The Responder April 2016

Message from the New TIM Network Liaison

Despite the cool weather here in the Midwest, I think that winter is finally over for this year.  Spring actually arrived sooner than normal for much of the country.  Although winter was mild for me, I am really happy that spring is here, things are turning green again, and the smell of spring is in the air.  However, with the recent severe weather in some parts of the country we are reminded of just how precious and fragile life is.  Please take the necessary precautions when faced with severe weather and flooding.  Have a plan, and rehearse it with those you love.

April 11th through 15th was National Work Zone Awareness Week.  There was much media coverage across the country highlighting this weeklong event.  The message was consistent and clear, be aware of work zones, slow down and give workers room.  If common sense was still common, I would have said “Well, it’s just common sense”.  Unfortunately we should use those words very carefully.  Work Zone Safety Awareness Week really brings out the need for everyone to respect workers on the highways.  When most people think of work zones, they think of the construction and maintenance that is being done on the highways.  They don’t consider that incidents on the highways are work zones, too.  They may not look the same but they are work zones.

One of the most important educational opportunities for young drivers, Driver Education, has all but been eliminated in the United States.  No one teaches new drivers what to expect in work zones, what all of the traffic control devices are designed to do, how to drive in the latest evolution of intersections and interchanges, what to do when an emergency vehicle approaches, when approaching an emergency vehicle, or that they should move vehicles from the roadway as soon as possible if disabled or damaged.  And if that is not bad enough, throw some red, blue, yellow and white emergency lighting into the mix and drivers are really confused.    The absence of Driver Education for new drivers eliminates opportunities to educate and improve the safety of new drivers, responders and other highway users.  I hope that required Driver Education returns as a part of the curriculum of our schools in the future.  I believe that lives depend on it.

I taught a SHRP2 National TIM for Responders course this week at the ITS Heartland Conference in West Des Moines, Iowa.  The students in the session were from the Transportation and Consulting industry.  When we got to the part of the training where they are normally asked to introduce themselves and discuss their chief complaint about working in traffic, I changed up the question.  I asked the students to tell me what they were going to do when they got back to their organizations to help draw responders into the design and engineering phase of their projects.  Specifically, I asked them what they could do to promote TIM from the time that projects were first discussed through the construction phase.  They were surprised by the question, but they saw the value of considering TIM from the start.  Many said that they would start to build or strengthen relationships with responders when they got back and consider their input much earlier in the process.

If TIM is considered early as a part of projects, whether they are new construction, replacement or just maintenance projects, the improvements made as a part of the project become permanent.  They are long lasting and the cost is reduced as it is part of an existing project.  This may help to determine the needs of responders and give them input into their future.  I hope that everyone in the class goes back to their organizations and works to make the changes that they brought up.  I will be checking back with them.  I told them that I knew the question was hard, but if the process was easy we would already be doing it.

Since one week in April is National Volunteer Week I was thinking about just how important volunteer fire departments, and other volunteer agencies are to our lives.  I thought back and remembered some information that my good friend Jim McGee gave me several years ago.  Jim and I were teaching responders about the dangers of working in and around the highways in the Midwest before the current training was available.  Jim told me that over 80% of the United States is served by Volunteer Fire Services.  I was astonished when he told me that because I have always lived in metropolitan areas that had full-time career fire departments.  I also thought about the Emergency Managers in counties throughout the country who work directly with many volunteer agencies when emergencies or disaster strike.

As citizens of the United States we have come to expect that services will always be available to us, no matter where we live, work or travel.  What would we do without the volunteers that support agencies and organizations?  What would happen if there were no volunteer firefighters, no one to staff shelters in an emergency, personnel to provide food and essentials to those in need.  It would be a shock to us, and we should all have a hard time imagining this.  There are volunteers behind most of the services that we receive in some position or another.

I hope that you all will take a minute to think about the volunteers in your areas and thank them.  Find some time in your busy schedules to seek out opportunities to volunteer your time.  Those who know me know that I do a lot of work with Great Plains SPCA in the Kansas City Metro area.  I volunteer time and donate so that abandoned and mistreated animals have a second chance.  Our family also volunteers and donates to other organizations in the area.  It is an incredible feeling to give back to our community.  We are all so fortunate to be able to live like we do, and it is good to help others.  I hope that you will take an opportunity to volunteer in your communities.

