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3.2.3 Good practices in disasters for continued road operation

1. General

The road network is one of the key factors in modern societies, both in economic and social terms. Road operation is primarily dependent on infrastructure. Risks to road network infrastructure and to associated control and information systems can occur in a variety of ways, either intentionally or accidentally as a result of various events. These emergency situations can be categorized into:

  • Internal emergencies that consist of traffic-related accidents that impact the road network infrastructure and can result in material damage, injuries or deaths. These can limit or prevent the use of the infrastructure for a limited time, do not usually significantly impact the functionality of the road transport system, and can be resolved by standard procedures (e.g. detours, alternative transport, etc.).
  • External emergencies that consist of emergency events that do not directly arise from traffic flow such as natural disasters, terrorism, subversive activities and other incidents related to road infrastructure (i.e. tunnels, bridges, etc.). These can potentially result in the loss of the road transport infrastructure with major implications to the basic transport services and the state’s economy. Their implications may be of local, regional or even national nature.

To optimize the preparedness, response and recovery of the road transport sector to emergency situations, cooperation with organizations at all levels (local, regional and national) and with operators of critical infrastructure is needed so as to ensure appropriate integration of these entities to emergency management.

This section includes a comparison study of Emergency Management Manuals and Business Continuity Plans for pre- and post-emergency principles, practices and actions related to road network in six countries – Australia, Canada (Québec), United States of America, Japan, Romania and New Zealand. Good practices for the different stages of the emergency management procedure are then summarized.

2. Comparison study of emergency management manuals and business continuity plans

Each country has their own detailed approach to emergency situations, however, they all follow a consistent high-level process based on three key functions.

  • Prepare
  • Respond
  • Recover

This can be further broken down into a number of key phases as shown in Figure 3.2.3.

Figure 3.2.3. Key phases in emergency management

The following sections provide a summary of each countries emergency response processes in terms of pre- and post-emergency. This is followed by a summary of ‘best practice’ based on the existing processes and experience from the six countries reviewed as part of this report.

1) Australia (New South Wales) 1

In New South Wales the emergency management best practice is based on the following principles:

  • use local capacity first
  • formalize structures where needed
  • involve local government
  • instigate support from higher levels when needed
  • ascertain that local structures remain responsible
  • apply ‘whole of community’ approach

Pre-Emergency Event

In planning for a recovery, New South Wales continuously gather information about resources and equipment in order to establish logistics planning for the community at a local level. This means monitoring and intelligence gathering of information about supply chains, suitable locations, assets and resources. Evaluation and impact assessments carried out during and immediately after disaster event occurrence is especially valued in establishing the risk management plan for the area.

Building on this risk management plan there should also be a recovery plan identifying local recovery management structures, actions, roles and responsibilities, and be consistent with relevant State level plans. For an effective recovery these planning and managing arrangements must be accepted and understood by recovery agencies and the community. Emergency Management Committees at all levels are responsible for recovery planning.

These management arrangements call on several personnel depending on the need including:

  • Delegated State Emergency Operations Controller (SEOCON)
  • Recovery Coordinator responsible for ensuring a further impact assessment is conducted.
  • Recovery Committee, the strategic decision-making body for the recovery.

Post-Emergency Event

Following a major emergency or natural disaster the best practice is for the initial impact assessment to be carried out within 24 hours. This assessment and recovery plan work together to set out the detailed action plan that will proceed.

The initial impact assessment defines the extent of damage, impact on the community and the potential need for a longer-term recovery process to take place. A delegated State Emergency Operations Controller (SEOCON) initiates this and the assessment is carried out with the assistance of combat agencies, functional areas and local government. The main duties of the combat agency will be the response operations, however New South Wales best practice emphasizes the importance of the early impact assessment info to be gathered and relayed to decide whether the damage can be managed locally in the short-term as part of the operational response, or requires more formal recovery arrangements.

