The National Academies

TCRP A-36 [Completed]

Command-Level Decision Making for Transportation Emergency Managers

  Project Data
Funds: $1,060,548
(includes $24,958 from ACRP, $589,762 from TCRP, and $445,827 from NCHRP)
Research Agency: Engineering and Computer Simulations
Principal Investigator: Mr. Richard Madrid, Mr. Eglin V. Ayson & Co-PI Mr. George Whitney
Effective Date: 11/1/2010
Completion Date: 6/30/2021

Command-level decision making is a critical factor in successfully managing and mitigating critical incidents.  Incident training for transit emergency response personnel is currently conducted manually. A significant number of individuals (including command-level senior staff) and commitment of time are needed to exercise and train for specific scenarios. At many transit agencies, emergency response and recovery training is conducted one time each year, with varying quality, thereby limiting the opportunities that command-level senior staff have to improve their incident management skills. Simulation provides a safe and realistic environment in which responders can hone their decision-making skills. Research has shown that responders (including command-level staff) who have more experience with critical incidents are more likely to make more “workable,” “timely,” and “cost-effective” decisions.  By increasing the effectiveness of training, transit agencies will be better prepared to manage critical incidents. The National Guard Bureau and the TRB Cooperative Research Programs have sponsored development of training simulation scenarios and no-license-fee systems on which to deploy them (see Special Note A). Research is needed to develop additional scenarios specifically for the transit industry, which would supplement discussion and operations-based exercises as a means to simulate, train, and assess critical incident decision making reflecting real-world constraints. To do so, the scenarios and the system they are deployed on must be affordable, cost-effective, easy to setup and use, have readily available support, provide a measured assessment, and allow participants to exercise the resources and policies they use currently in response to emergencies.
The objective of the research is to develop a scenario-based training system compliant with federal standards (e.g., the National Incident Management System and the Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program) and relevant transit industry standards and regulations. It is anticipated that the training system will be delivered through an automated, functional exercise simulation system capable of providing on-demand emergency response training and exercises. It is anticipated that the training system will operate either on an existing platform (e.g., NGB EMST, ACRP AEROS/TUFD) or an alternate system with substantially similar key functions and attributes (see Special Note A).The system should accommodate individual training, team training, and multi-agency training within one framework. It should also address novice, intermediate, and expert levels of learning and provide foundational concepts in a knowledge-level system for prerequisite study prior to team exercises, thus moving the learner from novice to expert. The system must be cost free to the end-user, scalable, easy to setup and use, have readily available support, provide a measured assessment, and allow participants to exercise the resources and policies they use currently in response to emergencies. The system should also allow a transit agency/property to customize training and exercises reflecting particular staffing and geographic characteristics.  The system must be configured to protect security sensitive information; it should present training and exercise options; and it should be able to track the progress of individual employees and teams in meeting training requirements.  
Phase I
(1).  Analyze and describe emergency response training needs for transit agency management and supervisory level staff, including (a) training needs associated with assessing critical incident decision making under real-world constraints and (b) needs for NIMS compliance. (2).  For transit agency staff positions (command and general staff under the Incident Command System) identified in Task 1, identify prerequisites (e.g., prior training and familiarity with specific documents and definitions) for using the scenario-based training system that will be developed in Phases II and III.  See Special Note B.  (3).  Based on Tasks 1 and 2, identify appropriate learning objectives to be addressed through application of the scenario-based training system.  For the identified learning objectives, describe how the scenario-based training system will provide monitoring, evaluation, and feedback to users and training administrators.(4).  Develop an outline for the scenario-based training system for use in simulations ranging from 2 to 48 hours of play, with opportunities for all player roles (potentially 100+ roles). The scenario-based training system will provide transit-specific scenarios.  The outline should cover the potential events and message-injects from the onset of emergency through recovery, and shall include all disciplines. The resulting scenario-based training system should provide an immersive environment for exercising emergency response decision making by command and general staff at transit agencies/properties. (5). Submit an interim report on the information developed in Tasks 1 through 4. The interim report shall also contain a detailed, updated Phase II work plan. (6). Submit a revised Phase II work plan based on panel decisions at the Task 5 interim meeting.
Phase II
(7).   Develop story boards for the scenarios and a detailed outline for a facilitator’s guide and a user’s guide. (8).   Develop a prototype module of the scenario-based training system that implements one of the hazard scenarios.   The prototype should be suitable for field testing at small, medium, and large transit agencies. (9).  Field test the Task 8 generic module with at least 3 representative transit agencies. Report on the user experience in a technical memorandum. (10).  Submit interim report #2 providing the results of Tasks 7 through 9. The interim report should also include a test plan (to be executed under Task 13) for the scenario-based training system.  (11).  Submit the revised Phase III work plan based on decisions at the panel meeting.
Phase III
(12).  Develop the scenario-based training system in accordance with the approved Phase III work plan. At a minimum, the system should (a) include an electronic incident command board function; (b) simulate use of multiple communications media; (c) simulate the layout of the transit incident, including affected resources, assets, networks, and systems; (d) display the environment with sufficient detail for players to understand their position and orientation in the environment; and (e) allow players to manipulate their environment as necessary including record keeping.  The scenario-based training system must be supportable by independent, third-party controller/evaluator positions (i.e., the vendor or the vendor’s representative should not be the controller/evaluator). The scenario-based training system should have manual authoring capability for development of environments and hazards (e.g., any transit agency should be able to customize the scenario-based training system to reflect its environment). (13).  Execute the test plan as described in the approved Phase III work plan. Prepare a technical memorandum on the test results, documenting issues and how they will be resolved in Task 14. (14).  Revise the scenario-based training system to resolve issues identified through tests. (15).  Submit a final report that documents the entire research effort. Include, as separate deliverables, the software, the facilitator’s guide, and the user’s guide. In addition, provide a stand-alone Executive Summary; an updated implementation plan; and a PowerPoint presentation summarizing the background, objectives, research method, results, and benefits.
STATUS: Complete. Published 16 May 2022. TCRP Web-Only Document 75 \ NCHRP Web-Only Document 321 \ ACRP Web-Only Document 52: Command-Level Decision Making for Transportation Emergency Managers is designed to assist public transportation agencies, state departments of transportation (DOTs), and airports to develop training and exercises as they prepare for natural or manmade disaster incidents. It can also be used by organizations as they prepare to meet training and exercise requirements.


Scenario learning objectives, scripts, injects, and artifacts created under ACRP, TCRP, and NCHRP are valuable resources for creating training and tabletop exercises. Supplemental to the document are artifacts and 24 scenario outlines and narratives freely available for download and use in the linked ZIP files.


See TCRP A-36A or ACRP 04-29 for follow-on work to migrate content from A-36.
An earlier research report was published in 2013 as TCRP Web-Only Document 60 / NCHRP Web-Only Document 200: Command-Level Decision Making for Transit Emergency Managers. Along with the research report, one can download the (a) TERA Orientation (slides), (b) TERA Quick Reference Guide, (c) TERA Trainer Guide, and (d) TERA User Guide.  Until the demise of Flash, emergency management professionals in the transportation, transit, rail, and airport domains were able to register to use TERA for free at www.tera.train-emst.com. See TCRP A-36A or ACRP 04-29 for follow-on work to migrate content from A-36.


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