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High scale disasters open our eyes on the potential shortcomings of the Department of Transportation

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Emergency Preparedness Responsibilities


The transport system is a critical infrastructure, which is a vital system whose disruption from the normal function leads to devastating effects (Parks, 2007). The disruption of transport system can have devastating impacts on the economic and social of the nation. Under normal circumstances, transport systems are designed to operate under certain conditions of extremities. They are made in such a way that some disturbances on the systems can be mitigated easily. However, at some point, the transport systems may be compromised by high scale disasters that lead to significant impacts on the safety and security of a large region or nation (Rodrigue, n.d). Under the executive order (EO) 12656 of 1988, federal departments were assigned the roles of ensuring national security and emergency preparedness. Through the Executive Order, Department of Transportation (DOT) was formed and tasked to accomplish the mission of ensuring the safety, fast, efficient, accessible, and the provision of a convenient transport system today and in future to the people of America.

The transport systems are vulnerable to disturbances and attacks due to increased mobility of people around the world, interdependence with other systems, urbanization, and centralization of transport networks (Zimmerman et al., 2017). Thus, the Department of Transportation has a critical role of mitigating any crisis that affect transport systems. The most important roles of Department of Transportation in crisis management include preparedness to provide direction to the modes of transport, smooth transition of the Coast Guard during emergencies and the coordination of the Interstate Commerce Commission’s preparedness plans to reduce vulnerabilities and restoration after a disaster.

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Provision of Direction to Modes of Transportation

The occurrence of disasters can be explained in two perspectives; a disaster can be foreseen, or it can occur at the least expected time. A disaster can be foreseen through various techniques and its probable magnitude, and implications may be established to help in preparation to mitigate its impacts. On the other hand, some disasters may be unforeseen, and their occurrence is likely to be fatal since there is no mechanism in place to mitigate it. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has been tasked with the provision of direction on how public transportation is to be conducted in case of national security emergencies. DOT plans on how air, surface, water, pipelines, public storage, and warehousing are to be accomplished when disasters affecting them occurs. The DOT recommends the best alternative means of transportation such that the impacts of the disaster affecting transportation are mitigated or minimized as much as possible. Thus, this strategy is essential in ensuring that the transportation of important goods such as fuel and the movement of people to safer regions is facilitated.

The strategy of providing direction on the alternative means of transport in the wake of a crisis was best utilized during the Hurricane Sandy. They advised on the best means of transport during and after the disaster to prevent more loss of lives by using dangerous means. According to Gramling (2016), Hurricane Sandy is one of the deadliest hurricanes that hit the United States in 2012. Sandy destroyed several critical systems, among them the transport networks. Through coordination with federal and state partners, DOT secured around 350 buses to be used for transport and replace the lost commuter rails in the New Jersey. Moreover, DOT obtained permits and worked with the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to transport fuel to and from the affected areas. Thus, the impacts of Hurricane Sandy were minimized.

Coast Guard

Department of Transportation also has a significant role in developing a plan that ensures the smooth transition of the Coast Guard in coalition with the Department of the Navy during the crisis. Department of Transportation works together with Coast Guard to manage the crisis of marine transport disruption and safe movement of people trapped in water bodies during a crisis. The Coast Guard respond swiftly and in a well-coordinated manner. Their good organization has seen their success in their rescue and emergency response mission. Coast guard is critical during a crisis; especially storms are accompanied by floods. Coast guards have a great expertise in handling situations in unstable water such as storms (Egli, 2014).

In the situation of Hurricane Sandy, Coast guards played a great role in rescuing of people. During and after the Hurricane, the Coast Guard restored order and security. Notably, the Coastguards rescued people who were caught in a ship and were stranded off the coast of North Carolina. Their role in rescuing people during the hurricane was aided by their advancement in technology where they used helicopters and airplanes to conduct search missions (Force, 2013 ). After the hurricane, the Coast Guard team had the role of continuing with the rescue mission. Their great role during and after the hurricane was a coordination between the state and the federal government. The role played by the Coast Guards was commendable, and it was within the roles mandated by the Executive order 12656.

Preparedness Plan and Response

Department of Transportation also has a role in preparing for an impending crisis and respond to the impacts of a crisis (Vasconez, n.d). This is important for crisis management since the impacts of the crisis are reduced to a manageable level. The impacts of the disaster are reduced through the reduction of vulnerabilities. Moreover, DOT has the responsibility of maintaining destroyed transport networks, restoration of railroads, motor carriers, and inland waterway systems. DOT accomplish these roles through the Interstate Commerce Commission which is tasked with the role of providing finance for the same. The most important aspect of the DOT in this strategy is the rebuilding of infrastructure after the crisis.

After the Hurricane Sandy, the DOT, through coordination of interstate commerce commission, managed to accomplish repairs of the damaged transport systems and restore the transport networks to their normal conditions. To prevent future impacts, resiliency projects were started. Hudson Yards Right-of-Way Preservation was built to prevent the impacts of storms and in the coming future (Sousa, 2015). Moreover, DOT built storm drains that were elevated. The elevation was aimed to reduce the volume of water pouring into the stations that are below the street level. Moreover, water pumps and backup sources of power were installed for use in future to remove water overflowing to the streets.


The Executive Order established the Department of Transportation whose main aim was to mitigate the impacts of disasters. The Department of Transportation has accomplished the roles as stated by the executive order. Therefore, it is worth to note that the DOT today is more prepared to handle future disasters and minimize their impacts to manageable levels and thus the security of the people is enhanced.


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