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Documents > Transportation Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Management: State DOT Workshop Results

Transportation Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Management:
State DOT Workshop Results — Good Practices and Key Concerns

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration

Text by Karen Haas Design by Jane Perini Manifest Inc., Rockville, MD

PDF Version (1.18 MB)



This document, published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), summarizes the results of a series of five State Department of Transportation (State DOT) workshops jointly sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in cooperation with AASHTO. Workshop locations and dates were:

The workshops were structured to gather input from the States about their key concerns related to Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Management; to share Good Practices; and to disseminate information to the States, including key findings from TSA Corporate Security Reviews of State DOTs, as well as information about resources available from FHWA, TSA, and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP). The first four workshops brought together colleagues from State DOTs in the immediate multi-State region surrounding the host State. The fifth and final workshop, in Kansas City, was a regional workshop as well, but participants from around the country also were invited to attend, in order to permit discussion of issues from a national perspective.

To facilitate open and frank discussion, workshop participants were told that their comments about sensitive concerns would not be published. In order to honor this commitment to the confidentiality of the discussions, States and participants are not identified in the discussion of Key State Concerns (pages 5-7). On the other hand, in order to facilitate peer exchange, States are identified in the discussion of Good Practices (pages 8-13).

The Resources section of this document (pages 14-16) provides further information about Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Management resources available to States from Federal agencies and other sources.


The workshop results present five snapshots of the State-of-Practice for Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Management, taken over a two-and-a-half year period. Stitching the snapshots together reveals some general "big picture" realities.

Infrastructure Protection- State of Practice

Infrastructure Protection practice varies broadly across the country, as do State DOT perspectives on Infrastructure Protection needs. In States with densely populated major metropolitan regions, or high-risk infrastructure, transportation Infrastructure Protection issues are a major concern to the DOT staff assigned to security issues. While DOT staff may be concerned that the DOT leadership and other State decisionmakers do not consider transportation Infrastructure Protection a priority, staff addresses infrastructure protection risk assessment and mitigation planning functions with increasing sophistication. Implementation of countermeasures is being addressed to the degree that resources and countermeasures are available.

In States that are predominantly rural with few known infrastructure risks, Infrastructure Protection is generally not a priority, especially in comparison with other needs for scarce resources. This tendency is exacerbated by policies that direct Infrastructure Protection funding to high risk areas, which essentially ensures that the more rural and remote States have especially scarce resources for Infrastructure Protection activities. As a result, DOT personnel in predominantly rural States generally are not well versed in risk assessment, planning, or countermeasure implementation. Instead, the emphasis is on All-Hazard Response Preparedness. This participant from a rural State voiced a typical viewpoint:

"Funding for security is scarce, so the emphasis at our DOT is on taking care of fundamental needs. We are making sure each of our District Offices has an Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and can run the District from their District Office. We maintain back-up power resources, and keep emergency contact lists updated. We also work to stay current with fluid emergency processes at other agencies."

State DOT Role in Emergency Incident Response is Evolving

DOT personnel are becoming more comfortable and proactive in their roles as incident response partners. In the initial workshops, some participants were uncertain of their roles in emergency response. They weren't sure how to approach outreach to partners. In the more recent workshops, participants exhibited increasing assertiveness, including willingness to invite themselves to meetings in order to raise awareness among other responders about why working with the State DOT is important. As a result of increasing comfort with their role in emergency incident response, State DOTs are developing better relationships with other response agencies. There also seems to be a trend toward more cross-state, multi-region meetings. Most participants felt that there is a need to create an operational culture within DOTs that supports those involved in the transportation aspects of incident response as first responders who are part of a multidisciplinary incident management team, and need to be available 24/7. Some State laws (for example, Arizona, Oregon, and Idaho) recognize DOT personnel as emergency responders, but most do not. The definition of "first responder" used for U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants and funding does not include transportation.

Although State DOTs, for the most part, participate in the exercise planning process and the development of emergency plans, there is a need for continual reinforcement of the State DOT role in emergency response and recovery, and recognition of State DOT capabilities and limitations. For example, some States expressed concern that the DOT is not trained and equipped to operate in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) environments, but that the DOT might nevertheless be called upon to do so in an emergency.

