In April 2000, the Federal Highway Administration produced a cross-cutting study to examine successful incident management practices in a number of communities across the United States. The document, Incident Management Successful Practices – A Cross-Cutting Study, focuses on managing typical traffic incidents averaging less than two hours in duration. The study emphasizes having an incident management plan and executing it with full cooperation among all of the organizations involved. Included in the study are the lessons learned from the experience of many transportation agencies that have well defined incident management programs.
Incident management yields significant benefits through reduced vehicle delays and enhanced safety to motorists through the reduction of incident frequency, and improved response and clearance times. Across the nation, many existing incident management programs have delivered significant and measurable benefits. Many communities across the nation have found that it is necessary to prepare a strategic plan to develop a strong incident management program. Their experience offers the following suggestions to consider when developing a successful incident management program:
- Consider the needs of the program’s customers – the traveling public. To achieve high levels of information dissemination, efforts should be coordinated with the media and employers in the area.
- Adopt a structured strategic planning process for incident management at the regional and statewide levels. Multiple agencies can participate in the program knowing that their needs are understood by their partners. The process should include a detailed analysis of resource needs, with each partner agency’s contribution to the resource pool clarified. Agencies, together, need to develop a phased implementation plan.
- Develop a combined strategy and implementation plan for coordinated arterial signal control during incidents. Route diversion has proven to be an effective tool, especially during major incidents. Professionals that control the arterial traffic signals and those that run the freeway management systems usually operate out of different divisions and sometimes different agencies. A combined strategy and implementation plan will bring these groups together to coordinate effective diversion routes. As an example, in Minnesota, the DIVERT (During Incidents Vehicles Exit to Reduce Time) system provides demand-responsive signal timing along the arterials to accommodate the additional demand, and monitors the freeway and arterial system with detection and video surveillance(1).
This lesson suggests that incident management poses a significant institutional and management challenge, but this challenge can be overcome with a well developed strategic plan. Technology can help improve incident response times, clearance efficiency, and facilitate communications among agencies; but it alone cannot guarantee that the partners will be able to work well together when significant differences in ideology and approach exist between them. Success will come only with careful planning and efficient execution. Implementation of a well-defined strategic incident management plan promotes safety, efficiency, mobility and customer satisfaction.
(1) Source: Intelligent Transportation Systems Field Operational Test Cross-Cutting Study: Incident Management: Detection, Verification, and Traffic Management