EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — August 24, 2005

The National Traffic Incident Management Coalition
Enhancing Safety and Efficiency on the Nation's Roadways

John Corbin
State Traffic Engineer
Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: On behalf of Avagene Moore and myself, welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Our topic today is "The National Traffic Incident Management Coalition: Enhancing Safety and Efficiency on the Nation's Roadways."

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today's speaker. John Corbin is the State Traffic Engineer for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and is currently serving as Chair of the National Traffic Incident Management Coalition. He also chairs the Institute of Transportation Engineers' Traffic Incident Management Committee as a fellow member of the institute, and the Traffic Incident Management Task Force of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers' Traffic Operations Committee, the TRB Freeway Operations Committee, the IEEE Incident Management Working Group, the ITS America Public Safety Forum, and the U.S.D.O.T. Public Safety Advisory Group. Please see the Background Page for further biographical information and links to topic-related material.

Welcome to the Forum John, and thank you very much for being with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


John Corbin: Thanks Amy. I would like to start off with some background information, then move onto the nine keys to successful incident management, then wrap up with some information on the Coalition.


Traffic incident management is a planned and coordinated multidisciplinary process to detect, respond to, remove traffic incidents, and restore traffic flow as safely and quickly as possible.

The need to cope with incidents affecting traffic has been recognized for decades, and some localities have established effective lifesaving and delay-reducing strategies and procedures to address the problem. Cross-disciplinary communications among affected responsibility areas–fire, police, emergency medical providers, towing and recovery services, and transportation system operators–have developed in many areas with solid results.

Integrated traffic incident management is emerging as a proven solution to address safety and mobility concerns on our Nation's roadways, but implementation needs to be more widespread to effectively improve conditions for motorists and responders.

Impacts: Total Delay on roadways in the U.S. continues to grow. Based on the 2005 Urban Mobility Report congestion caused 3.7 billion hours of travel delay and 2.3 billion gallons of wasted fuel in 2003, an increase of 79 million hours of delay, and 69 million gallons of wasted fuel over 2002 estimates.

Approximately 50 percent of all traffic congestion in the U.S. is caused by "nonrecurring" events such as traffic incidents, weather, and construction work zones. About half of this congestion is caused solely by traffic incidents (stalled vehicles, spilled loads, debris on the road, and crashes). The Urban Mobility Report postulates that the current pace of transportation improvement is insufficient to keep pace with even slow growth scenarios in urban areas.

• Traffic incidents are estimated to cause between 53% and 58% of total delay experienced by motorists in all urban areas.

• Crashes as a result of previous incidents make up 14% to 18% of all crashes. These secondary crashes are estimated to cause 18% of deaths on freeways.

• In 2002, approximately half of police, EMS, and firefighter fatalities occurred as a result of transportation incidents. About 10% of firefighter and nearly 8% of police officer deaths were caused by a worker being struck by a vehicle.

• Nearly 10,000 police cars, 2,000 fire trucks, and 3,000 other service vehicles are struck while going to or at traffic incidents.

Now to move on to the …

Nine Keys to Successful Incident Management

  1. Traffic Incident Management Program Strategic Plans - Agencies should develop multi-agency, multiyear strategic plans to identify appropriate budget and personnel needs. Formal agreements about operational and administrative procedures and policies should be in place.

  2. Traffic Incident Management Administrative Teams - Successful agencies create a formalized, multi-agency administrative team, which meets regularly to discuss policy issues. This team conducts simulation or "in-field" exercises and post-incident debriefings. It plans for special events.

  3. Performance Measures - Successful multi-agency agreements detail what measures will be tracked for program performance. Agencies should agree upon methods for collection and analysis and have established response and clearance targets. Progress towards achieving targets is periodically reviewed.

  4. Responder and Motorist Safety - All responders should be trained in traffic control procedures and use them to manage the incident-related traffic queue. Agencies should establish equipment staging to maximize traffic flow past an incident while providing responder safety. Emergency lighting procedures are established and used to reduce the use of emergency lighting as much as possible while still providing adequate warning to approaching motorists.

