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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Traffic Incident Management Gap Analysis Primer

Glossary of Terms

Term Definition
511 The national 3-digit telephone number for traveler information used by most States to provide real-time traffic and transit information about current operation status, highway conditions, weather advisories, and emergency warnings.
Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) A television system where cameras are connected to television monitors to perform surveillance of a limited area such as a regional interstate highway system [18].
Crash An incident can be classified as a reportable motor vehicle traffic crash/accident if the following criteria are met:
  • It includes one or more occurrences of injury, death, or damage.
  • It includes at least one occurrence of injury, death, or damage that was not a direct result of natural disaster.
  • It includes bodily injury, death, or damage to the property of any one person in excess of $1,000.
  • It involves one or more motor vehicles, and at least one of them was in transport.
  • It is an unstabilized situation.
  • If the unstabilized situation originates or includes injury or damage occurring on a highway.
  • If a railroad train collision occurs at or near a railroad crossing [19].
Collaboration Any cooperative effort between and among governmental entities (as well as with private partners) through which the partners work together to achieve common goals. Such collaboration can range from very informal, ad hoc activities to more planned, organized and formalized ways of working together. Collaboration’s purpose should be that of combining the knowledge, expertise, and information of many agencies across jurisdictions to produce and operate an efficient regional system [20]. In the context of TIM programs, the activities of the statewide and local TIM Task Forces are good examples of collaboration.
Coordination The process of systematically analyzing a situation, developing relevant information, and informing appropriate command authority of viable alternatives for selection of the most effective combination of available resources to meet specific objectives. The coordination process (which can be either intra- or interagency) does not involve dispatch actions [21]. A good example of coordination in the context of TIM is the activities involved in coordinating the most effective response to an incident including the continued assessment of the situation and updating response activities as appropriate as the incident evolves.
Corridor A broad geographical band that follows a general directional flow connecting major sources of trips that may contain a number of streets, highways and transit route alignments [20]. Additionally, the corridor includes cross-network connections that permit the individual networks to be readily accessible from each other. In the context of TIM, managers and responders must recognize the incident may have on the entire corridor and take appropriate actions to mitigate such at the corridor level. Examples include:
  • Use of traveler information resources to warn motorists of the event and attempt to divert traffic from using the affected facility.
  • Changing signal timing on adjacent arterials to facilitate the clearance of traffic from the facility.
Dynamic Message Sign (DMS) Signs capable of displaying one or more alternative messages, changeable manually, by remote control, or by automatic control. They are typically used on freeway and expressway mainlines, and can be fixed at a location, portable, or truck-mounted [18]. Also referred to as Changeable/Variable Message Sign (CMS/VMS).
Emergency A serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. Emergencies can require multiagency assistance to supplement State and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety.
Emergency Management/ Emergency Transportation Operations (ETO) The process of preventing, preparing, responding, and recovering from an emergency. When an emergency has occurred (or the imminent threat of one has become known), ETO focuses on minimizing the time it takes to get an adequate force of emergency responders to the scene where they can help victims, provide assessments, and control access; and maximizing the proportion of the population moved away from the hazardous area without being subjected to other risks [20].
Emergency Responder * Any public safety official (e.g., police, fire rescue, emergency services, or medical examiner), transportation worker (e.g., road cleanup worker), towing and wrecker operator, and other specially-skilled people (e.g., HazMat handlers) that responds to the scene of an incident is generally referred to as a “responder”. The term Emergency (First) Responder has traditionally been used to describe public safety emergency responders who have duties related to preservation of life and property [22]. As transportation agencies become more actively involved in traffic incident response and take active roles in Incident Command (as partners in Unified Command), they are becoming accepted as first responders for traffic incidents. For example, service patrols may be first on the scene of an incident and many are trained to provide traffic control to stabilize the scene and to provide emergency first aid. Some service patrols are also permitted limited use of emergency lights and sirens to get to an incident.
