The effects of both weather and emergency events on transportation operations can be significant, and require an effective, coordinated response. The Transportation Management Center (TMC) Integration Study, published in 2006, examines how weather and emergency information and systems are being integrated into transportation operations. It is part of an ongoing research effort by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to identify strategies for enhancing the operational effectiveness of transportation management systems in general and TMCs in particular.
TMC integration reflects how TMC operators, agencies internal to the TMC, external agencies, and support systems interact to improve transportation operations. It is the thesis of this study that integration of weather and emergency systems and information into transportation operations, coupled with effective deployment of ITS, will improve performance and offers benefits in increased public mobility, safety and security.
Thirty-eight TMCs that demonstrated current best practices in weather and emergency integration were interviewed for this study, and ten of those were selected for on-site visits. Based on observations from these TMCs, this study documents an integration framework and describes concepts and methods for improved integration. The study identifies both potential benefits of integration, as well as its challenges, and includes recommendations to enhance the development and deployment of weather and emergency integration in TMCs.
Transportation Management Centers are established around the country to integrate data, information, and systems in support of day-to-day traffic and emergency operations. Incomplete or inaccessible information, however, often impedes the ability of TMCs and related agencies to coordinate their efforts and efficiently manage transportation operations. This TMC Integration study concluded that the current application of information sharing and decision-making at TMCs could be improved. Additional concepts of emergency integration (some in the form of extensions of current concepts) were identified, including: Comprehensive Center Coordination, Operational Coordination and Training, and Optimized Emergency Information Integration. These concepts could be implemented using existing technologies, and they offer the opportunity to move the current state of the practice forward.
The study identified relevant methods for achieving each of the integration concepts. These methods are detailed below.
Comprehensive Center Coordination
- Deploy redundant, survivable networks. This enables the operations centers of all organizations active throughout the emergency situations to be tied together through a network of voice and data connectivity to coordinate the actions of each.
- Improve the exchange of recovery information. While TMCs have resources relevant to recovery (such as surveillance and public information capabilities), EOC operations are typically not structured to take advantage of these resources. The integration of emergency data during recovery phase is critical to improving the efficiency of the recovery effort.
- Use multi-industry data interchange standards. FHWA has supported the development of standards that address efficient communication between centers for real-time, interagency management of transportation related events. However, additional adoption of the standards is required, as well as a broadening of the standard in order to reduce the costs of data exchange among agencies.
- Foster champions for regional coordination. The centers that have accomplished extensive implementation and multi-agency multi jurisdictional integration have typically been led by champions. These champions have a regional vision for emergency transportation and are willing to push their vision forward.
Operational Coordination and Training
- Participate in training classes from FEMA on the use of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident command System (ICS). The Department of Homeland Security has established NIMS to improve interagency cooperation based on an all-hazards approach. The fundamental command and management component of NIMS is ICS, which specifies the processes and command chain for incident response. Training of TMC operational staff on the use of NIMS and ICS provides a basis for cooperation and communication with all other agencies involved in an emergency incident
- Foster champions for interdisciplinary coordination. Champions can serve a critical role in advocating for training and exercise programs that enhance the ability of multiple agencies to coordinate their response to an emergency incident.
Optimized Emergency Information Integration
- Use regional ITS architecture in coordination. Given the unique integration context of each TMC, it is important to develop a regional ITS architecture that enhances the ability of TMCs to share data. The regional architecture provides a forum for transportation and related agencies to review the existing and planned network of systems related to transportation.
- Develop standard optimization process. Through a standard optimization process, rational processes are introduced that can assess current operations, develop measurable goals and objectives, and track progress toward those goals. Through repetition of these steps, a continuous improvement process is established.
- Develop Measures of Effectiveness. Measures of effectiveness are an important tool in tracking integration and provide a means for gauging performance.
- Use a systems engineering approach. The systems engineering approach outlines the steps to be performed and the order of the steps, with each step building on the next. By linking the different steps and ensuring that each process is tied to previous as well as future processes, it is possible to optimize the overall process of integration.
This set of lessons learned can be utilized to enhance the current practice of TMC emergency information integration. Through advancing the concepts of Comprehensive Center Coordination, Operational Coordination and Training, and Optimized Emergency Information Integration, TMCs can significantly improve their operational effectiveness, resulting in increased public mobility, safety, and security.