  5. Response and Clearance Policies and Procedures - Agencies use motorist assist service patrols and the Incident Command System. Agencies should establish policies and procedures for quick-clearance, major accident investigation, and hazardous materials response. Responders use a pre-qualified list of towing and recovery operators.

  6. Procedures for Major Incidents - Organizations have established criteria for "major incidents." High ranking agency members are available on a 24/7 basis. Response equipment is pre-staged. Agencies use a pre-identified contact list of resources for incident clearance and hazardous materials response.

  7. Integrated Interagency Communications - Two-way interagency voice communications systems allow for direct communication among incident responders. Data and information transfer occurs between agencies and applications.

  8. Transportation Management Systems - Traffic management centers coordinate incident notification and response. Technical infrastructure is used for surveillance and rapid detection of traffic incidents. Agencies have established specific policies and procedures for traffic management during incident response (signal timing changes, opening and closing lanes, ramp metering).

  9. Traveler Information - Agencies should integrate and interpret information from multiple sources. Motorists are provided access to real-time, incident-specific information and travel time estimates for route segments.

Benefits of TIM

Traffic incident management programs improve the safety of on-scene responders and motorists approaching or passing roadway incidents, as well as help minimize delays to the traveling public. Based on a 1998 study presented at the Transportation Research Board meeting the benefit/cost ratios from the reduction in delay is between 3:1 and 10:1 for areas that use freeway service patrols.

Seventy-one respondents to the Urban Mobility Report study indicated that they used service patrols and/or surveillance technology in 2003, with coverage representing 40 percent to 67 percent. These seventy-one areas were able to reduce delay by 177 million person hours, approximately 7 percent of the freeway delay in those areas. It is estimated that 20 percent of all incidents are secondary in nature. Effective incident management programs can significantly reduce the number of secondary incidents, resulting in less congestion and increased safety.

In 2002, traffic incident management programs, including surveillance cameras and service patrols, reduced congestion in 56 urban areas by 117 million hours. The annual cost saving resulting from traffic incident management programs in 75 urban areas was estimated to be $2.3 billion.

About the Coalition

The National Traffic Incident Management Coalition was formed following the National Conference on Traffic Incident Management in 2002. The NTIMC was created to assume a leadership role for developing a national agenda for traffic incident management.

At the national level the NTIMC will spearhead, conduct, and track activities related to traffic incident management in a consistent manner. The Coalition is comprised of representatives from the fire, emergency medical services, law enforcement, towing and recovery, and transportation communities.

The vision of the Coalition is safe and efficient management of all incidents that occur on or substantially affect the nation's roadways. The mission is to coordinate experiences, knowledge, practices, and ideas toward safer and more efficient management of incidents affecting traffic.


• Promote and support the successful development and conduct of local, regional, and statewide traffic incident management programs through peer networking, mentoring, and knowledge exchange among public safety and transportation professionals.

• Develop, provide input to, and recommend for adoption by Coalition partner organizations multidisciplinary best practices, guides, standards, and performance measures in support of sound traffic incident management activities.

• Develop and recommend appropriate research problem statements for referral to one or more Coalition partners to take advantage of multiple research avenues.

Coalition Actions to Date

The Coalition has recently held its fourth full Coalition meeting in Washington D.C. Despite the usual administrative details associated with developing a Coalition such as development of Bylaws, Membership, and a Business Plan the Coalition has engaged in several efforts to positively impact the incident management community. The Coalition has provided input and guidance to NCHRP research efforts on emergency and incident management.

This input directly impacted the research effort with a better understanding of responders’ needs and major challenges. The Coalition is currently engaged in an initiative to encourage development of an ANSI/ISEA standard for short-term high visibility safety vests.

Current ANSI/ISEA Standards do not address the needs of short-term incident responders, particularly related to equipment access and wear ability. The Coalition website (http://timcoalition.org) provides a resource for Coalition members and interested parties on Coalition activities as well as related member initiatives.