Where the response operation and initial impact assessment has concluded that a more formal recovery arrangement is needed two things happen:

  • Appointment of a Recovery Coordinator who ensures further recovery impact assessment is carried out by the SEOCON.
  • Formation of Recovery Committee(s). These are formed at either the local or regional level depending on whether the impact is local or across several local government areas.

A State Emergency Recovery Controller (SERCON) consults with the SEOCON and a recovery Centre is established as a one-stop shop providing a single point of contact for information and assistance to disaster affected persons.

The function of the Recovery Committee is to strategically coordinate the recovery. Locally the committee is made up of Local Emergency Operations Controllers (LEOCONs) and the early meetings will be attended by the combat agency and the LEOCON to provide an overview of the situation. In the case of a regional recovery committee the effected Regional Emergency Operations Controller (REOCON) will meet to establish the composition of the Regional Committee.

2) Canada (Québec) 2

Pre-Emergency Event

The Canada Transport Agency has an Emergency Preparedness branch within their organization to:

  • Work with other departments, agencies and the transportation industry to maintain the best possible transportation system for Canada and Canadians in all incidents, emergencies and crises.
  • Plan, train and exercise for, and respond to, all emergencies that affect and/or require the support of any part of the national transportation system.

In addition to this, in 1986 Canada and the United States re-formalized their history of emergency cooperation with the signing of The Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States on Co-Operation in Comprehensive Civil Emergency Planning and Management. This agreement revolves around 10 principles of co-operation, which are to guide coordinated efforts in emergency preparedness.

Emergency Preparedness Branch

The department plays a part in the following areas of emergency response: planning, exercise, training and response.

  • Planning: The Planning group develops and coordinates departmental, national and international emergency/contingency plans related to transportation. To ensure appropriate planning, requirements are reflected in the national and international plans and provided that all support functions are accurate, staff works closely with:
    • Transport Canada (TC) modal (Rail, Marine, Civil Aviation, etc.) and functional experts
    • Other government departments
    • The private sector
    • United States (US) counterparts
    • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
  • Exercises: The Branch coordinates, on behalf of the Minister of Transport, the development and delivery of Transport Canada's Emergency Preparedness Exercises - a very important part of Transport Canada's Emergency Preparedness program. These exercises test emergency and business continuity plans, facilities and equipment as well as train departmental employees. All relevant agencies and stakeholders participate as required in exercises, which can be departmental, regional, national or international in scope.
  • Training: As part of the mandate and Emergency Preparedness strategy, a national Emergency Preparedness Course is being provided to all Transport Canada (TC) employees involved in Departmental response to emergency. This course is supported by a simulation exercise.
  • Response: Transport Canada must be ready to respond to any situation that disrupts the national or regional transportation system. The Situation Centres (TCSCs) are the focal points for TC response. They do not manage the site of a disaster, analyze the cause of the problem or attempt to prevent problems from occurring. They do provide related information to:
    • Senior management;
    • Other departments and agencies;
    • Other countries; and
    • NATO

Post-Emergency Event

Same as with United States of America (USA), Canada deploys Transport Management Centres (TMC), which play an essential role in the response and recovery phase of an emergency. TMC participation in the National Response Framework and National Incident Management System (NRF and NIMS) frameworks are key to effective working relationships during recovery. Their roles extend to:

  • Traffic incidents (minor and large scale)
  • Large scale emergencies
  • Planned special events

During an emergency or event, the TMC serves as a Transportation Department Operations Centre (TOC). It can be collocated with a state or county Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), which allows for close coordination between the Department of Transportation (DOT) and their counterparts in emergency response. It also allows the quick deployment of TMC resources for emergency response activities.

However, in an incident that spans multiple counties and even states, coordination among EOCs can become challenging. In at least one region, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is establishing procedures to aid communication and coordination among EOCs in an emergency.

3) United States of America (USA) 34

The USA National framework for emergency response and recovery emphasizes that response to incidents should be handled at the lowest jurisdiction level capable for handling the works. The best practice model looks at all three phases of emergency response and recovery being:

  • Preparedness
  • Response
  • Recovery

The framework works to strengthen, organize and coordinate response actions across all levels based on the principle: “Mastery of these key tasks supports unity of effort, and thus improve our ability to save lives, protect property and the environment, and meet basic human needs”.

