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D.C., George Washington U. Prepare For Inauguration

This story was written by Shannon O'Reilly, The GW Hatchet

As Jan. 20 quickly approaches, federal, city and George Washington University officials are beginning the arduous task of planning President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration, which is expected to draw millions of visitors.

As many as four million people are expected to attend the event. With most of the District, including GW, observing Inauguration Day as a holiday, locals and visitors will pour into the National Mall to watch Obama deliver his inaugural address only blocks away from campus.

John Petrie, GW's assistant vice president for public safety and emergency management, will also have a hand in inauguration coordination since it is expected to draw millions of people to the university's doorstep.

Petrie said security for the event will be "really tight."

"Talks of university security are increased this time because of the number of people," he said.

For the last inauguration, between a quarter and half a million people exited at the Foggy Bottom and Farragut West Metro stations to visit the National Mall, he said.

Petrie said he anticipates several meetings regarding the event's logistics.

Last week, he spoke with the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency regarding the Presidential Inaugural Committee's recent announcement that the entire Mall would be open for the inauguration and that parade staging grounds would be moved to the Ellipse. Petrie also said he has a meeting scheduled this week with the deputy director of the Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency.

He predicts that plans for the inauguration will not vary too much from the previous one in 2005. The only real change, Petrie said, "will be less confusion."

During the last inauguration, Petrie said the Secret Service made uncoordinated changes at 8:30 a.m. on the day of the speech. The D.C. National Guard was set to man the inner perimeter of the event, where tickets were required, and the Metropolitan Police Department guarded the outer perimeter that included the Foggy Bottom campus, where no tickets were required. Secret Service suddenly changed this after deciding they wanted MPD on the inner perimeter to make arrests, but they neglected to change the ticket collecting instructions.

As a result, GW students and other visitors were not allowed in Foggy Bottom without tickets. It took Petrie an hour and a half to get the instructions corrected, he said.

"I feel fairly confident that this problem won't happen again," Petrie said. "By knowing the things we did last time, we can prevent problems this time."

He added, "GW students should expect a wonderful experience."

The Campus Advisories Web site will be updated throughout the inauguration with information from emergency management and law enforcement agencies, he said.

"It is impossible to anticipate the number of people" attending, said Bill Line, a spokesman for the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, which oversees the National Mall. "But I'm certain we can handle what happens."

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