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5. Communications and Technology

Communication and technology issues address how responders communicate with each other (particularly interagency communications) and with travelers, and how technologies can be used to improve incident response and management. The scan team observed a few examples of how communications and technology can be used to improve the implementation of strategic and tactical activities and coordinate the incident response actions of various responders. This chapter describes the use of traffic management centers and communication practices to improve the effectiveness of incident responses and the team's associated recommendations.

5.1. Traffic Management and Information Centers

The team visited several transportation-related centers, listed in table 9. These centers provided valuable insight into various aspects of traffic incident response activities.

Table 9: Transportation centers visited by team
Name of Center Location Type of Center
RAC Control Centre Bescot, England (near Birmingham) Auto club dispatch center
National Traffic Control Centre Quinton, England (near Birmingham) National traffic information center
ANWB Dispatch Centre Wolfheze, Netherlands Auto club dispatch center
Trafik Stockholm Center Stockholm, Sweden Traffic management center

The National Traffic Control Centre in England was of particular interest, as its purpose was to coordinate distribution of traffic information to road users on a national level. The team believes that coordinating travel information on a national and/or regional basis has value and recommends the following.

Recommendation 24: Coordinated Traffic Information Centers

Agencies in the United States should implement traffic information centers on a national, State, and/or regional basis to coordinate the distribution of traffic information to road users, improve traffic incident data sharing, and coordinate national incident response performance measurement on a 24/7 basis.

  • For nationwide coverage, the focus should be on providing effective traffic incident response on the entire Interstate System, not just in urban areas. Efforts should also include communicating incident information to travelers on a regional and local basis.
  • Transportation agencies should move toward operating traffic management centers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Around-the-clock operations could take multiple forms, including transportation staffing around the clock, provisions to activate quickly and remotely, and/or arrangements to allow other 24-hour agency personnel to activate the system.

5.2. Communications Practices

The team learned that the European hosts face many of the challenges that U.S. practitioners face. One of the team's observations was that the various responders had good communication capabilities and coordinated them at a national or regional level. Accordingly, the team recommends improved communications practices in the United States.

Recommendation 25: Improving Communication Practices

U.S. communication practices should be improved by integrating traffic incident communication needs through SAFECOM in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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