First Responder Planning
First responders will be extremely active during the eclipse, which is expected to bring common headaches that are associated with large gatherings, like the crowd the eclipse will bring to Indiana. Traffic congestion, potential accidents, health and safety risks and more are all part of the planning process for IDHS and partner agencies such as DNR, INDOT, ISP and others. For the past year, a large group of state and local agencies have been meeting to plan for the unique total solar eclipse event in Indiana. The state expects several hundred thousand additional people in Indiana on April 8, 2024, and it certainly is expected to be an “all-hands-on-deck” event.
Much of the activities required to respond will be coordinated through the State Emergency Operations Center with support from emergency response teams and subject matter experts positioned strategically around the state.
But the uniqueness of a total solar eclipse in Indiana requires training and coordination like no other event typical to the state. Also, the eclipse is not confined to a specific location, which will leave rolling incidents of various sizes taking place throughout the path of totality.
Simple things like the availability of nearby ambulances, tow trucks for traffic-snarled areas or injured campers in open fields, and even toilet facilities create unknown scenarios. Think about if blackout occurred in Indianapolis, but multiply that by the dozen or so counties that will be in the dark for more than 4 minutes. Said another way, public safety officials will be asked to manage a crowd five times the size of the Indianapolis 500 race and across a broad section of the state.
It is estimated that 43 million people live in the path of totality for the 2024 total solar eclipse, not counting those who will travel to experience the event.
- Priorities for First Responders
- Address life safety needs.
- Support local governments and resource requests.
- Support safe movement along Indiana’s transportation system.
- Ensure coordination and communication among local, state and federal officials.
“We started meeting more than year out from the event because of the importance of forming these working relationships and sharing information with our partners,” said Mary Moran, director of the IDHS Emergency Management and Preparedness Division. “By working together, we can overcome any of the challenges this event may cause. If we overprepare, that is not such a bad thing for Hoosiers.”
Traffic, and the safety concerns that come with congestion, are the top priorities for planning. For the total solar eclipse in 2017, most people who traveled to view the eclipse departed for home within two hours of the viewing. The roads typically are congested within 15 minutes, experts say.
Traffic may become gridlocked on highways across the state leading up to the eclipse and immediately after totality, and so drivers may seek alternate routes on county roads and local streets that typically would not see much traffic. There may be extreme demand on local resources, such as gas stations, which may lead to acute fuel shortages. Drivers who are unable to refill their tanks may run out of gas in traffic or alongside roadways.
With traffic peaking after totality around 3 p.m. Eastern, departments should consider whether staffing shift changes should occur earlier in the day, as well as whether response vehicles should be located strategically to anticipate gridlock on both main roads and local streets.
- Recreational drug use may increase, so there may be a higher incidence of overdose cases to tend to.
- If there are local or nearby festivals or events, there may be issues common to mass gatherings, such as crowd control and altercations.
- Extreme traffic congestion may lead to road rage incidents.
- Travelers may become lost, and some visitors may become separated from their families.
- Vehicles may park in unusual and remote places, including soft or wet ground and fields. If people experience medical emergencies in these areas, consider how to get access to places that may be off-road or inaccessible to standard response vehicles. Also consider what equipment may be needed to help someone who is located in a difficult-to-reach location.
- Communications systems may experience disruptions due to high data and communication network use. Ensure that public safety radios are set up properly, pre-programmed and ready to use. Prepare the radios now and contact the Integrated Public Safety Commission for assistance if needed.
- Traffic Considerations for First Responders
- What is being done locally? Are there traffic management plans? Is your department involved in the planning process?
- Are there events in nearby cities and towns, and how will their traffic management plans affect your operations?
- How and when will first responders themselves get to work if traffic loads are heavy throughout the day?
- Should there be satellite parking areas with shuttles?
- Long-distance travelers need information (social media).
- Coordination between jurisdictions is key.
- Safety Messaging for Drivers
- Fill up your gas tank before traveling.
- Do not stop along the interstate or shoulder.
- Exit the highway to view or photograph the event.
- Do not take pictures while driving.
- Turn on headlights.
- Watch for pedestrians.
- Expect congestion the day before, the day of and the day after the eclipse (come early; stay late).
