Director Ness explains how ITD realignment improves
emergency preparation, planning, response
ITD Director Brian Ness explained to a national audience this week how realignment has transformed his agency into a model for emergency preparation, planning and response.
Ness, who became ITD’s director in 2010, is chairman of the AASHTO (American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials) subcommittee on emergency management.
He delivered the keynote address Tuesday (Aug. 21) to open the annual meeting of AASHTO’s Special Committee on Transportation Security and Emergency Management in Irvine, Calif.
The 2012 Transportation Hazards and Security Summit and Peer Exchange began Monday with committee meetings, panel discussions and task force meetings. It includes more than 30 sessions and runs through today (Aug. 24).
The conference brought together emergency management officials from throughout the nation. Sponsors included AASHTO, the Federal Highway Administration, the Transportation Research Board and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Col. G. Jerry Russell, head of the Idaho State Police, was among the attendees.
Ness knows firsthand the effects of a natural disaster on transportation and local communities. Wildfires in central Idaho this summer forced closures of state highways and threated rural communities and hundreds of vacation homes. ITD played an integral role in the natural disaster response efforts.
Realignment of ITD significantly changed the department’s approach to management and created a new emphasis on emergency planning, training and response. The new model, which was fully implemented this year, establishes ITD as a national leader.
The organizational change ensures better responses to emergencies by ITD, help Idahoans recover faster and minimize transportation-related impacts on the state’s economy, Ness emphasized.
It represents a major shift away from a traditional “silo” structure and its narrow hierarchy, replacing it with a broad, team-focusedapproach. Extending the breadth of emergency management enables the department to capitalize on the strength, expertise and experiences of key personnel not normally associated with emergency planning, the ITD director explains.
“Our reorganization created cross-functional teams and resulted in a more efficient and effective department. One of the areas where that is most evident is our emergency program,” Ness says.
“Realignment elevated the emergency program manager to a direct reporting relationship with our chief deputy and allows him to speak with the voice and authority of our executive team. It also provides better access to those who make critical decisions and improves visibility for emergency management.”
Those organizational changes support ITD’s drive to become a national leader across the spectrum of transportation programs.
Natural and human-caused disasters the past decade have prompted radical changes in preparation, planning and response by public agencies, including transportation departments. ITD is among the forerunners in changing to meet those needs.
The need to change emergency responses nationally became evident after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and devastating hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. The Department of Homeland Security was established as a cabinet-level organization to plan and train for emergencies and assist in recovery efforts.