Enhanced 911 (E911) Enhanced 911 is a location technology advanced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that enables wireless phones to process 911 emergency calls and enables emergency call centers to automatically locate the geographic position of the caller.
Event An occurrence, which includes all types of incidents, emergencies and disasters (natural or human caused), that affects the transportation system, and requires actions to maintain the safety and mobility of the system [20].
Gap Analysis A technique that managers use to determine what steps need to be taken in order to move from their current state to their desired, future state. Also called need-gap analysis, needs analysis, and needs assessment. Gap analysis consists of (1) listing of characteristic factors (such as attributes, competencies, performance levels) of the present situation ("what is"), (2) listing factors needed to achieve future objectives ("what should be"), and then (3) highlighting the gaps that exist and need to be filled. Gap analysis helps a company to reflect on who it is and ask who they want to be in the future [5].
Hazardous Material (HazMat) A substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce [23]. Incident responders must be keenly aware to check for the presence of hazardous materials at the incident scene, protect responders and the public from exposure and summon the proper response personnel and equipment to clean up the site.
Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) A traffic information broadcasting system. Drivers are alerted to tune their car radios to a specific channel in order to receive transmitted information [18]. One of a number of real-time travel information options departments of transportation use to alert the motorist to changes in the roadway condition.
Incident Command System (ICS) A standardized on-scene emergency management protocol specifically designed to provide for the adoption of an integrated organizational structure that reflects the complexity and demands of single or multiple incidents, without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries [21]. ICS is the operational component of NIMS that allows agencies to work together using common terminology and operating procedures controlling personnel, facilities, equipment, procedures, and communications at a single incident scene. It facilitates a consistent response to any highway incident by employing a common organizational structure that can be expanded and contracted in a logical manner based on the level of required response [22]. NIMS specifies an ICS organization consisting of five major functions:
  • Command – provide on-scene management and control authority.
  • Operations – direct incident tactical operations.
  • Planning – prepare incident action plan and maintain situation and resources status.
  • Logistics – provide services and support to the incident.
  • Finance and administration – track incident costs and account for reimbursements.
  • A sixth function, intelligence, is sometimes added to an ICS organization in response to the NIMS guideline that an ICS must establish a process for gathering, sharing, and managing incident-related information and intelligence.
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) The application of advanced electronics, computers, communications, and sensor technologies – in an integrated manner – to increase the efficiency and safety of the surface transportation network. ITS encompasses a broad range of wireless and wireline communications-based information and electronics technologies [20]. ITS can play a critical role in support of TIM in a variety of ways including:
  • ITS detectors can help detect an incident.
  • ITS cameras can help verify the incident, assist in determining proper response and monitor the incident conditions.
  • ITS traveler information systems can be used to warn motorists of the incident.
  • ITS communications systems can be used to coordinate response among the involved agencies.
Local Government A county, municipality, city, town, township, local public authority, school district, special district, intrastate district, council of governments (regardless of whether the council of governments is incorporated as a nonprofit corporation under State law), regional or interstate government entity, or agency or instrumentality of a local government; an Indian tribe or authorized tribal organization, or in Alaska a Native village or Alaska Regional Native Corporation; a rural community, unincorporated town or village, or other public entity [21].
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) A document describing an agreement between two or more parties such as public agencies. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action. It is often used in cases where parties either do not imply a legal commitment or in situations where the parties cannot create a legally enforceable agreement [24]. One of the critical elements in successful TIM programs is the development of MOUs among the agencies. Examples of areas where MOUs are useful include:
  • Defining agency roles and responsibilities.
  • Defining TIM program performance measures.
  • Establishing TIM program shared funding approaches.
Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Regional planning body, required in urbanized areas with a population over 50,000, and designated by local officials and the governor of the State that is responsible, in cooperation with the State and other transportation providers, for carrying out the metropolitan transportation planning requirements of federal highway and transit legislation [20]. Federal requirements call for consideration of management and operations in the metropolitan and statewide transportation planning processes. For instance, "to promote efficient system management and operation" is one planning factor. Legislation also states that transportation plans shall include operations and management strategies to improve the performance of the existing transportation system to relieve vehicular congestion and maximize the mobility of people and goods. As a result, in some metropolitan areas the MPO plays a significant role in TIM including funding, policy, program development, and performance measures.
