Emergency Transportation Operations
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Command and Management

Photograph showing a dispatcher at a terminal.

Command and Management describes the systems that traffic incidents management, emergency transportation operations and planned special events would incorporate to facilitate domestic incident command and management operations, including the Incident Command System (ICS)

Whether it's the suddenness of a Traffic Incident, the magnitude of the emergency that requires an emergency transportation response or the unexpected disaster during a planned special event, it is imperative for the responders – including transportation 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 either traffic incidents or to open roadways after an emergency. This requires:

  • 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.

With the understanding that transportation responders needed to be as familiar with ICS as the public safety community, FHWA developed the "Simplified Guide to the Incident Command System for Transportation Professionals." The guide is for these 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 transportation agencies and companies involved in towing and recovery, as well as elected officials and government agency managers at all levels.

Emergency Transportation Operations

Emergencies can occur on or off the roadway network. However, the roads will be used – to bring out the victims and to move in emergency responders. No matter where the emergency occurs, transportation is critical to emergency response, no matter the size or the frequency of the event. FHWA is committed to improving our nation's ability to manage emergencies that take place within the transportation network infrastructure or affects it in some way.


Once an emergency or disaster occurs, the ability to respond efficiently and effectively is extremely important. The Response part of an Emergency Response plan relates to activities that address the immediate and short-term effects of the disaster or emergency. This portion of the plan should answer the question of what must the agency do to ensure that they respond quickly and efficiently to a disaster or emergency that threatens the well being of the agency's operations. read more

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