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American Red Cross Urges Preparedness During Presidential Inauguration


Planning needed for attendees, those in D.C. Metro area

WASHINGTON — If you’re planning on making the trek to Washington for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, or will just be in the D.C. metro area that weekend, you should prepare for crowds, traffic, weather, road closures, lots of walking, and tight security measures.

If you are one of the millions of people anticipated to attend the inaugural ceremonies, the following are some tips to help make your trip as smooth as possible:

Getting there and back home – Attendance estimates have ranged into the millions for the ceremonies. According to recent reports, walking, biking, and mass transit will provide the only access into the city, and mass transit is expected to be crowded. Personal vehicles will be banned on many major roadways leading from both Virginia and Maryland into the District. A large section of downtown Washington will also be blocked off to help manage the crowds. If you are coming into the city, plan on walking or parking in outlying locations and using the District’s Metro system to access the event. The Red Cross recommends:

* Stay informed about changes to public transit fares, hours, schedules, and parking.
* Think ahead about multiple routes and methods to enter and leave the city.
* Be prepared for long delays due to extremely crowded buses, trains, roads and highways.
* Check the District’s inaugural website for the most up-to-date information.
* Sign up for real-time text alerts about road closures and transportation problems at

Plan ahead – The large crowds will make getting to the ceremonies difficult. A security perimeter will be established around the U.S. Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue on January 20. In addition to the thousands of guests with tickets, a million or more people are expected to view the inauguration from the National Mall. Hundreds of thousands of others plan on watching the Inaugural Parade make its way down Pennsylvania Avenue. According to the DC government, bicycles, umbrellas, coolers and thermoses will not be allowed in certain areas on the Mall. The Red Cross recommends:

* Wear warm, comfortable shoes because you will probably be standing for a long time and walking long distances.
* Check the weather forecast and dress appropriately. When possible, dress in layers.
* Have cash with you to purchase food and drink, and pay for mass transit tickets and parking.
* If you take any medications, bring it with you because there will be delays in getting to and from events.
* If you are driving, be sure to have a full tank of gas before you leave. Otherwise you may become stranded while waiting in traffic.
* Be aware that it may be difficult to talk or send pictures from your cell phone. Send text messages instead of making calls whenever possible.

Be on time – According to the DC government, security checkpoints for the swearing-in ceremony will open for ticketed guests at 8:00 a.m. Attendees are advised to arrive no later than 9:00 a.m. to ensure you are through these checkpoints when the program begins at 11:30 a.m. Screening will end at this time and late arrivals will not be able toenter the grounds. Jumbotrons will televise the festivities, in real time, if you are located on the National Mall. No camping overnight is allowed.

Small children - If bringing young kids is part of your plans, you should know that according to the DC government, strollers will not be permitted on the Capitol grounds. In addition, bags larger than 8” x 6”x 4” are not allowed. Most attendees will be in standing-room sections and should be prepared to be on their feet for several hours.

The weather - The weather on Inauguration Day is typically cold and sometimes wet. The average January temperature in Washington is 30.6 degrees. At least half of the days are cloudy. Attendees should dress in layers and be prepared to stand for a long time in what may be cold, wet weather. No umbrellas are allowed.

Stay informed – Sign up for the District’s Alert DC to get text alerts about road closures, transportation problems, etc., during the inaugural weekend. Keep track of what the public transit systems plan to do.

If you will be in the Washington area over the Inaugural weekend, you need to be prepared, even if your plans don’t include attending the festivities. The events may effect your daily life, even if you are not attending events. District area residents will find the inaugural website helpful. Information is available on what will be open and what will be closed. You can learn about parking restrictions throughout the city, as well as the most up-to-date information on road closures, etc. If you are traveling by air, allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airports. It might be the perfect weekend to do your grocery shopping early, stock up on movies, and spend the weekend at home. The Red Cross recommends:

* If you are driving, try to keep your gas tank full so that you don’t become stranded if you get caught up in traffic.
* If you are working on January 20, consider teleworking if possible because traffic will be heavy and public transit will be crowded. If teleworking isn’t an option, leaver earlier than normal as extra traffic may make your commute longer.
* Treat the day as if it were a snow day-be sure to make your grocery store run a few days ahead of time.
* Check the District’s inaugural website for the most up-to-date information.
* Sign up for real-time text alerts about road closures and transportation problems at

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation’s blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit or join our blog at


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