Paratransit service providers face many challenges in planning for and responding to natural disasters and other emergencies. Emergencies can be divided according to whether there is advance notification (such as hurricanes) and those that occur with no notification (such as earthquakes). In the event of a declared emergency, city, county, and regional emergency operations centers are activated. Individuals who staff these centers may not be familiar with paratransit service operations and the issues that paratransit providers will face following a major disaster. Paratransit resources may go unused and the needs of paratransit customers may not be adequately considered. Paratransit drivers may need to make decisions about the passengers currently on-board their vehicles, particularly in the event that communication with dispatch is unavailable or if roads are impassable. Paratransit operations often depend on the continued availability of databases and software systems for management of trips and customer information. Protecting these databases and systems and developing business continuity plans are critically important. Similarly, because of the demand-responsive nature of paratransit service, operations depend on continuous communication between control centers and drivers. Paratransit service providers need to better understand and prepare for likely disruption to communications systems, including establishing backup and/or remote communications methods and protocols for use if communications are unavailable. Research is needed to help paratransit service providers prepare for and respond to emergencies.
The objective of this research is to develop a Handbook that provides guidance to paratransit service providers, including public transportation agencies and other public and private paratransit service providers, about how to prepare for all types of emergencies, including (a) events with notification such as floods, hurricanes, blizzards, and pandemics, as well as (b) events with no notification, including those that may cause regional disruptions such as earthquakes, power blackouts, fires, and acts of terrorism.
(1). Identify planning approaches for paratransit management and operations prior to, during, and after emergencies through a focused literature review and review of existing practices. See Special Notes A and B. (2). Conduct interviews with experts in paratransit emergency operations and preparedness. Interviews should include diverse perspectives, including representatives of paratransit transportation providers; paratransit customers; government agencies; advocacy groups; and trade, community-based, and professional organizations. (3). Evaluate the lessons observed from, and identify key issues associated with, recent emergencies (as documented in after-action reports and other Task 1 and Task 2 sources) regarding paratransit emergency operations and preparedness. Summarize the information to show (a) the extent of current resources, (b) established practices, (c) gaps in knowledge, and (d) the most critical issues that need to be addressed in the Handbook. (4). Prepare a detailed outline for a Paratransit Emergency Preparedness and Operations Handbook. (5). Prepare an interim report summarizing the results of Tasks 1 through 4 for review by the TCRP project panel. The interim report should present a detailed approach to conducting Task 7 and provide an updated work plan for the remaining tasks. (6). Revise the work plan for remaining tasks based on panel comments received during the interim meeting.
(7). In accordance with the approved updated work plan, develop a draft Paratransit Emergency Preparedness and Operations Handbook for paratransit service providers in urban, suburban, and rural areas that (a) describes what is needed in a viable paratransit emergency operations and management plan (e.g., communications and education, continuity of operations planning, training, exercising); (b) provides examples of practical tools (e.g., resource lists, checklists, job aids) for carrying out responsibilities in emergency operations; (c) provides a series of questions for an after-action review of an emergency that can feed into the development of or changes in an emergency operations and management plan; and (d) includes a glossary, sample contract language, and forms. The Handbook should provide practical and detailed guidance and models to assist paratransit service providers in each of the topics addressed. (8). Field test and evaluate the draft Paratransit Emergency Preparedness and Operations Handbook. (9). Prepare the final Handbook. In addition, prepare a final report that includes all background material used in the development of the Handbook. Finally, prepare a PowerPoint presentation that is suitable for use by panel members and others in describing the research and for posting on the TCRP project website.