Pre-Emergency Event

This section of the national framework is focused on capability building. In terms of the transportation sector best practice is divided into interagency communication and cooperation; emergency operations; equipment; ITS; mutual aid; threat notification, awareness, and information sharing; and policy.

In terms of coordination, the state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and major transit agencies typically participate or take a lead role in the coordination efforts with state-level homeland security offices and state and local emergency management agencies (e.g. emergency and evacuation planning, multi-agency notification procedures, public information coordination). For regions encompassing several states Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) take the lead role.

Post-Emergency Event

Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) practices differ between regions. Those identified as beneficial include:

  • Virtual Emergency Operations Center
  • EOC Monitoring of Radio Transmissions
  • Response Information Management System (RIMS)
  • State Liaisons to Local EOCs
  • Utility Liaisons to EOC
  • Railroad Representatives Identified to Participate in EOC Operations
  • Transfer of Dispatching Functions
  • Incident Response Protocols

4) Japan 5

Japan is very much exposed to natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Disaster risk reduction is covered in the budget of national and local governments. At the national level, the annual budget for disaster risk reduction is approximately $ 11 billion, which is about 1% of the total general-account budget expenditure (year 2010).

Cooperation and coordination among disaster response organizations are seen to be essential in emergency response and recovery. However, even in Japan, only highway companies or local road authorities that have suffered large-scale disaster actively worked on making such emergency agreements with other organizations. Japan has seen success on these collaboration agreements both planned and spontaneous and has based their best practice of emergency response and recovery as well as BCP on these case studies.

Pre-Emergency Event

What stands out the most for Japan’s Best Practice for emergency response and recovery is their collaboration agreements that extend beyond emergency response type activities with frequent workshops and emergency drills. This makes implementation of the collaboration much smoother in an emergency as collaboration becomes business as usual.

Collaboration Agreement features:

  • Not limited to road-related authorities
  • Spread widely to other organizations, governmental and private (e.g. with construction contractors and local residents in the area)
  • Expansion of the area of collaboration

Collaboration Activities:

  • Designation of BCP personnel
  • Pre-determination of the decision hierarchy in emergency
  • Checking of communication and office resources
  • Availability of emergency equipment
  • Building a cooperative relation with related companies and the agency in disaster in advance
  • BCP drills
  • Promotion of tourism and use of highway
  • Promotion of special local product sales at highway service area
  • Environmental measures
  • Provision of mutual technical support

Post-Emergency Event

Recovery measures are aimed at the early restoration of road services after the disaster. The best practice is to have had time-series response plans already planned out and preferably undergone drills. The targeted time of each action should be reflective of the priorities being rescue followed by provision of emergency escape routes and network restoration.

5) Romania 6

The responsibility for managing emergency situations belongs to different organizations depending on the type of road:

  • National Roads – Romanian National Company of Motorways and National Roads at a central level, and the Regional Divisions of Roads and Bridges at the territorial level
  • County Roads – County Council
  • Communal Roads – Village Halls
  • Private or Vicinal Roads – owners

Permanent and Temporary Activity Operational Units are set up by the responsible organizations. These Activity Operational Units approve decisions during emergency situations relating to the road networks.

Pre-Emergency Event

The Permanent Activity Operational Unit has specialized staff to manage risks. The size of the unit depends on the nature, frequency and severity of major risks.

Pre-emergency, the permanent activity operational unit is responsible for risk management:

  • On-going control and coordination of risk management
  • Establishment of risk management and emergency operation strategies for the short, medium and long term
  • Organization of annual inspections for roads and structures damaged by floods

It is a requirement that flood management plans are in place for those roads likely to be affected. These should cover protection, prevention and intervention. Plans for flood management must:

  • Be updated every 4 years
  • Include organizational charts, contact details, decision processes and information management
  • List all affected assets and the tools necessary for intervention

Intervention stocks are required close to the areas likely to be affected. These are to be maintained and remain available in case of an event.

