Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Climate Change Adaptation Guide for Transportation Systems Management, Operations, and Maintenance

Appendix E. Sample Handout for Workshop on Climate Change Risk

This sample worksheet provides the basic format and illustrative examples for a workshop to explore climate change risk. The goal of conducting such a workshop is to develop a more complete understanding of the direct and indirect impacts and costs associated with extreme weather events. Then, this information can be folded back into practices used by the offices and departments represented at the exercise (using the approaches suggested in the guide above).

A flooded rail crossing near a river. The water reaches nearly up to the hinge in the rail gate.
Figure 14. Photo. Flooding at Spring Mill Station on Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's Manayunk/Norristown Regional Rail Line in Philadelphia.
Source: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority



[Description of local past extreme weather event. For example: Between August 26 and September 3, 2011, Greater Philadelphia was hit with two tropical storm-force weather events – Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. These storms brought with them torrential rainfall and strong winds across the Philadelphia region. The storms followed the wettest month (August 2011) in the region's history. The saturated ground exacerbated impacts.]


[To develop a scenario that addresses climate change risk, begin with a severe weather event familiar to the participants.]


[To develop a scenario that addresses climate change risk, begin with a severe weather event familiar to the participants.]


The purpose of this exercise is to develop a more complete understanding of the direct and indirect impacts and costs associated with extreme weather events by retracing the DOT's response before, during, and after these events, from advance warning from the National Weather Service to resumption of normal service and everything in between. We are interested in the responses of all affected departments.
  • Sample Discussion Questions:
    • How prepared are we for heavy rain events today?
    • When we receive advance warning of a heavy rain event:
      • At what stage (x inches of rain predicted, etc.) does your department consider escalating its responsive actions?
      • What responses are triggered?
      • What personnel are involved in heavy rain event preparations (either for actual response actions or continuity of those operations for which you are responsible)?
      • What contractors and staff are put on notice in heavy rain event preparations?
      • What materials and equipment are put on standby?
      • How are standby locations determined/prioritized?
      • Under what conditions are you concerned that you may not be adequately prepared for the event? What elements of your department are not prepared?
    • When the heavy rain event is occurring:
      • What actions are your personnel directed to take?
      • What personnel are engaged in the response?
      • At what points are contractors engaged?
      • What triggers use of materials and equipment or alternate locations?
      • What triggers decisions to discontinue service (for a particular operation or for the agency)?
    • When the heavy rain event is over:
      • What inspections/audits are conducted to evaluate impacts?
      • How are corrective actions planned?
      • How are operations resumed?
      • To what extent does "mitigation" of future impacts factor into corrective actions?
      • Do you have examples of actions that have been taken in the past after an event?
      • What "lessons learned" have emerged from past events that have not been integrated into the standard response plan?
      • What other indirect costs are associated with the DOTs response to a heavy rain event?
  • What data do you collect and retain about past incidents? Based on our current responses, if heavy rain events were to occur more frequently in the future:
    • Is there new technology or equipment that you would need to be better prepared?
    • Are there specific locations within your jurisdiction that you should be increasing your planning for?
    • Would you need to change your contracting and bidding processes?
    • How could you reduce costs per event?
    • What additional workforce training would make you more prepared?
    • How can you better inform the public of disruptions?
    • What operational changes would improve your response and efficiency?
    • How can you be better prepared before an event?
    • How do you prepare to mobilize quickly for unexpected events?
    • What impact would additional events have on your equipment and assets?
    • Who should you improve coordination with and how?
    • How can you better track costs and impacts from these events?
  • Background Data
    [Insert data on observed weather during this event, future weather predictions, costs which can be collected ahead of the workshop, etc. All of this information will help inform the discussion.]

Additional Resources

For further information on how to run an exercise of this sort, (particularly how to manage a tabletop exercise), see:

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