The transportation sector might seem less susceptible to the impacts of COVID-19 than it is to other disasters, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. While infrastructure and physical resources remain intact during a pandemic, transportation and transit agencies still face many challenges—including employee and economic concerns, maintaining public trust, and providing support for other sectors, such as medical and public health.

The extended and indeterminate nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has led the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies to create A Pandemic Playbook for Transportation Agencies. The playbook is divided into four parts: one that provides an overview of the pandemic and how it differs from other disasters, one that outlines challenges that are likely to arise, and one that delivers “plays” that can be used to address challenges. The fourth section concludes with insights and ideas for moving forward.

The playbook was produced through interviews with key U.S. transportation leaders, participation in transportation and emergency management events, and three transportation-focused Quick Response research awards solicited by the Natural Hazards Center.

The lessons included in the Pandemic Playbook will be useful to many who work in transportation, as well as emergency managers, planners, and policy makers. Takeaways that are broadly applicable include:

Overcommunicate. Continually updating and reinforcing information about how the pandemic is impacting transportation is important for the public, employees, and other stakeholders. Use all the tools at your disposal—social media, traditional news, flyers and posters, etc.—to make sure your message is heard.

Build on What You Know. Many aspects of continuity plans and preparedness activities still apply to pandemic response. Look at your current plans and see what can be adapted.

Be Flexible and Innovative. Perhaps most importantly, do what you can to keep options open and don’t be afraid to take risks and make innovations. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many unexpected challenges and is sure to introduce others. Agencies that can pivot quickly are less likely to have long lasting impacts.

The playbook is available for free download at the National Academies Press website.