Future Initiatives

The Coalition is in the process of submitting a proposal to AASHTO for a Domestic Scan for Integrated Traffic Incident Management Programs and Practices. If awarded, it is anticipated several members of the coalition will scan and tour successful incident management programs.

The results of this tour will allow for information sharing with participating agencies, creating synergies domestically and internationally and reducing the knowledge gap between international, domestic, and regional incident management practice.

The Coalition will also participate in and support a Conference on planned special events and traffic incident management, being sponsored by the FHWA. A National Conference on Traffic Incident Management is being planned for 2006/2007 as part of the communications and outreach strategy, currently under development.

The Coalition will continue to work with appropriate agencies, organizations and other related incident management groups to positively impact safety and mobility during incidents on our Nation's roadways. See a list of Coalition Charter Members at http://timcoalition.org/?siteid=41&pageid=591.

We are very anxious to further develop a partnership with NEMA and IAEM to promote effective and safe response to highway emergencies and traffic incidents.

That concludes my introductory remarks, and I will be happy to address your questions. I will turn the floor back over to our Moderator to start that off.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much John. Now, to proceed to your questions.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Avagene Moore: John, I assume the NTIMC is new to most of us. What is the criterion for membership, if any, in the coalition?

John Corbin: The Coalition's purpose is to be a national table for national organizations. In other words, we would like to have a representative member from appropriate national organizations, primarily from the public safety, emergency management, and transportation communities that have an interest and a stake in the safe and efficient response to and clearance of traffic incidents.

Amy Sebring: John, is there any strategy yet for outreach at the State level? How does this occur? (If it does occur!)

John Corbin: One of our members is AASHTO - the national organization of state DOT's and we have just sent letters of invitation to join NTIMC to NEMA and IAEM. We also have members such as the National Association of State EMS Directors.

Bob Rausch: From my observations it is often the actions of the emergency response services (police, fire) that compound the situation -- and that on-scene management practices could reduce the impact significantly. Is that within the domain of the group? What about the issue of accident investigation that can often cause incidents (secondary)? Isn’t there a better way and technology, and how is your group moving to improve that situation?

John Corbin: In response to your first question, Bob, protecting responders is a priority mission of the NTIMC. Well-protected and well-coordinated incident scenes can reduce overall clearance times and associated traffic safety impacts. More proactive pre-planning and training between agencies and responders can reduce some of those adverse impacts which you mention.

We are also seeing progress in crash investigation techniques to improve accuracy AND reduce durations. For example, digital photos and photogrammetric techniques can dramatically reduce field time and the exposure of responders to traffic hazards, allowing post-processing of crash measurements and data in a more secure office environment, in some cases.

NTIMC is in a position to promote nationally-coordinated training to advance these techniques and to encourage sharing of best practices between state and regional practitioners and responders. The envisioned National Unified Goal for Traffic Incident Management will integrate goals for more effective on-scene operations as well as "Goal Elements" pertaining to communications and technology, as well as institutional aspects of effective traffic incident management.

Jim Poston: Do you expect to get much interest from emergency responders to join the coalition? They seem to be traditionally hard to get to the table, and can potentially have the most impact, particularly at the scene.

John Corbin: Yes, and there are energetic leaders already at the table from police, fire, and EMS communities. They are helping some of us in the transportation community better understand the importance of our shared goal of protecting the responders at the scene which incorporates traffic management and traffic control techniques as well as direct response actions within the scene.

Rick Patterson: Will the coalition evaluate the traffic management/ incident management of larger urban communities to determine best practices? Looks like you have already hit on some of the answer.

John Corbin: Yes, we would like to support the cooperative comparison of best practices so that we can all avoid "reinventing the wheel". At the same time, the Coalition does not want to purport to be some sort of National Evaluator.

Paula Kelly: I know what a towing company is; what is a "recovery operator"?

John Corbin: Recovery is the more extensive activity associated with uprighting trucks, salvaging spilled loads, dragging cars back up from roadside slopes prior to the relocation of the vehicle from the roadway to a garage or impound facility.