Partnership Challenges Remain

While progress is being made, many State DOTs still experience challenges in developing good working relationships with incident response partner agencies at the State and local levels. Relationships with law enforcement vary widely. In some States, the DOT and State Patrol work very closely together, while in other States, there is an arms-length relationship. Co-location of law enforcement and transportation personnel in Traffic Management Centers (TMCs) and EOCs seems to foster better working relationships.

To help promote better relationships with State law enforcement agencies and state emergency management agencies, AASHTO's Special Committee on Transportation Security and Emergency Management (SCOTSEM) has been reconstituted to allow three participants from each State. The goal is for each State to have a representative from the DOT; the State law enforcement agency; and State emergency management agency.

A few State DOTs are very proactive in reaching out to local fire, EMS, and law enforcement agencies, with good results, although this requires continual effort due to the large number of local agencies and frequent personnel turnover.

NIMS Training Was a Worthwhile Investment

Initial National Incident Management System (NIMS) training requirements were a challenge for State DOTs, but workshop participants felt that the training investment paid off by increasing awareness of incident response issues and roles.

Multiple Planning Requirements are Challenging

Many State DOTs are struggling to meet requirements for a multitude of planning requirements, including Emergency Support Function (ESF) 1 in the National Response Plan; transportation agency continuity of operations and support for Pandemic and Avian Flu outbreaks; and evacuation planning. In many cases, the individual(s) within the State DOT who is responsible for the transportation agency's input to these plans also has operational responsibility for both routine operations and emergency response.

Need for Regional-Level Planning is Increasingly Recognized

There is a growing recognition of the importance of regional-level planning for Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Management, in order to ensure the safety and security of multiple jurisdictions that share major transportation corridors.

Need to Foster State DOT Access to Security Information in Some States

There seems to be a need to foster information-sharing relationships between State DOTs and the intelligence/law enforcement community in some States where the DOTs complain that they have no access to security information. In other States, the DOTs routinely receive information and work closely with fusion centers, the TSA, law enforcement, and others to analyze information and make decisions about risk mitigation.

Similarly, the process for distributing transportation security information from the Federal to State levels remains an issue. Distribution of various unclassified but marked information from Washington to the State level seems to have improved. But once the information arrives in the State, it seems that in most cases DOTs are not in the loop for information that might be oriented to the highway or transportation system. Most of the confusion seems to stem from the variety of information disclaimers and classifications. A better balance needs to be achieved between the need to protect information and the ability to disseminate it to those who need to be informed.

Some State DOTs expressed initial concern that they were not allowed access to the National Critical Infrastructure List to determine whether any of their assets were on the list. Through workshops, exercises, and other training, most State DOTs are now realizing the need to identify iinfrastructure that is critical to the economy of the State, and the well being of its population, without regard to a national list.

Funding and Resource Challenges

Although FHWA Federal-aid funding can be used to support security and emergency management activities, planners do not have a good understanding of this, and State DOTs often are not willing to use highway funding for security projects or enhancements.

Although the U.S. DHS and TSA have personnel located at State capitals (DHS Protective Security Advisors or PSAs) and at major airports(DHS Federal Security Directors or FSDs), these individuals generally tend to work with State DHS or Office of Emergency Management (OEM) offices and personnel. There is a need to train the PSAs and FSDs about how to develop ongoing working relationships with State DOT agencies and personnel. The training should be tailored to each State.


A cross the country, workshop participants voiced some common concerns. These included:

Funding and Resources

Funding and Resources for Infrastructure Protection: Workshop participants from States where Infrastructure Protection risks are considered a major priority expressed strong concern regarding the lack of resources for security, and the fact that security programs are not a priority at most State DOTs. They said it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure decisionmaker support for security programs, as memory of September 11th recedes, States experience continuous turnover in political decisionmakers and senior DOT staff, and budget pressures increase.

Within the State DOTs, personnel assigned to security issues say they lack resources both for security planning, and for countermeasure implementation. This comment is typical:

"The problem is, there is so much to do every day. Emergency managers have time to plan. But many of our security positions have developed from the operational side. The operational side is very jammed. I hear this lot: "I don't have time today to worry about Al Qaeda-I have four lanes jammed on the Interstate.'"

