Keeping you safe - Iowa’s traffic incident management community gathers to learn from each other
You may have heard it said that heroes are the ones who run toward danger instead of away from it. In Iowa, we’re very lucky to have a group of these heroes in the form of responders who work together to get emergencies on the road under control quickly and clear the way as soon as possible for travelers. Their actions save lives. Recently, a group of those heroes gathered in Ames for the 2022 Traffic Incident Management Conference to learn more about how working together at a crash scene can keep everyone safer.
Having responders trained in best practices when dealing with a crash scene is critical for your safety. With a wide variety of responders at the scene including towing companies, emergency medical services, law enforcement, city fire crews, and state and local maintenance teams, consistent training across all disciplines is vital. All conference attendees are encouraged to take standardized traffic incident management training developed by the Federal Highway Administration. That provides a consistent base for attendees to discuss how better to work together.
The message of this training is clear, by working together, well-trained safety professionals can treat and transport those who are injured, investigate the crash, and get the highway reopened to traffic as quickly as possible. But it only works well when all entities are on the same page.
Timing the arrival of various crews including emergency medical services, fire, maintenance, towing, and the medical examiner, is a balance. Having only the necessary equipment on the scene when it is needed helps reduce congestion and helps responders to get the roadway open more quickly. The way emergency vehicles are positioned on-scene also has a huge impact on the safety of those covering the incident if there is still traffic moving in another lane.
“Iowa’s first responder community is really coming together to train and find best practices for dealing with highway incidents,“ said Andrew Lewis, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Traffic Operations Bureau. “In addition to training sessions all over the state, we have quarterly meetings with these groups. This annual workshop is where we can have open and honest conversations about what is working and what we need to improve.”
There’s a lot that goes into training our highway heroes that you may have never thought about. Here are some of the topics covered during this year’s conference:
- Using software to help agencies coordinate daily activities and emergency events.
- How drones can be used to investigate crashes or help better manage an incident.
- How the Iowa DOT’s Traffic Management Center assists first responders.
- The success of the Highway Helper program in keeping traffic flowing.
- Best practices in dealing with crashes that involve livestock.
- Challenges faced by towers.
- Comparing experiences with similar partners from other states.
Even heroes suffer impacts from their jobs
Every time a crash occurs on our roads, there is potential for it to take an emotional toll on the people that respond. A session at the conference discussed the Iowa DOT’s Shawn Havick Memorial Response Program which teaches the need to recognize the toll being a responder can take and how we can better support the emotional well-being of our first responders.
Another session covered procedures to remove those who didn’t survive a crash. This can not only be very traumatic for responders, but the protocols in place to assure the safe and dignified removal of that person can also delay the reopening of the road. The longer there is a shutdown of a road or a lane of traffic, the higher the likelihood of a secondary crash, a crash that happens in the general area of the initial crash. These secondary crashes can often be more serious than the first one.
The conference sessions were not only educational but the in-person conference allowed for face-to-face interactions between people from various agencies. Andrew Lewis, director of the Iowa DOT’s Traffic Operations Bureau led the conference planning team and said, “We were extremely pleased with the turnout and the level of interaction with this group. We all have a lot we can learn from each other and this was just one forum to get those lines of communication opened up between different groups.”
To find out more about Traffic Incident Management in Iowa, go to https://iowadot.gov/tim/Traffic-Incident-Management-Home