The Secret Service is preparing for the worst, but doesn't expect to see the four million people that have long been rumored to come to the nation's Capital for the January 20th Inauguration of Barack Obama.
"We have seen nothing" to suggest that many people will come to DC, said Secret Service Special Agent Malcolm Wiley. He said that authorities have looked at schedules for busses and planes and hotel rooms and haven't seen travel plans for that many people. But, he said, "we have a responsibility to plan for that. We will be prepared."
Most of a media briefing in Washington focused on the assumption that crowds will be double or triple that in for past inaugurations. But law enforcement officials would not commit to any notion that security will be tighter or that there will be excessively more police than in years past. The only hint of that came from a spokeswoman from the DC's Metropolitan Police Department who said that the number of police coming in from 96 law enforcement agencies around the country to be on hand, has gone up from 3,000 in 2005 to 4,000 for this inaugural.
DC's Metro Transit police are also asking for assistance from other similar transit police forces around the country.
Overall, officials said that the security plan is robust and they will be able to handle any crowd that comes, but that the final plans are still being worked out. And while any security will be tight, visitors are instructed not to bring too many bulky items, such as strollers and coolers, and be prepared for worst of weather conditions.
The National Mall, which unlike in the past, will be open to visitors for the ceremonies and will be open as it is now, 24 hours a day. However, it is illegal for people to camp on the Mall, and anyone thinking about arriving days early for the festivities are advised against it, as weather in January is not suitable to long periods outside.
Besides the weather, transportation will also be a major impediment to accessing the festivities. The DC Metro system can at its very maximum, handle nearly one million riders a day, and with streets closures and security, parking will be nearly impossible to find anywhere near the mall or parade route. The Mall will open at 4 am and the parade route at 7am, so people are advised to come early and be patient.
One other major kink to be worked out in the planning is the availability of porta-potties and other bathroom services. The National Park Service says there will be plenty of them for visitors, but would not provide a number that have already been rented or will be rented soon. So help with that, the Metro will have 150 porta-potties throughout its system.
The Inauguration is, as expected, a National Special Security Event as declared by the Secretary of Homeland Security. It was designated that on Oct 20. It is the 29th such NSSE since the designation was created.