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Ongoing recovery efforts have prompted Montgomery County, Maryland to cancel July 4 fireworks, but the firework show is on in D.C. Metro Police Chief Cathy Lanier joins All Things Considered host Pat Brogan to talk about the adjustments the MPD has had to make.
Have you had to make any adjustments to plans because of the storm damage or the heat?
"Well, fortunately in the area down where most of the activities are going on, we still have good power and there isn't a lot of damage or debris. So no, not down near the activities themselves. But we are advising people that the best way to get to the events is via public transportation, because there are still going to be some scattered power outages around and it's much easier to get in with public transportation."
How do you prepare for such an influx of people?
"Well, we do it a lot, and we change our plans around some each year, but we're used to large crowds coming here. Shoot, after the last presidential inauguration, this is a walk in the park for us."
Do you feel that you're stretched a bit thin after all these power outages, or is everything OK?
"Unfortunately, part of our plan for the fourth this year, and we notified the members several weeks ago, we went to full department deployment. So everybody is working, and yesterday we had planned to move up to 12 hour shifts for extra visibility and security for the events leading up to the fourth, so that worked up really well to help out with the storm damage. Everybody knew about the extended shifts and that the whole department was working, so it helped us out quite a bit dealing with the storm.
Do you also work with the Park Service for the even on July 4?
"Yes, actually this is their event. They're the lead agency. We're here in support of the Park Police. All the major activities are either on park police territory on the mall or in the Capitol Police territory for the Capitol Concert. Our job is to get people in safely and out safely and to support them and Metro and make sure the event goes off without a hitch."
Let's talk fireworks. Some are allowed -- what kind of monitoring do police do and what's allowed and what's not?
"Anything that explodes is not allowed, let me put it that way. That's the easiest thing to remember — if it explodes or makes a loud noise, it's illegal. We actually have teams, we work jointly with the fire department, and they've been in place for ten days. They've been traveling around not only dealing with the vendors that may have illegal fireworks that they're selling and taking those vendors and confiscating that, but we're also dealing with fireworks in the neighborhoods. Those teams will be out in force on the 4th. We deal with it every year — we get lots of complaints in the neighborhoods, so those teams will be out in force."
So are sparklers OK? Roman candles?
"Sparkelrs are OK. Basically, it cannot explode and it cannot have any kind of combustion. So sparklers are fine, the other kinds of fireworks, the ones that shoot up in the air, those are not fine."