The week of May 15th through 21st this year is a very busy week for those working in Traffic Incident Management.  We should remember these events:

National Police Week

National EMS Week

National Public Works Week

These are opportunities for everyone to honor those who serve, and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  We should all go out of our way to thank all who give so much to make our lives safer, and better in general.  I will be flying my Law Enforcement Memorial flag during Police Week.

Summer will be here before we know it.  With summer comes vacations and travel.  We all have the ability to educate others about TIM, work zones, driving, and other things in our lives.  Take the time teach those you love about the things that you believe to be important to you.  We must rely on ourselves to get the messages out that we want heard.

Rusty James

TIM Liaison


View from the Street

By Eric Reddeck, NFFF Everyone Goes Home Advocate

 Many times First Responders  see things that are hard to forget. Living in a world with limited sleep, working long hours and having to be ready to respond quickly can cause stress. Below are good resources for all First Responders to remain healthy.

13. Psychological Support

The following are resources available for  behavioral health:

IAFF/IAFC SLIDE PROGRAM:…/3LMIconf…/lmi13_FireFighterHealth.pdf

NVFC: Share The Load program:





2016 Killed in the Line of Duty   *all causes*

Police Officers   32
Firefighters       20
EMS                   03  National Association of State EMS Officials – TIM
Towers               03

TIM Network
FHWA Traffic Incident Management
Responder Safety Learning Network
NFFF Fire Learning Network
IACP * Police Officer Safety
Towing and Recovery Association of America
Safe Highways -SSP
IAFF Health, Safety, Medicine
NFPA 1500 Health and Safety
FHWA Safe Quick Clearance
NFFF – FIRE/EMS  Vulnerability Assessment Tool
 Eric Reddeck
NFFF Everyone Goes Home Advocate

2016 National Work Zone Awareness Week – “Don’t Be That Driver”

Watch this 30-second video from The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials about the importance of staying alert and driving through work zones for National Work Zone Awareness Week.

Florida Turnpike 2015 Annual Reports

Check out the attached annual Incident Management, STARR, and RISC reports from Florida Turnpike!

2015 Florida’s Turnpike Incident Management Report

2015 Florida’s Turnpike STARR Annual Report

2015 Florida’s Turnpike RISC Annual Report


How do TMC Operators Help Traffic Incident Management

Bill Benson Volunteer Fire Fighter and an Incident Management Specialist for Gannett Fleming

How many times has this happened, you are sitting at your house with your family having a nice meal when your pager goes off, you listen for the tones and sure enough you hear those dreaded tones calling your company.  The 911 operator voice is heard “Engine 26, Tanker 26 respond to SR XXX for a motor vehicle accident with entrapment.  After hearing this announcement I hurry to my truck and drive to the fire hall to don my gear and try to help the victims of the crash.  My company has taken SHRP II so we set up a taper and do a block of the road with our engine, but traffic keeps flying by.

TIM is not just for responders, Traffic Management Center (TMC) operators play an important role in the safety of all responders for traffic events.  I just completed a study in Pennsylvania and thanks to District 5 TMC operators traffic immediately reacted to message boards being posted reference a crash on I-80 near Tannersville, PA.  Immediately upon message boards being posted INRIX Data shows traffic slowed 8 miles per hour making the scene safer or the first responder community.  Here is the background:


I-80 WEST – TANNERSVILLE, 03/22/2016


On 03/22/2016 at 0846 hours, STMC Operator Macfarlane identified congestion via Google Traffic Maps, on I-80 at approximately MM 299, in D5 Monroe County.  Waze reported an accident. STMC Operator Herman took over the event at 0849 hours and verified an accident at the listed location.  This was confirmed via CCTV camera I-80 WB/PA 715 Tannersville. Herman continued to monitor the event.  PSP arrived on scene at 0852 hours.  STMC Supervisor Serro was instructed to contact D5 at 0908 hours by Project Manager Benson.  D5 was immediately contacted, and related that they were not aware of this traffic event.  D5 entered the event into RCRS at 0909 hours, refer to RCRS#255837.  Following the RCRS entry, D5 activated DMS message boards (MM299.7, MM307.4, and MM310.5).  INRIX data shows that traffic speed at the incident location immediately dropped 8 mph upon activation of DMS message boards.  The roadway was open at 0930 hours and congestion was cleared as per INRIX at 0936 hours.

figure 1

Figure 1. Tannersville Timeline


figure 2

Figure 2. Tannersville Legend

What are Event Data Recorders?

