An outbreak of a pandemic infectious disease is considered a certain event with an uncertain date of occurrence. Although there is an abundance of information to address these events, there has been little sharing of such information. As a result, state agencies with emergency management and response responsibilities, transit managers, human service transportation providers, and state transportation agency personnel have many unanswered questions and incomplete protocols for preserving essential functions, including (but not limited to) establishing the authority of agencies to act, the determination of critical thresholds of employee absenteeism at which to suspend operations, and the identification of core functions and infrastructure to enable essential personnel to work from home. The involvement of public health and other emergency management officials with state transportation agencies and local public transit providers is critical for the development of appropriate and effective planning for pandemic response from the transportation sector. To date, there has been limited interaction between public and community transportation and public health. In addition, these types of emergency events do not occur in isolation, and procedures must be established for public transportation to work in concert with other protocols. State transportation agencies that provide funding for public transportation and/or coordinate statewide public transportation systems need guidance regarding advice and direction that should be included in subrecipient training and technical assistance, as well as appropriate guidance that their personnel may utilize in coordinating public transportation services during a local, statewide, or regional response to pandemic events. State transportation agencies also need assistance in developing appropriate protocols for the use of local transit resources. In the area of public transportation, there are many unanswered questions regarding appropriate protocols and procedures to follow in the event of pandemic infectious disease. While some large urban public transit agencies have been heavily involved in establishing response and recovery plans, there is a great need to provide support and assistance to small urban public transit providers, rural public transit providers, and human service transportation providers on the appropriate protocols and procedures that should be established within these agencies for an effective response. There is a need for a process and guidance for smaller transit agencies that aligns with NCHRP Report 525, Vol. 16: A Guide to Emergency Response Planning at State Transportation Agencies, modified as appropriate to address pandemic infectious disease.
The objective of this research is to develop a pandemic planning guide for use by all transit agencies with emphasis on (a) small urban and rural transit agencies; (b) human service transportation providers; and (c) the state DOTs that provide oversight for grant recipients in both categories. The Guide should include a synthesis of current practices, identifying gaps and opportunities for improved practices; simple step-by-step guidelines; planning and operations resources; checklists; and those steps necessary to facilitate coordination across the response spectrum. The Guide should identify recommended decision points and decision criteria to allow the audiences to identify and address changes that may be necessary in operations during a pandemic event. This may include a range of activities, such as limited services, added services, suspended services, modified/nontraditional services, or other activities identified by the study. The Guide should consider how continuity of operations may be maintained and should offer recommendations for how to integrate pandemic considerations with existing plans and protocols at a transit agency.
(1). Analyze, describe, and critique pertinent domestic and international research, on the basis of applicability, conclusiveness of findings, and usefulness for pandemic planning for U.S. public transportation. Include completed research and research currently underway, including (but not limited to) practices, guidelines, published plans, training, and exercises. (2). Prepare survey instruments and a sampling plan. Survey current and past practices as well as “lessons observed” regarding pandemic preparation and response among relevant state and local agencies (e.g., local, state, and regional agencies with emergency management and response responsibilities; transit managers; and state transportation agency personnel). What are their plans, what have they exercised, and what do they have budgeted? How did they fund (for example) emergency and contingency operations, supplies, and equipment? How and where are supplies cached? (3). Based on Tasks 1 and 2, prepare a synthesis of current practices, to include (but not limited to) identifying gaps and opportunities for improved practices. Pay particular attention to guidance and tools for smaller agencies and the state transportation agencies that provide oversight to them. Also identify real or perceived programmatic, organizational, administrative, and regulatory hurdles that limit effective planning and response in pandemic situations, as well as individual and group dynamics in a public health emergency. (4). Prepare an interim report, within 7 months, to document Tasks 1 through 3 for review by the NCHRP. Include a detailed outline of the Guide and a revised Phase II work plan.
(5). Develop an initial draft Guide that includes a sample planning document with checklists, general orders, standard operating procedures, and emergency operating procedures. The Guide should address internal and external response decision points and procedures. Draw from the Task 3 synthesis of current practices, and include simple step-by-step guidelines, planning and operations resources, checklists, and those steps necessary to facilitate coordination across the response spectrum.
The initial draft Guide should
- identify potential decision points and decision criteria to allow the target audience to identify and address changes which may be necessary in operations during a pandemic event, from limited services, added services, suspended services, and modified/nontraditional services (e.g., transporting health care workers, taking mobile dialysis to patients, transporting meals to people, and transporting people to people);
- consider how continuity of operations may be maintained and offer recommendations for how to integrate pandemic considerations with existing plans and protocols at a transit agency;
- concisely describe the range and potential courses of events appropriate to the levels of implementation (i.e., local, state, regional, tribal) during a pandemic; the impacts of these events upon public transit; and the possible responses of public transit agencies to safeguard personnel and patrons, agency operations, and agency financial management;
- describe how public transit personnel and capital assets can serve to support emergency responders as well as the community during a pandemic crisis; associated costs; and cost-recovery mechanisms;
- include scenarios upon which to craft coordinated actions that are adaptable and scalable in response to rapidly changing conditions, maintaining altered public transit service to preserve normalcy and minimize socioeconomic disruption, while slowing the spread of illness so hospitals are not overwhelmed; and,
- address the need for multijurisdictional agency conduct, cooperation, and collaboration and include matrices of events for which procedures will be applicable; suggested policies to consider in communicating suspension of services; basic cost estimates for added operational expenses and personal protective equipment; expected degree of voluntary compliance; and agencies typically involved.
(6). Review the initial draft Guide with local, state, regional, tribal, and federal representatives who have responsibility for integrated pandemic planning and response. The transportation representatives should include all aspects of rural public transportation and small urban public transportation agencies and reflect approaches from at least 5 Federal Transit Administration regions. Prepare a summary of findings from the Task 6 review.(7). Prepare a final report documenting the entire research effort. The report will include an updated implementation plan and identify potential follow-on research. Include, as separate deliverables, (a) an executive summary of the project; (b) an updated PowerPoint presentation; and (c) the Guide with a synthesis of current practices, identifying gaps and opportunities for improved practices; simple step-by-step guidelines; planning and operations resources; checklists; and those steps necessary to facilitate coordination across the response spectrum. The Guide is for use by local, state, regional, and tribal agencies in planning and developing their organizational functions, roles, and responsibilities for pandemics within the all-hazards context of the National Incident Management System.