Traffic Incident Management
Various traffic incident management scenes - heavy traffic after accident, traffic planning, police car blocking road, overturned car on bridge, detour, rescue workers.
Office of Operations 21st Century Operations using 21st Century Technologies

Planning for TIM

The suddenness of a traffic incident makes it imperative for the responders to understand their roles and responsibilities before they arrive at the scene.

The development of workable plans depends on the understanding and implementation of the Incident Command System (ICS)

Coordinating response resources from the various responding organizations is crucial to the safe and timely clearance of traffic incidents. This requires:

Busy Interstate with many lanes of traffic going both ways.
  • Clear command hierarchy
  • Designated responder roles and responsibilities
  • Clear procedures
  • The ability of all responders to communicate clearly and effectively

The Incident Command System (ICS), long familiar to public safety responders, is the heart of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) required by the Department of Homeland Security for the management of all hazards. ICS provides the framework for command, control, and coordination of resources at the scene of the emergency. An objective-based system, it emphasizes common terminology, integrated communications systems, and comprehensive resource management.

Regional and Statewide Programs and Institutional Coordination

To assure lasting success of a true multi-agency regional or statewide Traffic Incident Management TIM program, plans including "strategic" (high level) coordination prior to the incident is also needed. This Program or high-level institutional coordination of agency executives provides the policy and program coordination needed to assure that partner agencies will work closely together at all levels of the program and will coordinate and assist each other in the budgeting process to provide resources each agency needs to be full active partners in the program.

As part of the preparedness section, these programs address program organization, objectives and priorities, agency roles and relationships, resource allocation, and performance measurement.

  • Multi-Agency Programmatic Structure for TIM
  • Multi-Agency Administrative Teams
  • Formal Memoranda of Understanding and High-Level Operations Policy Agreements
    The various agencies participating in a program to effectively manage traffic incidents all have different agency goals, perspectives, responsibilities, priorities, and operating cultures that can cause misunderstandings, disagreements, delays, and inefficiencies in effectively resolving a traffic incident. Establishing formal agreements and memoranda of understanding covering issues where these difficulties arise can greatly facilitate on-scene operations. Such agreements might cover subjects like incident command structure, equipment staging, traffic control, hazardous materials incident issues and procedures, crash investigation procedures, quick clearance procedures, and many other issues. Interagency agreements can also set performance goals such as response time or incident clearance time.
  • Performance Measures

Publications and Training

  • Simplified Guide to the Incident Command System for Transportation Professionals, FHWA-HOP-06-004, EDL Number 14234 (HTML, PDF 2.2MB) - This Guide introduces Incident Command System (ICS) to stakeholders who may be called upon to provide specific expertise, assistance, or material during highway incidents but who may be largely unfamiliar with ICS organization and operations. These stakeholders include professionals at transportation agencies, companies involved in towing and recovery, as well as elected officials and government agency managers at all levels.
  • Using the Incident Command System (ICS) at Highway Incidents
    • ICS training course targeted specifically for transportation audiences includes features of the National Incident Management System.
  • Managing Traffic Incident and Roadway Emergencies
    • This course addresses institutional and technical aspects of safe and efficient resolutions of traffic incidents and other roadway emergencies. In addition, the course focuses on practices to obtain effective interagency and interdisciplinary understanding and cooperation.

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