Traffic Incident Management Workshop – March 15, 2012
On March 15, 2012, AAA Michigan hosted a Traffic Incident Management Workshop to promote partnerships among the various responders to traffic incidents. This workshop was sponsored by the Intelligent Transportation Society of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and it was supported by Beaubien Engineering. This workshop was the seventh in a series of annual workshops to develop partnering relationships among those with an interest in safe, quick clearance of traffic incidents. It was the third time that this workshop was held at AAA Michigan Headquarters in Dearborn.
The program was intended to clarify the roles of the different responders to a traffic incident and to answer the question, “Who’s in charge?” The workshop identified the roles of the different responders so the participants could get a better understanding of who is in charge of what. The presenters included Oladayo Akinyemi from the Michigan Department of Transportation Intelligent Transportation Systems Center, Rich Marinucci from the Northville Township Fire Service, Craig Shackleford from the Bloomfield Township Police Department, Rick Leonard from the Auburn Hills Police Department, Sgt. Cramer from the St. Clair Shores Police Department, Roger Simpson from Huron Valley Ambulance, Bill Giorgis from the Michigan Towing Association, Annjanette Kremer Traffic Incident Management Engineer from the Michigan Department of Transportation, and Ron Savage from Fox 2 Detroit. In addition to being a traffic reporter, Ron Savage is also a Firefighter/EMT with the Brighton Fire Department.
Michigan Department of Transportation participants came from Lansing and the Bay, University, Grand and Metro Regions. Other participants at the conference represented Alliance Mobile Health, Canton Township, Detroit, Lyon Township, Federal Highway Administration, Michigan State Police, Oakland County, Official Towing, Roseville, SEMCOG, URS, Troy, Utica Van Dyke Towing, Wayne County, Westland, and Westshore Fire.
Dayo Akinyemi from the MDOT Intelligent Transportation Systems Center described the technologies available to assist with traffic incident management including the closed circuit television cameras and the dynamic message signs. The Freeway Courtesy Patrol operates out of the Intelligent Transportation Systems Center, and the Michigan State Police regional dispatch shares the center and has access to the more than 200 cameras on Metro Detroit Freeways to assist with their dispatch operations. The cameras are also available for local public safety answering points (PSAPs) to dispatch local police, fire, ambulance, and tow services. MDOT hosts responder safety workshops to promote awareness of the camera technology availability and best practices to keep first responders safe on the road.
Rich Marinucci highlighted the dangers firefighters face when responding to traffic incidents. In 2011 there were 78 incidents where Fire Fighters, EMS personnel, or their vehicles were struck. Communication, collaboration, and cooperation among the fire, EMS, law enforcement, towing & recovery, and the Department of Transportation services are needed. After action reviews for all involved provided lessons learned for the various responders. There is a need to balance the safety of responders and the opening of the roadway to traffic. The roadway must be considered a “kill zone” for responders.
Police agencies from Bloomfield Township and Auburn Hills described how they share resources with the City of Troy to provide improved service to travelers along I-75. By making responders from all three communities available to respond to an incident, the communities have improved both the response time and the clearance time. Law enforcement from the City of St. Clair Shores also described the development of a quick clearance policy to get traffic incidents and first responders out of harm’s way more safely and efficiently.
Roger Simpson described how Huron Valley Ambulance provides ambulance service to all or part of eight counties in southeast and central Michigan with 100 ambulances and 600 employees. The information helpful to EMS prior to arrival on scene include information from 911 callers, the number of vehicles involved, the type of vehicles, obvious injuries, and exact location. The EMS role is to respond in a careful and safe manner, park in a defensive position, respect the roles of other responders, and always do what is best for the patient. Huron Valley uses 800 MHz radio to communicate ambulance response information with other first responders among the various communities they serve.
Bill Giorgis noted that the tow services are usually the only private parties on the scene of a traffic incident. Although they may be called to the scene by other first responders they may or may not be paid for their services. They usually have traffic control devices to deploy on the roadway to direct traffic around the incident, and their employees are subject to the same traffic hazards as other first responders. Tow services would support the passage of hold harmless by the state legislature so that the roads could be cleared of incidents more safely and quickly.
Annjanette Kremer, MDOT Traffic Incident Management Engineer, led a panel discussion of the speakers to respond to questions from the audience and her own questions for the panel. Ron Savage from Fox 2 News spoke after lunch about his experiences as a traffic reporter and a fire service first responder. He reinforced the general emergency response protocol – provide temporary traffic control, leave space, be visible, limit your exposure, appoint a safety officer, turn wheels away from the scene, and advise media about closures or lengthy delays. All of the first responders advised that you should never turn your back to traffic.
The goals of the workshop were met because the program highlighted the roles of the different responders to a traffic incident. Law enforcement represented 23% of the attendees, Fire 10%, Dispatch 2%, Towing 2%, Road Agencies 56%, and Other 20%. Respondents strongly agreed that the MDOT Freeway Operations Update will be valuable in their work. The respondents also strongly agreed that the information on First Responder Safety, Sharing Police Resources, Emergency Medical Responders, and Tow Services Best Practices will be valuable in their work. They found Guest Speaker Ron Savage to be interesting and entertaining. Overall, 35% rated the workshop Good, and 65% rated it Excellent. The list of major challenges faced when responding to traffic incidents included:
- Communication and updated information to all
- Having the road back open within two hours
- Safety of responders
- Limited resources and notification of incidents
- Failure of traffic to move away from emergency vehicles
- Fewer staff
Having different speakers for each of the responder roles was considered a plus for this workshop
The Committee would like to compile best practices as a resource. These might be in the form of one page Traffic Incident Management Tips. These tips would include lessons learned such as traffic control, communications, police issues, fire issues.