Safety Service Patrol Perspectives: Advanced Training for TIM Technicians

When we respond to roadway incidents as safety service patrol or incident management personnel we are most often tasked with traffic control especially when it is the major function of our duties on scene. We want to be able to demonstrate that we have obtained the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to properly discharge duties like the positioning of blocking vehicles, setting up a traffic incident management area, arranging for advance warning, deploying and removing temporary traffic control devices, and conducting manual traffic control. These abilities are challenged no matter what agency we respond with. We also want to demonstrate that we can effectively communicate, coordinate, and cooperate with other responders while working toward a common goal of keeping ourselves, and other responders safe, and clearing the incident in the safest, quickest and most efficient way.

We are expected to perform these duties at a level that is advanced compared to other responders especially when it comes to roadway incident scene safety, traffic control, blocking, safe vehicle positioning, advance warning, quick clearance, and alerting and directing the public. How confident can we be in demonstrating these skills if we do not train to an advanced level? Is on the job training enough? Are we challenging ourselves by advancing our training and working towards proficiency in our job performance requirements? Are there other organizations outside of safety service patrols that have recognized the need for a higher level of training in these areas? The answer is yes, there are. Traditionally many roadway incident response agencies including some safety service patrols mostly relied on contracted, in-house, and on the job training that was provided using best practices and tactics that have been applied for years by roadway/highway construction and safety industry engineers and professionals, with some degree of success. This training was applied by using and following MUTCD, USDOT, OSHA, FHWA, and State guidelines just as they should have. Other disciplines followed suit as they saw fit.

Fast forward to 2001 and the need was realized for a national command structure to cover and include all responders at any incident no matter the scale. It involved training all disciplines in all aspects of incident command and the command structure. More recently in the last decade the need was recognized to provide more safety through training for roadway incident responders regardless of discipline or on scene function and increase the level of awareness and training of ALL responders of these incidents. This began by developing The National Unified Goal. This led to the introduction of TIM training. There were revisions and updates of other training, and additions to Chapter 6 in the MUTCD (temporary traffic control) with Chapter 6-I that was introduced in 2003 and that specifically addresses temporary traffic control measures for traffic incident management areas. MUTCD Chapter 6-I provides guidance for all agencies responding to traffic incidents including fire departments, law enforcement, and other public safety agencies.

Training for roadway incidents using a multi disciplinary approach can be very valuable, and allows better understanding of the various roles and how they complement one another. This photo shows a training sponsored by TDOT 'HELP' Units and involves TDOT maintenance crews, Fire department and Law Enforcement crews learning incident management and roadway incident response techniques in deploying a traffic incident management area (TIMA).
Training for roadway incidents using a multi disciplinary approach can be very valuable, and allows better understanding of the various roles and how they complement one another. This photo shows a training sponsored by TDOT 'HELP' Units and involves TDOT maintenance crews, Fire department and Law Enforcement crews learning incident management and roadway incident response techniques in deploying a traffic incident management area (TIMA).

This need was recognized on a national level, and by organizations of every discipline, including public/private partnerships which contributed to it and are still huge stakeholders in TIM today. Many organizations and disciplines had already recognized that on-going annual training and continuing education were both necessary, and beneficial. Traffic control at roadway incidents is a very dynamic task, and every discipline is expected to handle those responsibilities when responding to roadway incidents. These duties cannot just be done by safety service patrols since most responding organizations operate without the services of these responders. All emergency response disciplines and emergency organizations agree that roadway incidents include and make up a major portion of the responses that they make and are as dangerous to personnel as any other response that they handle. “Fire departments, law enforcement, transportation, emergency medical agencies and towing and recovery operators are responding to an ever-increasing number of roadway incidents involving crashes, medical emergencies, vehicle fires, and hazardous material events” (Sullivan, J. C. 2017).

Some may respond exclusively to roadway incidents and others may only respond to them as needed, but we all agree on the importance of advanced training in order to safely manage these incidents because no matter what, they affect all of us as emergency responders and in our daily lives. It is important as a supervisor, manager, trainer, etc. to express the importance of training and continuing education to the safety service patrol responders especially. We must do our part to continue to train, and utilize best practices, and proven safe tactics, and continue to re-evaluate ourselves and advance our training practices on group and individual levels. We need to encourage ALL responders to seek training opportunities of any type whether in person or online, the latter being especially important with the restrictions in place due to the pandemic over the last year. We must advance our skill set with stretching and challenging tasks through both training and in our on-the-job duties. One new certification program is the National Traffic Incident Management Technician certification administered by the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) which is recognized as meeting the NFPA 1091 Standard for Traffic Incident Management Personnel Professional Qualifications. NFPA 1091 is an outline or guide that is meant to be used by managers, supervisors, training officers, safety officers, and others who are responsible for training, supervising, and promoting TIM personnel. NFPA 1091 is written by a committee of representatives comprised of each of the disciplines, and these reresentatives were each fully involved in the development of the standard. This standard was written and developed with all roadway incident responders in mind regardless of their response function.

This certification follows a set of nine skill sheets that personnel complete within their own respective training programs, which are then signed off on by their Chief officer, training officer, supervisor, etc. These skill sheets are kept on file for audit purposes, and an affidavit of the completed skill sheets is sent in and evaluated. The personnel are then eligible to take a comprehensive written exam which is graded, and certification is achieved with a passing score. The target audience for this type of certification program is senior personnel and members of management teams. It then allows them to know what kind of training front line personnel need to do their job safely and professionally. It expands on other training that is already done and follows the core objectives of TIM training that is already in place. More information on this certification may be found here.

In conclusion it is important that safety service patrol personnel continue to train with, build upon, implement, and develop training programs that are known to be safe, effective, and that ensure the greatest level of safety and best practices. The Emergency Responder Institute (ERSI) continues to be an invaluable resource for online training and resources for all responders and is fully committed to responder safety for all disciplines. Stay safe, keep others safe, seek out additional training, and train like your life depends on it (because it does!) Be prepared for what you will encounter on the roadways.

References: Sullivan, Jack, C. (2017) Category Archives: Public Safety Agencies The Benefits of Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Committees Posted on May 11, 2021 Review here.

About the author John M. Sullivan: John M. Sullivan is a Highway Response Supervisor 1 with the Tennessee Department of Transportation 'HELP' Unit serving Nashville and Middle Tennessee since 1999. Mr. Sullivan is also a Lieutenant FF with the Pegram FD, and a TIMS, EVOC, and Vehicle Extrication Instructor. John has been married 20 years and he and his wife Teresa have a teenaged daughter.

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