National Incident Management System (NIMS) A system mandated by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 that provides a consistent nationwide approach for governments, the private-sector, and non-governmental organizations to work effectively and efficiently together to prepare for, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents, regardless of cause, size, or complexity [22]. ICS is the operational component of NIMS.
National Unified Goal (NUG) Developed and endorsed by the National Traffic Incident Management Coalition, the Traffic Incident Management National Unified Goal (NUG) is:
  • Responder safety.
  • Safe, quick clearance.
  • Prompt, reliable, interoperable communications.
The NUG is based on 18 strategies. Key strategies include recommended practices for multidisciplinary TIM operations and communications; multidisciplinary TIM training; goals for performance and progress; promotion of beneficial technologies; and partnerships to promote driver awareness [25].
Open Roads Policy An interagency agreement that serves to inform incident responders of the urgent need to rapidly remove disabled or wrecked vehicles, spilled cargo, and debris that obstruct the normal flow of traffic. It disseminates key guidelines to ensure a cooperative incident removal effort between responding agencies [22].
Operations All decision making and actions necessary for the proper functioning of a system, such as information gathering (from a variety of sources), synthesis and processing, and dissemination and distribution of the decisions and information to traffic control equipment, other agencies and decision makers, and the public [20]. This is done in anticipation of, or in response to, both recurring and nonrecurring conditions. Operations includes a range of activities in both urban and rural environments, including: routine traffic and transit operations, public safety responses, incident management, snow and ice management, network–facility management, planned construction disruptions, and traveler–shipper information.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Personal protective equipment refers to protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garments or equipment designed to protect the wearer's body from injury. The hazards addressed by protective equipment include physical, electrical, heat, chemicals, biohazards, and airborne particulate matter.
Performance Measurement A process of assessing progress toward achieving predetermined goals, including information on the efficiency with which resources are transformed into goods and services, the quality of those outputs and outcomes, and the effectiveness of government operations in terms of their specific contribution to program objectives [20]. Examples of TIM PM are incident frequency, detection time, response time, roadway and clearance times, and secondary crashes.
Planned Special Event A public activity with a scheduled time, location, and duration that may impact the normal operation of the surface transportation system due to increased travel demand and/or reduced capacity because of event staging [20]. PSEs include sporting events, concerts, festivals, and conventions at permanent multi-use venues (e.g., arenas, stadiums, racetracks, fairgrounds, amphitheaters, and convention centers). They also include public events at temporary venues such as parades, fireworks displays, bicycle races, sporting games, motorcycle rallies, seasonal festivals, and milestone celebrations.
Preparedness Organization A committee of highway incident stakeholders that coordinates preparedness activities in advance of highway incidents. Common responsibilities of a preparedness organization may include establishing integrated guidelines, procedures, and protocols to promote interoperability, adopting response priorities, and developing coordinated plans that efficiently use all resources available to the organization [22].
Program A coordinated, inter-related set of strategies, procedures, and activities, all intended to meet the goals and objectives articulated in vision statements and policies [20].
Recovery The recovery phase of a traffic incident consists of restoring traffic flow at the site of the traffic incident; preventing more traffic from flowing into the area and getting trapped in the upstream queue; and preventing congestion from spilling across the roadway network. Thus it encompasses the activities of site management, traffic management and clearance. Emergency responders normally are focused on the immediate vicinity of the traffic incident and likely do not have the resources or information to handle the "big picture." Resources including traffic operations centers and their operating staff can facilitate recovery by managing the network-wide effects of traffic incidents and thus hastening recovery [6].
Resource Management The application of tools, processes, and systems for identifying available resources at all jurisdictional levels to enable the timely and unimpeded access to resources during an incident [22].
