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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
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CHAPTER 3

Key Questions/Key Decisions

During emergencies, there are a series of decisions that must be made to assist a transportation organization in determining its responses to the events. These decisions range from policy and priority decisions that drive staffing and resource decisions to determining the triggers and timing of actions and addressing long-term impacts. Asking the right questions allows a transportation organization to make these key decisions within organizational and resource constraints and stay focused on quickly adapting. Asking the right questions also enhances the ability of the agency to withstand the short-term and long-term impacts of the event and facilitates collaboration.

Key Points on Service for People with Disabilities and Older Adults

Policy decisions include addressing eligibility qualifications and processes for providing service to people with disabilities. Changes in priorities and staffing may need to be made to support service for people with disabilities and older adults.

Resources and protective measures that respond to the emergency need to be compatible with the needs of people with disabilities and older adults; additional technologies [e.g., scheduling and dispatching software upgrades, interactive voice response (IVR) communication tools, surface cleaning machines] and measures may be necessary.

Key Decisions

Table 1 summarizes the types of decisions that need to be made, general questions to consider in this decision-making, and questions specific to people with disabilities and older adults. Organization areas that are critical in this decision-making are also listed.

Key Questions by Phase

Tables 2, 3, 4, and 5 each provide a decision-making matrix by emergency phase (organization preparedness, protection/mitigation, organization response, and organization recovery) that can assist transportation organizations in developing policies, strategies, and approaches to effectively address a pandemic while working within organizational and resource constraints.

Preparedness

During the preparedness phase of an emergency, planning is done to assess risks, potential impacts, and consequences and determine actions and resources that are required to address the emergency and recover from it. The results are often documented in emergency and continuity of service plans.

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
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Table 1. Types of decisions and associated considerations for critical agency areas.

Decision Types General Questions to Consider Questions to Consider Specific to People with Disabilities and Older Adults Critical Organization Areas
Policy Are there organization policies already established to address the situation? Or do additional organization policies need to be put in place?

Are policies aligned with federal, state, and local policies, if necessary?

Are communications protocols and information management in place, especially with health agencies and accessibility organizations?
Can accessibility eligibility qualification continue as is? Does the process need to change? If so, how should accessibility confirmations be handled? Human Resources, Finance, Continuity of Operations Plans (COOPs)
Priorities What are the organization’s mission-essential functions?

Do priorities need to change?

How does the organization support community essential services?
Are there additional essential functions necessary for people with disabilities and older adults?

Do changes to priorities need to be made to ensure support for people with disabilities and older adults?
Supply Chain, Community
Triggers What are the criteria or trigger points for initiating specific actions or implementations?

When should plans be implemented? When should staff restrictions or service reductions occur?
Are there different trigger points for people with disabilities and older adults?

Do implementation plans take into account the needs of people with disabilities and older adults?
Agency Operations, COOP
Staffing What are the essential staff roles?

Is additional staff needed?

How does the organization maintain the health and safety of staff?
Is dedicated staff needed for people with disabilities and older adults?

Are different procedures necessary to maintain the health and safety of staff who work with people with disabilities and older adults?
All
Resources Does the organization have adequate supplies to address response needs?

Does the organization have technology in place to support the situation?
Are additional supplies needed to address the needs of people with disabilities and older adults?

Is technology compatible for people with disabilities and older adults? Is additional technology necessary?
Management, Emergency Management
Timing What is the estimated duration of the event?

Are phased approaches possible?

What are the elements in each phase?
Are the phases consistent for all riders? If not, what elements need to be adjusted? All
Finance Are there budget issues to address?

Are there opportunities available?
Are there existing contracts that can be used to fund new services for people with disabilities and older adults?

Are there additional funding opportunities for existing or new services for people with disabilities and older adults?
Agency Operations, Finance
Page 17
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
Decision Types General Questions to Consider Questions to Consider Specific to People with Disabilities and Older Adults Critical Organization Areas
Other Who are existing organization partners?

Who else needs to be involved? Which new partnerships should be developed?
Are there additional partners needed to address the service needs of people with disabilities and older adults?

Are there community organizations focused on the needs of people with disabilities and older adults that the agency can support?
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Table 2. Decision-making for transportation organization emergency preparedness.

Considerations for Preparedness Key Questions Impacts on People with Disabilities and Older Adults Critical Strategies
Disease Characteristics/Threats What is the severity (e.g., virulence, duration)?

How is it transmitted?

What types of screening are available?
Are there additional risks for immunocompromised riders? Planning

Safety Procedures

Monitoring
Plans/Standard Operating Procedures When should plans be reviewed?

Do they need to be modified?

Are there any concurrent risks or events to consider?
Do the plans consider the needs of people with disabilities and older adults? Planning

Equity
Personnel How and when should essential personnel be determined?

Have the personnel been trained?
Will there be requirements for dedicated personnel? Planning

Employee Training
Coordination Are there state- or community-deemed essential functions?

