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Public Roads - Jan/Feb 2008

Jan/Feb 2008
Issue No:
Vol. 71 No. 4
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Training Update

A Comprehensive Study of Incident Management

by Brittany Boughter

The National Highway Institute (NHI)

Traffic incidents account for approximately 25 percent of nonrecurring congestion on the Nation's highway system. Further, traffic-related incidents are a leading cause of line-of-duty deaths for law enforcement and fire-rescue responders, with nearly 400 responders struck and killed on highways each year.

To combat these statistics, the U.S. Department of Transportation promotes a quick, safe, and multiagency response to traffic incidents to minimize the effects on first responders and drivers. The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) approach is multifaceted, recognizing that transportation practitioners use a variety of resources for activities ranging from responding to roadway emergencies to managing planned special events.

"Incident management is not a stovepipe, stand-alone effort with its own dedicated resources to be used exclusively for traffic incident response," says David Helman, traffic incident management program manager in the FHWA Office of Operations. "It should be seen in a much broader context— as a response to all incidents— mainstreamed in operational procedures of public safety and transportation agencies."

For these reasons, the National Highway Institute (NHI) offers a suite of complementary incident management courses: Managing Traffic Incident and Roadway Emergencies (FHWA-NHI-133048A), Managing Travel for Planned Special Events (FHWA-NHI-133099), and Using the Incident Command System (ICS) at Highway Incidents (FHWA-NHI-133101). Participants who complete all three courses receive certificates of accomplishment recognizing that they have learned, built, and refined their skills in incident management. The courses target personnel from State departments of transportation, county and local governments, the private sector, and FHWA who are responsible for responding to unplanned traffic incidents or planning special events.

Traffic Incident Management

The 2-day course Managing Traffic Incident and Roadway Emergencies addresses institutional and technical aspects of resolving traffic incidents and roadway emergencies safely and efficiently. The course focuses on practices that promote interagency and interdisciplinary understanding and cooperation.

Upon completing the course, participants will be able to apply the elements for developing a formalized multiagency program, compare and contrast techniques and identify technological solutions for onsite incident management, and construct a list of next steps to improve multiagency responses.

Special Events

The 2-day course Managing Travel for Planned Special Events guides practitioners through all phases of managing travel for planned events, using an event scenario selected by the host and developed by course participants. Participants from localities preparing for an event identify and apply pertinent planning steps, operations activities, and associated considerations in developing an action plan for special events.

Upon completing the course, participants will understand key phases and goals for managing travel during events; describe the purpose, value, and key components of an action plan for managing travel during events; identify key factors that influence how an event might affect the surface transportation system; and explain how postevent activities can improve traffic management plans.

ICS for Highway Incidents

The 2-day course Using the Incident Command System at Highway Incidents presents an overview of ICS, its structure, and how it expands and contracts to meet the demands of an incident while maintaining a manageable span of control for people managing resources onscene. Upon completing the course, participants will be able to identify needed resources, develop an appropriate ICS structure, and create an incident action plan.

A Coordinated Solution

Led by expert instructors with real-world experience, the courses provide a comprehensive look at all aspects of planning, organizing, and managing traffic.

"Careful planning will not achieve the desired results if communication is not occurring," says Laurel Radow, evacuations and planned special events program manager in FHWA's Office of Operations. "Unlike other traffic incident management courses, these NHI courses bring together all involved in the management of an incident. The training stresses a coordinated process involving diverse communities. The NHI approach helps participants obtain effective interagency and interdisciplinary understanding and cooperation to detect and remove incidents, and restore traffic capacity as safely and quickly as possible."

To schedule a session or request a certificate of accomplishment, contact the NHI Training Coordinator at 703-235-0534 or For more information on incident management, contact David Helman at 202-366-8042 or, or Laurel Radow at 202-366-2855 or, or visit

NHI's courses in incident management provide participants with the knowledge and resources to respond to roadway emergencies such as the one shown here.


Brittany Boughter is a contributing editor for Public Roads.