Commentary 4 Site Management After Incident
At the scene of a traffic incident the incident commander is responsible for site management while the site is made safe, traffic is managed through and around the scene, investigations are conducted and evidence collected and the site is cleared of wrecked vehicles and debris before reopening to traffic. The incident commander is generally a police officer, unless there is a fire or hazardous material involved, in which case the fire service is in control until that situation has been properly dealt with.
A key objective in site management is ensuring the safety of all responders, those involved in the incident and other road users. To be effective, responders at the incident site need accurate information about progress towards clearance and equipment needed to complete the clearance.
Effective site management requires continual assessment of the site and the needs of the responders and an understanding of the priorities of other responders.
Site management is the process of:
- accurately assessing the incident and scene
- establishing priorities
- establishing a command post as the focal point for communications and command of activities
- neutralising any hazards or fire
- ensuring extraction of the injured, and transporting to hospital
- marshalling resources and response requirements
- ensuring the safety of responders and motorists
- notifying and coordinating responses from appropriate agencies and organisations
- maintaining clear communications with responders and control centres
- managing traffic at the scene of the incident
- undertaking necessary investigations of any criminal activity and for the coroner
- clearing damaged vehicles, arranging for site clean-up and re-opening the road to traffic.
It is important to frequently review what can be done to improve safety and traffic movement at an incident scene, including estimating the remaining incident duration and providing an update to the control centre to ensure responders and motorists are being kept informed.
The objectives of incident site management include:
- ensuring the safety of crash victims, responders and road users
- coordinating activities of all responders involved
- minimising the impacts of the incident on traffic, e.g. reduce congestion, travel time delay
- maintaining effective inter-agency communication
- maximising the use of inter-agency staff and equipment resources.
To assist in effective site management, it is important to have comprehensive up-to-date resource lists, such as:
- contact lists of responders by area – for police, fire, medical, traffic, towing – including alternative contacts if the responder is already on call or otherwise not available
- contact lists of specialist responders – rescue, crash investigation, vehicle safety, environment, hazardous material, structural engineer, etc.
- lists of available equipment and locations – towing and recovery, traffic control, site clean-up
- available supplies and materials to absorb spills
- locations of hospitals, fire stations, police, road works depots, etc.
- copies of any inter-agency agreements.
There are also resource lists of specialist resources and materials:
- treatments for oil/chemical/hazardous material spills
- specialist medical/intensive care paramedics, helicopter evacuation
- specialist recovery equipment – fork lifts, cranes, air bags for lifting heavy items
- mobile traffic control centre – portable camera and communications
- portable equipment – emergency lighting, variable message sign, traffic signals, speed limit signs, etc.
One of the key tasks in incident site management is controlling traffic at the scene, particularly to maintain responder and public safety. Maintenance of traffic flow around the incident scene, once the injured have been attended to, is also an important means of reducing congestion and delay and also reducing the risk of secondary incidents.
Application of traffic control measures near the incident scene can be initially undertaken by the first responder whether police, fire or incident response unit. It is important to get traffic moving safely as soon as possible and this can be achieved through positive traffic control – providing clear delineation of the path through an incident scene and having a controller continuously directing traffic past the scene. This achieves both objectives of getting traffic moving and maximising safety.
Incident scenes should be considered as a temporary work zone, with all the attendant requirements of using the appropriate traffic control devices, allowing sufficient buffer zones for responder safety and emphasising traffic awareness for responders.
Incident scenes are dangerous work places, so careful attention must be given to ensure that occupational health and safety issues are carefully considered. There are a number of other issues that have been determined from consideration of management practice:
- reducing the duration of incidents is important as the occurrence of secondary incidents is directly related to exposure
- traffic control at the scene of an incident is too often not the key focus when responders are concentrating on rescue, investigation and recovery aspects
- all responders may not understand basic traffic control and hence may prefer to block all traffic
- there needs to be clear responsibility for different tasks – rescue, investigation, clean-up, traffic control – which is understood by all responders.
Badly located positioning of response vehicles is also a recurring issue that can make access for responders difficult and reduce traffic flow. Establishment of staging areas off-site is useful, calling up equipment and vehicles when they are required at the scene.
Emergency lighting discipline is another area of concern, as high intensity flashing lights can tend to cause drivers to be dazzled, creating a distraction leading to slowing passing vehicles.
One area that is often forgotten is early deployment of clean-up resources, as it may take some time to get the required equipment, such as road sweepers, to an incident site.