Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao
National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week
Department of Transportation Headquarters
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Department of Transportation. Thanks, Martin [Knopp] for serving as master of ceremonies. And many thanks to the state DOT officials, and the representatives of the first responder community, who are joining us today.
I am pleased to be here today to recognize National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, and to mark a significant milestone in first responder training.
Let me begin by thanking the first responder community—law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, and towing and recovery workers—who put their lives on the line to save others. Your courage and dedication to saving lives is inspiring!
The entire country witnessed an example of your bravery earlier this year, as they watched on television as a major commuter bridge in Atlanta collapsed in a fiery accident. First responders rushed to the scene to clear the area before the bridge collapsed-- in rush hour no less—get the public out of harm’s way, and put out the fire. It was a difficult and dangerous job, but the quick thinking and immediate action of the first responders prevented what could have been a terrible tragedy. Not a single life was lost! It was a tremendous achievement!
Yet we all know that not every situation turns out so well. Every year, on average, 100 first responders perish in the line of duty. That is unacceptable.
The Department is committed to working with the safety community to bring down these numbers by supporting enhanced training and preparedness for first responders.
That’s why the Federal Highway Administration-- in partnership with many of your organizations-- developed Traffic Incident Management Responder Training, or TIM for short. This training addresses all aspects of incident responses, and provides best practices for first responders across the country.
It brings responders from different fields together to train. This breaks down silos between specialties. It helps everyone better understand the roles of the other members of the first response team, so they can work together more collaboratively.
As you know too well, your work can be dangerous. One of the leading causes of death and injury for emergency responders is being struck by vehicles while working alongside highways. That is also unacceptable.
Traffic Incident Management Responder Training can help reduce that risk by focusing on quickly clearing a scene and preventing additional crashes. This is important because—as you know so well-- the longer it takes to clear a scene, the greater the danger is to everyone.
In addition to this training, the Department strongly supports Move Over Laws in every state, as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico, which help protect first responders while on duty.
This month marks an impressive milestone: 300,000 first responders nationwide have completed Traffic Incident Management Responder Training. However, there is always more that can be done. That’s why the Department is committed to continuing to work with you to enhance and strengthen safety on the job.
So, let me conclude by thanking you, once again, for everything you do to keep America’s roads and drivers safe. And congratulations to the first responder community on reaching this important training milestone!