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Sep 23rd, 2016 | By | Category: Geri Roskopf's Blog

Geri RoskopfThe first time I heard the word interoperability was at a Traffic Incident Management (TIM) seminar. I could hardly pronounce the word let alone spell it. The definition of interoperability is the ability of systems – especially computers or telecommunications — to work together without being specially configured to do so. To provide services to and accept services from other systems, units or forces and to use the services so exchanged to enable them to operate effectively together. In others words, systems to communicate.

The engineer at this seminar was explaining how many communication towers were being put up in every county of the state and was excited because these communication towers would allow interoperability for more fire and rescue, law enforcement and other first responders. I raised my hand and asked if the towing operators were being considered in their interoperability study. He stammered a bit and said that wasn’t his area of study.

As many towing operators know, our profession is usually the last to be contacted, the last to get to a scene and last to know “the plan” to clear a scene. The roadways cannot be cleared without our towing and recovery services, so why are we overlooked in communication with other responders?

I was pleasantly surprised when I received an invitation from the WisDOT’s ETO (Emergency Transportation Operations) and TIME programs to attend their annual Emergency Transportation Operations fall tabletop exercise.  The proposed exercise scenario will involve a severe winter storm that closes a major highway causing a large number of motorists to become stranded for an extended period of time. Two presentations will include the status of WISCON – Wisconsin’s Interoperable System for Communication and a review of the Incident Command System.

The goal of the exercise is to build and strengthen WisDOT’s relationships with other state, county and local stakeholder agencies within each region by demonstrating a unified response and recovery to an ETO-level transportation emergency.  

Wow – towers are actually being asked to attend this exercise. Perhaps we’re making some headway after all.