The Responder September 2015

Message from the TIM Network Liaison

In last months submission for the Responder, I advocated the use of a formal Strategic Management Plan (SMP) for Traffic Incident Management (TIM). I also referred to a subjective percentage of formal TIM programs who do “Self-Analysis” when it comes to TIM Programs throughout the country.  To be specific, I wrote “I would venture to guess that less than 5% of the formal TIM programs in the US have ever done this self-analysis once, let alone on a regular basis to determine the effectiveness of the strategies deployed or the success at improving or meeting either ad hoc or fully integrated performance measures.”  It was pointed out that this is not accurate. To be clear I was NOT referring to the regularly submitted urban TIM Self-Assessment (SA) products by DOT’s in cooperation with the FHWA, this statement was referring to a complementary process of developing a TIM focused SMP or integrating into an agencies current SMP.

I am very familiar with the TIM SA process and acknowledge their value to open the door to TIM program discussions nationally as well as their contributions to professionalizing TIM programs.  I did not do a sufficient job of saying that a good, well developed Strategic Management Plan (SMP) process could complement the SA.  I should not have used the term “Self-Analysis” as interchangeable with an SMP, I apologize for the confusion.

My above quoted statement was an attempt to quantify and solicit a response from our readers to ask themselves, “Can we take our program to the next level?”  This was meant to stimulate thought with the potential to develop a process to complement the SA and take a TIM program to the next level by determining if they are on track?  With that, I encourage all of us to re-visit our past SA’s, evaluate our strengths and weaknesses and consider the SMP process to work hand in hand with our TIM partners to meet the National Unified Goal (NUG) for TIM.

Since most public safety agencies are very familiar with the SMP process and terminology, It was my desire to invoke familiar verbiage with the possibility that they could either incorporate TIM into their already developed organizational SMP’s or jointly develop one with their TIM team member agencies.  So in hindsight, there are two approaches that could include the SMP process. First, integration into current agency SMP’s is an internal commitment from your agency to safe roads, responder safety and agency cooperation. Or, possibly a stand-alone SMP based on your SA’s findings and recommendations. A well-constructed TIM SMP is a blueprint with an agreed upon, Vision/ Mission Statement, multi-disciplined, cooperatively developed goals, objectives and specific tasks with an action plan.  The FHWA TIM Self-Assessment is a great tool for urban areas to identify strengths and weaknesses in their programs.  This tool has been invaluable to get the discussion of TIM program initiatives out front and has been very successful in accomplishing this goal. Take Care and Stay Safe!


Eric Rensel, TIM Network Liaison, Gannett Fleming, Inc.

View from the Street

By Eric Reddeck, NFFF Everyone Goes Home Advocate

National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend: October 3-4, 2015

2015 Killed in the Line of Duty

Police Officers  92
Firefighters      60
EMS 05              
Towers  19        

Eric Reddeck
NFFF Everyone Goes Home Advocate

Next Generation TIM Topics

By Eileen Singleton and Pat Noyes

From the time TIM programs were initiated until now, the roles of emergency responders have remained largely the same because the transportation system has remained largely the same. Today, a revolution in vehicle and infrastructure technology is taking place along with an abundance of available public and private real-time and archived data.

Over the last few years, the TRB Regional Transportation Systems Management and Operations (RTSMO) Regional TIM Subcommittee has been working to identify TIM research needs for the next decade. Technology advancements were identified as potentially enabling significant improvements to TIM programs, but they may also require that TIM programs change to meet the new realities on the road. In this article, the technologies are divided into three main topics: data, performance management, and connected vehicles. These topics are certainly interconnected, but each raises its own issues and questions.


There are many new sources of data that can inform TIM operators and planners – including data from vehicle probes, connected and eventually automated vehicles, and non-transportation crowd-sourcing sites, as well as data from existing sources, like traffic management centers and dispatch centers, which we are now able to combine and analyze. All of these data lead to the concept of “Big Data.” As we enter the era of Big Data, we have even more data sources to draw from to evaluate and improve TIM programs. Big Data is not just “a lot of data,” it is a fundamental change in how we collect, analyze, and use data to uncover trends and relationships that can significantly change how we evaluate and manage TIM programs. All of these data – both new and newly harnessed – will enable new ways of implementing TIM programs.

