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Exploring "Living in the Line of Duty"

An article exploring Traffic Incident Management (TIM), "Living in the Line of Duty," was recently published in the July/August 2014 edition of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Public Roads Research Newsletter. That article was written by Dennis L. Rubin and Kimberly C. Vásconez, who represented the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association as onsite fire technical expert, a professional emergency manager who serves as the team leader of Traffic Incident and Events Management and director of the TIM program in FHWA’s Office of Operations.

In "Living in the Line of Duty," the authors, Chief Dennis Rubin and Kimberly Vásconez, discuss the challenges faced by TIM. For example, each year about 5 firefighters, 12 law-enforcement officers and more than 60 employees of state departments of transportation lose their lives in the line of duty while responding to incidents along U.S. highways.

"Deaths of firefighters and other public safety responders, along with an unknown number of injuries and near-miss incidents, occur on all types of roadways, making safety an essential mission for all public highway officials," according to Rubin and Vásconez.

"The second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) underscored the importance of how public-safety responders plan for and respond to vehicle crashes. As a result, the Federal Highway Administration enhanced a Traffic Incident Management (TIM) program to coordinate development and dissemination of information to help state and local officials detect, respond to, and remove traffic incidents and restore traffic capacity as safely and quickly as possible."

In the article, Tommy Hicks, IAFC chief programs and technology officer and assistant executive director, noted that the IAFC recently demonstrated to the leadership of the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Transportation Operations a prototype database of voluntary reports on near-miss incidents submitted by firefighters and other responders. The IAFC Near-Miss project database was developed with seed money from the Department of Homeland Security. He said it will have applications in the area of TIM and will be useful to all TIM partners, whether fire or law enforcement, transportation or towing.

"A lesson learned that is not acted on will become an error [that] nobody learns about; therefore, the goal of a national near-miss reporting system is turning lessons learned into lessons applied," Hick said. "Reporting is a voluntary and anonymous process. Those who share their near-miss experiences can do so with absolutely no fear of repercussions from their superiors and know that many others will learn from what they've experienced."

Other practitioners contributed to this article, including Tim Taylor, retired battalion chief of Prince William County (Va.) Department of Fire & Rescue, and various representatives from FHWA, the American Association of State Highway Officials, the Hampton Roads Fire Safety Officials Committee of Virginia and the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association. This important article is available on the IAFC/FHWA TIM website. For more information on the Near Miss Program, contact Laura Bell.

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