The National Academies

NCHRP 20-116 [Completed]

An Emergency Management Playbook for State Transportation Agencies

  Project Data
Funds: $800,000
Research Agency: The Louis Berger Group, Inc., a WSP Company
Principal Investigator: Deborah Matherly
Effective Date: 1/28/2020
Completion Date: 7/27/2022

NCHRP Research Report 931: A Guide to Emergency Management at State Transportation Agencies, was recently published. Several emergency management courses and generic planning templates are currently available to transportation emergency managers at airports, transit agencies, and state departments of transportation (DOTs), including NCHRP Report 525, Surface Transportation Security, Volume. 16: A Guide to Emergency Response Planning at State Transportation Agencies (2010). Those, together with federal guidance promulgated through Incident Command System/National Incident Management System/Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (ICS/NIMS/HSEEP) doctrine, are necessary, but not sufficient, for ready implementation.
There is a need for a strategy-driven, actionable guide—a playbook—that, with incidental implementation support, will help emergent and part-time transportation emergency managers to understand, plan, and implement an emergency preparedness program that fits their agency’s needs, capabilities, and challenges. Such a playbook will serve as a simple, practical, and comprehensive emergency preparedness program development guide for transportation emergency managers; be generally applicable to all transportation emergency operations centers (EOCs); and be consistent with ICS/NIMS/HSEEP doctrine. A transportation-specific playbook will help close the gap in transportation emergency preparedness and enable quicker and more effective uptake of valuable scenario-based training and exercising tools that help organizations apply prerequisite planning and program development.
Translating strategy from the playbook to the real world (how to do it) is complex, as states vary in how they organize their activities. This project will develop and execute a strategy to effectively bridge the gap between all-hazards emergency management research and state transportation agency practice to improve state transportation agency responses over a broad continuum of emergencies affecting the nation’s travelers, economy, and infrastructure.
The objectives of this project are (1) to develop a playbook to support emergency management program review and development for state transportation agencies and (2) to develop and execute a deployment strategy to familiarize the affected transportation agencies of every state with the playbook and supporting emergency management materials.  The playbook and related products and activities should encompass state DOTs, public transportation systems, and other transportation agencies under state control or influence (i.e., state transportation agencies).
The playbook should include, at a minimum:
  • Guidance for planning and implementing the five mission areas in alignment with the National Preparedness Goals;
  • Self-evaluation materials that align with a capability maturity model to allow transportation agencies to scale the guidebook to their needs;
  • Practices that align with federal guidance and regulations, including those associated with cost recovery; and
  • Enhanced resource typing that supports the unique needs of transportation agencies.
The playbook will focus on state transportation agencies and provide
  • Scalable guidance on implementing effective emergency management practices;
  • Clear, brief instruction about how executive leaders, middle management, and first responders are each to use the approach and supporting emergency management materials;
  • Coverage of all modes of transportation under state control or influence;
  • Coverage of all phases of emergency management; and
  • Techniques to ensure the participation of other organizations involved in deploying emergency management practices (e.g., emergency management, law enforcement, emergency medical services, public works departments, National Weather Service, emergency operations centers), as well as other stakeholders.
The playbook will be accompanied by supporting emergency management materials described in the following task statements.
  • A successor to the 2015 AASHTO Fundamental Capabilities of Effective All-Hazards Infrastructure Protection, Resilience, and Emergency Management;
  • HSEEP-compliant scenarios and injects for exercising all phases of emergency management;
  • Other training materials; and
  • Draft standards for resource typing for state DOTs to enable more effective mutual aid,  including a recommended set of activities to get the drafts adopted by the appropriate standards development organizations, such as the International Association of Emergency Managers, the National Emergency Management Association, and the National Fire Protection Association.
Accomplishment of the project objectives will require at least the following tasks.
Phase I
Task 1.  Review and summarize relevant literature on deploying emergency management practices in state transportation agencies. The project should leverage useful resources such as the 2019 NCHRP Research Report 931: A Guide to Emergency Management at State Transportation Agencies.
Task 2. Review current strategic emergency management practices and related organizational structures across state transportation agencies (including staffing levels). Use the results of this review to support the development of project deliverables in Phase II. Identify clusters of agency types with similar characteristics to target for implementation and supporting activities in Phase II, such that each of the 50 state DOTs as well as those from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, is engaged in a multi-state, in-person activity. 
Task 3.  Based on the results of the previous tasks, develop a revised work plan for Phase II. 
Task 4. Prepare an interim report on the findings and conclusions of Tasks 1 through 3. The interim report should include draft tables of contents for products that will be developed in Phase II, Tasks 5-8, and detailed plans for the Task 9 and Task 10 activities. The research plan shall provide a 2-month period for review and approval of the interim report. An interim meeting of the project panel to discuss the interim report with the research agency will be required. NCHRP will be responsible for the cost of panel member travel and will provide the meeting facility. For the interim meeting, provide a PowerPoint presentation suitable, upon revision, for posting on the NCHRP project webpage. The research agency shall not begin work on the remaining tasks without NCHRP approval.
Phase II
Task 5.  Update the 2015 AASHTO Fundamental Capabilities of Effective All-Hazards Infrastructure Protection, Resilience, and Emergency Management. As fundamentals are enduring, this might be as simple as updating lists of relevant resources and replacing the foreword.
Task 6.  Develop draft standards for resource typing for state DOTs to enable more effective mutual aid, including a recommended set of activities to facilitate adoption by the appropriate standards development organization(s).

