An independent evaluation of the IIMS used a case-study approach including focus group sessions with users to identify lessons learned and outcomes of the IIMS. The evaluation found that the IIMS had improved operations in several key areas, and that stakeholders considered the IIMS to be a successful deployment; stakeholders described the IIMS as being "mainstreamed" as a NYS and NYC DOT system. Additional findings were that the IIMS Web services resulted in significant cost savings due to server consolidation and enabled archiving of incident data, and that the IIMS improved the incident management documentation process as well as the post-incident analysis process due to the centralized database of records.
The Integrated Incident Management System (IIMS) is a project in New York City (NYC) to facilitate information sharing and coordination among responders and traffic agencies for the purpose of increasing the speed of incident response and recovery and reducing secondary risks (such as crashes resulting from incident-related congestion and "struck-by" incidents involving responders). The IIMS allows first responders to send pictures and incident information from the scene to secondary responders (e.g., NYC Departments of Transportation and Sanitation, NYC Police, and NYC Fire and Rescue).
First responders have "mobile units" in their vehicles consisting of an integrated system with a computer, touch screen display, keyboard, digital camera and digital imaging systems. The responder transmits images and information from the scene to incident management centers. These centers have stored information from Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and satellite imagery that provide nearly instant, detailed information about the location. The centers analyze the incident information and then assign and dispatch resources to the scene. The centers can make faster and more accurate decisions in regards to resource allocation, leading to faster clearance times.
An evaluation of the city-wide deployment of IIMS identified key lessons learned based on user input, focus groups and a case study analysis of incidents. Among the most important lessons learned are the following.
- Involve users early in the design phase for systems and obtain user feedback throughout the design process. At a later stage of the deployment of the IIMS, as part of the development of the Web services for IIMS, project designers interviewed users to identify additional features. During the interview process, users identified features that were later added to the mobile units because they enhance usability and functionality. For example, as a result of user feedback, the project will add the capability for saving and adding pictures to the IIMS storage log. The Project has also added a Help Desk that is available to users 24-hours per day, 7 days per week. While this lesson is commonplace, it is frequently overlooked. As illustrated by the IIMS project, it is very useful to consult with users on system requirements on a periodic basis. As users gain more experience using a system, they may identify features that will enhance the value and utility of system.
- Follow standard agency system development processes when developing software applications. The evaluation report of the IIMS deployment revealed an important factor related to success: the project developers followed the model used by the lead agency. The NYSDOT employs a two-tiered model for software development that involves a testing stage and a production stage. Additional capabilities and features are added during the testing stage. NYSDOT will employ a three-tiered system for testing, staging and production for the Web IIMS services. Following the model used by an agency helps to ensure that the system will meet agency standards and operating requirements. This practice will also help to facilitate the system being mainstreamed as an agency service that receives operations and maintenance support.
- Obtain high-level management support for system development. The experience of the IIMS deployment found that competing IT projects lead to delays in deployment and upgrades. User agencies had difficulty obtaining high-level management support required to move the project forward. An important turning point for the IIMS project was when the NYSDOT's Office of Information Services (OIS) took ownership of IIMS and conducted a study to determine the best way to deploy IIMS. This move promoted IIMS as a priority project, opening doors to technical and operations support within NYSDOT. A project that has the support of upper management is more likely to be integrated into and receive existing IT resources.
- Establish collaborative inter-agency partnerships for the development and deployment of ITS technologies such as IIMS. NYSDOT was the project lead, but previously established regional relationships among entities helped ensure stakeholder buy-in, support and involvement. User agencies have the potential to inform project decisions because of institutional knowledge and experience related to system design and function. The evaluators noted that the IIMS deployment reaped benefits from the regional FHWA relationship with NYC DOT and NYS DOT, which helped bring agencies together to partake of table top exercises to identify requirements. As IIMS expands, it may be necessary to formalize the "grass roots" beginnings of IIMS into formal organizational relationships.
- Consider deploying a Web services technology system to support an IIMS. The NYSDOT OIS is transitioning IIMS to a Web based system based on open IEEE 1512 protocols. The Web services use standard internet security technologies and will encrypt all transmissions through the use of https technology. A Web service increases IIMS accessibility and therefore increases the number of potential agencies and responders who can use IIMS. There were significant savings realized by transitioning from a non-distributed system with separate servers for each agency to a regional server. For example, using two regional servers compared to eight agency servers resulted in cost savings of $320,000 in Oracle database licenses.
The case studies analyzed by the evaluators found improvements in incident response that were attributable to the IIMS. For example, by facilitating communications, the IIMS reduced the time required to verify an incident. In one of the incidents studied, there was a reduction in secondary responder dispatch time. In another incident, the responders made on-the-spot repairs, eliminating the need for secondary responders. Incident data collection and accuracy also improved with the deployment of IIMS due to standardized data formats and accident codes. The evaluation results suggest that deploying an IIMS would facilitate incident management in other locations. The lessons learned above will help guide several important aspects of IIMS development and deployment, and support safety and mobility goals of DOTs.
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