At the State, regional, and local levels, funding for security must compete with issues of more direct daily concern to voters. Participants noted that the most convincing tactic for increasing security funding may be to seek resources for security within an All-Hazards Preparedness model.

Funding and Resources for 24/7 Operations: Participants said an operational culture needs to be created within State DOTs to recognize and support the emergency responder role of DOT employees who are involved in incident response. As members of a multidisciplinary incident response teams, DOT responders and their equipment and resources need to be available 24/7.1 Participants suggested that AASHTO provide talking points and/ or marketing materials to help communicate the importance of security and emergency management to policymakers.

Funding and Resources for Evacuation Planning: Some States have had difficulty obtaining funding for evacuation planning. The funding passed through to local government. Limits on spending of planning funds for State DOT personnel also can be problematic. Some participants called for a dedicated Federal funding stream to assist DOTs in evacuation planning.

Funding Guidance: A few States have been very successful in securing funding from Federal and State sources to support their Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Management programs. Most States, however, are still struggling with this issue. Participants said they need guidance on how to secure funding from available sources.

Pre-event hazard mitigation funding is an area where there is considerable confusion, and more guidance is needed.

Guidance on permissible use of Federal-Aid Highway Program funds also is needed. For example, Federal-Aid funds may be used for evacuation planning, and for purchasing resources needed to control highway access for contraflow operations.

Guidance on how to cost-share projects with emergency response partners also is needed. For example, one State DOT that successfully shared costs with a city police department for a TMC dispatch program was not able to cost-share security enhancements on highways, because co-mingling of law enforcement and transportation funds proved too challenging. It was difficult to create a clean split between enforcement and traffic management in order to justify use of Federal- aid funds, and issues regarding maintenance of the system and data ownership also were problematic.

State DOT Access To Security Information

Some States Lack Access to Security Information: Some State DOTs voiced concerns about lack of access to security information, which leaves them unable to assess threat levels to their system at any given time. Intelligence information tends to become absorbed into secret classifications. Information that could be useful to State DOTs is rated "Not For Distribution," for no apparent reason.

The greatest challenge in information-sharing is with the law enforcement community. In many States, the law enforcement community does not share intelligence and information, and State DOTs are not included in regional information-sharing networks.

Several State DOTs reported that their State Office of Homeland Security does not forward available security information to the State DOT.

Although the TSA has facilitated security clearances for a selected number of State DOT personnel, even when State DOT personnel have secret clearances, those who have the secret information are not able to share it with DOT decisionmakers to convince the decisionmakers of the importance of security.

Some States Do Receive Security Information: On the other hand, some State DOTs do receive security information routinely, from their fusion centers, TSA, State Highway Patrol, the FBI, and other sources. In some States, the fusion center routinely reports intelligence information to the State DOT, and it is up to the State DOT officials to analyze the significance of the information. Some State DOTs work closely with law enforcement and with DHS PSAs in making decisions regarding security.

Procedures for Reporting Transportation System Threats: Procedures for reporting information about transportation information threats is a related concern expressed by some workshop participants. Some State DOTs routinely provide information to their fusion centers. Others try to push information, but find it is not wanted. Several State DOTs reported confusion about who was eligible to report threats through the former Highway Watch® program (TMCs, DOT dispatchers, or DOT drivers). In fact, anyone can report through the new First Observer Program. Call Center personnel will provide feedback to the caller within 72 hours. The 24/7 First Observer Call Center number is 1-888-217-5902.

Need for Infrastructure Protection Guidance

As noted in the Cross-Cutting Analysis (page 2), State DOT's vary widely in their approach to Infrastructure Protection. States that include high-risk infrastructure, and/or densely populated metropolitan regions, are the most vocal in requesting additional guidance as they grapple with issues related to risk assessment, countermeasure identification and implementation, and response planning. Some of the many issues related to this topic include:

Security Investment Prioritization: State DOTs would like more guidance on how to prioritize security investments. Confusion abounds regarding whether to base countermeasure investments on threat levels, risk levels, or resource levels. Some representative concerns voiced by workshop participants:

Risk Assessment Methodology: State DOTs use many different methods for assessing the vulnerability of 2 their transportation infrastructure. Some participants suggested that a more uniform approach is needed, in order to make more rational decisions from a national perspective regarding resource allocation. TSA is currently developing guidance regarding baseline mitigation measures to reduce infrastructure risk.