Task 7.  Develop a user-friendly playbook that is flexible and can be used by transportation agencies with different emergency management capacities and maturities. The playbook should support individual states as they develop and audit their statewide transportation emergency management programs, including state DOTs, public transportation, and other transportation agencies under state control or influence. Audiences for the emergency management deployment playbook include state DOT executives, maintenance and operations leaders, and transportation staff in all modes with a role in any of the five mission areas described in the National Planning Frameworks. See Special Note G. The playbook must include guidelines for state transportation agencies to address a broad spectrum of emergency management programs and practices.

This playbook should consider collaboration with diverse intra-agency, interagency, and community stakeholders. It should serve as an overall guide to transportation agency emergency managers who wish to initiate or enhance a simple, effective, and sustainable preparedness program, with


  • A brief but comprehensive program development and audit narrative, consistent with national doctrines such as, but not limited to, the
  • National Preparedness Goal (NPG);
  • Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA);
  • Developing Emergency Operations Plans (CPG101);
  • National Incident Management System (NIMS); and the
  • Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP).
  • A checklist of emergency management transportation capabilities for a transportation agency to build and maintain (see, for example, the 2019 NCHRP Research Report 931: A Guide to Emergency Management at State Transportation Agencies);
  • A compendium of program development resources (e.g., emergency management doctrine, how-to videos, forms, sample plans, exercise plan templates); and
  • An introduction to using simulation-based tabletop exercise and training systems [e.g., the Transportation Emergency Response Application (TERA)], describing how such systems can efficiently amplify the effects of training, increase readiness, and improve the outcomes of transportation agency emergency operations centers.



Task 8.  Develop training and educational courses and supplementary materials to be used in Task 9 and Task 10 that communicate the material of the playbook, such as train-the-trainer materials. Include materials supporting an annual cycle of activities focused on preparing for incidents and events. Desired characteristics include

  • A list of terminal and enabling learning objectives for transportation emergency managers and staff;
  • Interactive, user-ready adult learning and retention approaches to training. Content should be delivered to meet different communications needs for a diverse workforce (e.g., mobile apps, tailgate talks); and
  • Scenarios and injects suitable to be presented as exercises or leveraged on an interactive technology-based solution (e.g., TERA) that guides participants through exercises and documents their progress.

Task 9.  Based on the strategy, techniques, and approaches selected in Phase I, pilot test the lesson plans, training courses, checklists, and other materials for use in the deployment strategies. 


Task 10.  Plan and execute a series of multi-state activities to familiarize every state DOT and their emergency management partners (including public transportation and adjacent state DOTs) with the playbook. Coordinate stakeholder outreach and engagement; implement the deployment strategy using the materials developed in previous tasks.




Based on the approved Phase II work plan, conduct the following events, at a minimum:



  • At least one national workshop/training class of at least 6 hours;
  • At least four regional events – one per AASHTO Region of at least 4 hours;
  • At least two multi-state events of at least 4 hours to be hosted by state DOTs;
  • At least one nationally publicized webinar; and
  • At least six conference presentations, preferably including one at a TRB Annual Meeting and one at an AASHTO Committee on Transportation System Security and Resilience (CTSSR) Annual Meeting. 

