Survey responses from key professionals in five states indicate the following ITS technologies have the highest potential to benefit emergency transportation operations: interoperable radio communications, dynamic message signs, GPS and geographical information systems, closed circuit television roadway surveillance, and Enhanced 911.
Date Posted

Transportation and Emergency Services: Identifying Critical Interfaces, Obstacles, and Opportunities

Summary Information

Transportation and emergency services professionals and their respective agencies interact in a myriad of situations, ranging from routine traffic incidents to large-scale events that threaten public health and safety. For even the simplest of those incidents and events, coordination among the two groups is needed to minimize the adverse, system-wide effects and to optimize the use of limited resources. From a highway transportation perspective, perhaps the most obvious and long recognized need for coordination is with law enforcement, relative to shared responsibilities for highway safety, traffic regulation, and response to traffic incidents. Although the importance of improved coordination is becoming more transparent and widely recognized, the factors that influence the effectiveness of such coordination efforts are not well understood.

The research described in this summary examines the commitment to improved coordination among highway transportation and emergency services organizations and seeks to identify and evaluate the underlying obstacles and opportunities. Most of the findings and conclusions are based on a survey administered to transportation and emergency services professionals in five states: Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The research focused on the core transportation and emergency services organizations since these agencies have the most direct responsibilities for the full range of incidents that impact the transportation system on a frequent basis.

To gather information and determine the opinions of leaders in the transportation and emergency services communities, a survey was developed and administered to key professionals in the five southeastern state and local agencies listed above. A focus group comprised of transportation and emergency services officials in the Nashville and Knoxville metropolitan areas validated the pertinence of the topics addressed and the appropriateness of survey questions. Surveys were administered to officials in law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services, emergency and communications, emergency management, homeland security, and local and State transportation. There were 272 surveys distributed and 166 completed responses were received. Based on the analysis of the completed survey results, the researchers developed a list of initiatives to improve coordination between the two groups. A focus group prioritized the list of initiatives by expected impact and operational feasibility.

The respondents were asked to rate the potential benefits offered by a list of 15 specific technologies to improve emergency transportation operations. The following ITS technologies had the highest potential benefits indicated by both groups:
  • Interoperable radio communications
  • Dynamic message signs
  • GPS- and GIS-based systems
  • Closed circuit television roadway surveillance
  • Enhanced 911 systems
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