Jim McGee – Traffic Forum

Why I don’t want to be a TMC Operator

Leo van den Berg

Leo van den Berg ITS & IT Consultancy

TMC pic

Photo – Traffic Control Centre Helmond

So now and then I visit a Traffic Management Centre (TMC). Not just for a chat and a cup of coffee, but also to observe and learn. A TMC is the place where abstract definitions like Incident Management or Traffic Control come to life.

I’ve been in all kind of TMC’s in different countries in the EU. Despite the language or sometimes-cultural differences, all these TMC’s have one thing in common: skilled and experienced operators.

Together with his colleagues “on-the-road”, an operator is the “demand and supply” manager of the road network. Whenever there is an incident, he (or she) makes decisions about procedures to follow, measures to be taken and people to inform, always taking in account the overall network performance, safety and the environment.

Sometimes it’s not a simple incident as a broken down vehicle or some lost cargo, but a serious accident where close cooperation with emergency services or other road administrations is needed.

It is not difficult to imagine that operators depend heavily on IT-systems to support their daily traffic management tasks. Since the mid-eighties of the past century numerous IT-systems were developed and implemented in the TMC’s. The operator has a comprehensive toolbox for controlling CCTV, Variable Message Signs, Ramp Metering and whatever other sensor or actuator. But all that glitters is not gold. Most IT-systems where designed without a common blueprint (system-architecture), resulting in a heterogeneous infrastructure.

A few weeks ago I saw a PowerPoint made by an operator. His every-day annoyance was the need to remember a multitude of passwords to get access to all the internal and external applications needed to do his job. One slide really stood out: It described the need to seamless interact between people, processes and systems. He literally stated: “A lot of information but no consistency” or in other words: the lack of interoperability.

If you take the time to visit a TMC you’ll understand what the operator tried to explain; most internal applications are only integrated on a technical level and most external applications must be accessed through numerous independent tabs in their web browser.

I’ve written before about the need for interoperability and if you’re interested in the “why and what” background of interoperability, I can recommend the European ISA program and its predecessor IDABC.

I even expect it to get worse in the next decade. Open Data, autonomous vehicles, Internet-of-Things, Big Data and all other developments will possibly produce more data sources which have to be accessed to get the “full picture”. I think it’s really time to talk about – and solve – these interoperability issues, beginning from a non-technical viewpoint.

In my opinion stakeholders sometimes poorly understand interoperability. To be honest: In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. I’ve seen commercial presentations where the mere use of XML or the presence of web services was explained as the solution for all interoperability problems.

Without further agreements the usefulness of these web services is like making a phone-call to China. You can make a connection, possibly somebody picks-up the phone and maybe you can exchange some words, but you’re not able to have a useful conversation (well, if you’re not Chinese of course).

Operators are not the decision makers in an organisation, so they always have to deal with the result of what developers often create: non-interoperable systems.

As long as operators have to deal with this lack of interoperability I don’t envy their (underpaid) job. So, hopefully you now understand the reason why I don’t want to be a TMC operator.

My final thoughts (for what they’re worth): Talk with operators so now and then and show what you’re developing. They will give their unvarnished opinion and that’s what you really need to produce usable solutions.

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn by Leo van den Berg.  The article has been reprinted with his permission.  Leo van den Berg may be reached at the following link in LinkedIn:

High Tension Cable Barrier in Minnesota – The Need for Training

 John McClellan
MNDOT Freeway Operation Supervisor

Like many states in the United States, and road authorities in other countries, Minnesota has installed several hundred miles of high tension cable barrier (HTCB) in the medians of interstate and state highways.  The primary purpose of the barrier is to prevent median crossover head-on collisions, which have a high likelihood of death or severe injury.   MN began installing HTCB in 2006 as a test project on a section of suburban I-94 that had a history of cross-over crashes.   The number of fatal and serious injuries dropped dramatically during the study period which began a push to broaden the installation.

As soon as HTCB was installed in an area, questions from fire departments and other responders started coming in: “What happens if…”.  Initially the outreach to first responders was “don’t cut the cable” along with whatever material or training the installer could provide.