- Downloadable Resources
Emergency Management Planning
The eclipse brings a unique opportunity for emergency management agencies and community leaders to welcome thousands of people to their counties, cities and towns. As awesome as this sight will be, the safety and well-being of Hoosiers and visitors will remain paramount. By exploring the resources provided here, emergency managers and leaders can contribute to a well-prepared and thriving community during the celestial event.
- General Information
The next total solar eclipse in Indiana will not be until 2099. This is an extremely rare event, and viewers will be treating it as such. State agencies have been contacted already from people in Europe and South America.
Traffic will be a major concern. Encourage visitors to stay in place after the eclipse to avoid severe traffic jams.
- Emergency Management Tools
- Eclipse Location and Duration Times
- Total Solar Eclipse (TSE) Exercise in a Box
- Instructions for TSE Exercise in a Box
- TSE Exercise in a Box
- TSE Exercise in a Box Presentation Template
Note: The presentation file was researched and compiled by IDHS. Editable sections are highlighted in yellow. Please avoid editing other information. If you have any questions, ask the IDHS Exercise Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Integrated Public Safety Commission: Eclipse Communication Planning Guide
- Safety and Preparedness
Eye safety will be critical. Encourage your communities to buy eclipse glasses from verified vendors.
- How To Tell If Eclipse Glasses or Handheld Solar Viewers Are Safe
- Reputable Sources for Eclipse Viewing Products
- Eclipse Glasses (Indiana Department of Natural Resources)
- Indiana Department of Health Resources
Emergency managers should consider how can resources be effectively allocated to ensure public safety during eclipse-related activities, including traffic management and emergency response.
- Are there adequate resources, including personnel and equipment, available for emergency response during the eclipse?
- Consider setting up an incident management team (IMT) for this event and creating an incident action plan now.
The eclipse will take only about eight minutes to move throughout Indiana. Then viewers will be trying to travel home or out of the state. It will not take long for interstates to become gridlocked. People taking detours will cause backroads to become gridlocked as well. Start looking now at how to mitigate those problems.
- Start looking at nonconventional ways to conduct traffic and to get emergency response personnel to places they may need to go after the event.
- Events like festivals or concerts could encourage visitors to stay later.
DNR and INDOT are working to commit message boards for state parks and traffic management. INDOT will not have any maintenance ongoing this day but may use crews to have a one-day Hoosier Helper program to carry gas and other small resources in local communities.
- Submit a list of potential choke points to INDOT.
- Share INDOT and Indiana State Police traffic guidance
Many hotels are sold out and a majority of sites and campgrounds on DNR properties have been booked.
- Be aware of people trying to find last-minute hotels.
- Recognize the potential for trespassing.
- Be prepared for people crowding in non-ideal places.
- Do counties, cities or towns have enough public facilities, such as restrooms and parking areas, to accommodate the increased number of visitors?
Have a contingency plan to react to the weather conditions on April 8 (cloudy, storms, snow, ice, etc.).
Community leaders and emergency managers need to have conversations with schools to determine best practices. School buses may be caught in eclipse traffic when taking students home.
- How do schools take care of students stuck in traffic?
- Should school close that day or release early to avoid traffic?
- State Emergency Operations Center Expectations
The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) is treating the eclipse as a special event. It will be staffed Saturday, April 6, through Tuesday, April 9.
- No mission requests will be taken in advance.
- Expect gaps in fuel and EMS runs.
- Expect time delays for all emergency responders.
- State agencies need to look at mutual aid.
- IDHS will be using resource catalog to track, but missions will only be reviewed on a case-by-case basis the day of.
Emergency managers have specialized training in event management, although a total solar eclipse — a rare event — presents unique challenges.
The Domestic Preparedness training website offers these tips for emergency managers when planning for the total solar eclipse:
- Focus on local surge capacity.
- Understand mutual aid channels.
- Get involved in partner planning/task forces.
- Identify preferred viewing locations.
- Secure the necessary resources for maximum capacity at viewing locations.
- Map ingress and egress.
Purdue University created a community planning resources webpage that includes information about microgrants that can elevate events that are eclipsed-focused. Grant information is under the Funding Resources section.