Considering how to incorporate data into TIM programs raises various questions, including:

  • What data is available?
  • How will new sources of data impact TIM?
  • From a “Big Data” viewpoint, how can data be used to confirm and reveal relationships and dependencies? Are there critical actions or events that result in significant improvements in safety and delay?
  • How should new technologies be developed to account for TIM needs?
  • What data sharing limitations, regulations, and agreements need to be addressed to fully realize the potential of Big Data in TIM programs?
  • How can data be used in decision support systems?

Performance Management

The new sources of data and tools are enabling significantly improved performance management of TIM programs. In addition, effective TIM is a critical component in the performance of freight movement and other traffic management programs (such as work zones and managed lanes (i.e., Integrated Corridor Management).

The following questions arise when considering the future of TIM and performance management:

  • What is needed for TIM performance management programs?
  • How does TIM performance management impact freight movement, work zones and responder safety?
  • How can crowd-sourced / vehicle-specific data be used to determine percent of congestion attributable to incidents to target strategies to specific source(s) of congestion?
  • How to determine cost-effective resource allocation?

Connected Vehicles

Vehicles with connected technologies are on the roads today, and every year, technology is taking over a larger part of the driving task. Even before we reach the implementation of fully automated vehicles, there are changes taking place that will impact incident response. The focus of the CV/AV work to date has been from the driver’s perspective with the general thinking that these CV/AV technologies will make driving safer. However, there are many questions that the TIM community should be involved in answering, including:

  • What will happen when a crash occurs?
  • Will responders need to respond differently?
  • Will the severity of crashes increase because when the technology fails, it will fail catastrophically?
  • Will new players be involved in incident response?
  • Will all crashes be treated like crime scenes until the cause of the crash is identified?
  • Are there new or changing risks to responders?

Concluding Thoughts

Investments in TIM programs have been on the rise due to the proven record of improved safety, reduced congestion, and cost efficiency. As we look to the future, and the exciting capabilities and opportunities enabled by new sources of data, connected vehicle technologies, and performance management, you, the TIM stakeholders, should keep these overarching questions in mind:

  • What research should be done to be ready for implementation in the operating environment in 5 to 10 years?
  • Are you involved today in these discussions and in the development of research agendas?


Highway Incidents and the National Incident Management System

By Jim McGee

Highway Incidents and the National Incident Management was condensed from a highway maintenance worker supervisor and manager training workshop. The author lives in Nebraska and can be contacted at or 402-660-6842.

State highway departments and local public works departments face the prospects of all natural and man-made hazards 365 days per year and are increasingly engaged in multi-agency and multi-state incident management activities that require inter-agency teamwork.  Nearly every emergency response unction scenario has a transportation component that assumes that highways are open for the movement of people, materials and resources such as fuel, goods, and emergency supplies.

The nation’s interstates, state highways and local roadways are essential infrastructure and must be reliably secure, functioning, and resilient. Local incidents can grow to regional incidents; and regional incidents can grow to national incidents quickly.

There are 1,000,000 miles of federal-aid highways. Of those, just 220,000 miles are operated by state Departments of Transportation. The rest, 780,000 miles, are operated by a mix of local jurisdictions, including thousands of counties, cities, towns and villages. 75% of federal aid highways and 231,000 bridges are owned and operated by counties not state DOTs.  Highway enforcement and emergency response services are provided by 170,000 police agencies of all sizes and tens of thousands of volunteer fire and EMS services.

Among the many hard lessons learned from the terrorist attack in 2001 was that multi-agency response can be hindered by institutional and technical shortcomings and the failure to plan, exercise, train, evaluate and correct before disaster strikes has consequences that affect lives and property.

One result of the 2001 tragedy was the development of the all-hazards, risk-based approach to planning, exercising and training; the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and recognition that the Fire Service’s Incident Command System (ICS) works for complex incidents, including highway incidents. ICS has been used for years by the Fire Service. The teamwork approach that works well during disasters and emergencies but can also improve the day-to-day highway operations and the detection, size-up, verification, and response to routine incidents.

There are thousands of pages of training materials, documents and resources about the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command Structure (ICS); and the sheer volume of material can be intimidating and overwhelming; but the bottom line is that NIMS and ICS are not as complex as the volume of material suggests.

NIMS and ICS are meant to simplify things and improve response in a complex, multi-jurisdictional world where the local, regional and national supply chains are interconnected and no agency is isolated. Inter-agency planning, exercising and training prior to any disaster or emergency works by enabling a better response and without compromising individual agency authority.

