do we prepare for emergencies & disasters?
Three recent events – one local and two national – underscore the crucial role that transportation plays in our daily lives and our economy. The devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the interruption of travel on one of Idaho’s primary highways clearly demonstrate the importance of being prepared for emergencies or disasters.
Ironically, some of our employees traveling to the annual Idaho Prepares emergency conference in Lewiston were delayed or detoured when ITD bridge inspectors found a suspicious object hanging from the center of historic Rainbow Bridge. Rick Smith, Jim Holland and Jack Irwin acted decisively and correctly when they reported the object to the Valley County Sheriff’s Office.
To ensure safety and security for the traveling public, we closed the bridge and redirected traffic for about six hours while three law enforcement agencies and ITD determined the nature of the suspicious object. It proved to be a rather benign bucket used as part of a technological treasure hunt, called a geo-cache. But the threat was legitimate and serious.
I want to commend Rick, Jim and Jack for recognizing a potential hazard and responding quickly to secure the bridge. They put themselves at considerable potential risk to provide safety for motorists. They also settled for us the debate about whether transportation workers – those front-line people who maintain our system – are indeed first-responders.
Typically, the title “first-responder” is reserved for law enforcement officers and medical technicians. Today it includes transportation workers.
Security and safety of our transportation system does not begin or end with airport screening. It is not limited to public transportation or cargo shipments. It has become a part of what we do and factors into the decisions we make.
The 21st century transportation system must be capable of moving travelers from one location to another. It must ensure that goods and services are delivered in a timely manner. And it must be operated efficiently to enable the mass evacuation of major cities in the face of devastating hurricanes.
If you ever wondered:
And if you have never contemplated the value of your contributions as an ITD employee…
Events of the past few weeks should serve as appropriate