- Contact Information: County Emergency Managers and Regional IDHS Staff
- Dr. Kate Russo: A Guide for Communities in the Path of Totality
- NASA Eclipse Website
- NASA Night Sky Network
- National Operations Center of Excellence
State Agency Eclipse Websites
State Public Safety Planning and Guidance
As the state gears up April 2024, many state agencies are meeting and coordinating efforts to ensure that Hoosiers and out-of-state travelers alike can enjoy the eclipse safely. Select an agency to learn what it is doing for the eclipse or its guidance for the public.
- Department of Homeland Security (IDHS)
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security will activate the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) to an enhanced level leading up to and throughout the eclipse event. This includes increased IDHS staffing and representatives from other state agencies present in the SEOC during the event. This will allow for immediate sharing of information and the quick allocation of resources to various parts of the state as needed. Homeland Security district liaisons will stay in regular contact with county emergency managers to ensure each county’s needs are being met and to monitor resources and resolutions of any issues that arise. This coordination includes regular communication with state agencies such as DNR, INDOT, ISP and the Indiana Department of Health, which serve as force multipliers during a full activation.
The SEOC will serve as the coordination hub for all response activities during the event. In addition, local first responders and public safety officials will report any personnel or resource needs through the SEOC as the eclipse ends and traffic begins to dissipate.
- Board of Animal Health (BOAH)
The Indiana State Board of Animal Health protects Indiana's economy, public health and food supply in relation to animal health and well-being.
Animal Health and Safety Advisories
During the days leading up to, including and following the eclipse, take these pet safety tips from BOAH into account:
- Leave pets at home, where they would be safer and more comfortable — especially if pets would be in crowded areas or around other animals and unfamiliar people. They may behave unpredictably.
- Be sure to keep pets under your control (leash, crate, carrier).
- Travelers should pack everything they need for pets’ comfort (food, crate, leash, medicine, toys, water, litter handling, etc.)
- Be prepared with extra supplies in case the visit continues a few days extra.
- Be sure pets are up to date on rabies vaccination — it is Indiana law. Travel with a current certificate of veterinary inspection if coming from out-of-state. See BOAH's Indiana Entry Health Requirements page for details.
Additionally, BOAH strongly advises people not to be out on the roadways in horse-drawn buggies or carts or riding horseback during the eclipse. The totally dark and low-visibility conditions present a danger to horses and riders because they may not be visible to motor vehicle operators. Areas of Indiana where the eclipse will be the most intense (a line, roughly, from Knox County in the west to Randolph County to the east) can expect to see a high volume of vehicular traffic from visiting spectators trying to experience the eclipse — especially in rural areas. The sudden change in conditions can motivate unsafe and unpredictable behavior in the animals.
As most owners know, horses, mules, donkeys and ponies can be unpredictable under some circumstances. Rapid darkness during daylight hours can disrupt animals’ normal behaviors. Horses observed in past eclipse events have been reported to become restless, shaking their heads and tails. Sometimes animals have been reported to stop moving or exhibit extreme behaviors.
BOAH advises horse owners to prepare for the eclipse:
- Determine when the darkness of the eclipse period will begin in your area.
- Darkening skies are predicted to begin as early as 12:45 p.m. in southwestern Indiana and as late as 1:52 p.m. in eastern counties. The darkened period is predicted to extend to 4:23 p.m. in some locations.
- Total darkness will vary by location and can last up to 4.5 minutes.
- Avoid traveling on roadways during the eclipse period.
- Anyone on the roads when darkness begins should pull off the roadway and secure the horses.
- Horse owners should ensure their animals are in a secure location, such as barn, paddock or tied, during the dark period. Even non-working animals may act unpredictably.
- Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Indiana Department of Natural Resources personnel will be extremely busy as eclipse viewers flock to state parks and properties to watch the event. The eclipse has nearly filled all capacity at 54 state park inns and campgrounds in the path of totality, which will require increased staffing at all locations to alleviate any issues. DNR expects to focus on parking and traffic routes during the eclipse. Parking will be on a first-come, first-served basis. State park entrance passes will not guarantee access to a particular location. Additionally, an inn or camping reservation will not guarantee entrance to a park.
