Emergency management coordination

Emergency management coordination includes collaboration between transportation agencies, transit providers, emergency management, and incident responders during major regional natural disasters.

Key characteristics



WSDOT regions

Other names

  • Emergency Transportation Operations
  • Emergency Operations

Strategy description

Emergency management coordination includes the strategies and actions to plan, prepare, mitigate, manage and recover from major emergencies. Emergencies include any man-made (e.g. riot, terrorist attack) or natural disaster (e.g. forest fire, earthquake, weather event) that threatens or causes the loss of life, injury to person or property, or financial loss at a local, regional, or state level.

Responding to emergencies requires collaboration with a wide range of partners including 911 centers, emergency managers, law enforcement, first responders, national weather service, traffic incident management, federal, state, and local government agencies, the private sector, and the public. Preparing for a major emergency with non-traditional partners requires advanced planning and training to plan and deliver a coordinated response during an emergency.

Planning for emergencies

Partner agencies work together to plan for, define roles, and practice responses to major emergencies before they occur. The relationships built in the planning and practicing stage are vital to successful emergency management.

Responding and recovering from emergencies

Transportation agencies and first responders execute a coordinated response with clearly defined roles, and trained personnel that activate emergency operations centers and implement coordinated, pre-planned response plans.

When to use this strategy

Emergency management coordination makes sense for urban and rural areas prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, fires, flooding, and more.

Strategy benefits:

  • Improves coordination between traffic agencies and responders
  • Minimizes the time it takes to get emergency responders to the scene
  • Maximizes the number of people safely moved away from the hazardous area
  • Delivers key information to the decision makers at emergency operations centers
  • Informs travelers about emergency information and impacts to the transportation system

What you need in order to implement

Policy needs:

  • Cooperation policies and agreements between transportation and public safety agencies including Continuity of Operations (COOP plans).
  • Potential policies to prioritize the protection of critical infrastructure (e.g. hospitals)

Planning needs:

  • Stakeholders should collaborate and plan a response to anticipated emergencies, including identifying evacuation routes, defining roles, and planning shared communications
  • Conduct training and active drills, including after action debriefs, with stakeholders to prepare for anticipated emergencies

Coordination needs:

  • Coordinate between transportation agencies, public safety (fire, rescue, emergency medical service, law enforcement), and emergency management stakeholders to plan, prepare for, and manage major emergencies

Equipment needs:

  • Emergency operations centers (EOCs) are used to coordinate information and management during emergencies
  • Integrated communications between response agencies. Radio is often used to maintain communication when other networks are damaged during an emergency
  • Traffic control equipment, including signs and gates, for managing detour routes
  • Emergency notification systems, such as sirens
  • Vehicle location equipment to view the location of all emergency management resources from the EOC
  • Intelligent transportation system (ITS) devices to detect, monitor, and manage the response plan

Maintenance needs:

  • All ITS equipment, roadside signs, and response vehicles need to be maintained to ensure that they are operational

Agency resources needs:

  • Personnel to plan, manage, and recover from the emergency, including staffing the EOC and communicating with the media during the emergency

Learn more about this strategy

Technical Response Planning, Multiple Agency Coordination in Emergency Response

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Best Practices in Emergency Transportation Operations Preparedness and Response 

About key characteristics

Location notes:

Emergency management coordination applies anywhere because a major emergency can affect any location.

Cost notes:

Emergency management coordination requires an operations center, integration between multiple agency dispatch systems, communications to control devices, and real-time information sharing.

Technology notes:

Emergency management coordination leverages many technologies that support normal transportation system management and operations, such as a traffic management center, communications to field devices, and cameras.   

Collaboration notes:

Emergency management relies on collaboration between many agencies involved in and a coordinated response is required to be effective.

Need or issue this strategy addresses