Emergency Transportation Operations
photos of traffic merging onto congested highway, congestion in snowstorm, variable message sign, cargo, variable speed limit sign in a work zone, and a freeway at night
Office of Operations 21st Century Operations using 21st Century Technologies

Supporting Technologies

In 'NIMS' Chapter Seven, the importance of supporting technology is defined as follows: "Technology and technological systems provide supporting capabilities essential to implementing and continuously refining the NIMS."

These include voice and data communications systems, information systems (i.e., record keeping and resource tracking), and display systems.

These also include specialized technologies that facilitate incident operations and incident management activities in situations that call for unique technology-based capabilities.

  • Ongoing development of science and technology is integral to continual improvement and refinement of the NIMS. Strategic research and development (R&D) ensures that this development takes place.
  • The NIMS also relies on scientifically based technical standards that support the nation's ability to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from domestic incidents. Maintaining an appropriate focus on science and technology solutions as they relate to incident management will necessarily involve a long-term collaborative effort among NIMS partners.

The basis of much of this technology is transportation's Intelligent Transportation Systems or ITS. Much of the success for combating nonrecurring congestion is based on the implementation and use of ITS at transportation management centers (TMCs). These technologies, developed for day-to-day operations can be easily adapted to manage both planned events and unplanned incidents and disasters.

Traffic Incident Management

Integrated Communications/Intelligent Transportation Systems


Careful planning for incident response will not achieve the desired results if communication among agencies, responders, and the public does not occur. Communication, and the technology to facilitate it, is a critical part of traffic incident management. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) significantly enhance the ability to manage traffic and provide travelers in the area affected by an incident. Topics in this area include:

Planned Special Events

Planned Special Events (PSE) have many characteristics in common with incidents, particularly as the focus on security at PSE has increased. The technologies that are used for the management of incidents and for disasters can be employed to manage an emergency during a planned event.

Emergency Transportation Operations

Emergency Transportation Operations Initiative

The value that ITS offers when managing a disaster was a key reason for the soon-to-be completed joint FHWA Office of Operations-ITS Joint Program Office's Emergency Transportation Operations Initiative.

The Emergency Transportation Operations initiative is designed to support the notice events such as hurricanes that offer a 72-hour forewarning. Though there is time to take appropriate advance measures, there are also major transportation challenges when incidents arise suddenly. The outcome of this initiative will be the tools, techniques, demonstrated benefits, technical guidance, and standards necessary for state and local agencies and their private sector partners to effectively manage "no notice" evacuations.

For more information about the ETO Initiative, go to http://www.its.dot.gov/eto/index.htm.

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