Prepare in advance for severe weather by staffing enough snow plow operators and ensuring that public information systems will be updated with current weather and road conditions.
Experience from the 2007 winter storm emergency response in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- Ensure that the state DOT has an adequate number of snow plow operators to operate available plows in winter weather emergencies. Staffing guidelines and practices for local DOT offices should be reviewed and followed with oversight at the district level. Obviously, without a sufficient number of operators to operate snow plows, roads will not be cleared. In the case of the 2007 winter storm in Pennsylvania, a shortage of snow plow operators resulted in a 12-hour operational period in which there were not enough operators to man the snow plows in one of the counties. It is necessary for local and district level DOT offices to review staffing levels on a periodic basis and confirm that a sufficient number of operators are on staff during winter storms.
- Subscribe to a weather forecasting service on a state-wide basis. State DOTs that subscribe to a weather forecasting service gain the benefit of having all the state DOT offices with access to current, detailed weather information. PennDOT did not subscribe to a weather service during the 2007 storm. The lack of access to a uniform, detailed forecasting service across the state DOT offices led to a diminished situational awareness for some districts, reducing transportation preparedness and response.
- Include staff with strong experience in managing and responding to winter storms. Having personnel and management with experience in preparing for and managing transportation operations in winter storms provides state agencies with a big advantage. When the winter storm of 2007 in Pennsylvania hit, few of the transportation managers had experience with winter storms. (In fact, a management team in one of the counties had served the office for less than a month because the former team had retired one month earlier.) The independent investigator concluded that lack of experience in storm response hurt the ability of PennDOT to manage the response.
- Maintain DOT information systems and confirm that they function as intended. At the time of the storm, Pennsylvania had roadway and traffic information systems in place, including a Roadway Weather Information System (RWIS) designed to improve PennDOT’s awareness of road and traffic conditions statewide. However, at the time of the storm, 55 of the 74 sensor sites in the RWIS were inoperable, severely limiting the situational awareness of PennDOT management. The investigator noted that the system had not been maintained prior to the storm.
- Ensure that traveler information systems are updated during emergency events. A key element of a state’s response to a severe weather event is providing accurate, useful and timely information to the public. PennDOT had several means of communication with the public, including electronic highway information signs (dynamic message signs), a highway information phone line, a website and a Highway Advisory Radio system. Unfortunately, there were problems or limitations with each of these systems. For example, electronic highway information signs were either inoperable or not updated with current information; the phone line did not have current information and at times used a default message which indicated that roadway conditions were normal; the website presented inaccurate information, and the Highway Advisory Radio in District 5-0 did not work during the storm.
Author: James Lee Witt Associates, a part of GlobalOptions Group, Inc
Source Date: March 27, 2007URL: http://www.state.pa.us/papower/lib/papower/pa_report_final.pdf
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Intelligent Transportation Systems > Arterial Management > Information Dissemination > Dynamic Message Signs
Intelligent Transportation Systems > Freeway Management > Information Dissemination > Dynamic Message Signs
Intelligent Transportation Systems > Emergency Management > Response & Recovery > Response Management
Intelligent Transportation Systems > Traveler Information > Pre-Trip Information > Internet/Wireless
Intelligent Transportation Systems > Road Weather Management > Information Dissemination > Highway Advisory Radio
Intelligent Transportation Systems > Road Weather Management > Information Dissemination > Internet/Wireless/Phone
Intelligent Transportation Systems > Road Weather Management > Information Dissemination > Dynamic Message Signs
Intelligent Transportation Systems > Road Weather Management > Response & Treatment > Mobile Winter Maintenance
Major Initiatives > Mobility Services for All Americans
Major Initiatives > Integrated Corridor Management Systems
Major Initiatives > Nationwide Surface Transportation Weather Observing and Forecasting System - Clarus
Major Initiatives > Emergency Transportation Operations
Other Program Activities > Amber Alert
Other Program Activities > Public Safety
Other Program Activities > Real Time Traveler Information
Other Program Activities > Rural ITS Deployment
DMS, CMS, VMS, Changeable Message Signs, Variable Message Signs, HAR, road weather vehicle tracking, winter maintenance vehicle