Traffic Incident Management Workshop in Oakland County

The Intelligent Transportation Society of Michigan (ITS-MI) sponsored the 10th Annual Workshop on Traffic Incident Management for Metro Detroit to promote partnerships among the various responders to traffic incidents.  The workshop was held at the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conferenced Center on March 6, 2015.  Co-sponsors included the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, the Traffic Improvement Association, Beaubien Engineering, and Carrier & Gable.  This workshop was the 10th in a series of annual workshops to develop partnering relationships among those with an interest in safe, quick clearance of traffic incidents.

The program was intended to clarify the roles of the different responders to a traffic incident and to foster a better understanding of amongst first responders and the roles each play in response to and safe clearance of traffic incidents.  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 the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan State Police, Northville Township Fire Service, Emergency Road Response, and Oakland County Homeland Security.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson welcomed the participants.  Richard Beaubien, chair of the Southeast Michigan Regional Transportation Operations Coordinating Committee, facilitated the discussion throughout the workshop, tying it to the goals and actions of the Coordinating Committee.  These priority actions included educating the public on “move over” law, developing alternate routes around freeway closures, training first responders, and improving interoperable communications.

The presenters included Angie Kremer, Reginald Washington, and Dayo Akinyemi from the Michigan Department of Transportation, Mike Shaw from the Michigan State Police, Rich Marinucci from Northville Township Fire Service, Matt Bancroft from Emergency Road Response, and Sara Stoddard from Oakland County Homeland Security.

There were more than 100 attendees at the workshop.  Participants included Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan State Police, Oakland County, Road Commission for Oakland County, Oakland County Medical Examiner, Wayne County, Macomb County Sheriff, St. Clair County Sheriff, Washtenaw County Roads, Terra Consulting, Atkins, MDI Traffic Control, Ford Motor Co, General Motors, Carrier & Gable, Traffic Improvement Association, Area Towing, B & T Towing, Traffic Data Collection, SEMCOG, Brandon Township, Waterford Township, Northville Township, Bloomfield Township, AECOM, Livonia, Ferndale, Rochester Hills, Detroit Windsor Tunnel, Detroit, St. Clair Shores, West Bloomfield Township, Troy, Farmington Hills, Auburn Hills, White Lake Township, St. Clair County, and Canton Township,

Angie Kremer from Michigan Department of Transportation and Rich Marinucci from Northville Township Fire Department described Michigan’s Traffic Incident Management Effort (Mi-TIME).  This is a coordinated training program intended to build a stronger responder corps for safer traffic incident recovery in Michigan.  The training puts police, firefighters, state and local departments of transportation, towing, medical personnel, and other incident responders on the same page, leading to faster, safer, integrated response teams.  A police officer is 18 times more likely to die from being hit by a vehicle than being struck by a bullet. Mortality rates are staggering:  6 – 8 die each year: Fire/Rescue, EMS, 10-12 die each year: Law Enforcement, 50 die each year: Towing: 100 die each year + 20,000 injured: Highway Personnel.  The first element of the Business Case for traffic incident management is Safety of victims; responders and travelers.  The second element is the Cost in terms of delays, economy, freight movement, supply chain, protecting our investment. The third element is Homeland Security including emergency operations and terrorism vulnerability

Mike Shaw from the Michigan State Police joined Reginald Washington and Dayo Akinyemi from the Michigan Department of Transportation in a panel discussion of the Southfield Freeway closure that occurred after a pedestrian bridge was hit by a truck, causing it to collapse and block all lanes of the freeway.  The panel described the coordinated response effort that allowed the freeway to be open for the next morning’s rush hour traffic.  The response team included an ambulance, Wayne County Roads, and a construction contractor.  Lessons learned for MDOT were:  Charge back the cost of removal to recoup the costs.  Have a pre-qualified contractor available to help with removal.  Use a contact list for communication and coordination (SEMTOC).  The State Police valued the Initial Investigation for Accident Investigator to prepare for a Reconstructionist and media location coordination between MSP and MDOT.

Matt Bancroft from Emergency Road Response described Michigan’s new Hold Harmless Law and its impact on tow services.  The new law allows vehicles blocking traffic after a traffic incident blocks travel lanes to be moved if authorized by a police agency.  Hold harmless legislation is intended to allow responders to push vehicles blocking travel lanes off to the side of the road without legal liability from the vehicle owners.  Towers liability concerns are especially apparent during truck accidents because overturned trucks and semi-trailers often carry heavy cargo loads.  Therefore, towing companies may delay action while determining whether to call the spilled load “junk” or elect to use a more time consuming method of removing cargo from the scene in order to preserve the value of the personal property prior to removing the semi-truck, trailers or vehicles that are blocking freeway lanes.  Hold harmless law allows towing companies to be treated the same as first responders under the law. The discussion following this presentation raised several questions about tow service capabilities in cleaning up hazardous materials spills.

Sara Stoddard, Oakland County Chief of Emergency Management, described the process involved in evacuation, mass care, and shelter services support.  Oakland County has prepared and Emergency Operations Plan and draft plans for evacuation, mass care, and shelter services and cooperation with representatives from over 130 organizations.  The evacuation plan outlines Major Routes, Exit / Entrance Ramps, Jurisdictions, Special Facilities, Red Cross (NSS) Shelters, Dynamic Message Signs, and Cameras.  The hazards identified are WMD / CBRNE – Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD) or Improvised Nuclear Device (IND), Nuclear Power Plant Accident, HAZMAT – Fixed site, train derailment, highway tanker truck, Tornado, Flood, Gas /Pipeline Leak, and Fire.  Direction, control and coordination is provided through National Incident Management System (NIMS), Incident Command System (ICS), Multi-Agency Coordination System (MACS), and Public and Private Partnerships.

Supporting technologies include Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN), ITS Michigan / SEMTOC Cameras & Digital / Dynamic Message Signs, MI-CIMS / WebEOC (Michigan – Critical Incident Management System), NOAA National Weather Service (NWS), Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS), Emergency Alert System (EAS), MI-HAN (Michigan – Health Alert Network), Emergency Notification Systems (OakAlert), Amateur Radio (RACES / HAMs), and Media.  Based on the lessons learned in developing these plans, the guideposts moving forward will include ADA compliance for emergency plans and shelters, Coordination with American Red Cross to update National Shelter System, Risk and capability based planning, Inclusion / whole community, Local officials, Implementing responders, Regional partners, Tow companies, Schools (facilities, buses, drivers), MOUs / MOAs with private transportation resources and “like” facilities nearby as well as out-of-county, Engage trained and vetted volunteers (CERT, MRC, VOADs).

This workshop attracted more than 100 participants, and the attendees represented a broad cross-section of the responder community.  Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson welcomed the participants to the Oakland County Conference Center, and the Traffic Improvement Association staff assisted in getting the center ready for the workshop and arranged for the conference meals.  The workshop facilitated the public/private partnerships that are essential to safe, quick clearance of traffic incidents.