Proposers are encouraged to be creative in the selection of their proposed venues and events, identifying a diverse audience from field personnel to DOT executives. Co-locating and joint scheduling with existing meetings, conferences, and other training events is encouraged. Proposers should also recommend other ways to maximize the dissemination of the information collected and developed.

Task 11.  Final deliverables should include the following: (1) an implementation and change management strategy and all supporting lesson plans, scripts, training exercises, and all other didactic and experiential material developed in support of the strategy; (2) a final report summarizing the background research; (3) an updated interim meeting PowerPoint presentation suitable, upon revision, for posting on the NCHRP project webpage; (4) a stand-alone, one-page executive summary in a suitable format of text and graphics aimed at senior decision makers; (5) the Task 5 successor to the 2015 AASHTO Fundamental Capabilities of Effective All-Hazards Infrastructure Protection, Resilience, and Emergency Management; (6) the Task 6 draft resource typing standard and a plan for facilitating its adoption; (7) the Task 7 playbook; (8) the Task 8 training and educational materials to achieve technology transfer of the playbook; and (9) a summary report on the Task 10 multi-state activities. 

Note: Following receipt of the draft final deliverables, the remaining 3 months shall be fore NCHRP review and comment and for research agency preparation of the final deliverables.  




 Resources that should inform the development of the Phase II products for this project include:


  1. National Planning Frameworks. The Frameworks describe how the whole community works together to achieve the National Preparedness Goal. There is one Framework for each of the five mission areas: Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery.  https://www.fema.gov/national-planning-frameworks
  2. AASHTO Fundamental Capabilities of Effective All-Hazards Infrastructure Protection, Resilience, and Emergency Management https://ctssr.transportation.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2017/10/Fundamental-Capabilities-of-Effective.pdf 
  3. AASHTO Managing Catastrophic Transportation Emergencies: A Guide for Transportation Executiveshttps://ctssr.transportation.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2017/10/Managing-Catastrophic-Transportation-Emergencies.pdf
  4. NCHRP Research Report 931: A Guide to Emergency Management at State Transportation Agencies  https://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=4071
  5. NCHRP Research Report 930: Security 101: A Physical & Cyber Security Primer for Transportation Agencies https://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=4070
  6. National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) 2013: Partnering for Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience https://www.dhs.gov/publication/nipp-2013-partnering-critical-infrastructure-security-and-resilience
  7. Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Research and Development Plan https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/National%20CISR%20R%26D%20Plan_Nov%202015.pdf
  8. TSA Intermodal Security Training & Exercise Program (I-STEP) provides exercise, training, and security planning tools and services to the transportation community.
  9. TSA Exercise Information System (EXIS) is an online exercise tool that provides users with resources to design, document, and evaluate exercises for all transportation modes. https://exis.tsa.dhs.gov
  10. TSA FirstObserverPlus is a security domain awareness training program focused on delivery of a simple message to highway transportation professionals: to “Observe, Assess, and Report” suspicious activities. https://tsa.gov/firstobserver  


Project Status: Completed. Publication is pending.

Understanding pandemics, their impacts to transportation, and potential effective response has become more important, not only for the response to COVID-19, but also if, as the World Health Organization warns, we are now “living in a time of viruses.”

TRB's National Cooperative Highway Research Program and Transit Cooperative Research Program jointly issued A Pandemic Playbook for Transportation Agencies (released November 12, 2020), a pre-publication draft of NCHRP Research Report 963/TCRP Research Report 225, which was created to improve transportation agency responses to a pandemic.

The final version of NCHRP Research Report 963/TCRP Research Report 225: A Pandemic Playbook for Transportation Agencies was released April 14, 2021, and can be found at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/26145/a-pandemic-playbook-for-transportation-agenciesTRB has decided to continue to have the pre-publication version available online to ensure that any linkages or references to the publication that might be in use now are not lost.  At the conclusion of the pandemic, the pre-publication version of the publication will be removed from the National Academy Press website.

The Playbook concentrates on what needs to be done, when and by whom. It briefly addresses planning for a pandemic, a topic addressed in greater depth in NCHRP Report 769: A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response. It summarizes effective practices currently used by transportation agencies based on interviews with state departments of transportation and transit agency leaders and operational personnel, supplemented with national and international research results.

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