Involve both public and private sectors in disseminating emergency management and disaster recovery information
A nationwide evaluation of Advanced Traveler Information Systems and emergency management
Made Public Date


United States

Lessons Learned From Advanced Traveler Information Systems: Applications for Emergency Management And Long Term Disaster Recovery


In 2004 the California Department of Transportation developed a paper on the role of Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS) including 511, in addressing nationwide transportation information dissemination, regional disaster response management, and post-disaster recovery. The paper explains the advantages and limitations of ATIS/511 in normal conditions, and its potential value during emergency response planning. In addition, it argues that emergency response planning should include ATIS/511 for both data collection and integration, and for dissemination of immediate and long-term public information.

Lessons Learned

Distribution of traveler information may take several forms: directly from public agencies, through public-private partnerships, and through the commercial broadcast, internet and other media. In the traveler information marketplace, there is a natural divide between the roles of the public and private sector. The public sector has been better at distribution of basic traveler information about local services, in support of local and regional economies, social equity, and other public policy objectives. The private sector excels at serving specific clientele and markets, particularly with personalized and customized services. However, they generally need national coverage to achieve profitable return on investment. Natural disasters such as heavy snow, floods, and forest fires, are often forecast and tracked as they unfold. Real-time information coordination is all the more critical in instances of man-made disasters, particularly terrorism, in reducing public panic and enlisting the public’s cooperation and assistance. Guidance on disseminating traveler information during emergency and disaster management includes:

  • Automate information integration using intelligent systems such as ATIS/511. Dissemination of public information is often time consuming and, if not planned properly, drains resources from the immediate disaster management efforts. Pre-event planning helps agencies identify how to better manage the information collection and distribution process. ATIS/511 strives to provide accurate, real-time information not only to residents with access to broadcast media, but also to truckers, tourists, and others in the impact area.
  • Utilize ATIS/511 systems to alert the public of disaster events and reduce public panic. Site-specific traveler information devices, such as Changeable Message Signs (CMS) and Highway Advisory Radio (HAR), are becoming more common. ATIS/511 telephone and the Internet offer 'on demand' information critical for calming a panicked public. In addition, ATIS/511 coupled with automated feeds to the media allows broadcasters to provide approved vital information from Emergency Operations Center managers to the public.
  • Re-establish the transportation system rapidly following a disaster. It is essential that transportation service suppliers rapidly identify and promote alternative routes/travel modes for commuters, truckers, and general travelers, to re-establish confidence and order.

This lesson suggests that Advanced Travel Information Systems (ATIS), such as 511, are essential decision support systems that enable the traveling public to make informed decisions to manage their trip details. ATIS/511 allows EMS and transportation data to be integrated, providing richer real-time content to emergency service managers. As of this reporting in April 2004, nationwide, ATIS/511 has been deployed in 28 regions. Providing traveler information services helps improve safety and mobility of travelers.

Lessons Learned From Advanced Traveler Information Systems: Applications for Emergency Management And Long Term Disaster Recovery

Lessons Learned From Advanced Traveler Information Systems: Applications for Emergency Management And Long Term Disaster Recovery
Publication Sort Date
David Lively, M.A., Chief of Travel Information SystemsCalifornia Department of Transportation, Division of Traffic OperationsOsama Elhamshary, Ph.D., P.E., Senior Transportation EngineerCalifornia Department of Transportation, Division of Traffic Operations
California Department of Transportation

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