We traveled the 500 miles in just over 7 hours. 15 ALS units en route to provide medical support during the 2009 inauguration of President Obama.
The security was very tight and we ended up having several forms of identification we had to carry with us plus FEMA and USSS tags in the windshields of our units. FEMA had also lo-jacked all of our trucks and provided us with 2 cell phones in addition to the 2 phone we were already carrying and 2 radios per truck. It was obvious to everyone that they wanted to maintain contact with us at all times. It was further obvious that they wanted to know where the trucks were.
We started out staging about 12 miles from the DC area, we were not there long before they moved us to a park about 3 miles outside the capitol. The thing is though, in DC during any big public event, it can take you over an hour to travel 2 miles.
We sat at the park for about an hour and then FEMA assigned a DC firefighter to every unit as a spotter. These guys were supposed to know which roads were closed and the quickest ways to get around the capitol area. If you ask the crews, the firefighters were little to no help at all.
Eventually they broke our strike teams up and started assigning our units to DC fire stations. We could hear the traffic on the DC radios and there were literally hundreds of cold related calls within the first couple hours. I heard a couple full arrests come across too. With a crown of over 2.9 million people you had to expect that a few of them would die.
Reports were coming in of ambulances stuck in mobs. They could not respond, as the crowds completely over-took them and surrounded them on all sides. They were using small ATV type carts to get around inside of the venue area with just slightly better results. Some of them would not start and other times the medics on board would have to leave them to go off on foot. When they tried to return to them they couldn't find them. They either were moved of the crowd had just swelled so much they they got disoriented and couldn't find their way back.
My unit got staged at 14th Street and Congress Ave. It was quite a happening place there. I have never in my life seen so many tactical operators in one area. There were officers as far as the eye could see. As far as I could tell there was only 1 more unit in our area and they were sleeping in their truck. Fortunate for them, they were not part of my team, I think I would have had something to say to them.
My team performed exactly as they had been trained, no one missed a beat and everyone was very professional. We even decided that there was not going to be a debrief after this activation because there was really nothing that could have been improved upon. I was very proud of them.
When we got home I got quite a few calls saying things like "Good Job Chief, another activation down with no problems" I was quick to remind them that if not for the ENTIRE team things would have been very different. We have a fantastic group of operators, each one of them makes the team is as good as it is. All I do is gently (well sometimes not gently) steer them in the right direction.
It's good to be home, but now I'm up to my ass in snow...