Amy Sebring: John, do you see NIMS as an opportunity in the future to enhance on-scene incident management? I also see TIM as a potential opportunity for local responders to practice ICS on a daily basis.

John Corbin: Early actions of the NTIMC have included initiation of projects to develop guidance on integrating NIMS both into the operations practices of highway agencies as well as into the principles and practices that have evolved around traffic incident management. One such action will develop a training module on NIMS for highway incidents.

Perry Cogburn: It has been my experience that personalities of the responders and how they react to one another at the scene has a lot to do with the way the incident is handled. What recommendations do you have to improve this situation?

John Corbin: Relationships between responders and between public safety and transportation professionals are ultimately at the heart of effective traffic incident management. These relationships require ongoing and somewhat formal traffic incident management programs that encompass regular (e.g. monthly) regional work sessions to debrief highway incidents, structured interagency and inter-jurisdictional operations and response plans, financially feasible strategic plans to enhance response and clearance capabilities, and committed staff or consultant support for continued dialogue and coordinated training.

Avagene Moore: John, I commend you and the NTIMC effort. What type of publicity has been done or will be done to make people more aware of the emergency responders working on the highways? In Tennessee, we recently had two law enforcement officers killed while standing on the side of the road in response to traffic incidents.

John Corbin: One of the examples from Europe involves the linkage of emergency responder and roadside worker safety. Specifically, Britain produced "The Survive Report" which highlighted the urgency of roadside safety to both the public safety and the highway agencies. This has proven very effective in developing synergies between work zone safety public education programs and emergency responder safety campaigns. The Coalition is making a proposal for federal funds to produce a similar report for the US as a basis for similar coordination of public information and education campaigns at national and state levels.

Amy Sebring: John, is the NTIMC considering potential Homeland Security type issues in its planning, for example, (hopefully unlikely) roadside bombs.

John Corbin: Yes, the Coalition understands that there is an "All-Hazards" continuum of threats and risks along our highways, as well as throughout our communities served by highways and that everything from traffic crashes and spilled truck loads to weather emergencies to terrorist threats require similar fundamentals of preparedness, planning, and partnership.

Bob Rausch: Is there anything being done at the National Government level (outside FHWA) to "foster" closer cooperation for incident management at the scene?

John Corbin: I believe that DHS through NIMS has taken a dramatic step forward both in codifying the basics of incident management (including traffic incident management) and in promoting some level of accountability at the state level for consistency and compliance. SAFECOM is another federal initiative that seems to be a significant next step in promoting regional and state planning for communications network interoperability including interoperability between public safety and transportation operations networks and systems.

Amy Sebring: Finally, I would like to point out the link to the Model Procedures Guide posted on our Background Page (or at http://www.ifsta.org/ifsta/pdf/IMSHighway/IMS%20Highway.pdf ).Will your training be based on this prior work, or do you plan to develop further guidance?

John Corbin: Whenever possible, we will seek to utilize and build on prior work - including the Model Procedures Guide.


Amy Sebring: That's all we have time for today. Thank you very much John for an excellent job. We hope you enjoyed the experience. Our thanks also to Brett Graves of who assisted in preparing today's session. Please stand by a moment while we make a couple of quick announcements.

Again, the formatted transcript will be available later today. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to get notices of future sessions and availability of transcripts, just go to our home page and click on Subscribe.

We have two new partners to announce:

State of California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES) - Southern Region, POC: Chris Sundlee, Emergency Services Coordinator; Website: http://www.oes.ca.gov

Emergency Preparedness Capacity Builders (S Australia) John Salter, Director; Website: http://emergencyriskmanagement.com

If you are interested in becoming an EIIP Partner, please see the "Partnership for You" link on the EIIP Virtual Forum homepage http://www.emforum.org . Thanks to everyone for participating today. We stand adjourned but before you go, please help me show our appreciation to John for a fine job.

John Corbin: Thank you for the opportunity and the great questions.