Response Activities that address the short-term, direct effects of an incident, including immediate actions to save lives, protect property, and meet basic human needs. Response also includes the execution of emergency operations plans and of mitigation activities designed to limit the loss of life, personal injury, property damage, and other unfavorable outcomes [21]. With regard to TIM, response includes the activation, coordination, and management of the appropriate personnel, equipment, and communication links and motorist information media as soon as it is reasonably certain that a traffic incident has occurred.
Safety Service Patrol (SSP) A safety service patrol is the umbrella term for a variety of programs implemented by government agencies, typically State Highway Patrols or Departments of Transportation, to reduce traffic congestion and improve highway safety by having specially marked and equipped vehicles patrol designated sections of roadway and provide incident management and motorist assistance at trouble spots they encounter.
Secondary Crash A crash occurring within an accident scene or within the queue, including the opposite direction, resulting from an original incident [26].
Self-Assessment Continuing process through which managers at all levels evaluates the effectiveness of their performance in all areas of responsibility, and determine what improvements are required [4].
Stakeholder A person or group affected by a transportation plan, program or project. Stakeholders are sources of the corridor/regional vision, goals and objectives, operational approaches and strategies, and requirements [20]. Traffic Incident Management is a planned and coordinated program process to detect, respond to, and remove traffic incidents and restore traffic capacity as safely and quickly as possible. This coordinated process involves a number of public and private sector stakeholders including Law Enforcement, Fire and Rescue, Emergency Medical Services, Transportation, Public Safety Communications, Emergency Management, Towing and Recovery, Hazardous Materials Contractors and the Traffic Information Media. The inclusion of stakeholders in any TIM Task Force is critical to the TIM program’s success.
Strategic TIM Program Elements These elements form a framework for TIM activities. They provide the 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. Strategic elements include items such as strategic plans, policies and training.
Support TIM Program Elements These elements provide for the operational, tactical, and institutional support for effective communication and information exchange. Support elements include items such as communications systems, data and video collection and sharing, and traveler information.
Tactical TIM Program Elements 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.
TIM Responder Personnel responding to an incident that mitigate its effects. May include personnel from law enforcement, fire service, EMS, HazMat, emergency management and public works [27].
Traffic Control Device/MUTCD All signs, signals, markings, and other devices used to regulate, warn, or guide traffic placed on, over, or adjacent to a street, highway, pedestrian facility, or bikeway by authority of a public agency having jurisdiction [27]. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. (MUTCD) defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public traffic. The MUTCD is published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) under 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 655, Subpart F.
Traffic Incident Any non-recurrent event, such as a vehicle crash, vehicle breakdown, or other special event, that causes a reduction in highway capacity and/or an increase in demand [1].
Traffic Incident Management (TIM) / Incident Management The systematic, planned, and coordinated use of human, institutional, electrical, mechanical, and technical resources to reduce the duration and impact of incidents, and improve the safety of motorists, crash victims, and incident responders. These resources are also used to increase the operating efficiency, safety, and mobility of the surface transportation network by systematically reducing the time to detect and verify an incident occurrence; implementing the appropriate response; and safely clearing the incident, while managing the affected flow until full capacity is restored [20].
Traffic/Transportation Management Center (TMC) / Traffic Operations Center (TOC) The hub of a transportation management and control system that brings together human and technological components from various agencies to perform a variety of functions [20].
Tribal Any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaskan Native Village as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688) (43 U.S.C.A. and 1601 et seq.), that is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians [21].
Vision An agreed statement of the overall aims of a transportation plan. The purpose of a vision statement is to portray the future system and its operation for a specific time horizon, providing a platform for establishing goals and objectives. The vision statement must also be simple, easy to read and accessible to a wide audience [20]. A vision statement is a critical element of a TIM Strategic Plan.

* First responder changed to Emergency responder to be in compliance with TRB’s NCHRP Research Digest 385 [28].

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