Emergency/incident advice


Emergency/Incident advice is a subset of the Alert Service function. It deals with a number of specific incident categories that pose a risk to travellers, or that involve major disruptions. These incidents include:

  • Weather events that disrupt the services:
    • Snow and ice, which can be sustained or transitory
    • Hurricanes and extreme weather which are normally predictable
    • Flash-floods and other weather events which are unexpected and may require partial or complete suspension of the services in an area or the entire city
  • System and/or power failures that compromise system performance
  • Security/terrorist incidents or threats
  • Major demonstrations, events or cavalcades that block critical parts of the network
  • Strikes
  • Location-specific hazards or incidents – e.g. fires, hijacking, assaults

Most transit utilities have prepared responses for such events. These come into three categories:

  • Standard/fall-back plans for weather events and other predictable network wide events. For example, many US cities have planned ‘snow routes’ which is a default mode of operation when weather conditions require it. These are planned and advertised in advance, so that both the customers and the operator know what to do when it is activated.
  • Event-specific plans which are prepared for a known event, in consultation with all relevant stakeholders. This includes major roadworks, road closures, concerts, car-free days, demonstrations, etc. A plan is prepared and activated at the appropriate time to minimise disruption.
  • Contingency plans, which define a mode of operation for unforeseen events and emergencies. Even though the specific event or emergency is unforeseen, guidelines have been prepared for the mode of response, mobilisation of emergency services, adaptation of transport services, and communication to travellers and the general public.

Emergency/incident advice is the communications and information strand of such responses. It consists of four main components:

  • Preliminary/advance information, so that (potential) travellers are aware of planned response to emergencies/incidents, and know where to look for information.
  • Generation of alerts and travel advice for specific incidents, both in advance (when foreseen) and in reactive mode (when unforeseen)
  • Dissemination of alerts and travel advice to (potential) travellers
  • Dissemination of relevant information to other stakeholders, utilities and media

Technologies, data and resources

Emergency/Incident advice services are software applications. They utilise the Traveller Information and Alert Services channels, including PC/internet, mobile devices, in-vehicle display, and at-stop/at-station displays. Additionally, they establish links with poadcast media, 3rd party online content providers, and published media to ensure that the information is disseminated to end-users who do not usually receive public transport information. This is especially relevant for safety-critical situations.

Alert services utilise data from the CAD/AVM system and the Traveller Information systems. This is supplemented by information from traffic and travel control centres, police and other authorities.

Advantages and Cautions

The primary advantages of emergency/Incident advice are to:

  • Engage with travellers in a cooperative way to reduce risk of personal injury
  • Provide travellers with relevant information before they travel and while they are in transit
  • Alert passengers to security threats and divert them from areas of danger
  • Exploit existing channels for cost-effective dissemination of important information
  • Access users and other stakeholders who do are not usually aware of public transport information or advisories

The principal cautions in relation to Alert Services are:

  • Messages should be tested against a wide audience range to ensure that content, phrasing and clarity meet the objectives

Relevant Case Studies

Prince William County, Zurich