The ETO Initiative was a collective effort among Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) that was launched in 2004 to:
- Develop and demonstrate innovative procedures and technologies for more coordinated public safety and transportation operations that improved the speed and effectiveness of response and management of major incidents.
- Provide tools, procedures, and information that can be used to actively manage and therefore expedite the safe progress of an evacuation.
- Increase transportation safety and mobility through new and dynamic partnerships linking the transportation and public safety communities – including law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical service (EMS) providers, emergency managers, and emergency communications providers – at the Federal, State, regional, local, and tribal levels.
The collective efforts of the ETO encompassed the following functional areas:
- Public access to emergency services
- Enhanced information sharing
- Evacuation management and operations
- Transportation operations during biohazard situations
- Preparedness and response
- Planned special events
Public Access to Emergency Services
Public access to emergency services underpins the opportunity to reduce deaths and injuries from vehicular crashes and from medical emergencies such as acute heart attacks, strokes, and hypoglycemia. To address this issue, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has initiated a variety of projects related to Wireless Enhanced 9‑1‑1 (WE9‑1‑1) and telematics services.
Enhanced Information Sharing
Transportation, law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical personnel understand that public safety can be improved when information is shared across organizations and jurisdictions. To help foster such information sharing, USDOT sponsored various activities to foster integration of traffic management information systems and public safety computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems. These activities included field operational tests (FOTs) conducted in Salt Lake City, Utah and Seattle, Washington. In addition the ITS Public Safety Program initiated a project to both identify common information interests of the transportation and public safety communities and to develop methods for data sharing where their interests intersect.
In addition to exchanging information across organizations and jurisdictions it is critical to effectively communicate with the traveling public during emergency conditions. To address this issue, USDOT also initiated a research project to examine what information needs to be communicated to travelers during disaster situations, and how state and local department of transportation advanced traveler information systems can be used to deliver such information.
Evacuation Management and Operations
Much of what is known about evacuations is based on preparations for incidents, such as hurricanes, for which there is advance warning. Recognizing the importance of and need for new tools and processes to help agencies plan for and manage evacuations where there is little or no advanced warning, the ITS Public Safety Program in partnership with FHWA Office of Operations initiated a variety of research activities to assess the state of the practice and state of the art in evacuation transportation management.
Transportation Operations During Biohazard Situations
The events of September 11, 2001 marked a distinct change in how transportation agencies plan for emergency events. Prior to then, the focus of transportation agencies was on their role during weather-related incidents such as snowstorms, floods, and hurricanes. Since then, however, transportation agencies have shifted their attention to the wide range of potential terrorist strikes that could occur without notice and that would require immediate, coordinated response efforts. In particular, a biohazard emergency presents transportation challenges that are potentially even greater than those posed by a large-scale evacuation. A biohazard situation is unique in that it could simultaneously require restricting and facilitating mobility. The goal of the Application of Technology to Transportation Operations in Biohazard Situationsproject was to develop a more comprehensive and actionable understanding of the role of transportation during a biohazard situation so that communities can better plan for, respond to, and recover from such a situation.
Preparedness and Response
To safely, efficiently and effectively manage incidents and emergencies a wide-range of activities, programs and systems are required to be developed and implemented prior to the event.
Planned Special Events
Planned special events can cause congestion and unexpected delays to travelers by increasing traffic demand or reducing roadway capacity (e.g., street closures for parades). These delays are unlike congestion caused by routine traffic during daily peak travel periods. The frequency and severity of the impacts resulting from these disruptions are increasing significantly in both metropolitan and rural areas.