Headline events in recent years, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, earthquakes, forest fires and hurricanes have magnified the need for all governmental agencies to work in a cooperative manner not just within their jurisdictional boundaries, but ever more frequently in a regional context.
As this intergovernmental integration requirement has become more and more pervasive, the deployment of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) has emerged as a true enabling technology for all of the Principal Responding Agencies (PRA) that must respond to the full gamut of contingencies, incidents or weather and natural disaster events.
In the most basic description possible ITS are essentially decision support systems that support the driver, traveler, shipper and transit rider. These systems gather, process and transmit voice, video and/or data about the current traffic conditions and status of the highway infrastructure. What is becoming ever more apparent is that this same information can and should be used by the PRA in all stages of their activities from planning and preparation, through protection and response, to recovery and restoration.
The characteristics that earmark a robust ITS deployment also provide information and management tools to the PRA. For example, the data gathered for use by traffic planners can be used by contingency planners; the information-gathering and video images used to manage traffic can be used to provide incident and contingency managers with an accurate assessment of the status and condition of the highway infrastructure. Similarly, the information dissemination devices used by the ITS industry provide a voice to the community for the PRA.
ITS installed to support traffic management, transit and traveler information systems utilise detector stations, CCTV and information dissemination systems that can be very useful to the PRA. From monitoring and controlling traffic along an evacuation route, tracking the location of a transit fleet, to the dissemination of emergency and threat information, ITS systems are the single largest system with an installed “finger on the pulse” of the community and the most widespread information gathering and dissemination devices available within the community at large.
Of equal importance to the PRA is the fact that most ITS deployments have a very robust communication support structure. They generally consist of a fiber-optic system with its inherent reliability and capacity (or now on the emerging highly reliable and secure wireless technology). The communication system is in most cases installed along the higher capacity segments of the infrastructure. Within large urban areas, communication systems used to control and gather information from deployed ITS devices connect the separate jurisdictions into a single regional network.
In summary – the deployment of ITS can provide a useful set of tools for providing assistance across the full spectrum of man-caused (intentional or accidental) incidents, terrorist activities, adverse weather and natural disasters. Almost without exception they are, or easily can be, dual-purpose – supporting the day-to-day ITS requirement, but also being utilized by other governmental agencies.
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