Modern highway incident responses demand an orderly chain-of-command, a common way of speaking (no codes), an Incident Action Plan, and understanding that all responders, including highway maintenance and public works department workers, report only to one person within the Incident Command System or ICS.

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) was intended to put the country in a proactive stance following the chaos of 9-11-2001 and to improve the nation’s capability to manage domestic incidents by establishing a single, comprehensive National Incident Management System (NIMS) that covers the prevention, preparation, response, and recovery of terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies and that allows all levels of government throughout the nation to work efficiently and effectively together using a standard approach to domestic incident management.

NIMS promotes public agency coordination with other public agencies as well as with the private and nongovernmental sectors. Coordination assures improved planning, equipment, training, and exercise activities and promotes partnerships and working together to address incident management capabilities prior to an actual incident and not at the incident scene.

A basic understanding of NIMS and ICS is necessary for effective Traffic Incident Management training; and will help agencies meet coming transportation act objectives that will demand increased collaboration, multi-state partnerships and urban-rural linkages. The Incident Command System originated with the Fire Service to provide order during large-scale forest fires and Unified Command is an important aspect of the Incident Command System.

Unified Command means that all agencies with jurisdictional responsibility participate as a team in the management of the incident by developing a common set of incident objectives and strategies that all can subscribe to without losing agency authority, responsibility or accountability. An understanding of Unified command is important to local operations plans and inter-agency and mutual aid agreements. Training in Unified Command with local jurisdictions and functional departments leads to improved responses and outcomes; but Unified Command can’t be used unless everybody first agrees to participate. Chain-of-command means that there is an orderly line of authority and reporting within the response organization. Unity of command means that personnel report only to one supervisor and maintain formal communications only with that supervisor. Formal communications include receiving and giving work assignments, requesting support or resources, and reporting progress of assignments.

Instances when Unified Command may be useful include incidents that impact or involve several jurisdictions and their functional agencies, such as hazardous materials incidents, severe weather, highway-rail intersection crashes, major vehicle crashes and infrastructure failure.

Agency policies can affect incident objectives and the Incident Commander must understand the limits of authority.  Policies and guidelines that can influence authority include pre-incident plans, standard operation procedures, emergency operations plans, mutual-aid and detour routes, agreements, field operations guides and state data fusion centers.

The Incident Action Plan is a key part of ICS. For simple incidents of short duration, the Incident Action Plan (IAP) will be developed by the Incident Commander and communicated to subordinates in a verbal briefing.  The planning for a simple incident does not demand a formal planning meeting process; but conditions can demand the need for the Incident Commander to engage a more formal process and a written IAP.  A written IAP is useful whenever two or more jurisdictions are involved in the response; the incident continues more than a few hours; several organizational elements are activated; or when a hazardous materials incident is involved.

Communication with the public is critical. Public information is an important aspect of ICS. Public information is provided at regular intervals but only through the chain-of-command.  Highway department public information officers should participate in emergency management training.  Exercises provide opportunities to practice and test public information capabilities and to improve and maintain proficiency in a controlled environment.  Exercises assess and validate policies, plans, and procedures, and clarify and familiarize personnel with roles and responsibilities.  Exercises improve interagency coordination and communication, highlight gaps, and identify opportunities for improvement.

During complex highway incidents, public information must follow the  constraints on the release of information imposed by the Incident Commander;  ensure no conflicting information is released; identify the place and time for press briefings; release news to media; and contact media to correct erroneous or misleading information being provided to the public via the media, including social media; and ensure that information provided to the public is consistent across jurisdictional and state boundaries and multi-state highway corridors.


For some additional reading, be sure to check out the Safety Service Patrol Quarterly Newsletter

This issue of the  newsletter includes News, Notes, and Highlights of the Safety Service Patrol Program, check it out in the link below!


 Register for the Traffic Incident Management Tri-State Conference which will be held October 9, 2015 in Dayton, Ohio

 The conference will cover Best Practices in Traffic Incident Management and is free of charge for registration. See the link provided below and be sure to register by October 5th.

TIM Network/FHWA Knowledge Management System (KMS) 

The TIM Network coupled with the Federal Highway Administration has launched a new TIM Knowledge Management System. We encourage all TIM Network members to submit articles, resources, and any other general TIM information that could help practitioners across the nation. As seen below, these featured articles will be included in The Responder. Don’t be afraid to submit!



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