Thresholds are to be set for intervention, and plans are followed if threshold reached:

  • Case of Attention – signifies a special situation.
  • State of Alarm – when a situation is evolving that may lead to a particular hazard
  • State of Danger – when danger is imminent and it is necessary to undertake action

Post-Emergency Event

Post-emergency, the permanent activity operational unit is responsible for:

  • Guidance and control during emergency situations
    • Organizes the temporary activity organizational unit
    • Provides of technical assistance and expert advice
    • Participates in the assessment of damage to the network
    • Ensures collaboration between affected agencies
    • Implements strategies during emergency events
  • Management of communications and data
    • Produces daily operations reports
    • Manages all communications with the media and public
    • Manages all data and information in emergency events.

Temporary Activity Operational Units are organized by the responsible organization and are only active during a time of emergency. This operational unit reports to the permanent operational unit.

The Temporary Activity Operational Unit is set up to provide information on:

  • The state of roads and assets damaged and proposals for remediation
  • Cooperation diagrams outlining the coordination required between organizations
  • Agreements with other groups/agencies regarding risk management
  • Intervention stocks available and address damage.

6) New Zealand 78

The Civil Defense Emergency Management (CDEM) Act 2002 is intended to improve and promote the sustainable management of hazards. This relates to hazards that may impact on the social, economic, cultural, and environmental well-being and safety of the public, and property. The purpose of the act is to:

  • Encourage and enable communities to achieve acceptable levels of risk – identifying, assessing and managing risks, consulting and communicating about risks, identifying and implementing cost effective risk reduction, monitoring and reviewing the process.
  • Provide for planning and preparation for emergencies and for response and recovery in the event of an emergency.
  • Require authorities to co-ordinate through regional groups, planning, programmes and activities related to civil defense emergency management across the areas of reduction, readiness, response and recovery and encourage cooperation and joint action within those regional groups.
  • Provide a basis for the integration of national and local civil defense emergency management planning and activity through alignment of local planning with a national strategy and national plan.
  • Encourage the coordination of emergency management, planning, and activities related to civil defense emergency management across the wide range of agencies and organizations preventing or managing emergencies under this act.

Each region is required to set up a CDEM group which brings together local authorities and emergency services in order to deliver the requirements of the CDEM.

Lifeline utilities are essential infrastructure services to the community. Identified lifeline utilities are required to have planning in place to enable the continuation of service in an emergency.

  • Every lifeline utility must ensure it is able to function to fullest possible extent, even if at reduced level, during and after an emergency.
  • Lifeline utilities must contribute to rapid damage assessments, report likely recovery times, and implement a process for setting regional infrastructure recovery priorities
  • Response – during emergencies lifeline utilities are expected to establish contact and provide information on the status of their network to the CDEM Group.
  • Recovery – lifeline utilities should communicate restoration and recovery plans and priorities through lifeline utility coordinators to CDEM Group Recovery Management. Lifeline utilities are expected to implement recovery strategies and decisions with regard to CDEM Group recovery plans.

Pre-Emergency Event

The CDEM 2002 Act defines two distinct aspects in terms of emergency readiness:

  • Organisational readiness – the readiness of emergency services, local authorities, health services, etc. to respond.
  • Community readiness – the ability of communities, families and individuals to be able to meet their own needs during and after emergencies.

The incident response section in the specification for maintenance contracts sets out a minimal level of service for responding to incidents on the network. This ensures that maintenance contractors are prepared and ready to respond. The contractor must be prepared to:

  • Respond to all incidents within specified times.
  • Make the network safe to all road users during an emergency event.
  • Undertake emergency patrols during periods when damage to the network is expected, or the safety or availability of the network may be compromised.
  • Undertake emergency work to re-establish safe access for all normal network users, at least to single lane status.
  • Provide sufficient personal and resources to manage road closures.

