Traffic Incident Management: One Department`s Success in Building Response Relationships

A vehicle accident has occurred on a major interstate in a metropolitan locality. Frantic witnesses are bombarding the emergency communications center with multiple 9-1-1 calls. It quickly becomes apparent that the accident involves several vehicles, including a heavily loaded tractor-trailer. As the calls flood in, traffic begins to back up, increasing the chances of secondary crashes and raising the threat of harm to civilians and first responders.

Responding to tractor-trailer hanging from overpass.Two engine companies, a special-services unit and a medic unit are dispatched. On arrival, the initial incident commander advises of multiple victims, with a tractor-trailer hanging from an overpass. Additional resources are requested, including the request for a rotator from a local towing and recovery company.

Does your locality have the resources needed to complete a critical lift in an efficient manner? Do you know what capable resources are available in your locality or region?

Problem Identification

The Henrico County (Va.) Division of Fire identified a resource need during several incidents and regional technical rescue training exercises. When you need a critical-lift resource, what are the closest qualified resources available to you through public/private partnerships?

Resource Development

Lifting car from water.The Henrico Fire Technical Rescue Team had established relationships with local towing recovery companies that were involved in setting up props during training activities. Several of these companies delivered heavy vehicles to training sites, completed the movement of concrete construction components and helped develop a technical-rescue training site.

These qualified recovery specialists had received towing industry-recognized training, such as certifications available from Towing & Recovery Association of America (TRAA), for performing rescue-related tasks in support of public-safety agencies. It was determined that these resources must be identified for emergency response in support of heavy-vehicle extrications, hazmat incidents and technical-rescue responses.

Capability Assessment

The first step in developing this response partnership was to identify the resources present in our region. A command officer was assigned to research local recovery association memberships, business licensure and local business listings. A request was sent to appropriate local recovery businesses, requesting a list of their heavy-lift resources. This data was compiled based on capability and location.

The next step was a capability assessment. The identified recovery companies were invited to a demonstration at the Henrico Fire Training Facility. Each company was asked to submit training records, hazmat certifications and any other relevant certifications. The goal was to identify companies that maintained this capability in a consistent manner.

The recovery companies were then allowed to demonstrate their capabilities at an exercise developed by Henrico Fire's Technical Rescue Team. These events included moving heavy vehicles, a large piece of construction equipment and an unusual lift involving a heavy concrete-construction component.

Those companies that participated weren't issued any certification from Henrico Fire. The assessment was simply a method to determine a company's ability to meet local response needs.

GIS map: recovery companies identified in GIS layers.Those that completed the assessment were placed on Henrico Emergency Communications Center's resource list in the Henrico County Emergency Operations Plan and added as a layer in the Henrico GIS mapping system that responders in the field use. The GIS application allows a responder in the field to immediately determine the closest resource for response needs.

Joint Training

The Henrico Division of Fire now regularly trains with our local recovery partners. This includes heavy extrication and critical-lift training with our technical-rescue team, hazmat-response training related to transportation incidents and practical exercise participation within our region. Henrico Fire provides support where possible through traffic-incident management and incident-command system training delivery. These partners also participate in after action reviews following a significant incident.


Securing tractor-trailer hanging from overpass.The incident above occurred on Interstate 295 in central Virginia. The need for a rotator was immediately recognized by the emergency communications officer. A request was made to the closest identified resource and law enforcement helped to get the resource to the limited-access incident site.

The recovery specialist was integrated into the incident command structure on arrival. The heavy lift-capable rotator was used during the extrication to help successfully remove the patient from the tractor-trailer. The patient was then transported to a local trauma center for treatment.

This successful response was only possible due to preexisting relationships, assessed capabilities and the collaboration during training that has taken place in this partnership.

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