This year’s Fourth of July in D.C. is expected to be significantly different, given the two coinciding events happening on or near the National Mall: The annual “A Capitol Fourth” and President Donald Trump’s “Salute to America.”
The added event will mean more road closures and security perimeters as well as the usual hectic public transit. The potential for severe storms only stands to complicate things as well.
U.S. Park Police Chief Robert MacLean spoke to WTOP about what will be different this year and how visitors can stay safe and informed during the Fourth of July festivities.
“Folks will see more uniformed personnel,” MacLean told WTOP. “They may not see some of the technology and other measures we put in place to ensure the safety of our visitors.”
One of the most important things to do before leaving your home to attend a July 4 event is to plan your trip. Know what roads are closed and which Metro stations will be busiest.
The addition of “Salute to America” means the launch site of the fireworks has changed from previous years. This year, fireworks will be launched from behind the Lincoln Memorial, according to MacLean, which means additional roads will be closed around that area starting 12 a.m. July 4.
The Arlington Memorial Bridge will also be closed to pedestrians and vehicles, so visitors who exit Metro at Arlington Cemetery station will have to watch the fireworks from the Virginia side of the river.
Make sure you don’t have any prohibited items before you arrive — the list of items differs depending on the event. MacLean recommends that visitors know what items are prohibited by checking this list from the National Park Service.
The access points for “Salute to America” are managed by the U.S. Secret Service and the list of prohibited items for that event is more extensive. MacLean advised visitors to make sure they check the list for whichever event they are attending.
Severe storms could also complicate things. All law enforcement agencies will activate the Safe Haven Plan if evacuating the National Mall becomes necessary. The plan was used in 2006 and 2007, MacLean told WTOP, and basically identifies buildings that visitors can seek shelter in if needed.
In the event of an evacuation, people should follow police direction, MacLean said.
“We have your safety in mind,” MacLean said. “If severe weather is coming through, we do have representatives from the National Weather Service within our command center, so we have that technology and ability to predict the weather that’s coming in and if it’s going to impact the event, we will enact our plan and get everybody to safety.”
Visitors can also get information by registering for NIXLE, a text messaging alert tool. Subscribers to the free service will receive texts with important information about weather advisories and law enforcement direction.
NIXLE can also be used to send information — including photos, such as of a lost child or suspicious activity — to law enforcement.
Families attending one of the events should take a picture of their children and what they’re wearing that day to help law enforcement in case the kids get lost in the crowds.
MacLean said, “What we do all day long, in addition to keeping folks safe, is making sure folks and families stay united.”
Visitors can receive NIXLE alerts for the Fourth of July events by texting “July 4 DC” to 888777.