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How Automated Traffic Management Insights Can Help DoTs Better Respond to Natural Disasters

Natural disasters can disrupt daily activities, cause destruction and also cost cities and states millions. In 2021 alone, the United States experienced 97 natural disaster strikes — including blizzards, hurricanes, wildfires, tornados, heatwaves, and drought — costing $145 billion.

One of the most pressing challenges when disaster strikes is recuperating infrastructure damage — particularly transportation infrastructure. But in the immediate aftermath of a strike, state and local governments often lack visibility into what’s happening on the ground. Besides delaying restoration, this negatively impacts traffic flow and can inhibit rescue efforts.

DoTs Are Flying Blind

While many departments of transportation (DoTs) have put measures in place to monitor and manage traffic systems, these tools tend to operate in silos. Therefore, IT teams are always in reactive mode — either discovering outages by chance or relying on citizens to manually report them.

To mitigate these challenges and achieve a more comprehensive view of the complete network, state and local agencies are increasingly looking to adopt a traffic management infrastructure built around artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. Let’s look at the benefits:

1. Improved Device Visibility

A key challenge many districts face is the makeup of the thousands of devices within a region or city’s traffic network; a large percentage lack an IP address, making monitoring nearly impossible.

To reduce the demands on DoT personnel time spent identifying and remediating issues after a disaster, agencies can deploy IP-based discovery to automatically locate all active IP and non-IP devices — quickly and with a higher degree of accuracy.

Automated discovery also reduces the risks associated with manual data collection — especially in the chaos and confusion following a disaster. Instead of driving around looking for outages or doing manual equipment checks via the webpage associated with each device, IT teams benefit from a single pane of glass view into the entire system with dashboards, geographical maps, and a clear, holistic, end-to-end picture of roadside devices.

With this approach, network silos are reduced, and IT teams can work in unison with disaster response teams to discover outages quickly. For instance, districts can establish alerts and tailor them to flag outages on high-priority devices as high severity. They can also create dependencies amongst devices — IP or non-IP — across the network to prevent a flurry of alerts should an upstream device go down.

2. Centralized Monitoring and Remediation

Another key benefit of integrating automation and AI into traffic management is centralized monitoring and management. This is particularly important during a natural disaster because it enables DoTs and emergency operation centers to quickly come together with a holistic view of device status and network availability in the impacted region. This accumulated information also can layer in federal assets, such as a live NOAA map, for more precise situational awareness.  

With this holistic view, officials can run reports on device uptime for contractor-maintained devices vs. state-maintained devices. A holistic approach makes it easier to collect comprehensive device details, so DoT personnel can easily find and map traffic devices, monitor bandwidth, and help them understand the root cause of performance issues — then restore device configurations automatically, shortening the time to MTTR.  

Accelerating Disaster Response

By adopting a traffic management infrastructure built around AI and automation, states can get closer to improving performance, reliability, transparency, and security, which can speed up disaster response.

It also removes the burden on citizens, highway workers, and IT teams to manually solve traffic issues when disaster strikes.

Brandon Shopp currently serves as the group vice president of product strategy at SolarWinds. He has a proven success record in product delivery and revenue growth, with a wide variety of software product, business model, M&A, and go-to-market strategies experience. Shopp previously served as VP of product management for network management, systems management, as well as senior director of product management for systems and application management when he joined in 2018. Prior to SolarWinds, Shopp was the vice president of product management at AlienVault and the senior director of products at Embarcadero Technologies. Shopp holds a B.B.A. from Texas A&M University.

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