What information is needed?

How do you communicate if things change?
What information is available about the location and needs of people with disabilities and older adults in the organization’s service area?

Are partnerships in place with accessibility, disability, and older adult organizations?
Planning

Relationships

Communication
Page 18
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×

Table 3. Decision-making for transportation organization protection/mitigation during an emergency.

Considerations for Protection/Mitigation Key Questions Impacts on People with Disabilities and Older Adults Critical Strategies
Preventive Countermeasures (e.g., PPE, barriers, social distancing, vaccination) What types of protective measures are available?

Is guidance for measures available?

Is guidance agreed on by experts?

Have the impacts of the protective measures been assessed?

What mechanisms were used for assessment?
Is guidance specific to people with disabilities and older adults available?

Are there additional protective measures needed to help people with disabilities or older adults?

What impact will protective measures have?
Safety Procedures
Mitigation What capabilities are available and effective?

Have suppliers and alternative suppliers been identified?
Are additional capabilities required to address mitigation for some riders? Safety Procedures

Protection/Mitigation

During an emergency, transportation organizations must consider the safety and well-being of their passengers and drivers, as well as other employees, and the vehicles and facilities critical to operations.

Response

During an emergency event, organizations need to safely continue transportation services to existing customers, especially services to people with disabilities and older adults, while providing new and temporary services as required. When unmet transportation needs are identified and requests for additional support are made by the community, the transportation organization must respond.

Recovery

During the recovery phase, organizations return to normal service after the emergency ends. Pandemics are long-term emergencies that may have many waves and unclear endings.

King County Metro in Seattle, Washington, developed the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Report, which details agency actions during the pandemic and analysis of their effectiveness (King County Metro, 2020). The report includes a summary table of phased durations of various action areas of pandemic response and agency goals supported by those actions, as shown in Figure 4.

Page 19
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×

Table 4. Decision-making for transportation organization emergency response.

Considerations for Response Key Questions Impacts on People with Disabilities and Older Adults Critical Strategies
Activation What levels of activation are there (e.g., alert, monitor, activate)?

What supplies are necessary? Are they in stock?

When should plans be activated?
Are there specific supplies required? Planning

Continuity of Services

New and Temporary Services
Tracking/Monitoring What information is required (e.g., data and reporting)? Are data on people with disabilities and older adults in the service area available?

If not, how can information be obtained?
Planning

Continuity of Services
Accessibility Are there challenges with meeting accessibility requirements?

What policies or procedures can be modified to meet accessibility requirements?
Has the accessibility of people with disabilities and older adults been impacted?

How can the impacts be mitigated?
New and Temporary Services

Continuity of Services

Equity
Community What community needs are impacted or unmet?

Are agency resources available to support community needs?
What needs for people with disabilities and older adults are impacted or unmet?

Are agency resources available to support needs?
New and Temporary Services

Continuity of Services

Equity
Communications What messages need to be sent? To which audiences?

Is there consistency in the messages being sent by other agencies and local/state government?
What types of information are critically needed?

What channels are effective in delivering messages to people with disabilities and older adults?
Communications
Tools/Technology What existing tools are available?

What new/additional capabilities can be made available?
What technology is available to support people with disabilities and older adults?

Are additional tools or technology needed?
All
Page 20
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×

Table 5. Decision-making for transportation organization recovery from emergencies.

Considerations for Recovery Key Questions Impacts on People with Disabilities and Older Adults Critical Strategies
Restoration/Stabilization What is the restoration of services?

Is a phased approach available to return to “normal” services?

Are there long-term impacts (e.g., on employees, ridership, available services, and funding)?
Are there different timelines required for the restoration of some services? Planning

Continuity of Services
Public Confidence What is needed to ensure confidence in the safety of the system and services? Are additional actions necessary to ensure confidence in the safety of the system and services? Safety Procedures

Communications
Lessons Learned Are lessons learned being captured?

Are there enduring changes?

How can lessons be institutionalized at an agency?
Are there lessons specific to people with disabilities and older adults? Planning

Continuity of Services
Page 21
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
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Source: King County Metro, 2020.

Figure 4. Summary of COVID-19 response and recovery actions from King County Metro.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Key Questions/Key Decisions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
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Next: Chapter 4 - Roles and Responsibilities »
Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response Get This Book
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 Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response
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The COVID-19 pandemic left many persons with disabilities and older adults without reliable transportation to access essential goods, medical care, and social engagements. Issues of social isolation for older adults were exacerbated with the emergence of COVID-19 because transportation service was reduced.

TCRP Research Report 243: Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response, from TRB's Transit Cooperative Research Program, aims to provide transportation organizations (including transit agencies, specialized transportation providers, and other local government agencies and stakeholders) with helpful information and strategies on providing service for persons with disabilities and older adults in emergency situations.

Supplemental to the report is a pocket guide.

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