- Department of Transportation (INDOT)
The Indiana Department of Transportation is partnering with several state agencies to plan and prepare for the eclipse. Agency planning and coordination efforts include making temporary modifications to traffic control measures, like signals, to help with expected increases in traffic, setting up an event-specific traffic operations center at INDOT’s Traffic Management Center, increasing staffing at rest areas and welcome centers, and adjusting maintenance and construction schedules to limit impacts to traffic. INDOT will have field personnel (maintenance and signal technicians) available across the state to respond as needed.
To ensure a smooth trip, INDOT and the Indiana State Police urge drivers to plan ahead and prepare for potential travel impacts before, during and after the eclipse.
Before the Eclipse
- Research your viewing site, considering accessibility, parking and crowd size. Check INDOT TrafficWise on the mobile app or at 511in.org to plan your route and monitor traffic conditions. Plan to arrive to your destination early.
- Anticipate increased traffic and congestion, especially in areas in or near the path of totality.
- Reach your destination safely — buckle up and put your phone down while driving.
- Pack plenty of snacks and water, as well as charging cables for electronics and mobile devices, in the event you or your group become stranded.
- Make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas and top off fluids before you head out in case you’re stuck in traffic for a long period of time. Use this eclipse-ready checklist for more road trip essentials.
- Don’t forget your solar eclipse viewing glasses! You will need specially designed glasses to avoid damage to your eyes.
During the Eclipse
- Avoid travel during the eclipse or in the main path if possible.
- Exit the roadway to stop and view the solar eclipse. Do not stop along highways or park on the shoulder for viewing.
- Do not take photos or videos while driving. Indiana is a hands-free state. Holding mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets while driving is prohibited by state law.
- Do not wear eclipse glasses while driving.
- Turn on your headlights. Do not rely on automatic lights.
- Watch for pedestrians, especially along secondary roads.
After the Eclipse
- Plan your post-event transportation method well in advance. If celebrating, ensure everyone has a safe and sober way to return home. Designate a sober driver or arrange for alternate transportation.
- Exercise patience when leaving your viewing location as traffic may be heavy. Follow instructions from law enforcement or emergency personnel and be considerate of fellow drivers.
- Stay put and stick around to avoid the post-event rush.
- Clean up after yourself and dispose of trash in designated receptacles, or take it with you.
- Once again, check INDOT TrafficWise on the mobile app or at 511in.org to plan your route and monitor traffic conditions.
INDOT will limit road closures and restrictions where possible on state routes to help with traffic flow surrounding the eclipse. View current construction and maintenance activities on INDOT’s TrafficWise map or the free mobile app.
- State Police (ISP)
The Indiana State Police will be utilizing a flexible approach in advance of and during the eclipse. Each of the 14 district commanders will be given the latitude to work and coordinate with their local partners and communities while keeping in mind a primary focus of keeping the interstate system(s) in their area of responsibility open, clear and as free moving as possible.
With many potential variables, ISP will be flexible and reallocate resources. One example may be if the weather in one viewing area of the state is not going to be favorable, people may readjust their viewing locations to another part of the state, which alone could significantly increase the amount of vehicle traffic on the roadways in each geographic area.
- Department of Education (IDOE)
Determinations about school instruction on the day of the eclipse are local decisions. The Department of Education reminds school administrators to consider minimum instructional time thresholds and that schools should be planning ahead for eclipse day. That may mean conducting school in-person and including special events during the day, having virtual learning or modifying spring break to include April 8.
IDOE is working with NASA and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to offer solar eclipse programming via the Indiana Learning Lab, IDOE eclipse webpage and an educational STEM-focused event at the speedway. The agency advises schools to take extra precautions to ensure vision protection of students and recommends consulting NASA's eclipse eye safety webpage.
- Department of Health (IDOH)
The Indiana Department of Health is planning for a potential surge in cases of eye complaints due to the eclipse. IDOH offers solar retinopathy guidelines for clinicians and recommends the following for the public to protect against permanent eye damage:
- Avoid looking directly at the sun during the eclipse.
- Use approved eyeglasses with solar filters, or solar viewers, to view the eclipse.
- Do not use eclipse glasses while looking through a camera lens, telescope or any optical device.
- Regular sunglasses are not safe for viewing the partial phases of the total solar eclipse.