Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Overview: Incident Management Overview Disaster Recovery

Overview: Incident Management Overview

Figure 2 depicts the general process for incident management across local, tribal, State, and Federal levels.While the NTRS is focused on transportation recovery, it is helpful to understand how local, tribal, State, and Federal governments respond to and manage an emergency incident, which eventually lays the foundation for the recovery effort. States and local communities structure their governments in a number of different ways, so the information in Figure 2 may not completely apply to your situation. Thus, the following figure describes a “typical” incident management structure. For more detail on incident management, see

Figure 2

Incident Management at the Local Level

Local government jurisdictions include cities, towns, counties, special districts, parishes, and other sub-State political subdivisions such as a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). If your community is part of a MPO, this organization is especially important in all phases of transportation emergency management because it is the entity primarily responsible for all transportation planning in the region.

If you are a local emergency management official or transportation specialist, you likely handle smaller-scale emergencies on a regular basis. In a larger emergency, your community may activate the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The EOC is a physical location where staffs from all designated local agencies gather to monitor the situation, compile and share information, plan and coordinate operational support, and provide a common operating picture.

Depending on the severity of the situation, your local chief executive—in coordination with your local emergency manager—determines whether the incident exceeds your jurisdiction’s capability to effectively respond to and recover from the incident. If your community needs extra assistance, your chief executive may request support from another local jurisdiction or county by activating mutual aid agreements already in place. In addition, the chief executive may send a request to the Governor, stating that the community’s resources are overwhelmed and State resources are needed. Outside resources may include funding, emergency transportation assets, emergency response equipment, emergency response teams, transportation technical assistance, staff augmentation, and basic necessities, such as water, food, clothing, and shelter.

Incident Management at the State/Tribal Level

Once the Governor makes a State disaster/emergency declaration, State resources are made available. In addition, the State may request assistance under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) (, a State-to-State mutual aid agreement that expedites and expands the delivery of support and resources.

Once the Governor authorizes State resources, a State Coordinating Officer (SCO) may be appointed to manage overall resource requirements at the State EOC (SEOC). The SCO works directly with your local emergency manager to coordinate the response and recovery, including recovery of transportation infrastructure systems. If State resources are not sufficient to respond to and recover from the disaster, the Governor would request support from the President for Federal resources.

In addition to a local or State EOC, your local, tribal, or State government may maintain a Transportation Management Center (TMC). TMCs are regional information management centers that gather and maintain transportation-related data and are responsible for a variety of functions that improve safety, efficiency, and traffic conditions on transportation infrastructure. In addition to personnel, TMC functions are supported by ITS technologies located at the TMC and embedded in the infrastructure, some serving to support multiple functions. Because each TMC has unique applications, resources, size, and functionality, the scope of a TMC involvement in any recovery operation will vary greatly.

Note: Tribal governments have almost the same responsibilities in transportation network recovery that all State governments have (described above). However, a key difference in the recovery assistance process is that when local tribal resources are exhausted and cannot manage the recovery of the transportation network infrastructure or operation, tribes are afforded the opportunity to coordinate resources and support through either the State or Federal government, depending on the incident and the Presidential declaration status. For the purposes of this Strategy, the chief executive of a U.S. territory has the same roles and responsibilities as the Governor regarding incident management.

Incident Management at the Federal Level

If the President agrees to provide support to a State, a Presidential declaration is made, releasing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin coordination with the State to supply needed resources. One of the most encompassing Federal funding sources is the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act). 

Once a Presidential disaster has been declared, a Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) will be designated to manage the overall Federal coordination through the Joint Field Office (JFO). The FCO works directly with the SCO, who again, works with your local emergency manager. The FCO, SCO, and your local or tribal emergency manager will work together to make overall command-and-control decisions. The SCO will publicize in a special briefing the types and amounts of emergency assistance available to affected communities in the State. Officials from local and tribal agencies and communities must contact State officials to seek that assistance.

Additionally, when an incident is so large that it exceeds the ability of local and State government to respond effectively, the Federal government uses the NRF to organize the Federal response. The NRF provides guidance on how the Nation conducts all hazards response. The NRF is organized into a core document with numerous Emergency Support Function (ESF), Incident, and Support annexes. The 15 ESF annexes cover functions that could be needed during an emergency (e.g., transportation, communications, public works and engineering, search and rescue, etc.). When it comes to transportation recovery, ESF #1—Transportation (led by DOT) and ESF #14—Long-Term Community Recovery (led by FEMA, with DOT as a support agency) are paramount. Additionally, ESF #3—Public Works and Engineering (led by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), is an important resource for overall infrastructure and engineering recovery. The other 12 ESFs may also have responsibilities depending upon the recovery situation.

The NTRS helps bridge ESF #1 and ESF #14 by connecting transportation response and recovery to long-term community recovery. The purpose of ESF #1 is threefold:

1. “To assist Federal, State, tribal, and local governmental entities, voluntary organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector in the management of transportation systems and infrastructure during domestic threats or in response to incidents.” This includes identifying solutions for temporary alternative transportation when a community’s regular modes of transportation have been damaged, destroyed, disrupted, or overwhelmed.

2. “To participate in prevention, preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation activities.”

3. “To carry out DOT’s statutory responsibilities, including regulation of transportation, management of the Nation’s airspace, and ensuring the safety and security of the national transportation system.”

The purpose of ESF #14 is to support all levels of government and the private sector “to enable community recovery from the long-term consequences of extraordinary disasters  .”FEMA’s Long-Term Community Recovery Planning Process: A Self-Help Guide" can assist communities with this goal.

ESF #1 and #14 generally receive support requests from FEMA or the ESF at the State level, which takes requests from your local or tribal ESF. Most, but not all, State and local emergency response plans follow the same ESF structure as the NRF, so in the instance that the ESF structure is not replicated, ESF #1 and #14 will take requests from other governmental organizations.