Emergency Response: Organizational and Operational Models Used by State DOTs

The increased frequency and intensity of natural and man-made disasters have galvanized the transportation community to start focusing on resilience and systemic resilience-based approaches to prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery from these costly events. Approaches that incorporate the concept of resilience into transportation planning guidance include (1) federal guidance requirements such as the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, and (2) evolving and expanding state, regional, and local requirements that provide state departments of transportation (DOTs) with additional impetus to (a) integrate resilience practices and initiatives into emergency response and (b) identify effective organizational and operational models for emergency response. State DOTs have been developing and honing all-hazards emergency response procedures and protocols, and are adept at responding to a range of emergencies and incidents, and fulfilling their federal responsibilities, namely Emergency Support Function (ESF) #1 - Transportation responsibilities such as emergency access and evacuation support identified in the National Response Framework (NRF). Organizational structure can and does make a difference in the effectiveness of emergency response and related emergency activities and initiatives. As noted in AASHTO’s 2017 publication, Understanding Transportation Resilience: A 2016–2018 Roadmap for Security, Emergency Management, and Infrastructure Protection in Transportation Resilience, emergency management is an essential component of resilience, but the current organizational frameworks may not be ideal. There is a gap in the research relating to recommended state DOT operational and organizational models for emergency response. The importance of the topic has been well established; the types of actions and related responsibilities have been identified; desired outcomes have been defined, but research is needed on ways DOTs organize themselves for effectively participating in emergency response. The objective of this project is to investigate and document how state DOTs use different organizational and operational models to fulfill their emergency response incident/event management responsibilities within the context of the National Planning Frameworks (NPF): prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. This includes management of and transition between: (1) frequently occurring, short duration incidents with minimal impact (typically covered in Traffic Incident Management); (2) occasionally occurring, long duration, significant transportation incidents, typically involving some level of activation of the state DOT’s Incident Command System (ICS) structure or emergency operations center; and (3) infrequently occurring, long duration, large scale emergencies involving state DOT participation in multi-agency response (i.e., invoking ESFs). For these three scenarios, areas of focus for this project include how state DOTs: (1) Are internally organized in general and for emergency response; (2) Understand, assign, and execute their responsibilities and authorities for emergency response; (3) Coordinate with emergency management agencies, transportation agencies, and others; (4) Staff with dedicated and surge capacity employees for their emergency management functions; (5) Bring in outside resources (including mutual aid and contract staff); (6) Access funding and potential funding sources (ongoing and grants); and (7) Manage training and exercises (internal and external).


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $400000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 20-128

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Parker, Stephan

  • Performing Organizations:


    One Penn Plaza
    250 W 34th Street
    New York, New York  United States  10119
  • Principal Investigators:

    Matherly, Deborah

  • Start Date: 20210201
  • Expected Completion Date: 20230201
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01707629
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 20-128
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Jun 3 2019 3:17PM