In the summer of 2009, at the start of the afternoon rush hour, a pickup truck crashed in to a section of cable barrier on a very busy section of I-35 in suburb north of Minneapolis.   The pickup wedged itself perfectly so that two cables blocked the driver’s door and one cable blocked the passenger door.   The driver was unhurt, but because of some physical limitations was unable to self-extricate by climbing out a window.   Essentially he was trapped in his truck.   The responding fire department was a longtime partner in the TIM program and immediately notified MNDOT dispatch of the issue and the need to get a crew to the site.   Unfortunately, due to the timing, shop schedules, and relatively limited pool of experienced cable guardrail crews, no maintenance staff was on-duty, which meant calls to houses and messages left to find a crew to come back in.   Ultimately, after waiting 90 minutes, the fire department decided to unscrew the turnbuckle to release the cable.   The turnbuckle was an open style, with the threads visible, and it being a hot afternoon, the cable tension was on the lower scale.   A firefighter went to work unscrewing the turnbuckle and with a “zing” the cable released, immediately dropping tension on the single cable blocking the passenger door, and the occupant was freed. The entire event lasted over 2 hours and caused considerable additional congestion through the lane blockage and the gawkers.

This incident was the catalyst to gather best practices and create a training presentation for emergency response to HTCB incidents.   It was a perfect example of the type of incident that can occur, very rarely, but is still possible.   The best practices for the training were gathered from interviews with MNDOT maintenance guardrail crews, review of the vendor’s materials, discussions with tow operators (who often get the most hands-on experience along with maintenance) and in presenting to various fire departments to gather their input on what is practical and reasonable, for different scenarios.   Over a 5 year period, at least 50 training presentations were given, in several areas of the State, to fire department personnel along with MNDOT crews.   The presentation evolved considerably as new tactics were added and modifications made based on real life experience.

The training video is a shortened and simplified version of the longer PowerPoint presentation.   It is intended to provide an overview of how the system functions along with some basic strategies that responders can use – scalable based on degree of injury to the vehicle occupants balanced with damage and repair time to get the cable functional to stop the next crash.   While the video can be used as standalone training, the full intent was to have it be a tool for a MNDOT Maintenance crew to use as outreach to the fire departments in their area during the fire department’s regular training/drill times.   The video provides the visuals and the topic organization, while having the workers there to answer questions and give specific tips relevant to that particular installation.   And provides the opportunity for the different responders to meet and talk, in a classroom setting, and not at the side of the road at 3am in a snowstorm!

As soon as the video was posted to YouTube, the link spread quickly and it reached 1,200 views in the first week.   Feedback has been very positive, both from responders and from maintenance supervisors.   It’s too soon to say what the long term use will be but the tool is there and available.   The cost for producing the video was minimal and was done by in-house staff during times they had open.

This is the link to the YouTube video:


John McClellan

MNDOT Freeway Operation Supervisor

MS 725 / RTMC

1500 West County Road B2

Roseville, MN 55113

Phone:  651-234-7025

In the News of TIM

Maryland: Lawmakers & Officer’s Family Work To Pass “Noah’s Law”


Oklahoma: GoFundMe account set up for injured firefighter, struck by vehicle during grass fire

Oklahoma:  Texting driver sentenced to prison in death of state trooper


Make sure you register for the 2nd Annual Iowa Statewide TIM Conference in Ames, Iowa on Monday, May 16th!

Attached please find an Invitation and Registration Form for the 2nd Annual Iowa Statewide Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Conference.  The conference will be held on Monday, May 16, 2016, from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, at the Scheman Building on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames.

In addition to the conference on Monday, there will be a pre-conference SHRP2 National Traffic Incident Management for Responders Training session on Sunday, May 15, 2016, from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM.  This training will be conducted at the Iowa Fire Service Training Bureau, at 1015 Haber Road, in Ames.  This session is being conducted to provide training for those who may not be able to attend the conference.

There is no cost to attend this conference or the pre-conference training.  Lunch will be provided on Monday during the conference.

The Statewide TIM Conference last year was an overwhelming success.  We have arranged to have presenters who are experts in the area of Traffic Incident Management, from several different perspectives, again this year.  The conference this year will be even better than last year.

Please complete the registration form and send it in as soon as possible.  The deadline for registration is Wednesday, May 10, 2016.

Feel free to pass this information along to anyone who would be interested in attending the conference.

We look forward to seeing everyone at the conference.

Please feel free to contact Rusty James at or at 816-206-8545 if you have any questions.

2016 TIM Conference Registration Form

2016 TIM Conference INVITATION

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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