Post-Emergency Event

Agencies are required to respond to emergency events by activating their own plans and coordinating their activities with other agencies:

  • Within constraints – assess impact of an event on own staff, assets and services, activate continuity and emergency arrangements, maintain and restore the services it provides, communicate with lead agencies other responders and the public, align responses with other agencies to avoid gaps/duplications.
  • Assess the effects of an event on the community, coordinate the local efforts of their agency and communicate assessments and actions with the appropriate lead agency.

Emergency Response Objectives include:

  • Preservation of life
  • Prevention of the escalation of the emergency
  • Maintenance of law and order
  • Care of sick, injured and dependent people
  • Provision of essential services (lifelines, food, shelter, public information)
  • Preservation of governance
  • Asset protection
  • Protection of natural and physical resources
  • Preservation of economic activity

Transition from response to recovery:

  • Recovery begins on day one of an emergency
  • Recovery arrangements should be established, and information received about the response is used as a basis for planning recovery
  • As the response concludes, a careful transition to recovery must be managed, possibly staged and variable across regions/areas
  • Transition from a state of emergency to be discussed and agreed between local, group and national controllers
  • Principal aspects of transition are:
    • A recovery action plan, which will be prepared in association with the affected groups and in consultation with the recovery task groups. This is developed to document the actions to be taken to facilitate recovery and to recognize welfare arrangements from the response stage.
    • Development of a communication plan.
  • Response transition report – contains the response action plan, nature and state of assigned resource, summary of condition of various aspects of the community affected, summary of damage, forecast of the expected recovery outcomes and proposals for activities to be continued in the recovery phase.
  • Communications and public information functions transferred to the national recovery office
  • Media briefing
  • Implementation of recovery activity
    • Each CDEM Group is to advise director of CDEM of the likelihood of the need for government coordination and assistance
    • Director of CDEM is to advise minister of civil defence. Development of recovery action plan begins while the response to an emergency is still underway
    • Director or representative to visit area affected
  • Exit strategy
  • Should include assistance required in long term
  • A transition to business as usual to manage long term recovery
  • Planning and reporting in long term
  • Management of public information and communications
  • Opportunities for communities to discuss unresolved issues and to continue to participate in recovery
  • Changes to organisational arrangements
  • Debriefing and reviewing

3. Good practices for road operation during emergency situations

Using the high-level approach to emergency response and recovery as established under section above (Preparedness, Response, Recovery) and the six examples of best practice emergency response and recovery of the road network in Australia, Canada (Quebec), United States of America, Romania and New Zealand, the following section provides a summary of key themes from those countries that define ‘best or practice’.


  • Individual Organizations

It is important that every Utility and Road Controlling Authority develops their own BCP for their organization. A key part of the process when developing a Business Continuity Plan is to undertake a risk analysis to establish what the key lifeline routes/utilities are so that an appropriate management plan can be developed for each of these and be communicated to other key organizations and the community.

It is also good practice during the planning phase to establish collaborations and supplier agreements to ensure resourcing, plant, response times, responsibilities and accountabilities and payment terms are agreed prior to any emergency event.

If an organization is both national and local/regional then development of a two part (or two separate) Business Continuity Plans is common practice. The detail provided within a local or regional plan will be different to what is required in a national plan.

  • Combined Organizations

Once individual Organizations have prepared their own Business Continuity Plans, it is common practice in a number of countries to establish some form of ‘Civil Defense Emergency Management Group (CDEG)’ or ‘Lifelines Group’. The purpose of these groups is to bring together Local Councils, Road Controlling Authorities and other Utility and lifeline Authorities so a coordinated national and local approach to emergency management planning is undertaken.

The CDEG groups can also form the single point of coordination and communication during an emergency, which is a critical function for the successful management and recovery following an event, although some countries establish a separate group to perform this function.

The CDEM groups focus should as a minimum cover:

  • Supporting the development of individual lifeline Business Continuity Plans
  • Facilitating communication between authorities
  • Coordinating regional lifeline inputs into National and Federal planning
  • Promoting research and knowledge transfer
  • Developing best practice
  • Coordination of BCP’s between lifeline authorities
  • Pre-event planning including development of regional specific plans that require multi-agency input
  • Pre-event training
  • Emergency management and coordination during an event (optional)
  • Training

A key component of being prepared for an event is ensuring regular training and emergency management simulations are undertaken with key response staff, both within individual organizations and across multiple organizations.

