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Incident Management Communications Plan — Level 1 and Level 2 Events

1. Introduction

Many types of incidents can disrupt traffic flow. Crashes, disabled or abandoned vehicles, road debris, work zones, and other emergencies that block portions of the roadway may slow or halt traffic. Incidents can produce far-reaching consequences and have direct effects and indirect effects:

  • Direct effects include fatalities, injuries, and property damage.
  • Indirect effects are secondary events or costs that result from an incident. Examples include delays, productivity losses, higher costs of goods and services, greater fuel consumption, air pollution, and secondary crashes.

KYTC applies incident management principles that maximize safety and minimize indirect effects.

The Incident Management Task Force shapes incident management practices adopted throughout Kentucky. This team operates under the authority of the Governor’s Executive Committee on Highway Safety and includes highway safety professionals from around the state. It provides oversight and direction for Kentucky’s Highway Incident Management Program. The task force works to improve the safety of first responders and motorists and increase travel time reliability by reducing delays.

Because roadways are complex environments, many factors influence incident management. Table 1 lists factors that impact the length of delays produced by an incident. These factors also affect how quickly an incident is resolved and the amount of time needed to resume normal traffic operations. Numbered items are factors that influence how KYTC approaches incident management. Sub-bullets are related issues that are kept in mind when coordinating a response. For example, traffic volumes influence the speed of response, the ability of emergency responders to arrive on site, and the quickness of cleanup operations. Traffic volumes, in turn, fluctuate based on the day of the week and time of day. Understanding the factors listed in Table 1 is critical for effective incident management.

Table 1: Issues Affecting Incident Management


1. Human Impacts

  • Number and type of injuries, fatalities, involvement of emergency responders

2. Maintenance of Traffic Flow

  • Location of the incident, whether detours are necessary

3. Traffic Volumes
  • Time of day, day of week

4. Type of Material Being Cleaned Up
  • Cargo hauled by vehicles involved, collisions with large game

5. Vehicle Removal

  • Condition of damaged vehicles, number of vehicles involved, types of vehicles involved (e.g., personal, commercial), roadway debris

6. Unified Incident Command
  • Ability to make accurate assessments of the incident and needs, availability of local resources, KYTC resources requested, identifying on-scene decision makers

7. Environmental Mitigation

  • Presence of hazardous materials, environmental contaminants (e.g., runoff of gasoline and other chemicals to adjacent watercourses), type of blockage

8. Access to Scene

  • Roadway geometry, number of blocked lanes, nearby construction work zones, location of responders

9. Asset Damage
  • Impacts on bridges and roadways

Equally critical is a sound incident management communications plan that captures the flow of information between KYTC offices, people, and external agencies (i.e., stakeholders). The communications plan described below applies to Level 1 and Level 2 incidents:

  • A Level 1 incident is a significant event that results in a roadway closure and pronounced area-wide congestion.
  • A Level 2 incident is an event that lasts between 30 minutes and 2 hours and causes milder delays.

    2. Communication and Information Flows

    Figure 1 depicts how information typically flows during an incident. Preserving this information flow lets KYTC coordinate a quick and well-organized response. The starting point is the initial call. One of three people generally fields this call: (1) Maintenance Supervisor, (2) Section Engineer, (3) District Incident Management Coordinator. The person who receives the call needs to collect as much information as possible about the incident, including:

    • Location
    • Time of occurrence
    • Number and types of vehicles involved
    • Injuries
    • Length of impacted roadway segments

    Figure 1 KYTC Incident Management Communications Flows

    Information about the incident is then conveyed to the (1) Chief District Engineer, (2) Regional Incident Management Coordinator, and (3) Transportation Operations Center (TOC) in Frankfort. Some incidents that involve commercial vehicles require KYTC to inform the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA). If necessary, the Division of Incident Management is responsible for notifying FMCSA. TOC staff decide whether to notify the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of an incident. FHWA should be alerted only if the incident meets at least one of the criteria listed in Table 2. The TOC Director must be briefed on an incident before contacting FHWA.

    Table 2: Decision Criteria for Contacting

    FHWA (FMCSA if a commercial vehicle is involved)

    1. The incident will be of national interest or garner media coverage.

      2. The incident will disrupt the National Highway System (NHS) for at least 8 hours. Examples:

      • Highways or highway infrastructure closed because of crashes, criminal acts, or unknown causes.
      • Highways or highway infrastructure closed due to natural hazards (e.g., flooding, wildfire, earthquake).
        • For winter weather, only report interstate closures.
        • If closures result from incidents that affect multiple locations, list impacted roads by jurisdiction.
        • The adoption of contraflow lane reversal for evacuations.

        3. The incident damages bridge infrastructure. This includes:

        • Any bridge failure that results in at least two fatalities.
        • Damage or failure of an NHS bridge that reduces its capacity for at least 8 hours.

        4. Any of the following incident types (regardless of the incident’s duration or cause):

        • Crashes that result in 6 or more fatalities.
        • Crashes that involve 10 or more vehicles.
        • A commercial vehicle crash that results in at least two fatalities or garners statewide media attention.
        • Highway fatalities directly related to a natural disaster.
        • A school bus crash that results in serious injuries/fatalities or garners statewide media attention.
        • A passenger bus crash that results in two or more fatalities, five or more severe injuries, or garners statewide media attention.

        5. The incident seriously injures or results in the death of a significant public figure (e.g., a member of Congress, a senior member of the Executive branch, or a military official).

        6. A cyber incident that disrupts FHWA Division Office activities and/or State DOT activities. Examples:


        • Closure of TOC or administrative offices.
        • Disruption of automated traffic control devices or other automated infrastructure.

        Table 3 lists information about an incident KYTC must provide to FHWA. KYTC’s Office of Public Affairs should be notified of events reported to FHWA as it may need to issue press releases.

        Table 3 Incident Data Reported to FHWA
        Information Data
        KYTC source
        • Phone number and contact information
        Incident description
        • Type of Incident
        • Location
        • Time of Incident
        • Cause(s)
        • Number of injuries
        • Number of deaths
        • Description of infrastructure damage
        • Planned repairs
        • Estimated completion date of repairs
        Road closures
        • Description of closures
        • Type, location, and length of detours
        • Estimated re-opening date

        Knowledge of an incident flows from District Support/Management to the internal KYTC partners listed in the upper-right corner of Figure 1. The following information must be communicated to these partners:

        • District
        • County
        • Route and Road Name
        • Beginning Milepoint
        • Reported Milepoint
        • Ending Milepoint
        • Direction of Travel
        • Report Type (e.g., crash, debris, flooding, facility damage, roadway damage)
        • Duration
        • Additional Comments (e.g., Involvement of KYTC staff or equipment)

        This information should also be communicated to public-facing media outlets such as local television and radio stations, KYTC’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and GoKY. TOC posts information about incidents on GoKY. District Incident Management Coordinators submit information to television and radio stations and post notifications on social media accounts.

        All communication should occur via phone and instant messaging. If possible, send information to stakeholders in multiple formats.

        If infrastructure is damaged, send information on the damage to relevant KYTC branches or divisions at the District and Central Office levels. For example, contact the Bridge Maintenance/Preservation Branch if a bridge is damaged. The District Incident Management Coordinator notifies relevant branch personnel at the District level. The TOC informs branch personnel located in the Central Office.

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