Friday, January 16, 2009

Preparing for Inauguration Day crowds? Here are some safety tips

The 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, will take the oath of office this Tuesday in front of the U.S. Capitol and the watchful eyes of the world. Like millions of others, you may be planning to attend, which is great. Except for the MASSIVE CROWDS! (Cue scary music.)

Like any other crowded situation, Inauguration Day attendees may encounter a number of health threats, such as germs, dehydration and injury, or even violence. It makes Dorothy’s plight in the Wizard of Oz — “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” — read like a bedtime story. There’s nothing to fear, however. Just prepare, be safe, be ready —and you’ll be fine. Here’s how:

First, be prepared. At the swearing-in ceremony and other events, there will be high-profile security and many restrictions, so don’t plan to bring your favorite lawn chair and sandwiches in the cooler — or a cooler at all. Do your research first so you know what to expect. What are you allowed to bring? What time should you arrive? What should you wear? Helpful Web sites include those hosted by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and the District of Columbia, home of the event.

Second, be safe. Concerned about terror threats? A large crowd doesn’t necessarily mean there will be violence, but be ready for potential emergencies anyway. View maps of the area and bring a copy with you. Locate exits when you are inside buildings and be familiar with evacuation routes.

Anxious about a stampede or being trampled by others? If you are really concerned, consider leaving before the end of the event. Crowds are bad enough, so imagine them moving! If you do stay until the end, be aware of your surroundings, move with the crowd and be patient.

What about getting sick? It’s almost impossible to avoid cold or flu viruses in large crowds, but there are some steps you can take. Protect yourself by getting vaccinated against the flu, especially if you are at high-risk. Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizers when soap and water is not around. Avoid touching door handles, and don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth once you’ve handled something.

Once you’ve prepared to be safe, you’re ready for this historic day — or any other crowded event.

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