Posted January 16, 2009

Security for Obama’s inauguration to mimic a military offensive

Temple professor says advance planning is key to a safe event

Providing safety and security for the upcoming presidential inauguration will be “…as complicated as a major military offensive,” says Professor Michael Jackson of the Sport and Recreation Department at Temple’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management. He says advance planning is key — not only for those in charge of security, but also for those expected to attend.

Jackson, professor and director of Graduate Programs in Sport and Recreation Administration, is also an expert in stadium operations and construction issues. He says the Secret Service and Homeland Security have been preparing for the inauguration for months. “They were in Philadelphia in December for the Army-Navy game because President Bush was there. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t use that experience as a test to see how they’ll handle the crowds on the National Mall.” He says that once that plan is in place, it must be able to be executed — and be adjusted, if things go awry.

The overall objective is safety, and there are many potential threats with a historic event such as this, particularly due to the large number of people expected to attend. “We want to prevent loss of life, prevent people from destroying property, and eliminate the element of risk,” Jackson explains.

He says the most important elements in an event of this magnitude are communication and crowd control. Security personnel must plan for a variety of potential scenarios. They need to have a framework for communicating with police officers, news media, medical personnel, caterers, and sanitation staff. They must be able to control who is in a particular area, as well as the movement of the crowds in those areas.

Jackson advises that those who want to attend the inauguration need to plan ahead. “They’ll need to figure out how to get there and where to stay, and be prepared to undergo security checks. And they need to prepare to stand for five or six hours in cold and possibly wet weather.”

He has no doubt, however, that all of the planning and preparation will be worth it. “This is probably going to be one of the biggest events in our lifetime.”