This year’s presidential inauguration marks a historical landmark for emergency management. For the first time ever, organizers will have dedicated staff monitoring tweets and other social media outlets to help manage crowds gathering in Washington D.C. This is one of several initiatives outlined in a comprehensive crowd management plan for the 2013 inaugural ceremonies. Chaired by U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) designed the plan to address issues from the 2009 inauguration, when many ticketholders missed the ceremonies because they were stuck in an underground pedestrian tunnel and turned to Twitter and other social media sites to communicate about the issue. While local, state and federal agencies have used social media for situational awareness in the past, this is the first time presidential inauguration staff has been dedicated to monitoring social media for the purposes of real time crowd control. This year also marks the first time the JCCIC will use Facebook to share event information with the public.
In addition to assigning social media monitors, the JCCIC plan includes initiatives for better signage and screening equipment to prevent a repeat of the difficulties ticket holders encountered four years ago. Also, crowds are expected to be less than half of what they were for the last inauguration. This year’s inaugural ceremonies are expected to draw approximately 600,000 to 800,000 attendees, far fewer than the record-breaking 1.8 million people who attended in 2009.
Ms. Sweeney is a senior consultant with SRA International Strategy and Performance Group who has worked in the alerts and warnings space for several years. As part of her work with the Department of Homeland Security, she has had the opportunity to engage federal, state, and local agencies; the private sector; and academic institutions to improve alerts and warnings. She is currently working to envision what alerts and warnings will look like in the next 5-10 years. Previously, Ms. Sweeney worked in marketing for a consumer products start-up and Fortune 500 company.