- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

Businesses planning to stay open on Inauguration Day met Thursday with federal and D.C. police officials to discuss how to get employees to work.

The hundreds who attended were told by the FBI and Metropolitan Police Department they must devise plans to avoid the many restrictions in the city that day.

“It behooves us to be prepared for anything and everything,” said Barbara Lang, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

An estimated 1 million to 2 million people are expected to attend the inauguration, city Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said. She also said the list of street and bridge closings announced Wednesday could evolve.

“All the way through this entire event, information will change rapidly,” she said. “Everything is subject to change.”

Some hotels and catering companies are providing cots for their workers. But others will have to navigate a dicey commute by car or Metro.

“I think it’s going to be absolute gridlock,” said Lucia Franks, who works at a research company in Southwest.

Officials with the Greater Washington Board of Trade said businesses also should devise comprehensive plans for the entire inauguration week — from Jan. 16 to 23.

Officials also repeatedly said to check online for logistical updates.

Chauncey Dunham, director of operations of the District Heights-based First Priority Trailways, said the company is developing plans for its 22 charter buses, but informing drivers about traffic patterns and road closures will be difficult.

“Can you drive and go to a Web site?” he asked.

Businesses also have to work around delivery restrictions. Starting midnight Jan. 18, deliveries in restricted areas in the city will not be allowed.

Gordon Howard, area vice president of CVS, said stores that will be open for the inauguration are stocking inventory because large trucks won’t be allowed in most areas.

Some businesses also are concerned about possible protesters and vandalism.

Officials said only a few groups have applied for permits and they don’t expect problems.

There are three designated free speech zones: John Marshall Memorial Park, the U.S. Navy Memorial and Freedom Plaza.

Businesses will notice an increased police presence starting Jan. 16, when officers will go on 12-hour shifts, Chief Lanier said. There will be more officers on foot, bikes and motorcycles.

In addition, 10,000 National Guardsmen will be on duty on Inauguration Day across the region.

FBI officials provided business leaders with a detailed account of how terrorists carried out the Mumbai attacks in November.

There is no specific threat for the inauguration, but officials said they wanted businesses to see how to better manage their operations. For example, hospitality companies should do basic background checks on temporary hires, they said.

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