A new documentary created by the Arizona Department of Transportation in December 2022 highlights the important yet often dangerous work conducted by its Incident Response Units or IRUs patrolling the interstate highways in and around Phoenix.
[Above image by Arizona DOT]
The 13-minute documentary – dedicated to the memory of Frank Dorizio, an IRU team member killed in the line of duty in 2020 – explores the daily activities and dangers by the agency’s IRU highway workers.
They handle traffic control management needs, perform minor infrastructure reports, pick up roadway debris, change tires, remove broken down and crash-damaged vehicles from the travel lanes, and even provide medical assistance when needed.
The Arizona DOT created its IRU operation in 2019, deploying 14 teams to patrol Phoenix-area freeways weekdays from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. while serving “on call” for overnight and weekend situations.
The IRU operation replaced the agency’s previous Arizona Local Emergency Response Teams or ALERTs, which were made up of maintenance employees who, on top of their normal duties, were on-call around the clock to respond to emergency incidents on state roadways.
Arizona DOT said ALERT teams witnessed a steep spike in demand several years ago, especially in the metro Phoenix area, and that convinced the agency to develop a program solely committed to improving incident scene safety and traveler mobility. Thus the IRUs came into being
Through a sponsorship from State Farm that began in 2020, Arizona DOT noted its IRU crews are now more visible and recognizable to drivers on the road. IRU vehicles also come equipped with message boards and traffic cones in order to provide faster response times to motor vehicle crashes, the agency noted.