Women of SDOT: Meet Patricia Westsik

For Women’s History Month we’re highlighting a few of the many women of SDOT who inspire us.

Patricia Westsik is the only woman on our SDOT Response Team & is one of the few women with her career story in the country.

Patricia came to Seattle two and a half years ago to supervise and lead our SDOT Incident Response Team (SRT). She came with nine years of arterial incident response experience with Maricopa County, two years with the Arizona Department of Transportation working in the Traffic Operations Center, and 10 years as an Arizona State Trooper.

SRT member Marcus Potts standing by a Incident Response truck.
SRT member Marcus Potts standing by a Incident Response truck.

Our SDOT Incident Response Team members are some of the first responders who show up to the scene when there is an incident on a Seattle road.

They responded to 7,172 incidents in 2019. Their job is to keep traffic moving and prevent secondary collisions. They set up emergency traffic control such as Emergency Scene Ahead signs and divert traffic with cones and barriers.

“You need to make it so cars know where they should go. You can’t give drivers more than one option or they can get confused.” – Patricia Westsik

Their goal is to prevent secondary collisions which are often more dangerous that the initial incidents.

After traffic is diverted, they work to clear the road. This involves anything from moving broken down vehicles, removing debris left from a crash, cleaning up spilled vehicle fluids, and using a chain saw to cut fallen trees that are blocking the road.

Seattle is one of the few cities in the country that has its own incident response team.

Patricia Westsik was hired by the City of Seattle to expand SDOT’s incident response program where she now supervises a team of 10 incident responders.

Coming with nearly two decades of experience patrolling roads, Patricia brought incident response experience from both traffic and police perspectives.

Patricia has a confident personality that helps her assess an emergency situation, make split decisions, and make a plan on the spot.

Sometimes those plans involve deciding where to direct traffic, how to manage spills such as diesel fuel or other types of materials, or even moving a semi truck off the road, all the while keeping safety as the top priority.

Patricia’s supervisory role keeps her in the office many days, but she loves getting out to incidents. She enjoys the hands-on problem solving and finding teachable moments for her crews.

Even though she misses being on the road, she enjoys her leadership role. She has been able to support the team, set and maintain standards, and wants to keep expanding the team.

Our incident responders work closely with Seattle Police Department, Seattle Fire Department, and WSDOT’s incident response team, and other first responders. Patricia, her supervisors, and the response team members continue to bridge communication gaps between agencies and ensure a unified response when incidents arise.

SRT members Anthony Monroe and Marcus Potts standing near a pink Emergency Scene Ahead sign.
SRT members Anthony Monroe and Marcus Potts standing near a pink Emergency Scene Ahead sign.

Next time you see a fluorescent pink “Emergency Scene Ahead” sign, know that it’s here because of Patricia.

No, they are not pink because a woman is leading the team. They’re pink because the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices chapter 6I  says all incident response signs should be fluorescent pink. And Patricia is making sure our response team stays up on the latest protocols.

SRT members Anthony Monroe and Mike Rongren with Patricia Westsik.
SRT members Anthony Monroe and Mike Rongren with Patricia Westsik.

Stay tuned for more Women at SDOT stories, and check out Annya’ s story if you missed it.