To minimize the effects of incidents on safety and congestion, traffic incident management is a phenomenon of coordinating the resources of a number of different partner agencies and private sector companies to detect, respond to, and clear traffic incidents as quickly as possible while protecting the safety of on-scene responders and the traveling public. Following history, public safety agencies applied the phrase incident management to the management process used for all types of emergencies from house fires to traffic crashes. After the construction of the interstate system, traffic incident management became critical to transportation agencies because incidents on freeways can trap motorists between interchanges and impede traffic flow and access by emergency vehicles. TIM requires an emergency response operational philosophy—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—which is a normal operating mode for public safety agencies but a new and different one for transportation agencies.
A lot of agencies and private sector companies are involved in TIM. Any single large incident may have dozens of agencies responding to specific needs. Moreso, TIM is not a core function of any one agency, not even the owners of transportation facilities.
Eight major disciplines form the core constituency of traffic incident management: law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical, transportation, towing and recovery, hazardous materials remediation, public safety communications and dispatch, and traffic reporting.
The attempt to clear incidents quickly while providing safety to on scene responders and travelers is one measure of the fortune of a TIM program. The successful on-scene activities are supported by integrated interagency communications. Both the on-scene operations and the integrated communications structure are supported by a collaborative multi-agency structure to resolve institutional modes of operation and procedure issues and to generate the needed resources through a coordinated budgeting process.