SCRTD provided a significant number of resources to the incident. SCRTD relocated 150 buses from its Division 5 operating facility in South Central Los Angeles to other divisions in the system. Division 5 then became the LAPD’s command post and refuge for 4,500 responders. Also, SCRTD maintenance personnel fueled and repaired hundreds of response vehicles, including police cars, fire apparatus, National Guard trucks and Humvees, as well as many other assorted response vehicles. One hundred forty SCRTD buses transported responders to and from the riot areas, including county sheriff deputies, National Guardsmen and U.S. Marines. Clearly SCRTD had a major role in providing facility resources, fuel and skilled personnel to support the tactical response to the riot. Transit agencies across the country have continued to provide similar support during times of emergency, thus demonstrating their commitment to their respective communities
Tabletop exercises are invaluable tools for preparing responders and testing emergency plans, policies and procedures. Tabletop exercises expose weaknesses in planning and resource needs. Moreover, tabletop exercises train responders in their roles and responsibilities, improve responder coordination and communication, and develop effective teamwork.
The second day of the workshop is largely devoted to a tabletop exercise. Workshop participants are divided up into four or five groups, each led by a facilitator/instructor. Each group is then given a different disaster scenario. The scenarios can include hurricane, tornado, terrorism, blackout, flooding, civil disturbance and hazardous materials release. The exercise is designed to test the theoretical ability of the group to respond to an incident.
Each group is asked to set up an incident command system for the response and recovery phases of their scenario. The facilitator/instructor assist the group in selecting someone to act as incident commander, public information officer, operations chief, transit agency coordinator and other relevant unified command staff, depending on the scenario involved. As the exercise proceeds at intervals of 15 to 20 minutes, scenario updates are given to the group that can expand or complicate the scenario, forcing modifications to the tactical response and unified command structure. At the end of the exercise each group presents an after-action report on how it established a command structure, its incident response priorities and what hindrances occurred during the exercise and how they were overcome.
Following the after-action report, each group then manages the recovery phase of the scenario. The groups are dealt with the questions: Do the tactical objectives change? Is there a transfer of incident command? What resources are needed in the recovery phase? These and other questions are central to the recovery phase of the scenario.
The exercise demonstrates that no single agency can effectively manage a major emergency alone. A major incident is going to require the resources and expertise from many organizations and agencies. All responding organizations bring their own agendas to the emergency scene. Each of these agendas represents real, valid and significant concerns. Problems are often created, however, when there is no communication prior to the emergency and each organization feels that its specific agenda or interest is most important. Ultimately, the ability to mount a safe and effective response builds on what is accomplished during planning and preparedness activities. The real issue is not just communicating command — it is also coordination and cooperation.
From an emergency response perspective, there are two kinds of transit agencies: those that have lived through a crisis and those that will.
The “Connecting Communities” workshop provides an opportunity for agencies and stakeholders to become acquainted with one another, their interrelated roles and their respective responsibilities. We always begin the workshop by telling participants that one of the best things that can happen in the next two days is the exchange of business cards among them. Transit systems have a place at the emergency management planning table; transit systems can offer tremendous resources in times of emergency. Aside from just moving people, they can offer large facilities, large fuel storage, skilled repair personnel, evacuation planners and communications equipment.
Transit agencies must become full partners in local emergency planning efforts; this will ensure that transit becomes part of a designated emergency command structure. Furthermore, transit agencies are uniquely qualified to efficiently provide emergency service to people who lack mobility options.