing and implementing local/regional TIM programs. Although this typically occurs, other TIM stakeholders are not precluded from taking the initiative in leading the effort to form a program. To accomplish this, a streamlined eight stage process for establishing a TIM program has been outlined.

Identify Stakeholders

Identifying relevant stakeholders is a critical first step to the success of a TIM program. Developing a cooperative spirit and consensus among the various stakeholders is quite essential. Once these stakeholders commit to establishing a TIM program, they can sponsor a TIM Task Force that meets periodically to enhance and guide the program.

Define the Problem

A clear understanding of the severity, impacts, and locations of incident-related problems is imperative before even attempting to identify or determine a solution. Defining the problem can be accomplished through a combination of data collection, data compilation, brainstorming, and a constructive assessment of existing practices.

Set Goals and Objectives

Guiding principles for the program development should be established by the TIM Task Force. These "guiding principles" usually consist of a mission statement with goals and objectives based on the identified problems. These goals and objectives describe what the program is designed to accomplish and are meant to reflect multiagency efforts and not those of individual agencies.

Develop Alternatives

TIM programs consist of numerous individual practices, tools and infrastructure elements. Based on the goals and objectives developed previously, alternatives should be determined to combine available TIM tools and techniques into program packages for evaluation.

Evaluate and Select Alternatives

The developed alternatives should be evaluated based on prioritization, high-level cost estimates, and expected benefits.

Implement Alternatives

As alternatives are being implemented, mechanisms for resolving the issues associated with incident management must be developed. Example issues include: jurisdictional boundaries, operational responsibilities, funding sources, joint training, field communications, onsite command and approval of alternate routes.

Reevaluate Alternatives

Since TIM is an ongoing process, changes in the local operational, technological, political, and funding environment should be evaluated and taken into account. An initial program evaluation and the subsequent revaluation of alternatives to refocus or refine an existing system require the routine collection of appropriate data (e.g., detection time, response time, clearance time, delay and costs).

Refine the System

For a TIM program to continuously mature and improve, effective feedback is needed from both upper management and field-level personnel. Constant communication and coordination from both levels will improve the TIM process; adapt to the changing needs of the area; and meet the needs of the participating agencies, affected jurisdictions, and the motoring public.

For optimal implementation, specific actions from the above stages may be followed:

  1. Establish the baseline of where your jurisdiction is regarding statutes, policies, and procedures.
  2. Identify counterparts in each pertinent local/State discipline and contact them.
  3. Hold a kick-off team meeting to start establishing relationships.
  4. Identify champions who can encourage the institutionalization of TIM throughout the various disciplines and select/recruit 1-2 to lead the overall effort.
  5. Identify roles and responsibilities.
  6. Create an Open Roads policy.
  7. Maintain frequent communications with the entire team.
  8. Develop a Concept of Operations.
  9. Execute operational MOUs.
  10. Enable interagency communications and information exchange regional/corridor-wide.
  11. Implement a training and certification program, including interdisciplinary training for all TIM responders.
  12. Educate the traveling public.
  13. Implement multidisciplinary TIM teams and associated field procedures.

These actions will help identify the level of involvement necessary from transportation department staff as well as other TIM stakeholders within the different TIM-related activities, in addition to the new roles and positions that need to be fully dedicated to the TIM program.

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