7. Summary of Recommendations
The 12 members of the traffic incident response scan team traveled to four European countries in April 2005 to exchange ideas with their counterparts and identify practices, procedures, and technologies that might have implementation value in the United States. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 of this report describe the findings of the team on the three overarching topics identified by NTIMC. These chapters contain 25 recommendations the team believes have potential implementation value in the United States. These recommendations are repeated in this chapter.
The team believes that the greatest potential for successful implementation of these recommendations is through a synergistic effort with the National Traffic Incident Management Coalition. NTIMC can fully leverage the value of the scan recommendations to the national transportation and public safety communities, and the recommendations have the potential to accelerate the maturity and impact of NTIMC.
Implementation of these recommendations on a national level is likely to require innovative hybrid approaches by Federal and nonfederal organizations. Because these recommendations impact the public safety community as well as the transportation community, they may require more intensive deliberation by the public safety community.
The following pages summarize the recommendations presented in each of the three overarching NTIMC topics.
7.1. Recommendations Related to Programs and Institutions (Chapter 3)
Six of the 25 recommendations are associated with programs and institutional issues that represent the strategic aspects of incident response and address how countries, organizations, and individuals approach the basic challenge of developing and coordinating incident response programs. The six recommendations are listed below.
Recommendation 1: National Unified Goal for Incident Response
The United States should develop and adopt a national unified goal for incident response. The goal should address the following:
- Address the safety of responders and the traveling public (similar to the Dutch policy presented in table 8).
- Recognize the improvement to travel time reliability from better incident management.
- Improve traveler information to the public.
- Establish real-time, interoperable communications between responders.
Recommendation 2: Incident Responder Relationships
Incident responders should adopt formal working agreements. The formal agreements should do the following:
- Be incorporated into day-to-day operations to the point that they are accessible as part of computer-aided dispatch schemes.
- Be integrated into training programs and included in regular rehearsals for incident response scenarios.
- Be the subject of ongoing joint planning.
- Be addressed as part of the debriefing activities of individual incidents.
Recommendation 3: Integration of Practitioner and Research Perspectives
Integrate the U.S. research network into incident response/ management program development by establishing one or more Transportation Operations Centers of Excellence.
- The integration effort should highlight the parallel potential of such a research resource for technology, tools research, and development.
- Transportation Operations Centers of Excellence could provide geographically distributed data management for performance monitoring and reporting (e.g., Texas Transportation Institute's data on mobility measures).
Recommendation 4: Incident Response Performance Measures
The United States should develop comprehensive national guidance on incident response performance measures that local and/or regional stakeholders can use to assess incident response programs.
- System operation should be based on the measured performance of the individual components.
- The national guidance should account for regional variations in practices, but should establish basic minimum criteria.
- Budgets should be correlated to performance measures to meet performance standards.
The United States should evaluate the potential for using performance measures as a means of assessing the performance of private-sector incident response partners, including the following:
- Performance-based responders
- Highway maintenance contractors
- Traffic control subcontractors
- Heavy equipment leasers and owner-operators (i.e., tow trucks, cranes, hazardous material cleanup equipment, etc.).
The United States should develop statewide guidelines based on national practices for EMS response time to traffic incidents. The guidelines should do the following:
- Have appropriate rural and urban adjustments.
- Be supported by additional resources to assist EMS providers in meeting the guidelines.
Recommendation 5: Incident Response Training
Universal first responder training should focus more on traffic incident response, including the following:
- Integrate road incidents into first responder training.
- Conduct regular, coordinated interdisciplinary training activities that apply across agencies and jurisdictions.
- Increase the emphasis on first-aid training for all responders.
- Emphasize training in incident responder safety and basic traffic control procedures (similar to the Netherlands' safety priority described in table 8) and integrate it into the interdisciplinary training program, including certification of staff and accreditation of organizations to improve national accountability.
Recommendation 6: Private-Sector Role
NTIMC or other stakeholders should conduct exploratory discussions with appropriate private-sector organizations to identify ways they could assume a greater role in contributing to the quick clearance of incidents and free responder agencies to focus on other responsibilities, such as traffic control at the incident scene.
- Develop a business model to address the following components of incident clearance: receipt of calls about incidents, dispatch of resources to incidents, and repair or towing to clear incidents.
- Include the following private-sector organizations: towing and recovery, auto clubs, call centers, and other organizations as appropriate.
7.2. Recommendations Related to Tactical and Onscene Operations (Chapter 4)
Seventeen of the 25 recommendations are associated with tactical and onscene operations issues that address the activities of responders at an incident site and the onscene coordination of the various responders. The 17 recommendations are listed below.
Recommendation 7: Role of Transportation Agency Personnel
Transportation agency personnel should assume an aggressive role in responding to incidents as part of operating the transportation system. The team observed several examples in which agency personnel provided services that included using service patrols to assist motorists, providing traffic control for incidents, and removing vehicles and cargo from the roadway.
Recommendation 8: Incident Command and Coordination
Develop national guidance that addresses the issues of command and coordination of incident responders for a wide range of incident types. The guidance should address the following:
- Develop guidelines to identify commanders and command vehicles within each response specialty at an incident site. The identification could be as simple as a unique colored vest for commanders and special lighting for vehicles.
- Transportation agency and private-sector responders should be knowledgeable about the local incident command system and coordinate with all public-safety responders within a short time after arriving at a major, multiresponse incident.
