Major metropolitan areas' experiences with formalized incident management programs.
In May, 2001 the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration published the Regional Traffic Incident Management Programs Implementation Guide to assist organizations and their leaders in implementing and sustaining regional traffic incident management programs, both by examining some successful models, and by considering some of the lessons learned by early implementers. The objective is to present a framework for developing a formal multiagency traffic incident management program, with endorsement by, participation from, and coordination by senior agency management, and which includes all of the participating agencies. The document presents the case for incident management and then provides a framework and series of steps for implementing and sustaining a regional traffic incident management program. The report then provides a series of lessons learned from nationally recognized traffic incident management programs around the country, and, finally, discusses the importance of program monitoring, evaluation and reporting, as well as the need for strategic planning throughout the process. This implementation guide is based on face-to-face interviews with incident management leaders in Atlanta, Houston, Seattle, Milwaukee, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, San Antonio, and the state of Maryland. Information was also gathered through an extensive review of literature about and from incident management efforts nationwide, which was then combined with business management best practices.
While no single approach can be prescribed for all incident management efforts, a flexible framework based on experiences from successful incident management programs in the United States can be considered a highly effective approach to building a successful program. Today's best incident programs have developed from small beginnings under the leadership of self-styled champions (from one or two agencies) who have rallied the support of their peers in partner agencies. The following lessons are based on the experience of other ITS professionals regarding the importance of having both executive level support as well as staff-level and administrative support for building a successful incident management program.
- Involve the right people as stakeholder representatives. Key program committees will need to have someone attend from each key stakeholder group who has adequate authority to speak for his/her organization. These representatives should also have the ear of the senior executives at their organizations. It is important to also involve middle and working level people in the organizations who can serve as organizational champions for incident management. It can be detrimental to depend exclusively on the participation of very senior people, as they will often not have the time to meet on a regular basis.
- Commit to administrative support of an ongoing inter-organizational structure, and communication and decision-making events and meetings. Any undertaking as complex as an incident management program requires some level of administrative support, and a regular forum (or forums) at which performance is reviewed, issues are raised, information is shared, and program change and evolution are discussed and approved. An incident management program will require this type of support and activity in order to function effectively. It is important, however, to arrive at a level of activity acceptable to all partners, some of whom may have difficulty justifying extended absences from the workplace to attend meetings. This is particularly true if the program has a steering committee composed of senior executives from participating organizations. Obtaining a significant commitment of time from such officials is often difficult or impossible. To increase productivity, a much better plan is to ask for a realistic time commitment and to carry out a larger portion of the work in subordinate committees.
Involving mid-level personnel that can commit to regularly meeting on key program committees and obtaining administrative support of the inter-organizational program can help the success of an interagency incident management program. This lesson portrays the idea that involving the right people as stakeholder representatives and committing the required administrative support to the inter-organizational structure can lead to increased program productivity.