Security Design Guidance: Some States requested guidance regarding design standards for security features. The American Planning Association's (APA's) Draft Policy Guide on Security encourages planners to balance security and personal freedom that enhances quality of life.

Facilities and Equipment Security: Security of State DOT vehicles, maintenance equipment, and maintenance stations is a concern, and State practices vary widely. State practices have been documented by TSA in the Corporate Security Reviews (CSRs) conducted by TSA at State DOTs over the past several years.

Cybersecurity is a Growing Concern

Cybersecurity is a growing concern for DOTs. The two major issues are redundancy, and penetration testing (testing against hackers).

In general, there needs to be a balance between operational user requirements and the importance of ensuring overall security and continuity of the IT system. Creating this balance requires frequent user interface with IT personnel to establish user requirements.

The physical security of Information Technology (IT) facilities also is a concern. Many computer rooms are protected by water sprinklers, which would destroy the computer equipment if deployed. Others have no fire protection in the room. It is also common to find computer facilities that are secured by door locks, but vulnerable to easy entry through moveable ceiling panels. TSA has established a Cybersecurity Working Group.

Partnership Challenges

While States vary widely in their partnership practices, some common partnership challenges currently facing State DOTs include:

Emergency Communication and Coordination Challenges

The Post-Katrina era has brought overall progress in emergency communication and coordination, but challenges remain. Among them are;

CBRN Guidance is Needed

DOTs are very challenged by issues related to working in, and responding to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) events. Guidance is needed.


Security Assessments

Facilities Hardening

Personnel Security

Some States require background checks for employees and consultants that may include criminal background checks and checks against the terrorist watch list. Some States require contractors to hire security personnel.

Security Training


Partnership Building

While it still seems to be more the exception than the rule, a few State DOTs are partnering successfully with private transportation sector organizations to share security and other information.

Training and Exercises



Emergency Management Planning

Recovery Planning

Continuity of Operations Planning

Pandemic and Avian Influenza Planning

Evacuation Planning



This list of Resources was current as of the date of publication (July 30, 2009).





For additional information regarding SAVs and other vulnerability identification and assessment programs at DHS, contact: jpassessments@dhs.gov


AASHTO    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
CBRN    Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear
CSR    Corporate Security Review
DHS    U.S. Department of Homeland Security
DOT    Department of Transportation
EMS    Emergency Medical Service
EOC    Emergency Operations Center
ESF    Emergency Support Function
FEMA    Federal Emergency Management Agency
FHWA    Federal Highway Administration
FSD    Federal Security Director
GETS    Government Emergency Telecommunications Service
HSIP    Highway Safety Improvement Program
ICS    Incident Command System
IT    Information Technology
NIMS    National Incident Management System
PSA    Protective Security Advisor
TMC    Transportation Management Center
TSA    Transportation Security Administration
UASI    Urban Area Security Initiative
VoIP    Voice Over Internet Protocol
UC    Unified Command

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1 Traffic Incident Management responders and resources should be available 24/7" is Strategy #12 of the National Unified Goal for Traffic Incident Management. For more information, see http://timcoalition.org/?siteid=41 because co-mingling of law enforcement and transportation funds proved too challenging. It was difficult to create a clean split between enforcement and traffic management in order to justify use of Federal-aid funds, and issues regarding maintenance of the system and data ownership also were problematic.

2 The Federal list of critical transportation infrastructure is classified. The National Infrastructure Protection Plan calls on DOTs to prevent incidents, mitigate them, and restore infrastructure as soon as possible when incidents occur. Because of the difficulties of assessing threats to surface transportation, the trend has been toward consequencesbased and/or capabilities-based planning instead of threat-based planning.

Page last modified on September 8, 2017
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