Agencies work to prepare for major traffic incidents as a team

Published: Nov. 11, 2019 at 4:15 PM CST
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While MoDot workers are doing their best to treat the roads and keep them safe, they and other agencies also have a plan if things take a turn for the worse. Those in Webster County and along other parts of I-44 have been preparing as teams.

It's been nearly 2 years since a 64 vehicle pileup shut down I-44 in Webster county. Ever since then, several agencies here have been working to be even more prepared.

Like many that Superbowl Sunday, Greg Branstetter of Marshfield Towing was getting ready to watch a football game. But instead, he spent hours on I-44. MoDot says 64 vehicles piled up near mile marker 106 that day in February 2018.

"It went a lot smoother than we expected," says Branstetter.

First responders worked together well, but they did learn some lessons from that day, like how tough in can be to reach those who need help.

"Generally, you can always work through the traffic," says Bransttter, "but whenever you have a pileup of this size, you've got to get, you've got to figure out alternate routes."

Since that event, MoDot and several local agencies have come together to form the Webster County Traffic Incident Management Team.

"We are building a means of better communication, better response, reducing our clearance times, reducing the delay to the motorists, and really, overall, looking at the secondary crashes and how we're preventing them," says Bruce Pettus, MoDot Incident Management Coordinator.

They meet quarterly to talk about how they've handled the most recent crashes, and make sure first responders have vital training.

"We've always worked together well here, but it got us more on the same page," says Branstetter.

One of their main goals is to get the road cleared quickly. "We don't want secondary crashes, we don't want motorists to run out of fuel," sasy Pettus. "Winter weather; there's a lot of things that can go wrong."

The team has worked on plans to get drivers onto detours faster and to take care of those who are stranded.

"They're going to be there for hours," says Branstetter, "So you got to figure out a way to keep them warm and get them to safety."

Similar teams meet across five counties along I-44 from Joplin to Marshfield, to ensure those in need get the best help possible.

"I think the coordination in the future would be a lot better, knowing that we have that relationship pre-established," says Pettus.

Although all the agencies feel more prepared than ever, they still ask that you do your part as drivers, and check road conditions before you head out.

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