Inauguration day news was dominated by pomp and circumstance on the one side and protests on the other. Yet behind the scenes, all over the city, months of preparation were coming to fruition.
It’s a lesson everyone can use in their own emergency preparation.
Imagine flipping your house in five hours. It can take that long to get a kid’s room clean. On inauguration day, White House staff members had about five hours to turn the Obama White House into the Trump one, according to stories in the New York Times, USA Today, and Time.
It’s a mad dash involving decorators, carpenters, cleaners, painters, and electricians. Although the public rooms are mostly off limits by law and tradition, the family’s private quarters are pretty much fair game, according to USA Today.
Everything from rugs to curtains to shower heads can be replaced. Furniture can be the family’s own or taken from a warehouse of White House historical furniture. They can even add or remove walls, according to Kate Andersen Brower’s book The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) January 20, 2017
The process of preparing the White House for the transition started almost 18 months ago, when the White House chief usher compiled a book of staff members and information about the building.
Once the first family decided what they wanted, staff members choreographed the transition like a military operation, according to the New York Times.
As soon as the old first family leaves, White House staff packs their things. Right after the new president is sworn in, two moving trucks pull up: one empty, one full.
"The outgoing president sees the house the way he always saw it," Dean Mercer, a former Secret Service agent for President Clinton's and President George W. Bush's details, told USA Today. He added the new president "walks in and everything that is his is there."
By the time the incoming president arrives, favorite snacks are in the fridge, toothbrushes are in the bathrooms and clothes are in the closets.
Emergencies often involve deadlines. A fire or flood can force you out in five minutes. That’s why it’s important to have an emergency evacuation plan and practice it, so you can carry it out with military-like precision.
Do you have everything you need quickly accessible? Are all your important documents stored in a safe place, or away from your home?
As soon as President Trump was sworn in, the White House online communications – Twitter, Facebook and a web site – became active, according to Time. Do you have a communication plan and an emergency contact that everyone in your family knows?
Also in preparation for the Inauguration, about 28,000 security officials from many agencies turned Washington, D.C. into an anti-terror fortress.
USA Today described the efforts.
They included closing streets and bridges, setting up barricades to limit access to the National Mall and bringing in construction equipment and Dumpsters to prevent vehicle attacks. The Secret Service planned how to deal with protesters, for both Inauguration day and the women’s march the next day.
Jimmy Rivera works in downtown Washington, D.C. He slept on an air mattress at work on Thursday night rather than make his way home through all the barricades and closures. On Friday night, he had to travel out of his way and face numerous delays to get home.
“I just want my bed,” he said.
When making an evacuation plan, think about your family’s needs and comfort.
Where will you sleep? Do you have something to sleep on? It’s winter. Can you keep warm? Do you have spare blankets and clothes?
What will you do to entertain yourself? Rivera had his phone. He could communicate with family and watch movies.
Rivera uses a CPAP machine. He took it to work with him on Thursday along with his prescription medication. If you need prescription medication or medical equipment, is it readily accessible in an emergency? He could plug his machine in. Do you have a backup power source?
Do you have pets? Many emergency shelters and hotels won’t allow animals.
All in all, Inauguration weekend went fairly smoothly. Although more than 200 protesters were arrested, compare that to the hundreds of thousands of protesters and visitors who showed up over the weekend. There was some damage and rioting in one part of the city, but Rivera said the most disruptive thing he saw was a woman who flashed him. And the Trump family hasn’t complained about their new housing, so it’s a reasonable supposition that they got in OK.
Planning and putting plans to work helped continue the 200-plus year U.S. tradition of a peaceful transfer of power. Think about applying it to your emergency preparedness efforts.