D.C. Responders Prepare for Presidential Inauguration

Dec. 12, 2008
Plans for additional firefighters, EMS personnel and apparatus have been in works for months.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Emergency crews expect to be very busy next month taking care of residents and the millions in town to celebrate the historic transfer of power.

Plans for additional firefighters, EMS personnel and apparatus have been in works for months.

"For obvious security concerns, I am not at liberty to say how many extra personnel we're going to have nor can I talk about staging or any particulars," said D.C. Chief Dennis Rubin.

Officials estimate between one and five million people may show up to witness and participate in the many activities planned to celebrate the inauguration of Sen. Barack Obama.

"While the Secret Service is in charge due to high security concerns, the entire D.C. government, including the fire service, has been involved in the meetings. While I can't be specific, we do have action and utilization plans..."

Rubin has called on departments in both Washington Metro and Baltimore COG regions to help by detailing personnel and vehicles. Reimbursement issues are still being worked out.

Rubin did not send out a nationwide call for mutual aid. "Due to security clearances required, we're relying on officials in those regions or departments to verify that the people coming are qualified."

Responders planning to participate have to provide information for security checks. They will attend briefings when they arrive, and a person familiar with the area will be assigned to their units.

While police officers from across the country will be participating, Rubin said it was better for local or regional personnel to be involved. "We have received calls. But, we don't want freelancers..."

Rubin said his department handles about 500 calls daily. The majority of those are EMS-related. In addition to the visitors, crews still have to take care of their own residents.

"It's going to be a very taxing time for everyone. Getting around town is going to be a challenge as well. That's why we've been planning. We have to be geared up to handle everything."

In addition to the numerous inaugural events, celebrations also are planned for the national observance of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Two days after Obama takes the oath as the nation's 44th president, the annual Right to Life march is scheduled.

The D.C. council's decision to allow bars to stay open until 5 a.m. also may add to the call volume. "We will be ready. Our crews will have to be self-sufficient."

Weather conditions also have been factored into the contingency plans as well. Freezing rain fell during the last inauguration parade and festivities.

Hospital officials also have been participating in the planning sessions, and are making necessary adjustments, Rubin said.

The chief said his department is used to planning and taking care of people attending events in the Nation's Capital including the Fourth of July celebration on the Mall, New Year's Eve and the recent Papal visit.

However, this is predicted to be the largest event ever.

Rubin said his department is pulling out all the stops to insure that residents and visitors have the services they need.

"I ask that people coming be prepared. They should dress appropriately, and as always be vigilant."

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