Recommendation 9: High-Visibility Garments
Develop national guidelines on the use of high-visibility garments at incident sites. The guidelines should address the following:
- Requirements for high-visibility garments for all responders at an incident scene.
- High-visibility vests for incident victims who are outside of their vehicles, but still in the incident area.
Recommendation 10: Buffer Zone
Revise Chapter 6I of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices to improve the safety of incident responders by separating moving traffic from the incident response area. The guidelines should protect responders by defining clear, or buffer, zones near moving traffic that responders should not occupy.
Recommendation 11: Visibility and Positioning of Response Vehicles
Develop national guidelines to improve the visibility and positioning of vehicles responding to incidents. The guidelines should address the following:
- Determining the most effective positioning of response vehicles.
- Providing uniform vehicle marking and lighting patterns that limit operating lights to the vehicle(s) shielding the incident site from approaching traffic.
- Prohibiting private vehicles of responders from the incident scene.
Recommendation 12: Safety of Incident Responders Using Extrication Equipment
Provide responders with information that will allow them to avoid using extrication equipment on areas of a vehicle that could present a safety hazard to responders if cut using the equipment.
Recommendation 13: Enhancements for Incident Response Vehicles
Identify response vehicle enhancements that could improve the capabilities and effectiveness of responders. Potential enhancements include the following:
- Extra seats in incident response vehicles (such as service patrol vehicles) that provide a safe haven for incident victims or a location to debrief/interview the victims.
- Swivel high-back seats with belt or harness restraints in EMS vehicles (instead of bench seats and CPR seats typically found in U.S. ambulances, which crash tests have shown are dangerous). Encourage their appropriate use (i.e., direction of seating position and use of restraints) through model State statutes and/or Occupational Safety and Health Administration language.
- Motorcycles that provide various incident response capabilities.
- Extrication equipment in all fire department response vehicles. This will reduce the time spent waiting for extrication equipment to arrive and allow vehicles to be cleared from the roadway sooner.
Recommendation 14: Increased Authority for Transportation Agency Personnel
Consider giving transportation agency responders greater authority to help them arrive faster at incident sites and better manage traffic at the sites. Traffic control responsibilities should be assumed by transportation agency personnel with specialized training in traffic control at incident sites. The guidelines should include the following:
- Vehicle lighting and sirens similar to those on police and fire vehicles.
- Ability to direct vehicle movement and determine vehicle removal.
Recommendation 15: Procedures for Restoring Roadway Capacity
Develop national guidelines that address removing a vehicle from an incident scene without the owner's permission so that the roadway can be cleared in a timely manner. This includes removal of disabled vehicles on the shoulder. The guidelines should address the following:
- Criteria for determining responsibility for deciding when to remove a vehicle.
- Criteria that establish conditions under which removal is appropriate (such as time on the shoulder and hazard presented to passing road users).
- Recommended fees for mandatory towing.
- Develop guidance for determining when to clear spilled cargo from the roadway versus when to salvage the cargo.
- This determination can be facilitated by training police officers in quick clearance and heavy vehicle recovery. Police officers should know how to get the right equipment to the scene to accomplish the necessary tasks.
Develop national requirements and processes for certifying private incident responders such as towing companies, auto club service patrols, and private ambulance organizations.
Recommendation 16: Clearance Time Targets
Develop recommended clearance time targets for typical incident types and recommended procedures for achieving those targets.
Recommendation 17: Removing Fatalities from Incident Site
Develop policies to relocate deceased victims from the incident scene in a more timely manner. Potential improvements could include the following:
- Remove a vehicle from the incident scene with the deceased victim still inside. The victim can then be recovered from the vehicle in a safer location and the incident can be cleared sooner.
- Where not already practiced, allow EMS personnel to declare a victim dead and provide specially trained personnel with medical examiner powers to conduct the initial scene investigation so the body can be quickly removed.
Recommendation 18: Coordination of Tactical Response
Tactical response plans should be developed that will promote consistent response to traffic incidents irrespective of which organization is the first to respond.
Recommendation 19: Response Dispatch
The following dispatch practices should be considered for implementation in the United States:
- U.S. agencies should adopt the practice of simultaneous dispatch of first responders to incidents.
- Responders should develop preplanned response assignments that identify what units to dispatch based on the type of incident. The response dispatch guidelines should be scalable from small to large incidents.
- Agencies should incorporate towing and recovery responders into dispatch and traffic management center operations. Where appropriate, road service vehicles (such as auto clubs) should also be incorporated into center operations.
Recommendation 20: Welfare of Road Users Upstream of Long-Duration Incidents
Agencies/organizations should give attention to the welfare of those involved in long-duration queues resulting from an incident.
Recommendation 21: End-of-Queue Advance Warning
Onscene traffic control should provide end-of-queue warnings to inform road users before they reach the end of the queue.
Recommendation 22: Preplanned Diversion Routes
Agencies should develop preplanned diversion routes on high-volume freeways that would allow traffic to divert to alternate routes with minimal effort and reduce the demand for onscene traffic control.
Recommendation 23: Variable Speed Limits
Evaluate the use of variable speed limits as a means of slowing traffic upstream of an incident and moving traffic out of lanes blocked by the incident. The variable speed limit concept should be technology independent and focus on the ability to change speeds and not the technology for changing speeds.
7.3. Recommendations Related to Communications and Technology (Chapter 5)
Two of the 25 recommendations are associated with communication and technology issues that 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 two recommendations are listed below.
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.
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.