Across the United States, there are traditions that hold a timeless place in our culture: fireworks on the 4th of July; Thanksgiving Day turkey (and football); solemn remembrances for 9/11 and Pearl Harbor; and many others. These traditions speak both to what we value most and to the importance of safeguarding the values we share. The same holds true for the 58th Presidential Inauguration, the peaceful transfer of power from one President to another, and the Women’s March on Washington, a peaceful demonstration of 1st Amendment rights that has roots in marches throughout American history. These events garner attention for many reasons, but from a standpoint of protection, response, and recovery to or from a potential incident that would have disrupted the events of the day, FEMA stood ready as an agency to act.
Events like the Inauguration and Women’s March have many challenges in common – crowds in public, open settings, challenges for traffic management and public transportation, and tremendous attention from around the world. In this case, the Secretary of Homeland Security designated the 58th Inauguration a national special security event. This designation brings, among other things, support from the federal government (including the U.S. Secret Service as the lead agency for security planning), planning, training, and exercise capabilities, and logistical efforts to ensure that these events proceed smoothly and with minimal disruption.
Planning and executing national special security events can be a challenge for any region, but when you have a complex and unique environment like the National Capital Region, with many federal, state, and local agencies, multiple jurisdictions and other unique aspects, you can begin to understand the magnitude of effort that goes into planning and securing these events.
FEMA served as the lead federal agency for emergency management and worked closely with the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Capitol Police, National Park Service, the District of Columbia Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, and Maryland Emergency Management Agency along with other federal, state, local, and private sector organizations in support of the overall inauguration planning effort.
Fully securing and safeguarding a national special security event includes (but is not limited to) robust efforts in public affairs, airspace security, crisis management, interagency communication, transportation, fire and life safety, crowd management, and parade route security. FEMA is just one partner in this massive undertaking, and since early summer 2016 has been planning and coordinating closely with our partners in the NCR to account for and expeditiously address any unmet needs. Whether it was mass care shelters, wireless emergency alerts, communications equipment or other resources, FEMA and our partners planned months in advance to be ready to support if needed.
Once planning was completed, FEMA activated staff in multiple locations to support the event, including the Region III Regional Response Coordination Center, to help coordinate any additional resource requests, and three incident management assistance teams to Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. to co-locate with our state partners and support their efforts. The Disaster Emergency Communication Division provided mobile emergency response support voice and data resources at D.C.’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency and at the Maryland and Virginia emergency operations centers. Working alongside event partners, the region’s homeland security and public safety personnel executed a seamless plan that created a safe and secure environment for dignitaries, event participants, and those who traveled in from around the country to witness the Inauguration of the 45th President and related events as well as those who participated in the Women’s March.
Helping to safeguarding our traditions is an important part of what FEMA does to support our federal, state, and local partners. On Friday and Saturday, January 20 and 21, FEMA worked with our many partners to safeguard two important traditions in our country while building the whole community experience for future events, national special security events, and incidents that may require FEMA’s response and recovery capabilities.