All countries with advanced procedures for emergency management and recovery have developed appropriate training programmes to ensure organizations are ready and well equipped to respond to an emergency.

A key aspect to all these training programmes is ensuring that an appropriate lessons-learnt process is undertaken after each training programme and implementation of business improvements is completed and audited.

Simulation drills and training should be real as possible, undertaken regularly and involve all people from workers on the road to senior management, wherever possible.


In the immediate aftermath of an emergency event there are some key processes that need to be undertaken that are consistent across all countries Business Continuity Plans. These are:

  • Establishing a central point for coordination and communication across all lifeline organizations during the emergency.
  • Undertaking an initial impact assessment as soon as possible in the aftermath of an event to establish the extent and impact on the road network and surrounding community. How and who undertakes this assessment needs to be pre-planned and included in response plans.
  • Action pre-developed recovery plans and resources to respond accordingly. These plans should be focused on:
    • Opening Lifeline routes to allow people into and out of the emergency zone.
    • Preservation of life
    • Care of the sick, injured and dependent
    • Prevention of the escalation of the emergency
    • Asset protection.

It is best practice for these plans to be “time series’ plans which change as the emergency develops. It is also common for new response plans to be developed during an event due to the developing and changing nature of an event. Ensuring appropriate resources are in place to develop and action the recovery plans is critical.

Communication with the road users advising them of road conditions is very important – Best Practice for this is discussed under section 3.2.2 above.


There were three key themes that came from the Business Continuity Plans regarding full recovery of the transport network following an emergency event. These are:

  1. Everyone should be focused on transitioning from the ‘emergency response’ phase (discussed above) to the recovery phase as quickly as possible, however not before the 5 key areas referred to above have been completed:
    - Opening key Lifeline routes
    - Preservation of life
    - Care of the sick, injured and dependent
    - Prevention of the escalation of the emergency
    - Asset protection.
  2. Recovery is best managed by the people closest to the affected area. All countries with advanced emergency response plans recommended that recovery management be done by local teams and resources where appropriate. Depending on the scale of the event may mean additional resources do need to be used, but this shouldn’t be the first response.
  3. Collaboration with suppliers, other Road Controlling Authorities and Utility Operators is just as critical in the recovery phase as it is in the response phase. Countries that have existing collaborative arrangements in place prior to an event are able to transition to full recovery quicker than countries that don’t have these relationships in place prior to an event. Where possible these collaborations should be formalized and be clear about resourcing, plant and programme expectations.
  • 1.2012. Ministry for Police and Emergency Services. New South Wales State Emergency Management Plan, December.
  • 2.2006. U.S. Department of Transportation. Best Practices in Emergency Transportation Operations Preparedness and Response Results of the FHWA Workshop Series ANNOTATED, Federal Highway Administration. December.
  • 3. 2012. U.S. Department of Transportation. Roles of Transportation Management Centres in Emergency Operations Guidebook, Federal Highway Administration. October
  • 4.2003. Transportation Research Board. NCHRP Synthesis 318 Safe and Quick Clearance of Traffic Incidents, Washington D.C.
  • 5.2012. World Road Association. Managing Operational Risk in Road Operations, PIARC Technical Committee C3 Report. A-5 Example 1 BCP for Highway operation- A case study for Hanshin Expressway-Japan, Managing Operational Risk in Road Organisation.
  • 6.2010. Romanian National Company of Motorways and National Roads NORM Regarding the National Management System for Emergency Situations on Public Roads.
  • 7.2006. N.Z. Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Management. The Guide to the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act, July 1 (Revised June 2009).
  • 8.2005. N.Z. Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Plan, Civil Defense Publication 2005/01, ISSN 1175 8902. May.
Reference sources

No reference sources found.