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IEEE 1512 - Family of Standards for Incident Management Message Sets

This Fact Sheet was written on September 17, 2009. The status of the IEEE 1512 standards was:Published.

This Fact Sheet was written on September 17, 2009.

This Fact Sheet was last verified on September 25, 2009

 Check the ITS Standards Search to see if there has been subsequent development activity.


Clearly defined message sets are essential components in the design and operation of modern, computer-based ITS systems. Specifically, a message set provides a series, or set, of individual messages, established in a specific format, for exchanging information on a given topic. An agreed-upon message set with unambiguous definitions is one of the essential standards required to exchange information between ITS systems.

Message sets work in conjunction with data dictionaries that provide the definition and syntax of individual data elements (DEs) that make up the specific message content of a message. In a simple analogy, message sets are the sentences that contain DEs as the individual words. The other standards needed for data exchange provide the actual communications protocols that describe how messages are encoded for transmission, transmitted and then decoded by the receiver.

This IEEE 1512 family of standards supports the exchange of incident-related data between transportation, public safety, and other responding agencies. The IEEE 1512 family consists of a base (or common) standard and several subject-area standards:

  • IEEE Std 1512-2006, IEEE Standard for Common Incident Management Message Sets for Use by Emergency Management Centers is the base standard that defines basic information - such as a description of the incident - that is exchanged for any incident.
  • IEEE Std 1512.1-2006, IEEE Standard for Common Traffic Incident Management Message Sets for Use by Emergency Management Centers defines messages needed to respond to traffic-related incidents, including information about traffic flow, traffic control equipment, and coordination of cleanup and repair.
  • IEEE Std 1512.2-2004, IEEE Standard for Public Safety Incident Management Message Sets for Use by Emergency Management Centers supports coordination among public safety agencies including warning information, situation awareness, plan dissemination, and interagency asset management.
  • IEEE Std 1512.3-2006, IEEE Standard for Hazardous Material Incident Management Message Sets for Use by Emergency Management Centers includes messages needed by responders to hazmat spills and other incidents related to commercial vehicles and homeland security.

The subject area standards (1512.1 through 1512.3) are often referred to as "companion volumes" and must be used in conjunction with the base standard. Each standard defines messages and includes a data dictionary that defines the data elements that each message contains. Each message is defined in Abstract Syntax Notation One (ASN.1) and in eXtensible Markup Language (XML). Previous versions of this standards family included IEEE 1512.4; this companion volume has since been superseded by IEEE 1512.1

What are these standards for?

The message sets defined by the IEEE 1512 family of standards aid in efficient sharing of information between agencies that participate in an incident response. Information directly from the scene of the incident and information from participating agency centers can be shared. Combining information from all sources into a common set of messages for all agencies to use will aid in the safe and efficient management of the incident. Incidents include such familiar occurrences as vehicle crashes, breakdowns, work-zone lane closures, and, broadly speaking, any events (such as natural disasters, extreme weather, or special events) that affect the movement of traffic.

Who uses them?

These standards are intended for use by agencies that participate in incident management, including transportation agencies (traffic, transit, and maintenance), public safety agencies (law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services), and other agencies (towing and recovery, Hazmat, utilities, emergency management, traveler information/media). The standards are a technical resource that should be used by engineers involved with the design, specification, selection, procurement, installation, testing, operation, and maintenance of incident management systems and incident management communications networks that support coordinated incident management. Systems and software engineers and application developers working in these areas should find the standards especially relevant to their efforts.

How are they used?

The IEEE 1512 family of standards is used to specify the precise format, data element order, and transactional order of incident management messages passing between agencies that participate in an incident response. The standards have been carefully tailored to allow a wide range of local variation in implementation. Each implementing agency determines the portion of the message set to be implemented and the level of interoperability that meets their needs. Local agencies can use this standard as part of their efforts to determine requirements for interoperation with other emergency management agencies at the local level, and to attain a mutual agreement on the mechanisms for exchanging data when designing and developing coordinated incident management systems.


The messages defined in the IEEE 1512 family of standards support the exchange of five categories of information about an incident: 1) Situation awareness, 2) Each agencies plan of action, 3) Asset management, 4) Warning information, and 5) General/overhead information such as priority, acknowledgements, message addressing by function/name, and system status.

Related documents

The following ITS standards are related and should be considered when using this standard:

The following set of standards and documents, while not part of the ITS standards, should also be considered when using this standard:

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